Wednesday, January 18, 2017

BdB keeping it small

From the NY Times:

It is particularly important for the mayor to demonstrate success in soliciting small donations. Cut off from some of his familiar sources by federal and state inquiries into his fund-raising practices, Mr. de Blasio, a Democrat, and his campaign have been pounding the pavement for such contributions, and have leaned on some of the mayor’s celebrity backers like the actors Cynthia Nixon, Mark Ruffalo and Steve Buscemi.

Last week, prominent supporters implored fellow admirers of his administration to make small donations to the mayor’s re-election effort, a last-minute push to raise money before the deadline.

On Monday, the mayor’s campaign said it would report more than $1 million in contributions raised over the last half of 2016 from roughly 3,800 contributors, a majority of whom gave less than $100. (A campaign spokesman could not say if the total raised exceeded the $1.1 million brought in during the first half of 2016.)

The official results must be made public by Tuesday.

The mayoral race, especially on the Democratic side, has not really materialized, but that would change significantly if the investigations, now in their grand jury phase, led to an indictment of a city official.

Mr. de Blasio has denied any wrongdoing.

Kew Gardens has worst streets in the city

From the Daily News:

If you want to avoid potholes, choppy roads and flat tires, you may want to steer clear of Kew Gardens, Queens.

The neighborhood’s streets are in the worst shape of all the roads in the five boroughs, according to a report the city Independent Budget Office released Tuesday.

The report tracked city Department of Transportation street-condition assessments from 2014 and 2015 across the city and found that only 28.2% of streets in Kew Gardens are listed in “good” condition.

The neighborhood had 66.4% of its roads listed in “fair” condition and 5.4% in “poor” condition.

It landed at the bottom — No. 188 — in the citywide rankings of neighborhoods.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Forest Hills taxi stand is pissing people off

From NY1:

Our Queens Bureau Reporter Shannan Ferry sat down with anchor Kristen Shaugnessy to talk about a cab stand on Queens Boulevard that has some neighbors up in arms. They say allowing cabs to park on both sides of the street trolling for fares causes traffic congestion and noise. One neighbor, who lives in a nearby condominium, started an online petition asking the city to take action and the local Councilwoman has said she supports an effort to address her constituents' concerns.

Senior seeking reimbursement from landlord

From DNA Info:

Ronald Peters has not seen his wife since Dec. 7, the day the elevator in his 6-story building on Austin Street, near 84th Road, in Kew Gardens was shut down for a major repair.

The 82-year old Korean War veteran, who needs a walker to move around and is unable to climb stairs, was forced to temporarily relocate to a Holiday Inn near the Veterans Hospital in Brooklyn where he had a number of appointments scheduled for December and January, he said.

His wife Virginia, 80, who also can't climb stairs, stayed in their apartment on the top floor.

Peters, who said he has been unable to get in touch with his landlord, PSRS Realty Group, since early December, already paid more than $7,000 for his stay at the hotel, according to the bills he shared with DNAinfo New York.

Now, he wants the landlord to pay him back, he said.

“They should reimburse me because what do they want me to do? Go up these steps?" said Peters, who has a pacemaker and suffers from diabetes and high blood pressure, among other illnesses. "I can’t go up six flights.”

“It’s so aggravating," he said, adding that if the landlord does not reimburse him, he will consider legal action.

PSRS Realty Group did not return multiple phone calls from DNAinfo seeking comment.

Rash of car fires in Woodside

From CBS 2:

Some Queens residents woke on Monday, to find their vehicles on fire.

As CBS2’s Alice Gainer reported, just after midnight a van was set on fire at 56th Street and Queens Boulevard in Woodside.

Police and firefighters responded and put out the flames.

Nearly 3 hours later they were back after a car parked nearby also caught fire.

It’s unclear how the fires were started and whether or not an accelerent was used.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Bird strikes went up after goose killings started

From the Daily News:

An Associated Press analysis of bird-killing programs at the New York City area's three major airports found that nearly 70,000 gulls, starling, geese and other birds have been slaughtered, mostly by shooting and trapping, since the 2009 accident, and it is not clear whether those killings have made the skies safer.

Federal data show that in the years after bird-killing programs LaGuardia and Newark airports ramped up in response to the gutsy landing, the number of recorded bird strikes involving those airports actually went up.

Combined, the two airports went from an average of 158 strikes per year in the five years before the accident to an average of 299 per year in the six years after it, though that could be due to more diligent reporting of such incidents.

Self-storage resistant to de Blasio legislation

From Crains:

More than a year ago, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a 10-point plan to spur the city's manufacturing sector. Point No. 2 was to limit the number of hotels and self-storage facilities in designated industrial business zones (IBZs).

The plan has made few headlines since, largely because the administration is still working on a bill that insiders expected months ago. But self-storage operators have been gearing up for a fight, and for good reason: City Hall is backed by manufacturers and advocates who frown on self-storage because, they say, it occupies large buildings on key sites, creates few jobs and pays low wages. Moreover, the industry is growing.

Owners of storage businesses argue that they have become scapegoats for a manufacturing exodus that will continue regardless.

The mayor's legislation is likely to require self-storage facilities to obtain special permits to open in IBZs, a costly and time-consuming obstacle intended to preserve sites for manufacturers.

New traffic pattern for LIE

From CBS 2:

Commuters on the Long Island Expressway in Queens can expect some major traffic changes starting this week.

According to the New York City Department of Transportation, traffic patterns in both directions on the LIE between exits 22A and 22C in Queens will shift starting at 10 p.m. Monday, if weather permits.

The DOT says the new traffic pattern will be in effect for 24 weeks.

The new traffic pattern is as follows:

  • Eastbound traffic on the Long Island Expressway service road will be shifted towards the right, will all lanes together on the new bridge deck.

  • Two lanes on the westbound side of the service road between exits 22A and 22B will be to the left of the concrete barrier, with one lane to the right. Drivers who wish to exit at 22B will have to be in the right lane.

  • Eastbound traffic on the Long Island Expressway main highway between exits 22A and 22C will be split, with one lane left of the concrete barrier and two lanes to the right.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Van Wyck widening & SBS don't mix

From the Queens Chronicle:

While the Department of Transportation sees no problem with the governor’s proposal to widen the Van Wyck Expressway — as part of his plan to transform John F. Kennedy International Airport — some believe it could conflict with the agency’s plan for Select Bus Service on Woodhaven and Cross Bay boulevards.

“Maybe, it might be a good idea to hold off on it,” Betty Braton, chairwoman of Community Board 10, said last Thursday.

As Braton pointed out, the Van Wyck Expressway and Woodhaven and Cross Bay boulevards are both major north-south corridors. The DOT is planning to redo parts of the boulevards as part of SBS — putting a dedicated bus lane in some parts.

Meanwhile, the governor last Wednesday announced a $2 billion plan to widen the Van Wyck in both directions from three lanes to four and the connector ramps at the Kew Gardens Interchange from two to three.

Cuomo said the changes will alleviate bottlenecks along the thoroughfare and save motorists a combined travel time of 7.4 million hours annually.

Braton said it’s her board’s belief that SBS will increase congestion and that the Van Wyck project could add to that.

Flushing Bay dredging to commence

From Curbed:

The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) announced the projected $34 million cleanup which is to be completed in phases that will likely carry on for decades. In fact, could take as long as until 2042 to complete if things go according to the DEP’s plan.

The first phase will focus on decommissioning the ten sewage outflows that spill into the bay. Next, the DEP plans to create a three acre marsh and mudflat area to help filter the water. Ultimately, the goal is to build a 2.5 mile tunnel and “dewatering” station that would divert sewage away from the bay and into a pumping system for processing but that could cost as much as $5.7 billion and has not received approval from the state.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Safety bills to come before council

From Crains:

City Council members will introduce a slew of bills next week in response to an increase in construction deaths and injuries during the city's building boom.

The package includes 18 pieces of legislation that could have sweeping consequences for the industry.

Crane operation and licensing would be more strictly monitored, while smaller construction sites where accidents have been more prevalent would be required to boost oversight. Several proposals would require the city to more closely track troubled actors in the industry and increase the penalties for flouting laws.

The legislation, called the Construction Safety Act, is led by Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, but some elements could face resistance from Mayor Bill de Blasio, who has ambitious goals for housing development and has clashed with construction-worker unions. The mayor has already expressed skepticism with one of the council measures, a bill to require training programs for construction workers.

Ramp removal planned on Clearview

From the Queens Chronicle:

The New York State Department of Transportation plans on closing the two pedestrian ramps under the Long Island Rail Road trestles on the east and west sides of the Clearview Expressway in Bayside.

“The ramps are underutilized and in poor condition,” the agency said in an advisory. “A recent inspection of these ramps has indicated that they have exceeded their service life.” They will be closed on Friday and removed at an undetermined date.

According to Auburndale Improvement Association First Vice President Henry Euler, who heard about the plan at a Community Board 11 meeting, the agency should have reached out to community members before making any decision.

“They said, ‘Oh, people could walk to Corporal Kennedy Street or Francis Lewis Boulevard,’” he told the Chronicle. “Well, that’s kind of a far trek to take to get from one side of the tracks to the other. In our community they should have things available for people for their convenience.”

A dubious distinction

From the Times Ledger:

New York’s foreclosures hit a height in 2016 not seen since the two years immediately following the 2008 market crash, according to a new report from property research specialists PropertyShark. Queens was the site of the most foreclosures by a significant margin, with southeast Queens particularly hard hit in 2016.

PropertyShark examined foreclosed properties that had been scheduled for auction for the first time in 2016 and the report stated the properties were single-family or two-family homes, or condo or co-op units.

The analysis found that 933 of the 2,202 first-time foreclosures in New York City were in Queens. The number of foreclosures increased from 804 in the borough in 2015, and the 2016 total marks the highest scheduled number of foreclosures since 2010, in which 1,404 foreclosures were scheduled. In total, 42 percent of first-time auctions in the city last year were located in Queens.

Friday, January 13, 2017

CB7 approves huge Whitestone development project

From the Queens Tribune:

Community Board 7 approved a plan to build 21 single-family homes fronting on a street not legally mapped by the city, which will be built by developer Tim O’Sullivan as part of the project.

The project is located on the plot of land between Powell’s Cove Boulevard, 150th Street, 5th Avenue and 6th Avenue—part of the land that once held the Cresthaven Country Club, which closed in 1989. O’Sullivan purchased the six-acre plot in 2015. The project, called The Bridges at Whitestone, calls for 45 single-family homes. The homes are all in keeping with the zoning of the neighborhood, but part of the project places 21 of those homes along Sullivan Drive—a street not mapped by the city that will be built by O’Sullivan through the middle of the site. That element of the project needed to be approved by the Board of Standards and Appeals, which includes the community board’s opinion in its decision. On Monday night, Community Board 7 voted unanimously to approve the project, setting the stage for its completion.

Approval from the community board has been pending since September, when the proposal was first introduced at a meeting. As part of the Board of Standards and Appeals process, O’Sullivan needed the street to be approved by a number of entities, including the community board, the fire department and the Department of Transportation (DOT).

Bag tax coming back

From the Queens Chronicle:

One of the hottest stories last spring was the City Council’s close and contentious vote to charge customers five cents for almost every paper or plastic grocery bag they use while food shopping.

Originally set to be implemented last October, the fee was pushed back to Feb. 15 when the state Legislature threatened to ban such fees. The issue faded into obscurity under things like the presidential election.

That could change once the new session of the state Legislature goes into high gear in the coming weeks.

Three state senators from Queens — all of whom opposed the Council measure — told the Chronicle that Albany could well be reviving the bag bill ban.

Landlords and National Grid employees pinched for bribery

From CBS2:

Dozens of Brooklyn landlords and National Grid employees have been accused of illegally installing gas meters to put money in their own pockets.

CBS2’s Ali Bauman had exclusive access as many of the suspects turned themselves in on Thursday morning. Many of the suspects didn’t have criminal records, but some now face years in state prison.

The 37 people were accused of working hand in hand to bypass city regulations and make a quick buck, many now face charges of bribery, falsifying records, and the highest felony charge — enterprise corruption

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Infrastructure upgrades obviously needed

From CBS:

Crews are on the scene of a massive water main break Thursday in Queens.

The main burst at 60th Avenue and 99th Street in Corona overnight, sending water and mud gushing into the street and cracking the asphalt.

Crews are now trying to get to the water main.

The cause of the break is still unclear.

AirTrain is unnecessary spending

From the Village Voice:

At last week’s board meeting, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey unveiled its latest $32 billion, 10-year spending blueprint — a document carefully calibrated not to consider the region’s need for new infrastructure, but to appease governors on both sides of the Hudson.

The governors, of course, appoint the Port’s commissioners and, bridge scandals notwithstanding, continue to pull the strings at the authority. Unfortunately, using the Port Authority to dole out money to gubernatorial pet projects does nothing to help commuters stuck with a dysfunctional regional transportation system.

Two big examples show how the latest Christie-Cuomo spending plan got it all wrong.

First up: dubious airport rail projects favored by both governors are getting funded in a suspicious quid pro quo. Nearly $1.5 billion would go to Governor Andrew Cuomo’s LaGuardia-Willets Point AirTrain, which transit experts say will actually take longer than existing bus service.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Museums no longer honoring NYC ID card

Woodside to get $250K dog run

From Sunnyside Post:

Work is scheduled to begin this month on the long-awaited revamp to the dog run in Doughboy Park, according to the Parks Department.

Construction on the dog run in Doughboy Plaza, located on Woodside Avenue between 54th and 56th streets, is expected to be completed sometime this spring.

It will include improving access to the site and installing new steps, drainage, fencing and plantings, according to Meghan Lalor, a spokeswoman for the Parks Department.

Though Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer allocated $250,000 in funding to fix up the dilapidated dog run in 2013, the project was delayed for several years while the park was used as a staging area for construction on the neighboring school, P.S. 11.

$250,000 for a dog run? Really?

DSNY app inaccurate

From NY1:

A Queens councilman says the city's PlowNYC program did not measure up during this weekend's snowstorm.

City Councilman Rory Lancman uploaded videos on Twitter showing snow-covered streets in his district.

He said many of them had not been plowed in hours, or at all.

This, despite the streets being marked as recently cleared on PlowNYC - the city's public database that tracks which streets have been plowed.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Dumb de Blasio statement of the day

From the Daily News:

Mayor de Blasio won’t be using the Second Ave. subway for his daily commute because it’s not as convenient as getting to his Brooklyn gym in his taxpayer funded NYPD SUV, he told reporters Monday.

“Think about the route to Brooklyn [from Gracie Mansion], then to City Hall,” de Blasio said when asked about his subway habits.

He added, “I'm going to be doing exactly what I’m doing — going to my home neighborhood [Park Slope] in the morning, and then going to City Hall from there.”


Yes, indeed. Think about that route when you could be attending a gym on the upper east side or even install one inside Gracie Mansion.

And this is all you need to know about the logic of the Dope from Park Slope.

NYC lacking in trees

From 6sqft via Metro:

In an effort to promote urban tree cover, researchers at MIT’s Senseable City Lab have developed Treepedia, a platform for mapping the canopies of ten different major cities. Using Google Street View panoramas to serve as a Green View Index (GVI) to compare and evaluate green canopy coverage, Treepedia provides a visual map of trees and vegetation in Boston, Geneva, London, Los Angeles, Paris, Sacramento, Seattle, Tel Aviv, Toronto, Turin, Vancouver and of course, New York.

Researchers chose GVI over satellite imagery so as to “represent human perception of the environment from the street level,” according to the Treepedia site. GVI is measured on a scale of 0 to 100. A city with a GVI of 100 would be completely covered by tree canopy.

New York ranked the third lowest of the ten cities, with only Paris and London having less tree coverage. With a GVI of 25.9 percent, Vancouver was found to have the most tree coverage.

Flushing man takes stand against bioswale

From the Queens Chronicle:

Flushing resident Carmine Famiglietti held his ground.

And he remains bioswale-free.

After three workers, who the Flushing resident says are “most likely” contractors (which could not be confirmed by the agency before deadline) showed up in front of his home on behalf of the Department of Environmental Protection on Dec. 20, Famiglietti went outside and after hours of staring them down, they left.

“I said, ‘Fellas, I’m gonna tell you, I’m gonna stand here, I’m not gonna let you do the work,’” he said. “I don’t have any real clear cut evidence that we need one in front of my house.”

The Flushing resident says that the employees were “very courteous,” but he was determined to stop them from testing a site in front of his house where a bioswale could go. The analysis would require drilling.

“It never got confrontational but I wasn’t gonna move,” he said. “It went on for about two, two and a half hours before they finally gave up and left.”

Monday, January 9, 2017

Air pollution inspector arrested for accepting bribe

From DNA Info:

A city air pollution inspector was busted for soliciting a bribe from a Brooklyn construction site after threatening to impose a stop work order, officials said Wednesday.

Sean Richardson-Daniel, 53, was inspecting 222 Pulaski St. on Dec. 4, 2015 when he told an informant he believed was a property representative that he would issue the stop work order unless he received $15,000 in cash, even though there were no active Department of Environmental Protection complaints against the property, according to the Department of Investigation.

Grease in pipes in an ongoing problem

From Crains:

Some section of the city's 7,500 miles of sewer lines gets blocked virtually every day, and discarded cooking oil is the reason 60% of the time. But in parts of Queens, that grease is the culprit in nearly 80% of all sewer backups, a problem that is especially acute near Kennedy Airport.

Experts say one reason Queens' sewers get blocked so often is that a lot of food is prepared in the city's most diverse borough, where residents, who hail from 120 different countries, might not be familiar with the best grease-handling practices.

In an effort to educate the public on the ills of grease dumping, last year the city enlisted interns from the Summer Youth Employment Program to knock on neighborhood doors as part of its Cease the Grease campaign. The teenagers visited more than 50,000 Queens households and 1,000 restaurants to remind people that used cooking oil and fat should be sealed in nonrecyclable containers and thrown out with the rest of the trash, not poured down the sink.

But grease has been blocking big city sewers practically since the pipes were laid. In 1859, a Brooklyn sewer commissioner observed that "melted grease is very objectionable." Two years ago in London, an 11-ton mound of congealed fat was extracted from a sewer, requiring more than $600,000 in repairs.

Grease causes sewer backups all over the city, but they most commonly occur in certain Queens neighborhoods including South Jamaica and St. Albans, where more than 4,800 complaints were made in the past five years, an average of nearly three per day. The city received almost 15,000 reports of greasy sewer clogs during that time, according to 311 call logs—numbers that suggest one-third of the most mucked-up city sewers are located in neighborhoods that house less than 5% of New York's 8.5 million residents.

Although some of those sewer problems can be linked to the vast amounts of cooking oil used in preparing dishes such as deviled fish, a deep-fried delicacy on the menu at many Sri Lankan restaurants in southeastern Queens, experts say the chronic backups mostly reflect the area's history and geography.

Sewer pipes in southeastern Queens tend to be 10 inches in diameter, Adamski said—less than half the typical size in other boroughs—because they were installed decades ago, when the area was relatively undeveloped. Southeastern Queens is also a flood basin, so its streets and basements are vulnerable to sewer backups after even modest rainfalls. The problem's origins go back to the 1940s, when a natural drainage area was paved over to build runways for JFK. Moreover, the area's groundwater table has steadily risen during the past decade or so. Climate change is a factor, and so is the fact that the city no longer pumps the ground wells that once provided the area's drinking water.

Commercial vehicles are prohibited on residential property

From the Queens Chronicle:

A Flushing man wants two commercial trucks parked at his neighbor’s house to hit the road.

Manzar Karim is sick of commercial vehicles being parked in the driveway of a house at 33-55 159 St.

“There are two trucks,” Karim, who lives nearby, told the Chronicle. “There’s no warehouse, no shops, nothing, in about 30, 40 blocks. It’s a resident area, completely.”

The area is zoned R1-2A, a residential designation.

He spoke to the offices of Councilman Paul Vallone (D-Bayside) and state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) about the issue and filed a 311 complaint.

The building is being rented to a family by Feng Liu, who bought the house in October. He has been issued a ticket by the Department of Buildings for the vehicles, which he says are not parked at the house overnight.

“I recently acquired this property like two months ago and I leased it out to one family,” he said. “They own a moving company where they usually have a lot of stuff to move around but usually at night they rent a spot somewhere else for a monthly fee.”

The senator wrote the DOB last month urging it to look into the truck situation. According to Avella spokesman Conner Quinn, the agency has not sent a response yet.
Vallone’s office also reached out to the DOB before the ticket was issued and plans on following up if the problem is not solved.

This is a problem all over Queens and is why the borough looks like one big truck yard.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Large collection of historical records to be better preserved

From NBC:

Long buried inside the granite of Surrogate Court, what was ancient history to New York is alive again. Geog Huth and Joe Van Nostrand aren't merely history buffs -- they're history's keepers. Their task now is to dust off New York's old court records and deliver them to a larger, safe space. John Chandler reports.

Elderly and infirm residents are trapped in their building

From PIX11:

Imagine you have no elevator service for a month and you're a senior citizen or have serious health issues.

That's what dozens of residents in a Kew Gardens apartment building are coping with.

"We do the best we can," Sidney Tesher, an 87-year-old tenant of the Austin Street building, told PIX11. "Excuse me for being out of breath."

PIX11 News reached out to the building's management company, PSRS Realty Group, for comment, but has not received a response.

Nobody was working on the elevator when PIX11 was there. The realty group told residents in a sign in the building that elevator service will be restored on Jan. 18.

Reporter captures food pantry debacle

Great job by the Queens Chronicle's Ryan Brady in following up on our original story:

A Queens Crap blog post from last month featured a complaint from an anonymous person about the crowds that come when the synagogue gives out food and block the entrance to a nearby community driveway.

Nisanov said that people who come to the food pantry are encouraged to avoid blocking the community driveway.

“Whenever there’s cars coming by, we always ask the people to move,” he said. “Even when there is no car coming by, we always tell people, ‘Please, it’s a driveway; we don’t want anyone to get hurt.’”

But when the Chronicle went to the location on Wednesday morning during the time of the food pantry’s operation, an entrance to the community driveway was blocked by a number of people waiting in line.

The rabbi added that the synagogue being in the area has benefited it in other ways.

“A house of worship and especially a synagogue in the neighborhood has raised the values of homes tremendously,” he said.

The Board of Standards and Appeals issued a variance for the building to be a synagogue with an accessory apartment for the rabbi in 2007 on the condition that it get a new certificate of occupancy reflecting the usage, according to the agency’s executive director, Ryan Singer. The certificate was necessary for the variance to legalize the building’s usage as a synagogue. The building did not have one by 2011, the deadline to do so under the conditional variance.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Judge rules that homeowner must fix up landmarked house

From the Daily News:

A Staten Island judge on Thursday ordered the owners of one of the city's oldest houses to fix it immediately or run the risk of having to pay fines of more than $8.5 million — 20 times the property's fair market value.

In a colorfully written, 22-page decision, Staten Island Supreme Court Justice Philip Straniere said the owners knew in 2009 when they bought the historic Manee-Seguine Homestead that the house and surrounding acres were landmarked and they would be responsible for maintaining the building.

Instead, he said, they adopted a policy of “demolition by neglect” and ignored prior court orders to make repairs and post bonds that could be used to fund fixes.

Straniere added that the owners never filed a hardship application with the city to get out of the landmark designation for the house, which was built starting in 1690 and designated a landmark in 1984.

Under the designation, the owners were allowed to build residential units on the two-acre, ocean-view parcel as compensation for maintaining the historic home — one of the six oldest houses in the city. But they did not do that, either.

"(The owners) do not have to take any steps to develop the property; that is their choice. But they are required by the statute to maintain it. They have not done so," the judge wrote.

He said the city's request for an injunction to block the owners permanently from “continuing their policy of ‘demolition by neglect’... is granted.”

Be careful who you hire as an architect

From PIX11:

An architect from Queens was nowhere to be found after he promised to help a woman draft up new papers for her two-family home, so PIX11 stepped in.

Denise James said she was getting clobbered by taxes because the city considered her house a three family when it was really a two-family home. She needed an architect to draft new papers so she could get a new certificate of occupancy.

James found Alfred Mierzejewski, of Flushing, after reading good reviews of his services on the internet.

Mierzejewski said he wanted $10,000 to do the job. James gave him a $5,000 deposit in April 2015.

“Never hear from him till after three months. I keep trying to call him, text him, no response," James said.

When Mierzejewski finally did call her, he said he’d forgotten all about her. But somehow he still didn’t get around to completing the job. He gave James a handwritten note promising to refund her $5,000, but it never happened.

2-family house illegally converted into 8-family

From Brooklyn Reporter:

A Dyker Heights home has been issued a full vacate order after Department of Buildings (DOB) officials found that it had been illegally converted from a two-family home to an eight-family home, housing just over two dozen people.

An initial complaint, logged onto the DOB database on Tuesday, January 3, stated that the home – located at 1178 65th Street – was a “two family house, turned into a six family house with 30 people living there.” However, upon inspection by the Building Marshals Office two days later, the residence was found to have “illegal gas and electrical work at the location, and [it was] determined that the two-family home was illegally converted into an eight-family residence,” according to a DOB spokesperson.

President of the Brooklyn Housing Preservation Alliance Bob Cassara says that the vigilant actions of neighbors and concerned residents who continue to file complaints with the DOB, local officials and a recently started Agency Task Force, aid the city in combating illegal conversions.

“The fact that credible information is being supplied from the community is the reason we’re able to get a lot of this done,” said Cassara who, in 2015, helped form the Agency Task Force – which focuses on combating the proliferation of illegal home conversions in Dyker Heights and Bay Ridge. “[Residents] are making these complaints to DOB, and sending us complaints or going to a councilmember or community board and if the information that’s being supplied is credible, [DOB] acts on it.”

Friday, January 6, 2017

$2.5M Sunnyside Railyard study is "incomplete"

From NY1:

Nearly two years ago, Mayor Bill de Blasio unveiled a grand vision for an affordable housing development.

"It's an opportunity to keep our city affordable for thousands of New Yorkers, particularly in the borough of Queens. I am referring to Sunnyside Yards," de Blasio said in February 2015.

Planners wanted New Yorkers to picture thousands of units of affordable housing above a 200-acre railyard in Sunnyside, Queens.

But since the proposal was first unveiled, we've haven't heard much. So has it gone off track?

"There is a lot of back and forth happening right now, both within the administration and with some of the engineers we are consulting with about different development scenarios, exactly what is feasible," said Wiley Norvell, communications adviser to de Blasio.

According to the project's timeline, the city was supposed to unveil a feasibility study in the summer of 2016. The administration says that study, which cost about $2.5 million, is not complete. It's coming, they promise, within a few months.

The local councilman, Jimmy Van Bramer, questions whether the whole project has just derailed.

"When you make a big important speech and you are the mayor, people listen and they hear it," Van Bramer said. "We've gone through this study phase, and now, I think people are getting a little agitated about where is it, what's happening here, why aren't we hearing back."

City Council Member proposes app for trash truck tracking

From CBS:

They’re a welcome sight when garbage piles up on the sidewalk, but getting stuck behind a sanitation truck is no fun for city drivers.

“Cause I always get stuck behind a garbage truck and it always makes me late in the mornings,” Tamara Mose told CBS2’s Jessica Borg.

Especially — she said — while driving in her neighborhood, on narrow one-way streets, like in some Brooklyn neighborhoods.

“It’s the most frustrating thing as a New Yorker,” City Councilman David Greenfield said.

Greenfield said he has a bill that would bring that frustration to an end.

On Wednesday, he proposed making it a requirement for the Sanitation Department to publicly release its GPS data on trucks so that drivers can see exactly where trucks are in real-time.

“It’s really a win, win, win. A win for the drivers, it’s also a win for the sanitation workers, it’s very frustrating when you’re trying to do your job. People are honking, they’re yelling,” Greenfield said.

Greenfield said the GPS data could then be used to create navigation apps to warn people about what streets to avoid.

Wealthy renters are choosing Queens

From LIC Post:

High-income renters are flooding into Queens, according to a recent study.

Wealthy residents of New York City have shown a preference for renting rather than owning homes over the last decade, a new report from RentCafe shows, with the number of affluent renters more than tripling in Queens over the last decade.

After Brooklyn, Queens has seen the second largest influx of wealthy renters over the last 10 years by percentage.

Queens saw a jump in high-income renters from 8,486 households to 29,473 households, or 247 percent, over the last decade, compared to the city as a whole, which saw an increase by 137 percent.

The report defined high-income renters as households earning more than $150,000 per year, and found that about a fifth of New York City renters qualified as high-income, or 211,482 households, which is more than all the affluent renters in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, San Jose, and San Diego combined.

The report points out that an influx in wealthy renters is a sign of gentrification, with about seven percent of Queens renters now making more than $150,000 per year.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Cuomo unveils plan for JFK overhaul

From AM-NY:

Governor Andrew Cuomo Wednesday unveiled a multi-billion dollar plan to rehabilitate Kennedy Airport as well as travel connections to the facility.

The three-pronged plan, completely reimagines the airport while also attempting to address access on roads and through mass transit.

The overhaul would come at the tune of about $10 billion, with around $7 billion coming from private investment.

It was put forth by Cuomo’s Airport Master Plan Advisory Panel, which is also overseeing the redevelopment of LaGuardia Airport, as a way to accommodate projected passenger increases.

The proposal would expand the newer terminals to meet growing passenger demands. Older terminals would be redeveloped and relocated to increase connectivity. The roads in the airport facility itself would be reworked create a less-complex circular route.

By car, Cuomo’s administration wants to widen connector ramps of the Van Wyck Expressway and Grand Central Parkway at the Kew Gardens Interchange to reduce bottlenecking. It would also add an additional lane in each direction to the Van Wyck. This would cost anywhere between $1.5 billion to $2 billion.

Cuomo said his administration was still deciding between two options to address mass transit access to the airport. One would focus solely on improving JFK AirTrain service and its links to the rest of the area’s transit network. This option would increase service frequency while also doubling the number of cars per train, from two to four. It would also bring a complete overhaul to the Jamaica transit hub to improve transferring to the AirTrain from the subway and LIRR.

Weisbrod leaving City Planning

From the Observer:

Carl Weisbrod, Mayor Bill de Blasio’s chairman of the City Planning Commission, will exit his role overseeing the municipal zoning revisions at the heart of the administration’s affordable housing agenda in February, the city announced late this afternoon.

Just weeks after Administration for Children’s Services Commissioner Gladys Carrión resigned amid scandal, Weisbrod revealed he will abdicate his post to become chairman of the Trust for Governor’s Island, a city-owned non-profit. Former Empire State Development Corporation President Marisa Lago will replace him at the head of the 13-member body, seven of whom are mayoral appointees, and the remainder picked by the borough presidents and Public Advocate.

Rego Park Sears is closing

From DNA Info:

The Rego Park Sears will close this spring after two decades in the neighborhood, the company announced.

The store at 9605 Queens Blvd., near the 63rd Drive subway station, was was deemed “unprofitable,” according to Sears Holdings, which also owns Kmart.

The Rego Park location, which has been one of the anchor stores at the Rego Center Mall since 1996, will be among 42 stores nationwide that will close this spring, the company said.

Sources said the Rego Park store will close for good sometime in April.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Bill's new definition of "progressive"

From the NY Post:

Either Mayor de Blasio thinks Republicans are progressives — or he’s one lousy liar.

To answer charges he was selling City Hall access (at least) for donations to his shady Campaign for One New York, de Blasio said on NY1 last month, “We sought donations from people who had historically given to . . . progressive causes.”

Oops: Turns out, “more than a dozen” CONY givers had funneled hefty sums to conservative groups and candidates, like Donald Trump and Chris Christie, Politico New York reported Tuesday.

Stanley Chera’s real-estate firm, Crown Acquisitions, forked over $20,000 to CONY in 2015. Yet Chera also gave $30,000 to super PACs backing Christie and $50,000 to Donald Trump and the Republican National Committee. Chera’s now on Trump’s transition team. Is he a “progressive”?

Developer George Klein sent $50,000 to CONY. Yet he also pumped $216,600 to the RNC and $125,000 to a group backing Jeb Bush — who bashed de Blasio’s pre-K expansion, the original raison d’être for CONY.

Businessman John Catsimatidis ponied up $20,000 for CONY — the year after running for mayor in the GOP primary.

An important update from Mike Miller

Mike Miller newsletter by queenscrapper on Scribd

Assembly Member Mike Miller would like to update us on all the important things he has been doing in office.

Learn the importance of parkland

Dear Editor (Queens Chronicle):

Madison Square Garden, AEG Live and Founders Entertainment, extremely wealthy entertainment giants, are seeking to use Flushing Meadows Corona Park for paid-for-admission music festivals this summer. Queens Borough President Melinda Katz has launched a pre-emptive strike against such use and she is correct.

For too long the NYC Parks Department has been complicit with myopic politicians and wealthy special interests in dumping all sorts of intrusions that do not belong in an urban park like FMCP. It is the most abused park in our municipal park system and that abuse must stop. The Parks Department fails to understand FMCP is important for many Queens residents who do not have summer homes or rear yards in which to relax during summer months. The park is wall-to-wall people during the summer months. Large paid-for-admission events are nothing less than an unwarranted commercialization of public park property which must never be permitted, and particularly as to those with political connections. There are many nonpark facilities in this city that would be available to these entertainment giants.

That Mitchell J. Silver, the NYC Parks commissioner, said he would explore a new rule to approve live large scale multi-day events in the park is unacceptable. It should immediately be rejected with no ifs, ands or buts. Mr. Silver’s attempts to compare this proposal to a charitable AIDS walk in a park or to concerts in other parks that are over in a few hours, free to all persons who which to attend, is political nonsense. There is a difference between such short, free concerts and those events that last for days, that people must pay to attend and given the inadequate parking in the park, will result in mass parking on park grass throughout the park. Public park users will for all practical purposes be denied use of their park so billionaire entertainment owners can make more money and the little people who use and need the park be damned.

Over 100 hears ago Frederick Law Olmstead, the genius who created Central and Prospect parks in this city and important parks elsewhere, said:

“The survival of our park system requires the exclusion from management of real estate dealers and politicians and that the first duty of our park trustees is to hand down from one generation to the next the treasure of scenery which the city placed in their care.”

If Mr. Silver is not familiar with the above or if he is uncaring about its meaning, it would suggest he has no place as an urban parks commissioner. If Mayor de Blaisio is likewise unfamiliar or uncaring about its meaning and fails to prevent Mr. Silver, his parks commissioner, from further desecration of FMCP, he should be aware it will be an issue he will have to confront should he seek re-election.

Benjamin M. Haber

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

DOB records indicate that Glendale homeless shelter is off the table

Just about 2 weeks after NYC DHS started dumping homeless men into the Maspeth Holiday Inn Express (Columbus Day 2016), the engineer of the proposed Glendale shelter site signed off on paperwork to convert the factory into offices instead of a hotel as originally planned.

Glendale shelter permit by queenscrapper on Scribd

Once again, the city has won every lawsuit regarding the Glendale site and the work permits have been approved, yet there was a sudden change in plans.

The timing of this seems to further substantiate the belief that the Maspeth shelter is the result of an agreement between Council Member Elizabeth Crowley and the city. You'll recall that when she found out about the city's plan for Maspeth, she stayed completely mum about it for 3 months.

Build-It-Back still a disaster

From the Daily News:

After admitting it would not meet Mayor de Blasio’s pledge to fix all Hurricane Sandy-damaged homes by the end of the year, the city has now completed work on 60% of homes in the Build It Back program, new stats show.

The number, out of 5,349 construction projects, is up from 44% in October, when de Blasio confessed it would not be possible to wrap up the program by the end of the year.

Of the 8,374 homeowners still in the program, 90% have seen construction start or received a check to pay them back for work they funded themselves, in line with the lowered year-end goal that officials set in October.

The number of program participants has fallen from 8,585 since then, continuing a long decline as people drop out in frustration or are unable to meet the city’s rules and deadlines.

Monday, January 2, 2017

"Ridgewood" AirBnB listing is a lot of bunk

So, "Ridgewood Mod Housing" which doesn't appear to be located in Ridgewood, is renting out 6 BUNK BEDS on AirBnB. But this sharing service is just for widows trying to keep up the payments on their homes, and other sob stories.

Second Avenue subway is now open

From PIX11:

The nearly 2-mile segment adds stations along Second Avenue at 96th, 86th and 72nd streets and connects them to a different subway line at 63rd Street and Lexington Avenue. It's seen as crucial to alleviating congestion in the nation's biggest subway system.

Developers running the trolley show

From the NY Post:

The city claims the big-money developers who lavished cash on Mayor de Blasio’s campaign and nonprofit are not involved in the planning of the multibillion-dollar Brooklyn Queens Connector (BQX) trolley line.

Yet an insider says a developer and a high-powered advocacy group created and led by another developer are not only in on twice-a-month interagency phone calls on the project but they are driving the discussion.

Ya-Ting Liu, the executive director of Friends of the Brooklyn Queens Connector, participates, as does a rep from Two Trees Management, the company that came up with the streetcar idea and which will benefit from a new transit link to its swanky waterfront projects.

“They, in effect, run the call,” said a city source familiar with the project, which would connect Sunset Park, Brooklyn, and Astoria, Queens.

In fact, city schedules refer to the conference call by the name of the nonprofit advocacy group — the “FoBQX meeting.”

But it is a government call with staffers from the Department of Transportation and Economic Development Corp. It sometimes includes Adam Giambrone, the city’s streetcar czar.

The participants discuss the progress of the $2.5 billion project that de Blasio began trumpeting in February. But the outsiders are guiding the city’s strategy for community outreach and identifying those who can be tapped for support, the source said.

“It’s just shady,” the source said.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Grave trampling at St. George Church of Flushing?

From the Queens Chronicle:

A parishioner at St. George’s Episcopal Church in Downtown Flushing is concerned about the tombstones being damaged in the church’s graveyard.

“Hundreds of people waiting for food have been trampling all over the cemetery grass every Wednesday and Saturday,” Francis Abele said in a letter to the Chronicle. “This action, not only disrespects the buried but also desecrates such a sacred place.”

The Rev. Wilfredo Benitez, the rector at the church, does not agree with the claim that the tombstones were harmed by people waiting for food, saying that those in line are separated from tombstones by a rope barrier.

Queens Chronicle has a photo of the trampling. There doesn't appear to be a rope.