Friday, March 24, 2017

Private streets may be taken over by city

From Brooklyn Daily:

The city is taking a crucial step towards taking over responsibility for hundreds of unmapped streets — the private byways in many neighborhoods which homeowners are now burdened with maintaining.

Mayor DeBlasio has signed a new law requiring the Department of Transportation to identify and study all of the city’s unmapped streets with the aim of the city acquiring them in order to bring them into the normal system of municipal maintenance.

Councilman Alan Maisel (D–Canarsie) introduced the legislation because maintenance has become too burdensome for many of his constituents who live on such streets, he said.

Under the new law, the Department of Transportation must identify and study all unmapped streets citywide by June 30, 2018, to determine the feasibility of bringing them onto the city rolls, Maisel said.

But the process of adding a street to the city map isn’t always as straightforward as one might think. In many cases, it’s not clear which streets — or even which parts of a street — are outside the city’s purview. Hence the need for the study, Maisel said.

“What is and what isn’t, we don’t know, there are lots of them, every street has a different history and we want to know,” he said. “There’s a lot of confusion, and it requires a lot of research.”

De Blasio creates fake issue for press conference

From City Council Watch:

Mayor de Blasio held a press conference earlier this week at Tweed Courthouse to announce a major new policy directive. He was joined by Melissa Mark-Viverito, Zachary Carter, Carmen Fariña, Gale Brewer, Vanessa Gibson, Nisha Agarwal, Carlos Menchaca, Helen Rosenthal, and a number of other officials and advocates.

The announcement was that from now on ICE agents will not be allowed in DOE schools unless they have a warrant. Everybody took a turn at the mike to denounce fear and hate. Corporation Counsel Carter and the head of school security for the NYPD ran through all the new protocols and training, the chains of command and lines of authority, the phone trees and channels of communication. Who would authenticate the warrants, who would accompany the agents. What number to call when the children are arrested and where you can go to get help.

At question time I asked the obvious question: “How many incidents have there been so far of ICE agents trying to enter schools, with or without warrants.” Mayor de Blasio answered, “None, so far.” Hmm. Then I had another question for Chancellor Fariña.

Later I went on YouTube to review the video of the press conference. But when the video came to my question there was an odd skip: the first question was cut from the video, and picked up again about 15 seconds later with my question for Fariña.

Someone with authority in Mayor de Blasio’s communications department decided that his answer to my question was off-message, and edited the tape to erase the part where the mayor admits that his new policy directive addresses a problem that does not exist. Basically it was all for show.

I excerpted a clip from the video to preserve the evidence that the mayor’s press office redacted his comments. Here it is:

Greg Gutfield went off on the Dope from Park Slope. (This is a must watch.)

Dopey also leaves news conferences when the questions aren't to his liking.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Kew Gardens park to be returned to the people

From DNA Info:

...on Tuesday, the Parks Department said that the DA’s office had vacated the space and that the park would be restored in the coming months, weather permitting, without offering a specific timeline.

The department also said that it is currently working on a plan that will include removing gravel, aerating the soil and planting new seeds.

The DA’s office will be responsible for handling the renovations and footing the bill, the Parks Department said.

It was unclear who gave permission to ECCO III Enterprises, Inc. — which for the past six years has worked on the Interchange project seeking to widen the Van Wyck Expressway — to build the lot.

Chon family charged with tax evasion

From NBC:

The family owners of a popular spa destination in Queens have been indicted on felony charges for failure to pay $1.5 million in taxes over the course of three years, authorities announced Wednesday.

The owners of Spa Castle Inc., a 100,000-square foot spa facility in College Point, Queens, didn't pay the sales, withholding, corporate and MTA surcharge taxes they owed from 2010 through 2013, state officials say.

"The scale of theft alleged in this case is staggering," said Acting Commissioner of Taxation and Finance Nonie Manion, who announced the indictment along with Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.
The investigation began when authorities executed a search warrant at Spa Castle Inc. in August 2015, and found records showing the spa owners underreported earnings and paid workers and vendors in cash.

Steven Chon, 57; his brothers Daniel Chon, 54, and Victor Chon, 50; and daughter Stephanie Chon, 29, were arraigned Wednesday in Queens Supreme Court. Bail has been set at $100,000 bond.

Queensboro Hill veterans getting runaround from DOB

From NY1:

The group of veterans at the VFW post says it has tried to correct the violations, but do not receive proper guidance from building officials to clear the liens. They say the bureaucratic red is putting its post in jeopardy of closure.

Stuck in bureaucratic red tape, a group of veterans say they're being unfairly fined for building violations. So much so that their community center is in jeopardy of closing. During a press conference Monday, veterans at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 34-27 in Flushing say they feel like bureaucrats are attacking their post. The post has been dealing with building code violations for more than two years.

​"There is a lawless war being perpetrated against the veterans of new York city. And this post being fined out of existence is evidence of that war," says Marvin Jeffcoat, Sergeant First Class, U.S Army (Retired).

Building code violation fines have mounted against the VFW Post to the tune of $13,000.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

De Blasio announces he's moving forward with SBS

From Curbed:

In his latest Vision Zero push, Mayor Bill de Blasio has announced a series of road safety and traffic improvement projects set to take place place throughout the city—all part of a $1.6 billion initiative to reduce traffic accidents and fatalities.

This particular set of Vision Zero projects involves wider sidewalks, new crosswalks, new protected bike lanes, and pedestrian refugee medians.

Select Bus Service will be added to the Q52 and Q53 routes that run along the Woodhaven and Cross Bay Boulevards, passing through multiple neighborhoods in Queens. There are also plans for pedestrian safety improvements along this stretch, all of which is on schedule to wrap sometime this spring.

Smells like crap at Pomonok

From PIX11:

Janice Rodriguez says the smell inside the Pomonok Houses where she lives with her children is unbearable.

"It's smells like raw sewage in our lobby, in our elevator, in our hallways, and even inside our homes," said Rodriguez.

Rodriguez says she worries for the dozens of families who live inside the city complex, including her grandchildren.

PIX11 news reached out to the New York City Housing Authority.

A spokesperson says,"This situation is unacceptable and our residents deserve better. This morning, the clogged sewer line was cleared and the area was disinfected.”

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Homeless are everywhere at Jamaica Center

From NY1:

The effects of the city's growing problem of homelessness are not only being seen on the streets. There are also problems underground at one of the city's main subway terminals - the E train station at Jamaica Center/Parsons/Archer. NY1's Ruschell Boone reports.

Judges fed up with some jury duty attendees

The last time I served jury duty, the judges were quite perturbed by the excuses the jurors came up with for not serving.

If you know you can't hear well, you should have brought your hearing aid.

Being a chiropractor is not a life or death profession that requires your attendance at work.

If you can't understand English, then how did you figure out what the judge was asking you?

Monday, March 20, 2017

Fresh Meadows eyesore has new owner

From the Times Ledger:

An abandoned Fresh Meadows home that drew complaints from neighbors for years has finally been sold at acution for $710,000, according to the Public Adminstrator of Queens County.

According to state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside), the 50-19 175th Place property was sold at the end of February. Avella has been at the frontline of a campaign to get the home sold and cleaned up for two years after neighbors asked for his help.

Avella worked with various city agencies to get the property cleaned and late last year the public administrator was able to have the property auctioned. The house was auctioned in December and sold in late February.

“I am extremely happy to be able to tell the community today that as a result of the relentless efforts of my office and the incredible help of the public administrator that this property is no longer going to haunt the community,” Avella said. “Being able to get this house sold will certainly go a long way in returning a better quality of life to the neighbors who had to live with this hazardous property on their block. I hope that this sale can also set a precedent for the control and auction of the many other zombie properties that haunt communities across the city.”

Ozone Park protests drop-in center

Photos by Phil Wong

Democratic candidate for Public Advocate Tony Herbert speaks:

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Rikers Island makeover in the works

From the Daily News:

Federal prosecutors say it’s broken. Inmates, visitors, lawyers, correction officers and even Gov. Cuomo say it’s “hell.”

But despite a culture of violence that’s resisted reform for decades and a movement to close it — backed by politicians, celebrities and activists — political realities appear to have Rikers Island headed for a makeover, not a shutdown.

Mayor de Blasio has promised to release his own long-term plan for the massive 10-jail complex within swimming distance of LaGuardia Airport in the coming months - and it doesn’t include shuttering the facility.

Officials tell the Daily News the mayor’s plan includes resuming construction on a controversial new jail on the island that has been stalled since he took office, along with the roughly more than $1 billion dollars worth of improvements on the island included in his 10-year preliminary budget.

Advocates and other elected officials say the only way to fix Rikers is to tear the place down and scatter modern jails in neighborhoods across the city - an idea staunchly opposed by some vocal groups in the communities that would be affected.

And others are drooling over the development prospects.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Save Astoria's historic Dulcken House before it makes the demo list

Hello Crapper:

I just had to post this.

NOW (!!!) I find out about it being torn down. I used to live 2 blocks away from this house and passed it by everyday coming home from school as a kid. I never even heard of Dulcken or knew of the house's possible historical import. I bet you never heard of him before either? Kind of sums up what's wrong with historical preservation in Queens: The public finds out quite often about the historical significance of these things AT THE VERY LAST MINUTE.

It's disgusting and heart-breaking.

At the front,

PS Too bad the old black and white photo doesn't have a date. The elevated subway is conspicuously missing on the left side of the photo which means it's quite ancient, no?

$10 fine for failing to vote

From the Daily News:

A state lawmaker from Manhattan wants to make it costly for New Yorkers not to vote.

Assemblywoman Deborah Glick, a Democrat, introduced legislation this week that would establish “compulsory voting” in the state and punish those who don’t vote with a $10 fine.

“Mandatory voting would drastically increase civic participation and transform the political arena by making politicians more reflective of the constituents that elected them,” Glick wrote in a memo submitted with the bill.

Under Glick’s bill, any eligible voter who fails to vote would be hit with the $10 fine unless they have a “valid excuse” why they couldn’t do so. The legislation does not specify what constitutes a valid excuse.

Any fines collected would be used to improve the electoral process, the memo stated.

Glick’s bill drew prompt scorn from Senate Elections Committee Chairman Fred Akshar (R-Binghamton), who gave it little chance of ever being enacted.

“Last time I checked, this was the United States of America and people have the right to vote or not to vote,” Akshar said.

Major World in major trouble

From NY1:

The commercials for the Major World Car Dealership promise no pressure sales tactics and affordable financing.

But according to the city's department of consumer affairs (DCA), the claims are misleading.

"These ads typically promise loans even when you have poor credit, and often result in predatory lending targeted at New Yorkers with limited English proficiency and with poor credit history," said Lorelei Salas, the commissioner of the department of consumer affairs.

The agency says the dealership targeted Spanish speakers by forcing the customers to sign contracts in English — even though the verbal negotiations were done in Spanish.

DCA also alleges that Major World inflated car values, sold defective vehicles, and even changed incomes and job titles on loan papers so applicants would qualify.

The DCA is seeking nearly $2 million in fines and restitution, and calling for the revocation of the dealership's license.

Friday, March 17, 2017

DeBlasio skates after blaming lawyer

From DNA Info:

Mayor Bill de Blasio broke state law when he and his subordinates steered money towards Democratic state senate campaigns — but he can't be charged with a crime because his lawyer said it was OK, according to the Manhattan District Attorney's office.

"After an extensive investigation, notwithstanding the [Board of Elections'] view that the conduct here may have violated the Election Law, this office has determined that the parties involved cannot be appropriately prosecuted, given their reliance on the advice of counsel," DA Cyrus Vance.

The U.S. Attorney's office in Manhattan also concluded an investigation into the mayor's fundraising and determined on Thursday that no criminal charges would be brought.

Well that pretty much ends our chances of not having the Dope from Park Slope around for another 4 years. Paul Massey spoke with the Tribune recently, but he's running as a Republican in a Democratic town.

Illegal hotel owner gets off easy

From Crains:

The owner of a Midtown apartment building that for years has been dogged with lawsuits has agreed to settle millions of dollars' worth of outstanding violations for $375,000 and bring the property up to snuff, according to federal bankruptcy court documents.

Ben Zion Suky was one of several owners of 440 W. 41st St. and for years rented apartments for less than 30 days in violation of city code, according to City Hall. In 2015 the Mayor's Office of Special Enforcement filed a lawsuit seeking to shut down the illegal inn and collect damages. Before it was resolved, however, Suky sold the 96-unit building to a company controlled by David Goldwasser, who then filed for bankruptcy protection.

The city argued that Goldwasser was responsible for the outstanding violations and penalties, which totaled more than $2 million, according to the documents. Now the two sides have agreed to settle the suit for $375,000 on the condition that Goldwasser bring the property up to code and cease all illegal hotel operations.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

New 421a plan will flood Queens with condos

From The Real Deal:

A budget proposal from the New York State Senate would greatly increase the number of tax exempt condominium projects in the outer boroughs, confirming the fears of Mayor Bill de Blasio and other city officials that such developments could creep back into a renewed 421a developer tax break.

In the Senate Republicans’ latest version of the bill, condo projects outside Manhattan with as many as 80 units could qualify for 421a tax exemptions, up from 35 units in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposal released in January. A cap on the average tax assessment value for benefitting condo units is also raised in the new proposal from $65,000 to $85,000, a change that was first reported by Politico.

Since the 421a program’s expiration in January of 2016, developers have filed offering plans for 15 new outerborough projects consisting of between 35 and 80 condo units, a TRD analysis of data from the New York State Attorney General shows. If 421a became available to developers of this section of the market, there could be many more of these condo projects on the horizon.

Two key Senators in the 421a negotiations have previously expressed an interest in increasing outer-borough condo benefits, prior to Cuomo releasing his own plan. Republican-caucusing Democrat Simcha Felder and Republican Marty Golden, both of Brooklyn, told reporters in December they were looking to expand the tax break for more property owners, but haven’t provided further details.

Calls and emails directed to Golden and Felder were not immediately returned on Wednesday.

Kew Gardens road construction project takes over public park

From DNA Info:

A large chunk of Maple Grove Park was suddenly transformed into a parking lot for the Queens District Attorney's Office — with no timetable for when it might be restored, and neither city nor state officials saying who signed off on the decision.

For the past six years, the state Department of Transportation has had the right of way to use a lot near the 1.5-acre park tucked between Queens Boulevard, Hoover Avenue and the Van Wyck Expressway as a staging area while the agency works on the lengthy Kew Gardens Interchange project, according to DOT spokeswoman Diane Park.

The project seeks to widen the highway and rebuild its bridges and ramps between Union Turnpike and Hillside Avenue.

But recently, a portion of the green space was paved over to accommodate a second parking lot located between the staging area and the park's seating area, locals said.

A spokeswoman for the Queens District Attorney’s office, Meris Campbell, said the new parking lot is currently being used by DA's staff. She noted the lot was built by the construction company working on the Interchange project, ECCO III Enterprises, Inc., but couldn't say which city agency gave permission to build it.

Mass transit options are icy

From CBS 2:

Countless commuters were seen hopping and leaping over snow mounds that were piled high at bus stops, while others reached out for a helpful hand.

It was not just bus stops. On social media, people posted pictures of snow and icy subway stops. The steps to the D Train at 179th Street in the Bronx were virtually covered in snow, and the Forest Avenue M Train platform in Ridgewood, Queens was covered in ice.

A commuter tweeted the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, “How is this acceptable?” CBS2 wondered the same thing.

The MTA is responsible for subway platforms and stairs. A an agency representative said: “Our snow fighting crews have been working non-stop since the onset of the storm to clear snow and ice.”

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Tiffany glass found at new school site, incorporated into design

From NY1:

The site of new public school in Queens became an archeology dig after construction workers discovered fragments left behind by one of America's great artists, Louis Comfort Tiffany.

Dual-bin trucks create unforeseen problem

From Brooklyn Daily:

The city must rework how it collects large junk from Bay Ridge and Dyker Heights streets because the Department of Sanitation’s new garbage trucks have less space to cram in hulking waste, according to locals.

Mattresses, furniture, and other large items are piling up curbside because the area’s new trucks are split between trash and organics. Now an extra truck swings by occasionally to collect the leftovers, but workers miss items that are then left to fester for weeks. The new procedure is just one big mess, said a community leader.

The Department of Sanitation rolled out the so called “dual bin trucks” in October 2016, which are divided into two compartments — one for trash and the other for biodegradables — as part of the city’s organics collection program, where residents haul bins packed with food scraps and yard waste to the curb for pick up, according to a Sanitation spokeswoman.

But the trucks’ split trash compactor means the garbage side fills up faster and makes it more difficult to crunch what the city calls “bulk” items — anything bigger than four feet by three feet — and things get left behind, according to Beckmann. The result is a hodgepodge of junk littering the streets until a truck with the specific purpose of picking up bulk comes by. And that only happens if workers remember to fill out a form logging the rubbish and pass it along to a supervisor, according to an agency spokeswoman.

From October 2016 to March 2017, 311 logged nearly 300 complaints for missed bulk collection — compared to zero for the same period the year before, according to city data. But tossing a bookcase or a boudoir isn’t an everyday occurrence, so the city doesn’t think locals should be making such a stink, said an agency spokeswoman.

I'm sure this is also happening in Queens but no stories on it yet.

Far Rockaway houses are a do-over

From NBC:

Two luxury houses under construction in Queens collapsed on Tuesday, with witnesses suggesting wind gusts from a raging Nor'easter could be to blame.

The houses were in the 700 block of Jarvis Ave in the Far Rockaway section. The FDNY tweeted that all searches were negative for injuries and the situation was under control.

Twisted metal framing and snapped wood gave testament to just how strong the wind was, with gusts of more than 40 MPH striking parts of the tri-state.

A neighbor told News 4 New York that the houses had been under construction for more than a year.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

End of the road for the LIC Elks Club

Photo by George the Atheist

Commission created to study plastic bag use

From NY1:

Governor Andrew Cuomo is revisiting the idea of a fee on plastic grocery bags with a new task force.

The commission will study the issue for a year and then come up with recommendations for reducing the use of plastic bags.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Maspeth High School refuses to take local kids

Well I have been getting a flood of emails from parents of kids who applied to get in to Maspeth High School this September. So far it's been confirmed that NONE of the kids attending parochial schools in the community board 5 area were accepted to the school and those monitoring the situation are having trouble finding public school kids who got in as well. When the school was built, there was controversy over it in part because the DOE would not guarantee admission to local kids. They did say that the school would take students who reside within school district 24 before accepting kids from outside of it. Maspeth, Middle Village, Glendale and Ridgewood are part of district 24 along with Elmhurst and Corona. Although the DOE claims it chooses the students by lottery it seems implausible that every kid within CB5 would be so unlucky.

Has this happened at high schools in any other community or is this another form of retribution from de Blasio?

Expediter sanctioned by DOB

From Brownstoner:

Arguably the most famous expediter-engineer in the city, Scott Schnall, lost the right to file with the Department of Buildings in late February and now hundreds of projects in Brooklyn are in limbo.

An administrative court held a trial, found Schnall guilty of falsifying documents, and the DOB barred him from submitting filings to the department.

Department of Buildings v Schnall by queenscrapper on Scribd

The Brownstoner post has since been removed for an unknown reason.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Barnwell has novel idea for shelter approval

From the Queens Chronicle:

An outspoken opponent of using Maspeth’s Holiday Inn Express as a shelter, freshman Assemblyman Brian Barnwell (D-Maspeth), has drafted and plans to introduce a mulifaceted bill that would empower community boards to veto planned shelter sites.

Given the experience with their communities that board members have, the lawmaker said, their votes would be based on more information than City Hall’s.

“At the end of the day when you leave all the decision-making power in the hands of the mayor, the fact of the matter is you leave the authority to the person who is in my opinion causing problems,” Barnwell said. “Notification is great but you need something to actually have the power to stop bad decisions.”

The assemblyman does not think that granting the shelter-placement rejection power would result in NIMBYism preventing hotels from ever being used as shelters, though it would block sites like the Holiday Inn Express from housing the homeless. Different sites could be suggested by the board, he said; and no government body is ever compelled to approve anything.

“What forces the Senate to approve a nomination for the Supreme Court?” he said. “The community board is not gonna turn down every site.”

Community boards are advisory bodies. Because Barnwell’s legislation would designate the hotel shelter location veto authority, the assemblyman said that a “home rule message” — legislative approval by New York City — might be required.

The Law Department declined to comment about whether the bill would require a home-rule message; City Hall and the office of Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito (D-Manhattan, Bronx) did not immediately return requests for comment.

Real estate vultures are circling the JMZ

From Commercial Observer:

While the L train partial and temporary shutdown won’t be a reality until 2019, some real estate investors and tenants are already taking steps in anticipation of the proverbial traffic ahead. As a result there has been increased demand and an escalation in prices at properties close to the J, M, Z train stations, the next best thing to the L in Williamsburg and Bushwick. (The G train, which has no Manhattan station, is also being talked up.)

This is quite a reversal for the unloved stepchild that was the J, M, Z lines. Prior to this situation, the J, M, Z were scoffed at as unreliable; when they left Brooklyn they curled through a remote area of Lower Manhattan; there were few transfer points. The parts of Brooklyn that the lines went through were lagging considerably behind Bedford Avenue and the most coveted parts of Williamsburg.

The L train panic started in July 2016 when the Metropolitan Transportation Authority announced it would shut down the popular line between Manhattan and Brooklyn—on which 225,000 Brooklynites commute into Manhattan daily—for 18 months to repair damage from Superstorm Sandy starting in 2019. Commuting alternatives—like shuttle service over the Williamsburg Bridge—are still unclear and the outcry has prompted the MTA to host public meetings about the situation.

While the temporary shutdown of the L train line will impact residents and workers in a large portion of Williamsburg and Bushwick, some real estate pros are looking at the situation as positive for some and negative for others.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Hey, Eric, it's time to sh*t or get off the pot

From the Observer:

Only one of the four contenders to appear at the Columbia University College Republicans’ mayoral primary forum have yet to announce his candidacy—Queens Councilman Eric Ulrich, who promised reporters afterward he was “very close to making a decision.”

In his opening statement, Ulrich claimed that he was weighing a run because Mayor Bill de Blasio, a liberal Democrat, does not appear to be interested in the job. The councilman, who is eligible for another four-year term representing Howard Beach and parts of the Rockaways, has raised just short of $52,000 in a committee for undeclared office—some of it with the help of Ohio Gov. John Kasich, whom Ulrich backed in New York’s primary last April.

“It’s the million dollar question, right?” Ulrich admitted to the press. “I haven’t made a decision yet. I’m very close to making a decision and I should have an announcement soon, but I’m still considering a run for mayor because I’m concerned about the future of the city and because I do believe that Bill de Blasio can be beaten.”

The forum also included real estate executive Paul Massey, former Jets defensive lineman-turned-minister Rev. Michel Faulkner and actor and disability rights advocate Darren Aquino.

Preet asked to resign in the middle of major investigations

From NY1:

U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara has been asked to resign, along with 45 other prosecutors, as part of a nationwide purge of the Justice Department. But whether the hard-charging federal prosecutor will step down is unclear.

There are some possibilities here. One is that Bharara does not get any special treatment and he is out and he just had not accepted it yet.

Another possibility is that Bharara stays because sometime soon he is asked to re-apply for his position, or the president does not accept his resignation if it is offered. Two U.S. attorneys are being told that their resignations would not be accepted. One has been nominated for a top Justice Department position, and the other is in that spot now.

A third possibility for Bharara is that he dangles for a bit. It is possible that Bharara is something of a pawn in a battle between the Trump and Schumer. The president may be threatening to fire Bharara to get Schumer to speed up approvals of his nominees.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Second Avenue subway brings worse service to Astoria

From Brick Underground:

Since its opening on New Year's Day, the Second Avenue subway has mostly delighted far Upper East Side residents who previously had to schlep to Lexington Avenue trains, which were bursting at the seams with commuters. One Brick staffer who lives in Yorkville wrote that the three new stations were worth the wait, and according to the New York Times, regular 4/5/6 train passengers have reason to celebrate, too: Ridership on that overcrowded line has fallen and its trains are running a little closer to schedule.

But while Upper East Siders are enjoying public works of art and a fleet of Q trains from the new stations, some Astorians are complaining that their local line has taken a hit, citing an increase in delays, and more crowded, slower-moving trains.

Before the Second Avenue subway opened, the N and Q trains ran from Astoria-Ditmars Boulevard into Manhattan, meeting up with the R train from Forest Hills at 59th Street/Lexington Avenue. With the debut of the new subway line, the Q was re-routed to run from 57th Street-7th Avenue up to its terminus at 96th Street; the W train—phased out in 2010—was brought back to replace the Q.

It seems, though, that the W is not an adequate replacement for the Q, given the number of locals who have taken to Twitter with their transit grievances.

And these accusations likely aren't just sour grapes that another corner of the city got a major transit upgrade. Back when the W's return was announced, DNAInfo wrote that the switch from Q to W meant over 20 fewer trains heading to and from the neighborhood.

The reductions in service take place during the wee hours of the morning and the late evening, though, with the same amount of trains running during rush hour, which means the problems Astorians are reporting may have more to do with the subway overall, rather than just the new Second Avenue line.

Where is Wills?

From the Queens Chronicle:

New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman apparently has had it with the steady stream of delays coming from Councilman Ruben Wills (D-Jamaica) as the councilman moves closer to trial on corruption charges.

Wills was scheduled to appear before Queens Supreme Court Justice Ira Margulis on March 1. The councilman is accused of stealing about $33,000 from a nonprofit group that he ran.

Wills has repeatedly denied the charge, as well as one accusing him of redirecting $11,000 in campaign funds for personal use.

He did not appear, with multiple published reports saying his attorney, Steve Zissou, notified Margulis that he had forgotten to inform Wills of the date. Wills is said to be recovering from surgery in February for an unspecified ailment.

Margulis drafted but did not issue a bench warrant for Wills’ arrest. This past Monday, Wills’ attorney did show in court, and Wills’ next appearance was set for March 13.

But Schneiderman’s office said there were indications this week that Wills now is seeking to hire a new attorney.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Enough reasons to nix the BQX

From AM-NY:

Streetcars, America’s transit de jour, have proven difficult operations in other cities like Atlanta and Washington, D.C. Beyond the latent ire of community boards in New York, there are major hurdles revolving around nearly every aspect of the project, including how the streetcar will interact with vehicles; the use of value capture financing; and its placement in a flood-prone corridor.

Other transit experts believe the city is oversimplifying the scope of the project. De Blasio’s streetcars would carry almost 50,000 riders per day at a speed of about 12 miles per hour, according to city estimates. When you weigh costs and capacity against the Second Avenue subway, the BQX doesn’t add up, said Jon Orcutt, a spokesman for TransitCenter.

The streetcar was first proposed by the Friends of the BQX, a support group with several large development firms on its executive committee and board of directors. De Blasio has had to vehemently fight the perception that the streetcar isn’t a handout to developers in an area that is not quite the “transit desert” that he describes.

A trip on the BQX would cost the going rate of a MetroCard, but it’s still unclear if the BQX will be integrated with the MTA’s fare payment system.

Proposal to strengthen the industrial sector

From the Queens Ledger:

In an effort to build the city’s industrial sector, the Industrial Jobs Coalition has proposed a set of policies that would change manufacturing areas to foster growth.

According to the IJC, which was formed to implement the strategies, New York City has pioneered the use of nonprofit organizations to develop and manage affordable housing. Now the coalition wants those groups to do the same for manufacturing businesses and jobs.

For example, organizations like the Brooklyn Navy Yard, Greenpoint Manufacturing and Design Center (GMDC) and Evergreen Exchange collectively manage 4 million square feet of space and close to 10,000 jobs. But the coalition said the benefits of their efforts are limited to their individual communities.

The IJC now wants to extend this strategy throughout all five boroughs.

To achieve the large-scale expansion, the coalition suggested that the city give nonprofit organizations a priority in the disposition of city-owned industrial land.

It also proposed funding increases to the Economic Development Corporation (EDC)’s Industrial Development Fund and enhancing the role of Industrial Business Service Providers (IBSPs) as neighborhood partners.

The second strategy it recommends is re-conceptualizing Industrial Business Zones into “industrial campuses.” That would include physical and structural changes to industrial areas.

Advocates from the IJC proposed rerouting bike lanes off truck routes and adopting parking, loading and sidewalk regulations. They also suggested adopting signage about the area’s industrial use, expanding high-speed broadband access, reviewing street maintenance and planning for resiliency.

The last proposal to foster manufacturing growth is to reform city zoning to protect industrial spaces. To do this, the IJC wants to prohibit “incompatible uses” that accelerate speculation within IBZs, such as hotels, large-scale entertainment venues and mini-storage facilities.

The zoning changes would also reevaluate density in manufacturing zones and end a Community Facility bonus.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Hiram demands return to original Willets Point project

From El Diario:

The controversial redevelopment plan of Willets Point, the Queens industrial area located in Corona, where mechanical repair shops and auto parts sales settled for many years, jumps another time into the headlines.

Corona, Jackson Heights and Elmhurst community groups and organizations such as The Black Institute and the East Elmhurst Corona Alliance held a press conference Tuesday stating that "The true Willets Point redevelopment project is being silently stolen from the community."

Following Mayor Bill de Blasio's proposed homeless housing plan and his desire to build affordable housing in New York City, community members in the areas surrounding Willets Points in Queens have teamed up to require that both Mayor and Area Council Member Julissa Ferreras enforce the original agreement detailed in the Willets Point redevelopment plan that included 5500 housing units and at the same time denounce the transfer of 23 acres of public property at Willets Point to a group of Queens planners.

"It is amazing that the mayor of Blasio has offered a plan to develop shelters and homes for homeless people ignoring an already approved plan that would bring 5500 housing units, of which 1,925 units would be permanently affordable," said ex-council member Hiram Monserrate.

...according to the activists, current local elected officials, the mayor and governor are supporting very different re-development plan than those that were approved. These new plans include expanding the project into more than 40 acres of a public park and prioritizing the construction of an unnecessary mega-shopping mall.

[Translated from Spanish so the grammar is not perfect but you get the idea.]

Resiliency is part of new rezonings

From the Queens Chronicle:

The Uniform Land Use Review Procedure has kicked off for a proposed rezoning of Broad Channel and Hamilton Beach, which if passed would only allow for the construction of smaller developments in the low-lying, coastal communities. The Department of City Planning started the process on Feb. 21.

Under the proposed zoning, future residential developments in the communities mostly would be limited to one-family houses, with the possibility of two-family homes only on lots wider than 40 feet in Hamilton Beach. It would also prohibit the construction of semidetached multi-family housing as well as community facilities with sleeping accommodations.

“Our neighborhood is made up of mostly single-family bungalows, some built a hundred years ago, and right next to them are these homes which are completely out of place for the neighborhood,” New Hamilton Beach Civic Association President Roger Gendron said. “With limited access in and out of Hamilton Beach, to continue to allow the overbuilding in our area is unacceptable.”

In Broad Channel, new developments would be single-family only and the construction of community facilities with sleeping accommodations would be prohibited.

Community Boards 10 and 14, which represent Hamilton Beach and Broad Channel, respectively, must hold a public hearing and submit a recommendation on the proposals within 60 days of Feb. 21.

Thirty days after receiving the boards’ recommendations, Borough President Melinda Katz must give her opinion and the city Planning Commission must approve or disapprove them within 60 days after that — the Council must vote on them 50 days later.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Justice for All Coalition Invites Community Feedback on Development

Justice for All Coalition, a local organization focused on the impact of rezoning and development in Long Island City/Astoria, is convening a public meeting featuring a presentation from the Department of City Planning on their updated plans for the area. Justice for All Coalition is reaching out to encourage residents and groups to come out and learn firsthand what is being planned for the community. This will also be an opportunity to ask questions and offer feedback. Local leaders who have served as resident association presidents for the developments will also be honored as part of the agenda, in an effort to acknowledge the longstanding tradition of community involvement and activism.

Representatives of the Justice for All Coalition believe that “we need to stand together in unity and mobilize efforts to express concerns like those in Chinatown and Sunset Park that have likewise been impacted by a trend of over built communities that threaten residents with higher prices; displacement; loss of local businesses; forced choices about land use and dwindling prospects for affordable housing.” They urge the public to let their voices be heard. “Save the Date” and come out on Monday, March 13th at 7:00pm to the Jacob Riis Center located at 10-25 41st Avenue, Long Island City. Doors will open at 6:45pm and light refreshments will be served. For more information, go to
or email

D. Miller looking to reduce truck parking time

From the Times Ledger:

A southeast Queens City councilman is sponsoring legislation to reduce the time commercial trucks can park on streets from three hours to 90 minutes in an attempt to reduce the burden on affected communities.

City Councilman I. Daneek Miller (D-St. Albans) said that when he first broached the notion of Council legislation to combat the problem, he found other council members were dealing with similar situations in their own districts.

The preponderance of trucks blocking traffic and idling is a constant source of frustration for southeast Queens residents, both in the commercial corridors of downtown Jamaica and on residential avenues. Int. No. 1473 would revise the law to shorten the amount of time before traffic enforcers or NYPD officers can give an idling commercial vehicle a demand that they move or a fine. Miller said the vehicles are often idling overnight, running their engines for air conditioning in the summer or heat in the winter. Thus, the health of residents can be compromised.

The legislation was referred by the full Council to the Committee on Transportation and has garnered several sponsors, including Queens Councilmen Donovan Richards (D-Arverne), Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights) and Paul Vallone (D-Bayside). Miller said greater enforcement was needed, recalling trucks usually based in Elmont, L.I., that parked on the Queens side of the border. They were taking advantage of the lax enforcement, Miller said.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Richmond Hill fire was particularly devastating

From Metro:

A massive fire in Richmond Hill Saturday night gutted 13 buildings and left dozens of people homeless, authorities said Sunday.

About 250 firefighters were called to the fire at 10:50 p.m. and finally subdued the blaze at around 2:40 a.m.

Five people, including two firefighters, sustained injuries that officials said weren't life-threatening. Approximately 40 people remain displaced from their homes. The Red Cross is currently coordinating care for the displaced individuals.

God help us all

From the Wall Street Journal:

Gov. Andrew Cuomo took pains to stay in New York and avoid presidential speculation during his first few years in office, once even questioning if he should travel to Washington to ask for storm-recovery funds.

Times have changed.

Since Hillary Clinton lost the presidential race in November, Mr. Cuomo, a Democrat in his second term, has courted a national profile and done little to lower the volume on 2020 buzz.

The past several days have seen Mr. Cuomo crisscrossing continents and speaking to audiences far from the state he governs.

On Friday, USA Today published an essay on criminal justice he co-wrote with Van Jones, a former adviser to former President Barack Obama. Later that day, he flew to Florida to address a conference of trade unions. And over the weekend, he took a 24-hour trip to Israel and met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Mr. Cuomo’s staff says his focus is on New York and his next race will be his 2018 re-election campaign. They also said his recent actions weren’t purely national in theme: The USA Today piece pushed a proposal in New York to lessen criminal penalties against minors; in Florida, Mr. Cuomo spoke before New York unions; and his trip to Israel came after anti-Semitic incidents, some of which occurred in New York.

Since Mrs. Clinton’s loss, the governor has quietly courted advisers with national experience. A senior Cuomo administration aide spent time earlier this year recruiting former Obama staffers to consider working for Mr. Cuomo, people familiar with the efforts said.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Helen Marshall has passed away

From the Times Ledger:

Helen Marshall, who served as Queens borough president for 12 years after many nearly two decades as a Democratic lawmaker at the city and state levels, died Saturday in California. She was 87.

A former teacher, she spent her years in public office with a sharp focus on education and expanding library services in Queens.

Marshall was the first African-American borough president of Queens and the second woman to occupy the post in the most ethnically diverse county in the country.

“Helen Marshall was a larger-than-life figure in the civic life of Queens and the State of New York,” said Melinda Katz, who succeeded Marshall as the borough president.

“During her decades in public life, Helen fought tenaciously to improve our children’s schools, to address seemingly intractable quality-of-life issues and to secure a fair share of City resources for Queens.

All's quiet in Bayside - for now

From the Queens Tribune:

Bayside residents living adjacent to a noisy rail yard can expect a reprieve for at least 18 months, according to the Long Island Rail Road.

As the Queens Tribune has previously reported, the rail yard, located between 215th Street and 220th Street along the LIRR’s Port Washington line, has long been a cause of concern for neighbors, who complained at this month’s Community Board 11 meeting that the site was home to idling engines that make noise deep into the night, foul smells, garbage and inappropriate behavior from workers.

But according to the LIRR, the track work project—which involved resurfacing the tracks along the Port Washington line between Bayside and Great Neck—wrapped up on Feb. 26. This should result in a dramatic decrease in noise, and no large-scale construction projects will take place for at least 18 months, according to LIRR spokesman Aaron Donovan.

Some residents, however, don’t foresee a permanent solution.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Queens folk skeptical about SBS

From NY1:

NY1 VIDEO: A project to bring Select Bus Service to a congested Queens corridor has been a tough sell for the MTA, as a process that began four years ago continues to get bogged down. NY1's Jose Martinez reports.

Holliswood Hospital becoming a real problem

From the Queens Chronicle:

Fractured windows at the desultory Holliswood Hospital building and garbage strewn across its grounds starkly contrast with the neighborhood’s idyllic suburban homes.

Sixty-five thousand and five hundred dollars in Department of Buildings violations have been issued at the property, which is at 87-37 Palermo St. More than $600,000 in property taxes are owed.

Illegal trespassing inside the hospital, which closed in 2013, is shown in a YouTube video from last October. A young man throws an object at a hospital window from one of its rooms in the video; another part of the footage shows someone wielding a flame that does not appear to burn any of the structure, despite visible danger.

“We’re in the process of trying to find out who they are,” Linda Valentino of the Holliswood Civic Association told the Chronicle. “The 107th Precinct is working on it.”

The site is owned by Steve Cheung. “What he wants to do is build 20 homes,” the civic activist said. “We feel, and it’s just an opinion, that this guy is looking to sell the thing.”

Although a Queens civic activist familiar with the real estate transactions and development said that a developer he knows visited the site — and that it’s on the market —Cheung denied that.

“We’re planning to develop it,” he said.

A plan to divide the property into 22 separate lots was disapproved by the Department of Buildings.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Work on RKO Keith's will soon commence

From the Queens Tribune:

Plans to redevelop the site of the historic RKO Keith’s Theatre in Flushing are “progressing according to plan,” according to the property owner and developer, Xinyuan Real Estate.

“The company is in the selection process for the general contractor and expects to begin construction on this property in the first half of 2017,” a statement from Xinyuan, which is based in China, read. “The land allows for a mixed-use development comprising approximately 372,598 gross buildable square feet with approved plans.”

When Xinyuan purchased the property, located at 135-35 Northern Blvd. in Flushing, in August 2016, plans for a mixed-use development had already been approved by Community Board 7 in 2015. Those plans were put together under supervision of the property’s former owner, Jerry Karlik, of JK Equities, and were designed by architectural firm Pei Cobb Freed. The development calls for 269 condos, a 24-hour doorman, gym, tenant lounge, 305 space parking garage, landscaped courtyard, and ground-floor and second-floor retail space.

Xinyuan acknowledged the status and apparent adherence to Karlik’s development plans in its most recent statement.

“The property was formerly a performance theater with a landmarked interior known as RKO Keith’s Theater,” the statement read.

“Designs for the buildable development have been prepared by the architectural firm of Pei Cobb Freed.”

And this is why we need border control...

Robert Capers
From the Wall Street Journal:

Sixteen alleged members of a Central American gang were charged Thursday for a range of crimes—including murder, assault and racketeering—in connection with three brutal slayings that rocked Brentwood on Long Island last year.

The U.S. attorney’s office for the Eastern District of New York accused the alleged members of the MS-13 gang of killing two Brentwood High School students by beating them with a bat and attacking them with a machete in September. Prosecutors also alleged they stabbed and beat to death fellow gang member Jose Pena, also a Brentwood High School student, in June.

“These were terrible, heinous crimes,” U.S. Attorney Robert Capers said.

The 13 adult defendants’ ages range from 18 to 29. Some go by nicknames: “Muerte,” “Big Homie,” and “Smiley.” Three additional defendants are minors.

Prosecutors are considering the death penalty for some of the defendants. Most of the others could be sentenced to life in prison, if convicted.

Ten of the adult defendants are illegal immigrants, Mr. Capers said. He declined to say whether federal immigration agents had inquired about them.

City Council wants shelters absolutely everywhere

Good thing this place is private!
From NY Times:

The mayor’s plan arrives at the precise moment that the City Council has introduced a package of bills known as “fair share” legislation, the goal of which is to shape the city so that both social assets and social responsibilities are distributed according to a sense of geographic equity. Just as poorer neighborhoods should include more good things — parks, libraries — affluent neighborhoods should help shoulder the burden of shelters, waste transfer sites and so on, the logic goes. If the Rikers Island complex were to close, for example, smaller jails would pop up around the city, and they would need to be in Forest Hills, Queens, as much as they would in the South Bronx.

The de Blasio plan calls for shelters to be created in the neighborhoods where homeless people come from, so they can be as near as possible to the schools their children might attend, and to family and friends who could offer support. To whatever extent that might seem to limit disruption, fair share advocates believe such an approach only exacerbates the problems of concentrated poverty.

“If a school has so many homeless and low-income kids, it’s hard for a school to do well,” said Councilman Brad Lander, a Brooklyn Democrat who backs the legislation. “When things are borne fairly, we pay more attention to them doing well. It’s sort of the opposite of Rikers. When something is out of sight, we’re more likely to do it in ways that are problematic.”

Beyond that, building shelters in more affluent communities puts homeless children in proximity, potentially, to better schools. And as fair share legislators point out, the city hasn’t been doing a very good job of keeping homeless children close to their schools when they enter the shelter system. According to a study from the city’s Independent Budget Office, the percentage of homeless families placed in a shelter near their youngest child’s school declined to 53 percent in 2015, from 83 percent in 2011.

If fair share legislation passes, Mr. de Blasio will have to sell neighborhoods hesitant about accepting homeless shelters on the idea that economic integration is a good idea, vital to civic health. Does he have the charm to do this?

Thursday, March 2, 2017

11 people, 2 companies cited in deed fraud

From CBS 2:

Eleven people and two corporations have been indicted by a grand jury in a fraud scheme that cost several homeowners their property deeds in Queens, prosecutors said Wednesday.

The defendants – nine of whom were in custody of as of Wednesday and two of whom were still being sought – were accused in a scheme where they fraudulently took the deeds away from homeowners, according to the Queens District Attorney’s office.

Half of the victims were elderly, prosecutors said.

The investigation began in 2014, when several Queens homeowners told prosecutors they had received cold calls from people employed by the Kings Development Group in Queens. The callers allegedly said they would assist the homeowners with whatever financial problems they were having with their homes, prosecutors said.

It turned out that the company was not assisting the homeowners, but tricking them into signing over the deeds to their property, prosecutors said.

The deeds were transferred to a corporate entity, but the homeowners were still financially responsible for their mortgages, prosecutors said. Once the new deeds were recorded, the defendants allegedly advised the current tenants that they were the new owners and started collecting monthly rents, evicted the homeowners who were now their tenants, or told the New York City Housing Authority and the Department of Social Services that they were the new homeowners and started collecting subsidies, prosecutors said.

AirBnB helps gentrifiers more

From the Daily News:

It’s mostly white residents cashing in as Airbnb hosts in the city’s predominantly black neighborhoods, according to a new report by a watchdog website.

Using host photographs, Inside Airbnb determined that across 72 mostly African-American neighborhoods, the Airbnb host population is 74% white — compared to just a 13.9% overall white population in those neighborhoods.

They estimate that white Airbnb hosts in black neighborhoods earned $159.7 million, compared to $48.3 million for black hosts.

“It’s clear that it’s a racial gentrification tool,” said Inside Airbnb founder Murray Cox. “They’ve been using people of color and black faces in their marketing and lobbying campaign, but they’re not fundamentally the people who are using it.”It’s mostly white residents cashing in as Airbnb hosts in the city’s predominantly black neighborhoods, according to a new report by a watchdog website.

Lawsuit filed over building switcheroo

From DNA Info:

A neighborhood coalition is suing to stop a “monstrous” 11-story building from rising above a church on its block, saying the city may have improperly approved the developer's plan to nearly double the project's height despite its own concerns.

After the French Evangelical Church on West 16th Street, between Sixth and Seventh avenues, sold its air rights and an adjacent church building to Einhorn Development Group several years ago, the developer announced plans to construct an 11-story condominium above the house of worship.

A neighborhood group called the Save 16th Street Committee has been fighting Einhorn’s plans ever since, said member Paul Groncki, president of the 100 West 16th Street Block Association, who lives in the six-story co-op next to the site.

On Friday, the committee filed a petition in Manhattan Supreme Court asking the city’s Department of Buildings to hand over documents they believe could prove Einhorn’s plans violate city statutes and codes, or show that the department improperly approved the project.

Einhorn had originally filed plans to construct a six-story building at the site, but added five additional stories to its plans by filing a “post-approval amendment” with the DOB, the committee’s petition says. The DOB issued a permit for the project this past October, records show, and construction started soon after.

In June 2015, the committee asked the DOB for copies of architectural plans, application forms and other documents related to the post-approval amendment, but wasn’t able to get them, according to the group’s filing.

The committee and its representatives have since submitted several Freedom of Information Law requests seeking those and other materials — none of which have yielded results, the petition says.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

De Blasio sailing toward re-election

From the Daily News:

Mayor de Blasio has pulled up his job approval rating to its highest level in a year and would easily beat his leading Republican challenger, according to a new poll.

De Blasio leads Republican Paul Massey by a 59% to 25% margin in the Quinnipiac University poll released Tuesday.

He gets a 50% approval rating, the best number he’s had in a year, compared to 42% of voters who disapprove of the job he’s doing as mayor.

Some 47% of New Yorkers said the mayor deserves reelection, while 44% said he does not.

Well folks, it seems we get the representation we deserve.

Dangerfield widow upset over mural appearance

From NY1:

Before he became famous, comedian Rodney Dangerfield grew up in Kew Gardens, Queens. He graduated from Richmond Hill High School.

His link to this community is celebrated with a mural, painted last year, around the corner from Lefferts Blvd.

Italian artist Francesca Robicci painted the mural for free, working from a photo provided by Dangerfield's widow, Joan.

But Joan Dangerfield, who donated $1,000 toward the project, is unhappy how it turned out.

She says her late husband still gets no respect.

Her lawyer wrote Robicci and the community group that commissioned the mural to complain. The lawyer called the painting "an entirely unaccptable image" and a "less-than-flattering portrayal of Rodney, who deserves nothing but the highest respect."

The lawyer demanded that it be painted over.

Robicci says she'll wililng to make any necessary changes, which would mean flying in from Italy.

Joan Dangerfield's lawyer now tells NY1 she is happy to hear of the artist's offer. The two sides, the lawyer tells us, will talk privately to see if a compromise is possible.

Pols want to monitor restaurant inspectors

From the Times Ledger:

Queens lawmakers and small business owners gathered Tuesday at Flushing Town Hall to introduce a new bill aimed at protecting restaurants from unfair inspection practices.

State Assemblyman Ron Kim (D-Flushing), state Sen. Jose Peralta (D- East Elmhurst), Assemblywoman Stacey Pheffer Amato (D-Howard Beach) and Assemblyman Clyde Vanel (D- Queens Village) said the bill would help lessen the amount of burdensome fines levied on small businesses that can not handle them.

The bill is intended to reform the New York restaurant health investigation system, according to Kim. As a teenager Kim saw his parent’s grocery store go bankrupt and close after suffering from what he termed overregulation, excessive fining and high rents.

According to Kim, the bill, titled “The Restaurant Owner Whistle Blower Protection Act” will establish an independent oversight body to receive complaints about health inspectors. Complaint intake will create a hotline and website in multiple languages, including Arabic, Bengali, and Chinese. Kim said the if the bill passes, the city must provide an annual summary report on total number of independent complaints, what type of complaints and investigative findings. Finally, restaurants owners will be given three opportunities to deny the inspections on sitet and request a new inspector. Every time the restaurant owner will pay a fee, $75 for the first denial, $150 for the second denial and $250 for the final denial.