Thursday, May 24, 2018

Homeless not-for-profit's math doesn't add up

From the Daily News:

A nonprofit that has become a major homeless shelter provider in a short time frame is being audited by the city — less than a year after it scored $407 million in contracts.

Childrens Community Services lassoed two mega-contracts with the Department of Homeless Services last June to operate hotel shelters in four boroughs and charge as much as $270 a night to house a family in a room.

The city inked the deals even though the nonprofit only started four years ago and its most recent tax filing showed it was $6 million in the red.

One contract was for three years and $360 million to house homeless families. The other was for $47.7 million to house single adults.

When the Daily News inquired about the nonprofit's debts and murky financials, Homeless Services said it planned to procure an independent accounting firm to review Childrens Community Services and pare down the number of shelters the nonprofit operates.

Brooklyn neighborhoods try to hold ECB accountable

From Brooklyn Daily:

The city’s failure to collect fines on thousands of properties with unpaid building violations in Marine Park, Madison, Sheepshead Bay, and surrounding neighborhoods makes a mockery of zoning laws, leading some locals to call for some Wild West justice at a civic meeting on May 17.

“Why can’t they get a posse together and collect?” said Fran Minichiello of Sheepshead Bay.

The lax enforcement of so-called environmental control board violations — which the Department of Buildings slaps on developers when they fail to comply with construction or zoning rules — was the subject of a special meeting of the Madison-Marine-Homecrest Civic Association in Marine Park last week, where residents grilled officials from the buildings department and the Department of Finance, which is responsible for collecting the fines.

There are 2,366 properties with open violations in the territory of Community Board 18, which includes parts of Marine Park, Mill Basin, Canarsie, and other neighborhoods. There are 5,518 total open violations in that area, meaning some properties have more than one, according to the Department of Buildings.

Within Community Board 15, which encompasses Madison, Sheepshead Bay, Manhattan Beach, and other areas, there are 1,941 properties with open violations, and 4,505 total such violations among 31,884 properties, according to the department. The Madison-Marine-Homecrest Civic Association includes parts of both CB15 and CB18.

The Department of Finance did not respond to a request for information on how much money’s worth of violations currently remains unpaid in Brooklyn, but a response to a freedom of information law request from the association said there were more than $247 million in outstanding violations in the borough in August 2017.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

City closing stretch of Rockaway beaches for safety's sake

From CBS 2:

Longtime resident John Cori spoke to CBS2 in April about the ongoing erosion that he says should have been addressed and resolved years ago.

“It’s not unexpected,” he said. “We’ve been talking about this and warning the city.”

Cori adds that the Army Corps of Engineers has been slow to act.

“We know the issue, they’re closing the beaches,” he said. “We need to get the federal government in.”

City beaches are slated to open this Memorial Day Weekend, but the area between Beach 91st street and Beach 102nd Street will officially be off-limits. A section of beach in front of the 97th Street concessions area and bathrooms will be open, but there will be no access to the water.

Coming soon to a streetscape near you?

From Brownstoner:

Another building is set to sprout up on 4th Avenue in Park Slope.

Renderings spotted outside 269 4th Avenue display a 12-story u-shaped building, with what might be an open courtyard on the ground level.

The most striking feature are two twin cantilevered sections on the top five floors, which loom over the three-story building next door at 265 4th Avenue. The top four floors appear to have balconies, and there will be additional rooftop recreation space open to all residential tenants, according to a permit application filed with the Department of Buildings.

Is this really the direction we want architecture to go in?

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Sunnyside teardown almost $10M

From Sunnyside Post:

A Queens Boulevard property marketed for its development potential is changing hands for $9.9 million, according to a press release issued by the real estate brokerage firm Cushman & Wakefield.

The brokerage firm said Friday that it had arranged the sale of 43-10/24 Queens Blvd—a property that incorporates about half the block on the south side of the boulevard between 43rd and 44th Streets. Eight stores occupy the space—including Amazon Pharmacy, Dave’s Bagels, Riko and Taiyo Food.

The property has been owned by Geoffrey Henderson, the president of Manhattan-based Henderson Holding Corp., since January 2015. That company purchased the one-story building for $7.28 million. The new buyer has not been named and the transaction has yet to close.

The stores currently occupy 8,500 square feet. However, an owner can develop a 43,700 square foot mixed-use building, according to Cushman & Wakefield.

Parking meters hiked and BDB is fine with it

From CBS 2:

Mayor Bill de Blasio is looking to raise parking meter rates — a move that could burden outer borough businesses and working people.

His plan includes raising the rates at the nearly 70 percent of the spots in the outer boroughs that now charge $1 an hour.

CBS2’s Political Reporter Marcia Kramer asked the mayor on Friday whether he feels “that working people who may use those spots… could be unfairly disadvantaged and it could be a regressive tax?”

“You know I care a lot about making sure there’s fairness for working people,” he replied.

De Blasio said that while he cares about the working man, he’s more concerned about congestion. To ease congestion, he wants to see more turnover of parking spots in outer borough business districts, like Astoria, Queens.

Does this make any sense whatsoever?

Monday, May 21, 2018

City (still) trying to crack down on parking placard abuse

From the Daily News:

The city has handed out a whopping 160,000 parking placards, to teachers, cops, Department of Transportation workers and others.

Many drivers still use dubious or outright fake placards — and manage to avoid tickets.

Meanwhile, drivers with legit placards park where they're not supposed to — on the sidewalk or blocking crosswalks. City placard holders are also only supposed to use the placards while on official business.

Under the proposed legislation, which will be introduced next week, the minimum fine for using a bogus or unauthorized placard would double from $250 to $500.

Another bill would require the city to yank a real placard if it is used inappropriately three times in a year.

The legislation would also create an electronic tracking system for city-issued placards, so officials will know who has one and whether they've been caught misusing it, and cops can confirm in real time whether a permit displayed on a car is valid.

And the NYPD would have to issue reports on how many complaints they get about placards abuse, and how many tickets they give out.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Upstate senators support a denser New York City

From Crains:

Support for a state Senate bill allowing the city to zone for denser apartment buildings is breaking down along geographic lines.

Representatives from within the five boroughs—aside from the Bronx's state Sen. Jeff Klein—voted against the proposal earlier this month, while lawmakers from outside the city were in favor.

The bill would roll back a state law capping residential development at 12 times a city property's lot area. The legislation's stated aim is to give the city greater leeway to address the housing crisis by zoning for denser development wherever the City Planning Commission deems appropriate. Doing so would bring residential planning in line with commercial properties, which are not subject to a state-imposed cap. That idea is supported by the de Blasio administration, the Regional Plan Association and the Real Estate Board of New York. But new housing is often opposed by preservation and community groups, a dynamic that makes the geographic split in the Senate Committee on Rules, which voted May 7, unsurprising.

Huge Queens Blvd development is widely criticized

From the Queens Chronicle:

According to plans presented by developer Madison Realty Capital, the taller of the two structures — to be located at the southeast corner of 69th Street and Queens Boulevard — will feature 17 stories and rise 181 feet into the air.

The shorter building — across the plot from its counterpart — will feature 14 stories, stand 151 feet tall and sit at the northwest corner of 70th Street and 47th Avenue.

Within the two structures, Madison Realty Capital plans to create 561 residential rental units, including 112 dwellings of affordable housing for residents making 80 percent of the area median income — about $62,000 for a family of three.

Connecting the buildings -— which will contain about 5,600 square feet of ground-floor retail space — will be a courtyard to be built atop a parking garage that will contain 242 spots.

Of the approximately 100 people in attendance at the meeting, no one spoke in favor of the plan. Most of those who took the microphone to shred it were members of the NYC District Council of Carpenters, all of whom donned green or black union shirts.

Many of them asked if a commitment to use organized labor could be made, but Ross Moskowitz, an attorney representing Madison Realty, and other present officials affiliated with the developer responded by saying that it was too early in the process to decide.

That sparked jeers from some in the crowd, with one man even asking how many people the developer expect to die on the job if it decides to hire nonunion workers.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Non-profit is building up Astoria property

From the Queens Gazette:

Plans have been revealed for the development of a 14-story, mixed-use building at 21-12 30th Road in Astoria, on property owned by the Variety Boy’s & Girl’s Club.

The 145-foot-tall building will feature 133,090-square-feet of residential space, 7,780-square-feet of commercial/retail use and 114,430-square-feet of space for a community facility for the Boy’s & Girl’s Club, according to a post on the YIMBY (Yes, In My Back Yard) website.

The development will feature 112 condominium units averaging 1,228-square-feet each.

The development will be split between two towers with the community space occupying floors one through six and residential units occupying floors seven through 14.

Locust Manor getting a Caliendo special

From QNS:

A south Queens neighborhood will soon see a building with more 80 new units of affordable housing rise in the area.

The Meridian housing development will bring 82 mixed-income units to Locust Manor, a small neighborhood situated between Rochdale Village and Laurelton.

The governor’s office announced the $9.7 million project as part of a $200 million long-term plan to build or preserve more than 2,800 affordable apartments across New York state.

Located at 127-10 Locust Manor Lane, The Meridian will be constructed on formerly vacant land in a largely residential neighborhood by D & F Development Group LLC. The site is located near the Locust Manor station on the Long Island Rail Road, located at Farmers Boulevard and Bedell Street, and commercial and retail establishments.

The gross rents (rent plus utilities) for each unit will range from $835 a month and higher based on income eligibility and household size, according to a NYS Homes and Community Renewal (HCR) agency spokesperson. The building will stand 14 stories tall and is designed by Briarwood-based Gerald J. Caliendo Architect, P.C.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Lots of dough thrown down the homeless hole

From the Daily News:

It costs a lot of money to keep the homeless shelter system's population flat.

Both the City Council and Controller Scott Stringer questioned the precipitously rising budget for the Department of Homeless Services Tuesday, even as the homeless population of about 61,000 New Yorkers has yet to drop.

Councilman Steve Levin said that actual spending for the Department of Homeless Services was $1.4 billion in fiscal year 2016 — and had grown to $2.14 billion in the current fiscal year, after the city twice modified the budget mid-year, twice, to add cash. That's a $700 million jump.

"But we have not seen a significant decrease in the shelter census despite that increase in spending — 50% over what it was in fiscal year 2016," Levin said during a City Council budget hearing on the budgets of the city's welfare agencies.

Levin said the spending was worthy — and that the city had underfunded the system in the past. But he questioned what results the money was getting if the city had the same shelter population — and if those in shelter were still unhappy with conditions.

Simple: hotel rates went up.

City Council about to lower the boom on AirBnB

From The Real Deal:

The New York City Council is at work on a new bill that would be the biggest crackdown yet on Airbnb.

Councilmembers are writing a bill that would require Airbnb to provide addresses of their listings to the Mayor’s Office of Special Enforcement, according to Politico. The push comes amid a strong anti-Airbnb lobbying campaign from New York’s hotel industry accusing the company of lowering the stock of affordable housing in New York.

The bill would also require hosts to give their full names and addresses to the mayor’s office, report whether the home is their primary residence and say whether they are just renting a room or their entire home. Penalties would be applied to listings that do not comply with the reporting requirements, although lawyers for the City Council are still figuring out what these would be.

The City Council and Airbnb did not have statistics for how many rent-regulated apartments make up Airbnb listings, but politicians believe it takes low- and moderate-income housing off of the rental market based on anecdotal accounts.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Feds looking at Cuomo donors

From the Daily News:

A health care company that got big state grants after its execs and doctors gave to Gov. Cuomo's campaign is being probed by a Manhattan federal grand jury, according to a report Monday.

Crystal Run Healthcare — one of the Hudson Valley's biggest employers — got $25.4 million in taxpayer money after some of its executives, doctors and their spouses gave $400,000 to Cuomo's campaign, the Albany Times Union reported. The paper also reported that grand jury subpoenas seek testimony from "multiple" company employees.

The state gave the money to Crystal Run in 2016 to fund two facilities, the Times Union said.

Crystal Run's founder and CEO, Hal Teitelbaum, gave $50,000 to Cuomo's campaign in 2015 and $20,000 in 2017, records show. His wife, Jennifer, gave $25,000 in 2013.

Woodside visa fraudster cuffed

From Sunnyside Post:

A Woodside woman has been charged with visa fraud for filing false documents to get Filipino nationals work visas, according to the U.S. Attorney’s office.

Rena Beduya Avendula, 50, who owned Woodside-based Professional Place & Recruitment Inc. (PPRI), would submit fraudulent documents claiming that her clients would be employed in “specialty occupations,” therefore qualifying for H-1B work visas, according to the U.S. Attorney’s office.

Avendula is charged with five counts of visa fraud and with conspiring to defraud the U.S. by bringing in undocumented immigrants. The scheme allegedly took place from October 2009 through February 2015.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

129-ft tall hotel proposed for LIC

From The Real Deal:

Sam Chang is proposing a 324-key hotel at 38-39 9th Street, just a block away from another Long Island City property the hotelier acquired last year.

Chang’s McSam Hotel Group filed permits for a 13-story hotel spanning 111,627 square feet at the site, according to documents filed with the city’s Department of Buildings on Monday.

If approved, the structure would be 129 feet tall.

Drunk driver crashes into house, reveals illegal conversion

From NBC:

Witnesses said the driver, a 29-year-old woman identified by police as Shanna Shaw, got out of the vehicle wearing only her underwear. She seemed disoriented and under the influence.

"She was just screaming, just screaming," said A.J. "No words at all."

Police said the woman tried to leave the scene but was arrested. All of the injured are expected to survive.

But there are even more victims: A.J. and his family may have lost their home, since it's been deemed no longer safe to live in.

"We have to move or vacate the apartment until further notice," he said. "It takes a toll on everybody, but you gotta live through it, I guess."

A.J. and his family are staying with friends for now. The driver, Shaw, has been charged with driving while imparied and with two counts of fleeing the scene of an accident.

Attorney information for Shaw was not immediately clear.

Messages left for the building landlord were not immediately returned. The Department of Buildings said during investigation at the crash scene, they learned the home had been illegally converted and didn't have adequate egress. As a result, a partial vacate order was issued for the first floor and garage.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

South Ozone Park: all shelters, all the time

From the Queens Chronicle:

All but two hotels within the boundaries of Community Board 10 are being used to house homeless people, with the latest being the Sheraton JFK on South Conduit Avenue.

The announcement that the Sheraton is being used to house the undomiciled — made at CB 10’s meeting last Thursday — comes more than a year after Mayor de Blasio announced the city would stop using such sites to alleviate the growing homelessness crisis by 2023, and open 90 new shelters in the five boroughs. A spokeswoman for the Department of Homeless Services says the city is already in the process of not ending the use of some hotels as temporary shelters.

It now joins five other commercial hotels in Ozone Park and South Ozone Park being used by the DHS. Three are family shelters — The Days Inn and Comfort Inn, both on Redding Street, house 30 and 54 families with children, respectively, and the Hilton Garden Inn on 134th Street in South Ozone Park has 60. The EconoLodge on Rockaway Boulevard is a “single adult site” with 48 people. The View Inn and Suites JFK, on the Van Wyck Expressway service road, has 62 rooms being rented out by the city. The Skyway Men’s Shelter, formerly a motel, is also housing 124 homeless men.

Only two hotels within CB 10’s area are not being utilized by the city — the Surfside Motel in Howard Beach and the Crossbay Motor Inn in Ozone Park. Many of the hotels lack kitchens in the rooms, a violation of the law that states there must be one where homeless people are being housed. The city has exempted itself from its own regulation, citing an emergency.

Blissville rallies outside Gracie Mansion

From the Times Ledger:

Calling the city’s plan to open a third shelter in a seven-block area of their isolated neighborhood “a threat to the very fabric of our community,” Blissville residents rallied outside the Mayor’s residence at Gracie Mansion Monday morning.

U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-Astoria) joined the dozen protesters from the newly formed Blissville Civic Association as they voiced their opposition to the population imbalance that will occur this spring when the city Department of Homeless Services moves 154 adult homeless families into the Fairfield Inn by Marriott on Van Dam Street in the next few weeks, bringing the number of homeless to more than 550 in a neighborhood with less than 475 permanent residents.

“Homelessness is a huge problem in New York and every neighborhood is being asked to do their fair share,” Maloney said. “But Blissville is being asked to do more.”

Maria Davis, the vice president of the Blissville Civic Association, said the population imbalance would be more like a saturation.

“This is not fair share equity, it’s a reckless and dangerous plan,” she said.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Stop work order violations will carry heavier penalties

From The Real Deal:

The city will soon bump up fines for violating stop-work orders on construction sites, adding another $1,000 to penalties imposed for first-time offenses.

Starting June 18, the Department of Buildings will impose penalties of $6,000 for initial offenses and then $12,000 for every subsequent violation. Currently, the agency charges $5,000 for the former and $10,000 for the latter.

The City Council approved the change in August, along with a slew of other building-related bills. At the time, the council also voted to double penalties for work done without a permit, which varies based on the kind of work.

DOB verifies that Elmhurst death house was illegally subdivided

From the Daily News:

The Queens building where a man was found dead in the attic — a day after the fire was put out — was illegally subdivided, according to the Buildings Department.

There was an apartment illegally created in the basement, and multiple Single Room Occupancy (SRO) units illegally added on the first floor of 40-46 Case St. in Elmhurst, inspectors said.

The Buildings Department has ordered the property owner to board up the vacated fire-damaged building. The owner has also been hit with multiple violations for the illegal conversions.

On Sunday, a city lawmaker who represents the area demanded a full investigation and for stricter penalties for similar illegally converted houses.

"Similar illegal conversions are common practice in Corona and Elmhurst," said Councilman Francisco Moya.

The home in Jackson Heights that caught fire also has a history of being an SRO.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Does anyone at DHS have a clue?

From Sunnyside Post:

The City View Inn in Blissville will once again house homeless families with children, the city announced today.

The Department of Homeless Services said the hotel at 33-17 Greenpoint Ave., which is currently housing single adult men, will transition back to temporarily providing shelter for families with children before the school year in September. The specific date and time for the move is yet to be determined.

The DHS says the decision comes with trends the agency sees in the summer months, when more families with children seek shelter due to the school year wrapping up.

The single adult men currently at the shelter, the DHS says, will be transferred to other shelter locations. The agency is expecting several high-quality, permanent shelters to open around the city in the coming months, which will provide capacity to shelter the men at the City View Inn and others.

The City View Inn began sheltering 54 families with children in July 2017, but abruptly switched to housing over 100 single adult men in January. The DHS was met with much criticism at the time due to its handling of the move, where families at the shelter were seemingly notified hours before of the news. The agency has since publicly apologized for the miscommunication.

Bill aims to stop car dealership sidewalk parking

From CBS 2:

Dealerships have been parking their cars where people walk, specifically in Brooklyn and Queens.

“I’m basically stepping over the bumper of a car to try and get into the street,” Calvin McGoldrick, of Bay Ridge, said.

In Bay Ridge, CBS2 busted a Hyundai dealer on Fourth Avenue. When it saw our cameras, it moved one of its cars that was illegally parked.

CBS2 also spotted four cars on the sidewalk at the Park Slope Auto Center. Even the image Google Maps snapped of it shows two cars illegally parked.

“It’s more than just an inconvenience, though. I think it’s a safety issue,” said Emily Porro, of Park Slope.

That’s why the City Council is pushing for a bill to revoke car dealers’ licenses if they become repeat offenders.

“Anytime when you have cars infringing on public space and pedestrians space, it’s a problem,” City Councilman Justin Brannan, of Brooklyn, said.
City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, of Queens, is sponsoring the bill.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Is the Shel game over?

From the NY Post:

The ex-speaker of the New York state Assembly Sheldon Silver was found guilty on Friday of selling his office for $4 million in kickbacks — affirming a 2015 conviction on the same charges that had been overturned on appeal.

A jury of seven women and five men found Silver, 74, guilty of all seven counts against him, including two counts of honest services mail fraud and money laundering.

He faces as much as 130 years in prison when sentenced on July 13.

Elmhurst fire is an old familiar story

From the Daily News:

A roaring fire erupted in a Queens home early Friday injuring seven firefighters and five civilians, including one who suffered life-threatening injuries, FDNY officials said.

The blaze broke out on the second floor of a two-story house on Case St. near Whitney Ave. in Corona around 5:10 a.m., according to authorities.

Four civilians were taken to local hospitals in serious condition. A fifth civilian was rushed to Elmhurst Hospital in critical condition.

The seven injured firefighters were taken to New York-Presbyterian Queens. Their conditions were being evaluated, an FDNY spokesman said.

In 1992, a rooming house was discovered there. It was allegedly "cured".

Friday, May 11, 2018

Municipal vehicles causing havoc

Bayside pimp pinched

From the Times Ledger:

Three people are facing prostitution charges following an April 21 arrest in Bayside in which the alleged ringleader offered two of his “employees” to two undercover cops from Queens Vice Enforcement Division for sex acts in exchange for money, the Queens district attorney said.

Cheolryong Shin, 31, was identified in the criminal complaint filed by the DA’s office as the man who allegedly attempted to sell two officers on a full body massage complete with sexual gratification before being arrested alongside Ting Ting Wen, 27, and Yan Yan Hong, 40.

After Shin allegedly offered the services of the two women for a fee of $160, the undercover cops were led into the basement of a business at 211-54 45th Drive, where the fee was discussed again with the female defendants, the complaint said.

The location is an inconspicuous office space with no exterior signage indicating there was a massage parlor of any kind occupying the building, which also houses a dental business. It is on a quiet residential street west of Bell Boulevard.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Who will be appointed to AG role?

This article mentions Letitia James and Michael Gianaris as possible Schneiderman replacements. Please take either one! We're not using them.

Why it's important to research history

From the NY Times:

since 2015, most of the Red Hook fields have been closed because of lead contamination in the soil. A $107 million cleanup by the New York City parks department has been delayed, leaving residents, coaches and parents anxious and confused.

“We need our fields back,” Mr. Bazemore said. “But safe.”

Problems started in 2012 when the parks department and the city’s health department learned of a dissertation by an environmental scientist who identified close to 500 lead-smelting sites around the country. One of the smelters once stood in Red Hook, right across the street from the housing projects and right on top of some of the playing fields.

In the late 1920s and ’30s, Columbia Smelting and Refining Works operated on the corner of Hicks and Lorraine Streets, leaving lead in the soil that would eventually become Fields 5, 6, 7 and 8 — the same fields that Mr. Bazemore and generations of children once played on. The parks department and the health department tested the soil in 2012, finding lead levels four times the safe limit on the surface and nearly 10 times the limit further underground. They quickly closed them. A concrete pad to guard against the lead was laid down. The fields and grass were hydroseeded.

In 2015, the Environmental Protection Agency did further testing in the surrounding fields and found more elevated lead levels, causing Parks to close the fields for a four-phase cleanup that has yet to begin.

Work was set to start this spring on Fields 5 through 8 — the worst of the bunch and closest to the housing projects — but has now been pushed back a year because of delays in the construction bidding process. A contractor is now being approved and work should be completed by fall 2020, when a 12-inch buffer of clean fill will be topped by a drainage layer and then synthetic turf.

Just think what we could avoid if the city consulted historians once in a while. Or at least looked at old maps...

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Building boom brings shoddy construction

From The Real Deal:

Construction defects, alleged or otherwise, are a hallmark of any building boom, and the last five years have been no exception. While there are no publicly available numbers on the frequency of such complaints, attorneys say latent defects usually spring up a year or so after buildings open. Many say they are already seeing an uptick, given that construction has been unrelenting since 2012. And they say it’s safe to assume that another wave of lawsuits is about to hit.

Developers causing low-rise grief

From QNS:

On May 3, local civic leaders and state Senator Avella held a press conference to call attention to the trend — observed in areas including Bayside, College Point and Bellerose — where semi-attached houses are being re-built by developers to tower over the adjacent home.

The group called on the city to establish new building and zoning codes that protect semi-attached and row houses from this “inappropriate construction.”

“There’s nothing to stop this,” Avella said, referencing a photo of new home built up against a smaller residence in Queens. A firewall was built to separate the two structures.

This construction causes the property value of the attached home to plummet, Avella claimed, and opens adjacent homeowners up to ventilation and quality-of-life concerns.

“The only thing [the homeowner] can do is then sell to somebody else who’s going to do something like this on the other end,” Avella said. “We have to come up with some sort of proposal where at least the adjacent homeowner has some rights.”

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

World's quickest takedown?

Click here for the explosive story.

Is the Clear Curbs initiative helping or hurting?

From NBC:

A program designed to curb congestion by banning delivery trucks and cars from parking on certain streets during rush hour is making the problem worse, some say. Lori Bordonaro reports.

Your tax dollars at work, DHS edition

Monday, May 7, 2018

LIC will get more hotels, like it or not

From LIC Post:

A large stretch of Long Island City will be exempt from the city’s new plan to curb hotel development throughout the five boroughs.

The city’s proposal would require hotel developers to obtain a special permit–requiring a lengthy public approval process–to build in certain manufacturing and industrial districts around the city. The Department of City Planning, the agency behind the effort, began the public review process to amend the zoning text that would require these permits just days ago.

The city, which has been working on the proposal since 2015, says the special mixed use district was excluded because it has the infrastructure in place to support hotel development without it detrimentally affecting communities in it.

“The M1 Hotel Text Amendment provides much needed control in the Industrial Business Zone but it does not provide protection in the low rise residential areas,” said the LIC Coalition, a local community group.

“There is no reason to believe that once squeezed out of the M1 zone, hotel developers would not seek opportunities where they can,” the group added.

Other areas exempt from the special permit requirement include sections of East Elmhurst, Ozone Park, and Springfield Gardens, given their proximity to the airports. The city will also be exempt from the special permit requirement if it operates hotels to provide temporary shelter to the homeless and other public purposes.

Translation: The City wants more homeless hotels in LIC.

Sandy's lesson not learned?

From Crains:

The community of Rockaway Park, Queens, has mixed opinions on a plan to replace a historic firehouse badly damaged by Superstorm Sandy.

New York Fire Department officials say they want to build a new firehouse on the site of a former bank, shuttered after the 2012 storm. WCBS-TV reports the local community board voted against the location but was overruled by the city Planning Commission.

The property sits across the street from the sea wall of Jamaica Bay and is considered a flood zone. Resident Bianca Sepulveda said Monday that she feels it is a risk to have a firehouse right on top of the water.

The FDNY said in a statement that the planned building will meet all flood resiliency standards.

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Future of KGH site is up in the air

From the Queens Chronicle:

More than a year has passed since a fire destroyed a strip mall in Kew Gardens Hills. And the site’s future is a big question mark.

On the night of Dec. 30, 2016, a blaze destroying the 14 businesses from 77-39 to 77-63 Vleigh Place, including a kosher pizzeria, bakery, law office and barber shop.

The Department of Buildings condemned the building the next day and slated it for demolition on Jan. 11, 2017; the project began last September and was signed off as completed by the city on March 28.

The block is now a large concrete pit, partially filled with dirt and enclosed by windowed green barriers. A Caterpillar demolition excavator, as well as scattered construction waste and materials, can also be seen on-site.

Woodside to get 75-unit building

From the Queens Gazette:

The owner of a parcel at 43-44 51st Street in Woodside have filed plans with the city Department of Buildings for development of a nine-story, mixed-use building at the site.

The building would soar 99-feet, with a combination of 75 affordable and market rate units on floors two through nine, 8,624-square-feet of retail space on the ground floor, a fitness room, indoor/outdoor recreation room for tenants and enclosed parking for 31 vehicles.

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Development plan for Sunnyside to be crafted this summer

From Crains:

The de Blasio administration and Amtrak will begin crafting a development plan for Sunnyside Yard in Queens this summer, city and Amtrak officials will announce today.

The master planning team will be led by Vishaan Chakrabarti's architecture firm, Practice for Architecture and Urbanism, which was first reported by Crain's in March.

"This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity for civic groups, public officials and residents to create a vision for their borough," Alicia Glen, Housing and Urban Development deputy mayor, said in a statement.

The city has carved out a position within the Economic Development Corp. to oversee the process and announced a steering committee composed of roughly two dozen local and citywide stakeholders to provide input. Last year a city study found that about 80% of the 180-acre yard could be decked over and covered with 24,000 apartments, along with schools, parks and other infrastructure, at a cost of $19 billion. The master planning process is expected to take around two years and will come up with a more specific blueprint of what could be constructed.

AirBnB has caused rental prices to skyrocket

From Bloomberg:

The cost of Airbnb to New York renters: $616 million.

That’s the conclusion of a new report by city Comptroller Scott Stringer that details the home-sharing website’s impact on housing affordability from 2009 to 2016. It’s no secret to New Yorkers that leasing costs skyrocketed during the time. But to isolate the Airbnb effect, Stringer’s office compared the growth in what rents would have been without listings on the site to what they actually were. Airbnb Inc. disputed the study’s findings, calling them “wrong on the facts” and containing “substantive issues with the methodology.”

Owners who list their apartments for short-term stays essentially are removing those units from the rental market, reducing the supply of housing and pushing up the cost of what remains, according to the report. For each 1 percent of all residential units in a neighborhood listed on Airbnb, rents in that neighborhood went up 1.58 percent, Stringer said. The estimated $616 million impact is for 2016 alone.

Friday, May 4, 2018

Katz finally working on Jamaica cleanup

Photo from Cleanup Jamaica Queens
From AM-NY:

A new pilot program aimed at cleaning up Jamaica’s streets will also benefit formerly homeless people looking to build job skills.

Borough President Melinda Katz unveiled the “Jamaica Together: A Neighborhood Cleaning Effort” program on Tuesday, announcing a six-month partnership with the Association of Community Employment Programs for the Homeless (ACE) as well as other community stakeholders.

The initiative will lean on ACE-paid workers to clean up and beautify a section of Guy R. Brewer Boulevard, between Tuskegee Airmen Way and 109th Avenue, according to Kat’s office. ACE, a non-profit organization, works with recovering homeless people in the city by providing support services and helping them build key skills that will enable them to obtain and maintain a job.

“Jamaica is one of our borough’s core neighborhoods and it is critically important that we do all we can to make it a fantastic place to live, work and visit,” Katz said. “This program is just one part of our overall effort to revitalize Jamaica and maximize its potential as a residential and commercial hub.”

Each weekday, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., a two-person crew will go out along Guy R. Brewer Boulevard to clean the sidewalks and tree pits and remove unauthorized graffiti. The workers will be overseen by a supervisor from ACE, per Katz’s office.

Watch out for cyclists! (They'll run right into you)

From CBS:

Recent complaints suggest that New York City’s bike riders have gone rogue.

With violations on the rise, some bikers have been caught running read lights and in some cases running over people.

Dash cam video from a recent incident shows a mother pushing a baby carriage in a Brooklyn crosswalk when a man on a bike comes out of nowhere and races through a red light, crashing into the woman and her child.

Fortunately they were able to walk away.

“This happens on a daily basis,” Williamsburg resident Gary Schlesinger said. “Obviously bikers don’t feel the law applies to them.”

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Groups crawl out of the woodwork to support AirBnB

From the Daily News:

Business groups and faith leaders oppose an Assembly bill to require Airbnb operators to give city enforcement agencies details about the units they rent.

The bill represents "an incomplete, piecemeal approach to the regulation of homesharing" that would "impede the growth of the sharing economy in New York," says the state Business Council, which represents 2,400 businesses.

A prominent religious group also opposes the plan, which is being pushed by Airbnb critics.

"We strongly support a robust and affordable housing market — it's essential to ensuring many New Yorkers can afford to stay in the city they love," Mobilizing Preachers & Communities wrote in a memo opposing the bill.

"But this bill will have the opposite effect, cutting off the very means by which many have been able to keep their homes," the group said.

The anti-Airbnb bill would send "a signal that New York is hostile toward business, and specifically the tech sector," said Tech:NYC, a group of technology companies.

The bill would require anyone advertising apartments on home-sharing sites to disclose to city agencies detailed address information like street name and number, apartment number, borough, town and county of the unit being offered.

Okay, so if the only way you can pay your mortgage is to rent it out to strangers, you probably should sell it and just rent. You're putting apartments that could be used by working people who live in NYC on AirBnB to rent out to tourists to make more money. Price your apartment to cover your costs and you won't need to run an illegal hotel.

Brooklyn CB is fighting back against illegal curb cuts

From Brooklyn Daily:

The mayor must step in to force city agencies to crack down on selfish Bensonhurst homeowners who take away already-scarce street parking spots by illegally cutting their curbs and paving their front lawns into driveways, according to the neighborhood’s district manager.

“The [Buildings] violations are all bark, no bite,” said Marnee Elias-Pavia.

Pavia sent Hizzoner Community Board 11’s recommendations for how agencies should punish offending homeowners in an April 18 letter after board members unanimously adopted the resolution to do so at its April 12 general meeting. In the letter, Pavia outlined the decades-old problem and its environmental impact — made worse by the fact that the Federal Emergency Management Agency classified some affected areas as particularly susceptible to flooding, which the proliferation of concrete and lack of grass promotes, she wrote.

“Our topography creates a bowl effect and prevents tidal and storm water absorption,” she wrote. “We must address the lack of absorption created by the removal of front yards in the northern portion of the district to increase absorption and resiliency.”

CB11 demands that the buildings agency make inspecting and even re-inspecting properties with alleged illegal curb cuts and driveways a higher priority — especially for flood zones — and to notify the community board when properties receive violations for illegal curb cuts or driveways. The letter also wants the city to improve inter-agency communication by having the Department of Buildings coordinate with agencies in charge of roads, parks and environmental concerns.

“There needs to be a sharing of information [among the agencies] — there’s an environmental impact, so the Department of Buildings should be sharing with the Parks Department,

Pavia also wrote that the city should increase and enforce fines for violations, push homeowners to use permeable pavements on legitimate driveways to help drain stormwater, and require homeowners to fix curb-cut violations before selling their properties — among other suggestions.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Illegal truck lot was very bad neighbor

From the Times Ledger:

From December 2017 to March 2018 there were several complaints made to the city Department of Buildings regarding illegal commercial vehicle storage.

Hollingworth said he and neighbors, who are mostly elderly, did not know who to turn to. He said they felt hopeless when 311 was not taking action. Hollingworth contacted Times Ledger on March 14 where he was directed to DOB and City Councilman Peter Koo (D-Flushing) for further assistance. Two days later on March 16 DOB inspected the lot and issued violations for illegal commercial use of the property in a residential area. The violations had a cure date of April 25 or a date by which the property owner was compelled to correct the violating conditions. DOB’s padlock unit also sent a warning letter to the property owner April 17 directing him to cease illegal use of the lot.

Neighbors speculate that Frank Camisi loaned the lot to Arnoldo and told him if he cleaned the lot out for him, he would be able to park his trucks there for free or at a low rate.

On April 22 neighbors said the the truckers were gone from the lot, but debris remained that reminded them of their misery.

$20B transit signal upgrade is needed

From Metro:

In the coming days it has been reported that New York City Transit Chief Andy Byford will unveil a new project to revamp the subway’s outdated signal system.

The subway signal system project could cost up to $20 billion to revamp as it is has not seen updates since the 1930s. Byford plans to install the signal system at all 472 stations.

The decision to update the system comes after New York Governor Andrew Cuomo declared a state of emergency last year after a slew of delays and train derailments that caused injuries to dozens of commuters.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Brooklyn developer listens to community, is ok with landmarking

From Brooklyn Daily:

The confidentiality agreement that blocked the mystery buyer of the Angel Guardian Home in Dyker Heights from coming forward to reveal his intentions for the block-sized complex has loosened enough for him to speak exclusively to this paper about his plans for the site, and how the community’s voice helped shape them.

Developer Scott Barone credited this paper’s extensive coverage of local needs and concerns since the property’s purchase last year with informing his decision to include a senior center, affordable housing, senior housing and perhaps a school along with the market-rate condos he had originally planned for the entire site — as well as preserving the main building, which locals have been pushing to landmark to protect it from the wrecking ball.

“We really heard three things from the community at large: that they need schools and senior housing, that the Narrows Senior Center is something that’s important to this community as a whole, and that this building is important to this neighborhood, and we’re going to do everything in our power to keep it there,” said Barone, the founder and president of his eponymous management company, which has previously developed hotels, luxury apartments, and office and commercial buildings across the city.

The developer said that he has already had meetings with the Landmarks Preservation Commission about the century-old main building, but his current plans are to preserve it as part of the final design, though he’s not yet sure what would go there.

“It is our intention at this time to keep that main building in place,” he said, “and if it were to be landmarked, we’re okay with that.”

Barone said he expects to close the Angel Guardian deal within the next two to three months — pending approval from the Vatican — and that 60 percent of the block-sized property bound by 63rd and 64th streets and 12th and 13th avenues will be devoted to market-rate condos, with an additional 15 percent earmarked for affordable housing and the last 25 percent split between senior housing and perhaps a school.

Crazy big development coming to Astoria

From The Real Deal:

Cape Advisors and Wainbridge Capital secured a $65 million loan to fund their purchase of a waterfront development site in Astoria.

The site at 30-77 Vernon Boulevard spans about 522,000 square feet. Cape Advisors and Wainbridge are planning a luxury five-building residential project with 770 affordable and market-rate apartments. Amenities include lounges, a rooftop deck and a fitness center.