Sunday, October 20, 2019

Homeless men get evicted from house they built by the Grand Central Parkway


A wooded area off the Grand Central Parkway was once known as the "Parkside Hill Community Garden." But's it's been a long time since residents planted anything there.

"Honestly, this has been a dumping ground for quite some time," Swarovski Beaumont said at the location.

Tires, shopping carts, and trash are common now. Sometime last year, neighbors said, two men planted themselves here, pitching tents behind the thicket:

"They're building a tiny home on city property," the resident said.

 "They definitely have a power saw and a power drill," she said. "They have already built flooring, and started to build insulation."

When we returned two days later, after asking the city parks department about the encampment, the city had stepped in.

Several city agencies, including the Department of Homeless Services and the Department of Sanitation, came together to clean up the site Friday morning.

The city's response included dozens of workers in protective clothing. An official, who declined to be identified, said one of the men was taken to a shelter, but that the other refused services an outreach team offered.

Advocates for the homeless say the encampment is a sign of just how bad the homeless crisis has become.

"This story is pretty incredible, that people are opting to build their own housing in a city where we are one of the richest places on earth," said Paulette Soltani, of VOCAL-NY.

The mayor's officer told NY1, "The Mayor has been clear — we will not tolerate encampments.  Our outreach teams have met with these individuals, offered them services, and are working to connect them with further resources."


LIC clock tower gets dwarfed

29-37 41st Avenue

LIC Court Square

The last time we stopped by 29-37 41st Avenue a/k/a 29-23 Queens Plaza North, we saw that pipe scaffolding was up at the LIC Clock Tower and construction on the new residential building had risen above the construction fence. When we stopped by last week we saw that construction is moving along quickly, and that the LIC Clock Tower is now dwarfed by construction, as seen in the photo below.

Here’s more information about the project from The Real Deal:

Queens Plaza Park, located at 29-37 41st Avenue near the landmarked Long Island City Clock Tower, will be a 978,000-square-foot mixed-use tower. It will have 958 residential units, 300 of which will be affordable. Handel Architects is designing the project — its latest renderings reveal a concave, glassy exterior — and Selldorf Architects is designing its interior, lobby and amenities.

Thursday, October 17, 2019

City Council approves Rikers Island shutdown and borough tower prisons

NY Times

 The City Council approved a sweeping $8 billion plan to close the troubled jail complex and replace it with four smaller jails by 2026, an aggressive timeline that will prove challenging. 

 One 886-bed jail will tower over shops and restaurants in Downtown Brooklyn. Another will be next to a subway yard in Queens. In the Bronx, a jail will replace a Police Department tow pound. And another jail will rise in the shadow of City Hall in Manhattan.

That is at the heart of a plan for a landmark overhaul of New York City’s corrections system, which will culminate with the closing of Rikers Island, the jail complex with nearly 10,000 beds that has become notorious for chronic abuse, neglect and mismanagement.

The City Council decisively approved the proposal on Thursday, taking a step that seemed improbable just a few years ago. Supporters say the plan places New York City at the forefront of a national movement to reverse decades of mass incarceration that disproportionately affected black and Hispanic people.

Still, the aggressive timeline — closing Rikers by 2026 — could prove very challenging.

Mayor Bill de Blasio and Corey Johnson, the City Council speaker, embraced the jails plan, throwing their political weight behind the measure despite steady opposition from neighborhoods whose residents worry that towering new jails will harm their quality of life. Corrections officers also criticized the plan as unrealistic.

“What we are doing today will reshape the city for generations to come and impact the lives of every New Yorker,” Mr. Johnson said on Thursday. “For decades, our city was unfair to those who became involved in the justice system, and the overwhelming majority who were caught up were black and brown men.”

With two years left in office, Mr. de Blasio also secured perhaps his most progressive achievement so far as mayor with the vote to close Rikers — an idea that even he dismissed a few years ago as impractical.

“This is about valuing our people, no longer condemning people and sending them on a pathway that only made their lives worse and worse,” Mr. de Blasio said. “Today we made history: The era of mass incarceration is over.”

What mass incarceration? Crime has been going down for over 20 years. As for Dancing Cojo's boast, it seems that besides the big windfall cash cow the developers will get from this gift from our representatives, another reason seems to be for these people to grandstand about being the first city to do this. At the expense of neighborhoods were the towers will be built and the communities they disrespected and undermined. And will eventually disenfranchise.

Shootings rise in Southeast Queens and there is only one hospital to treat the victims


 During the first 2020 presidential debate in June, then-candidate Mayor Bill de Blasio touted New York City’s drop in crime. But even as the number of shootings has dramatically decreased across the city over the past decade, a troubling trend has emerged: The proportion of people dying from gunshots has been rising in some pockets.

Data obtained from the New York Police Department and analyzed by The Trace/Measure of America/THE CITY shows this problem has been most severe in Queens.

We mapped the 12,000-plus shootings recorded by the NYPD between 2010 and October 2018, and our analysis found that the further away someone was from a Level I or II trauma center when they were shot, the more likely they were to die.

Nowhere fared worse than neighborhoods in southern Queens, particularly those below Hillside Avenue, where more residents live further than three miles from a trauma center than anywhere else in the city.

There used to be more trauma coverage in the borough. But in February 2009, two hospitals closed, and one of them contained a Level I trauma center.

In the following two years, the gunshot fatality rate in Queens jumped from under 16% to more than 23%. That put the borough’s gunshot fatality rate 30% higher than in the rest of the city.
Since then, every year except for 2016, the death rate from gunshots in Queens has been higher than in the city as a whole.

 “How well your trauma system works, and how good your care is across the country is a big mosaic, and where you are will determine your outcomes,” said Dr. Robert Winchell, the former chair of the trauma systems committee for the American College of Surgeons.

Today, most areas of New York City have access to multiple trauma centers while southern Queens has only one: Jamaica Hospital Medical Center. But financial documents, audits and state reports indicate the facility is ailing.

The hospital was in the red 12 of the 13 years between 2005 and 2017. It finished that year with a deficit of more than $66 million, according to IRS filings and an independent audit.

“I’m not sure how you keep the doors open with that,” said Winchell, who is also chief of New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center’s trauma division.

I'm not sure you can either when the city would rather spend $11,000,000,000 on tower jails.

Elected officials and their donors doing business with the city exploit campaign finance loophole.

NY Daily News

A glaring loophole in New York’s campaign finance rules allows people doing business with the city to steer thousands to candidates for office despite limits on how much they can personally donate.

The glitch means lobbyists, developers and others who stand to profit from government action can curry favor with current and future decision-makers — and skirt donation limits ― by bundling donations from their wealthy pals and sending them to candidates for city office.

Twelve people who have city business, prohibiting them from giving more than a few hundred bucks themselves, have already bundled $112,405 in donations for 2021 candidates, an analysis by The Daily News found.

Anyone considered to be doing business with the city — like lobbyists and those with municipal contracts — can’t give more than $400 to any one candidate for mayor, public advocate and comptroller. They’re barred from giving over $320 to candidates for borough president and $250 for pols running for City Council.

Yet that doesn’t stop them from bundling hundreds of fat checks.

"Some donors circumvent NYC's doing business contribution limits by bundling contributions from others, which can result in more influence than giving contributions directly,” said Alex Camarda, a senior policy adviser at good-government group Reinvent Albany.

So far, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. leads 2021 candidates in bundled cash from the conflicted donors, collecting $49,700 from two people with city business as of July 11, the end of the most recent filing period.

He’s followed by Councilman Rafael Salamanca, Jr., with $14,525 from bundlers with city business, 
Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams with $12,040, and Comptroller Scott Stringer with $10,800.

 The amount of bundled cash from those with municipal business is likely to skyrocket in the next two years before the 2021 election, when term limits open 41 of the city’s 59 elected positions that more than 500 candidates are expected to run for.

During the last wide-open election in 2013, a whopping $1.7 million was bundled and given to candidates for mayor, public advocate, comptroller, borough president and city council from 93 people doing business with the city at the time, according to a Daily News analysis of campaign filings.

Another $875,098 was bundled by 70 people with city business during the 2017 election, The News found.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Movie and TV production tax credits brings diminished results for local jobs

Times Union

  Billions of dollars to subsidize film and television projects in New York hasn't had a statistically significant impact on employment in the entertainment industry, according to a new study.

University of Southern California associate professor Michael Thom conducted a peer-reviewed analysis of a handful of state's that offer the bulk of motion picture incentives in the country and found that — when controlled for economic factors such as the growth in the labor market — there is "not much" of a link between job creation and the lucrative credit offered in New York, which was created in 2004.

The study represents a continuation of scholarly analyses questioning whether the refundable tax credit, which was recently extended by state lawmakers and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, is a prudent investment.

Thom determined that employment in the entertainment industry, which increased in New York by more than 60 percent from 2004 to 2017, based on federal jobs numbers, was largely the product of trends in the overall economy and national growth in the industry. He also found a low correlation between the credit and wages paid in the below-the-line jobs that benefit from the credit.

“It’s not the incentives, its simply the normal ebb and flow of the labor market," Thom said.
This conclusion is vociferously disputed by organized labor groups working in film and television, who point to their own studies and anecdotal evidence that the credits have led to a flourishing sector with wide ripple effects.

de Blasio offers to build affordable housing by Bronx tower jail and concessions to other boroughs to get Rikers shutdown plan approved

NY Daily News


Horse-trading is in full swing as the City Council readies to vote on Mayor de Blasio’s controversial plan to close the notorious jail complex on Rikers Island and replace it with four new facilities.

The plan calls for jails to be built in Downtown Manhattan, the South Bronx, central Queens and Downtown Brooklyn by 2026, at an estimated cost of $8.7 billion.

That’s a bitter pill to swallow for some residents of those nabes. So the de Blasio administration is offering a proverbial spoonful of sugar to Council members rep’ing the areas.

The city is committing to building up to 233 units of affordable housing next to a new jail sited at 320 Concord Ave. in the Bronx nabe of Mott Haven, according to Councilwoman Diana Ayala.
She hopes new housing might mollify residents in the area, where the community board unanimously rejected the mayor’s plan in May.

“I’m sure that they’re not going to be excited about this, either,” Ayala said of the new jail’s opponents. “In an effort to try to do the best thing by both the community and shutting Rikers, this is the best place I can get to.”

In spite of pockets of opposition from pols like Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer — who’s been tormented by socialist activists as he seeks the Queens borough president’s seat — the Council is expected to pass the mayor’s plan. The Land Use Committee will conclude a review process known as ULURP on Wednesday, followed by a full Council vote Thursday.

Council members in districts where the new jails were sited were likely “yes” votes from the start of the debate.

But an insider noted the ULURP process, in which the Council tends to defer to the votes of colleagues rep’ing areas where projects are proposed, gives members in Ayala’s shoes lots of leverage.

“If you’re a member who’s going to vote yes, then why not secure benefits?” the Council insider remarked. “The ULURP provides a rare occasion to provide community benefits. Why not?”

Monday, October 14, 2019

de Blasio's and Banks' DHS covers up the severity of violence and drug dealing in city shelters

NY Post

City officials covered up nearly 120 “serious incidents” at homeless shelters by downgrading their severity so they wouldn’t have to be disclosed to state regulators, according to the city Department of Investigation.

The DOI conducted a yearlong probe into allegations that the Department of Homeless Services wasn’t “adequately” reporting arrests and other problems to the state Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance, which is responsible for ensuring that shelters are safe.

The investigation revealed that DHS created its own “priority codes” that minimized “life-threatening injuries,” mental-health emergencies and some arrests of residents, visitors or staffers, according to an April 8 DOI memo obtained by The Post.

There were “approximately 117 internal reports” from January through June 2017 that contained information that should have been reported, the memo said.
City Councilman Ritchie Torres (D-The Bronx), who tipped off DOI to the situation, told The Post, 

“There’s only one word for the conduct of DHS: inexcusable.”

“DHS adopted a dubious definition of serious incidents that it knew would lead to the under-reporting of incidents consisting of serious injuries, mental health emergencies, arrests and situations affecting the safety of its own residents and staff,” Torres said.

NY Post 

 Security at the city’s homeless shelters is so shoddy that one Harlem facility had its own in-house heroin dealer, according to records and fed-up workers.

Parkview Inn resident Alice Cuesta, 52, was finally busted last month with 60 glassines of heroin after clumsily dropping them right in front of an NYPD sergeant inside the elevator at the West 110th Street shelter, prosecutors said court papers.

Before her fateful fumble, Cuesta had held free rein at the shelter “for a long time,” law-enforcement and DHS sources told The Post — adding that the situation is similar at shelters across the city.

Security gaps, as well as overworked DHS officers who simply don’t have the time, training or help to conduct thorough investigations, have left some residents wondering if they wouldn’t be better off taking their chances on the street.

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Architects and engineers have a way to save Rikers plus provide it with ferry service.

Queens Chronicle

Can ferry boats be the way to stop a bruising battle over New York City’s jail problem?

A group of designers and engineers who live and work in Downtown Manhattan unveiled a plan last week that outlines in detail how to rebuild Rikers Island and use secure buses aboard ferries to transport prisoners to and from court.

It is one of the first specific, workable alternatives put forward by opponents to Mayor de Blasio’s sweeping plan to replace Rikers with four borough-based jails, including one in Kew Gardens behind the Queens Criminal Court building.

The City Council has scheduled a crucial vote on the mayor’s jail plan for next Thursday.

At bottom, the 49-page ferry proposal was drawn to upend the mayor’s $11-billion plan — $9 billion for the jails, plus $2 billion to repurpose Rikers as a multiuse city facility — that would take a decade to complete.

Local groups are bitterly opposed to the proposal that calls for the new jails in largely residential neighborhoods, as are criminal-justice reformers who want to see Rikers closed but oppose constructing new lockups.

The reimagining of Rikers calls for the city to demolish “every building” on the island and build a series of smaller, low-rise jails — each with a different level of security.

Renderings for a reconfigured Rikers include open spaces, sports facilities, a family center and a small farm.

Connecting a rebuilt island jail system with the boroughs by ferry “liberates Rikers” from the necessity of moving hundreds of prisoners being held on charges before conviction each day on long bus rides through city streets to the courts, said architect Bill Bialosky, a spokesman for the group.

A group of about a dozen volunteer architects and engineers has been working on the plan for about a month, meeting regularly at the Lin Sing Association, the century-old Chinese-American organization on Mott Street, with community leaders.

 Ferries, said Bialosky, are “the answer to the problem.”

Ferries would also be a good commuting alternative for the families and friends of prisoners.

Why didn't de Blasio and his bullshit city Economic Development Conspirators provide a ferry pier at Rikers in the first place? Well now you know. 

de Blasio offers city services as a bribe to get Kew Gardens tower prison approved.

Forest Hills Patch

 In a private meeting this spring with Kew Gardens residents to discuss hotly-contested plans for a new jail in their neighborhood, Mayor Bill de Blasio promised they would be compensated for the jail's incursion, but he didn't provide specifics.

Now, a tentative list of those specifics has come to light. 

 Koslowitz has also pressed city officials to reduce the size of the Kew Gardens jail, which current plans say would be 27 stories tall and have a capacity of 1,150 detainees.

The proposed jail — one of four new jails the city wants to build to replace detention facilities on Rikers Island — is expected to be smaller than that by the time the City Council votes on the plan next week, according to Koslowitz's spokesperson, Michael Cohen.

Cohen pushed back on using the word "exchange" to describe the list of items City Hall is promising 
Koslowitz, who represents Kew Gardens, to secure her vote in favor of the jail plan.

He declined to specify other items being negotiated because he said the list hasn't yet been finalized.

Asked how he would describe the deal, he said, "I would describe it as the Mayor making good on his word that he understands that the community is sacrificing something here and his administration would like to do something for the community."

Koslowitz's vote is critical to the passage of the city's controversial jail plan, which calls for building a new lockup in every borough but Staten Island by 2026.

That's because members of the City Council, whose binding vote on the jails is scheduled for Oct. 17, tend to vote in lockstep with the council members whose districts are affected by a given land-use plan.

Koslowitz has already pushed de Blasio's office to nix plans for an infirmary in the Kew Gardens jail that would serve all four new detention centers.

In the private meeting earlier this year, de Blasio indicated he would go even further.

"When we ask a community to do something for the whole city, which is what we're doing here, then the community has a right to say, here are things that would help our community, including things we've been trying to get for a long time and haven't gotten," de Blasio said, according to a recording of the March 27 meeting reviewed by Patch.

"How can we say to the community, we're asking you to shoulder a burden but we want to do something back that's really going to make a difference?" de Blasio added.

Still, the jail proposal is intensely controversial among Koslowitz's constituents as well as advocates for No New Jails NYC, who say the city should close Rikers but not build any new jails.

Koslowitz's response? "Whether I supported it or not, that jail was happening."

 The elected in NYC do not represent the people anymore. What the mayor wants, the mayor gets it. Got it.

Friday, October 11, 2019

City Council draws up pointless resolution to prevent building more jails on Rikers Island to assure approval for borough tower prisons.
NY Daily News

The city will prohibit construction of new jails on Rikers Island under a proposal approved by the Council’s land use committee on Thursday.

The resolution allows the Council to submit an application to the Department of City Planning to remap the island so that the land can’t house inmates after 2026, when the troubled complex is expected to close.

Mayor de Blasio and Council Speaker Corey Johnson said the map change, which must go through the city’s Uniform Land Use Review Procedure, ensures the island will cease as a correctional facility after the new jails are built even after they leave office.

“We’re making our commitment ironclad and ensuring no future administration can reverse all the progress we’ve made,” de Blasio said in a statement. “Mass incarceration did not begin in New York City, but it will end here.”

The 17-member Council land use committee passed the resolution 11 to 2, with two other lawmakers abstaining and two absent from the vote. Councilman Bob Holden, who is not on the land use committee, said the vote “sets an extremely dangerous precedent in New York City, with the Council essentially turning the ULURP process on its head and neglecting the voices of our citizens.”

Bipolar homeless man attacked a child in front of his house

NY Post

 A homeless man with a history of mental illness randomly attacked a 6-year-old boy in front of his grandparent’s house in Queens on Thursday afternoon, seriously injuring the boy, police and sources said.

The child was sitting on the steps of his grandparent’s house on Metropolitan Avenue near 123rd Street in Kew Gardens at about 5 p.m. when the vagrant walked into their driveway, said Rabbi Naftali Portnoy, the boy’s grandfather.

The 35-year-old vagrant then grabbed the child, picked him up and threw him to the concrete, slamming his face on the ground, police said.

His brother rushed into the house and told his grandfather about the attack.

Portnoy called 911 and tailed the vagrant, who was shirtless, while he walked away from the scene down Metropolitan Avenue.

Cops arrived soon after and arrested the suspect, who sat down on the street and said, “I’m bipolar,” the grandfather explained.

The kid was rushed to Cohen Children’s Medical Center and treated for hemorrhaging to the brain and facial contusions, a source said.

Quick First Lady McCray, send some simps to hand out Thrive pamphlets on Metropolitan Ave.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Council Member Holden gets blown off inquiring officials about Thrive program's ineffectiveness

NY Post

A Queens lawmaker accused the head of first lady Chirlane McCray’s embattled “ThriveNYC” mental health initiative of refusing to explain why the city ignored so many warning signs surrounding the vagrant who bludgeoned four homeless men to death in Chinatown last weekend – because she has no answers.

Councilman Robert Holden (D-Queens) initially called out ThriveNYC Director Susan Herman and other city officials during a council hearing Tuesday. He was asking them how Randy Santos, 24, went under the city’s radar despite having a history of unprovoked violence – including a November arrest for allegedly biting a man on the chest.

“There were certainly a number of red flags over the years,” Holden said. “There was a trail of violence all involving random people.”

“These signs were here with this individual for years, and he was in and out of the system,” added Holden. “This is again happening all over the city – random attacks. Does this kind of thing red flag your agencies at all to say ‘we should step in’?”

Neither Herman nor Myla Harrison, assistant commissioner for the Department of Health, directly answered his questions during the hearing on mental health services for immigrants.

Instead, they tried to shift focus by insisting most homeless New Yorkers don’t suffer from mental illness and that they’re limited from discussing Santos’ treatment history.

“We were all horrified by what happened, and we are all looking at it, and we will learn from this incident, “ Herman said. “[But] I think you are aware of the fact that we can’t talk about specific services this particular individual accessed [by law].”

Holden tried to ask follow-up questions but was cut off by Councilman Carlos Menchaca (D-Brooklyn), chairman of the immigration committee, who claimed he wanted to give other legislators the chance ask questions.

Holden left the hearing fuming and later accused Herman of “dodging” his questions, adding McCray’s $250 million Thrive initiative “lacks a real plan to deal” with emotionally disturbed persons like Santos.
“[Herman] could have said, ‘I can’t speak about this case, but hypothetically we do this when this happens,’” Holden said. “But she didn’t want to because she couldn’t — and that’s the whole thing.”
“They are not helping the seriously mentally ill,” he added. “The city is not doing its job with all the money they are putting towards ThriveNYC.”

But let's focus on a few citizens saying inappropriate things about homeless people and not on what officials who are supposed to help them are not saying and are blatantly avoiding addressing the issue.

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Mayor de Blasio and DHS switches successful homeless shelter for women into one for men


 A homeless shelter on West 107th Street in Manhattan Valley, currently housing women, is expected to transition to single adult men in October. And much of the neighborhood is not happy. 

"Once men are involved here, the landscape could potentially change and everybody is concerned," neighbor Ali Jafry said.He lives next door to the shelter and said in recent years the women have been good neighbors.

The New York City Department of Homeless Services recently announced the change and Manhattan's Community Board 7 held a meeting Tuesday night to address it. But a DHS representative didn't come.

 "Up until 4 o'clock they were coming. At 4 o'clock they called the office to say they can't come," CB 7 Chair Roberta Semer told PIX11 News. This did not sit well with the shelter's neighbors. 

One man at the open meeting said, "Why are they not here? Why are they hiding from us?" The current shelter houses 120 women and most have jobs. Tari Wheeler said this shelter helped her get her life together. 

The Department of Homeless Services said it will move the women to permanent housing or another shelter. 

While Wheeler doesn't know where she will be sent, she is also worried about the kids in the neighborhood. "No offense on the men, but there are small children around here. We have to look out for the small children besides ourselves," Wheeler said.

Homeless shelter in Glendale has residents and advocates at loggerheads!%2FhttpImage%2Fimage.jpeg_gen%2Fderivatives%2Flandscape_1280%2Fimage.jpeg&f=1&nofb=1 

 Queens Eagle

Two days after four homeless men were brutally beaten and killed on the streets of Manhattan’s Chinatown, hundreds of central Queens residents packed a high school auditorium in Middle Village to condemn a planned homeless men’s shelter — and to demonize the New Yorkers who would live there. 

There are legitimate critiques of large-scale homeless shelters and the multi-million dollar city contracts awarded to shelter providers as the city contends with a record-high homeless population and a widening income inequality chasm.

But complex issues and possible solutions went unexamined Monday night at Christ the King High School — in part because speakers who attempted to address them were immediately booed and cursed at. The public hearing was the latest phase in the saga over a proposed 200-bed men’s shelter that the city plans to build inside a vacant warehouse at 78-16 Cooper Ave. in Glendale.

At the beginning of the event, hecklers interrupted a moment of silence for the four men killed while sleeping on the sidewalk early Saturday morning. 

From there, the dialogue devolved into discriminatory denunciations of people, particularly men, who experience homelessness. Roughly 60,000 people, including 21,694 children, slept in a New York City municipal shelter on Oct. 6, according to the Department of Homeless Services’ most recent daily census.

”These homeless men are ‘tranks, lobos and zipheads’ … They’re drug addicts and sexual offenders,” said one woman who quoted a line from “Back to the Future.” “Put them in a separate area away from society. They should be locked away forever and out of sight permanently.”
Another woman went even further.

“I hope someone is going to burn the place down,” she shouted into the microphone.

Mike Papa of the anti-shelter group Glendale Middle Village Coalition criticized the nonprofit organization Westhab, which will receive a lucrative city contract to operate the shelter on Cooper Avenue. He then turned his attention to shelter residents, implying that they are criminals. 

“Homelessness is their business and thanks to Mayor de Blasio, the Department of Correction will supply all the customers that companies like Westhab want,” said Papa, garnering applause from the crowd.

Moments later, the same attendees screamed at a Crystal Wolfe, a local resident who runs a nonprofit providing food for the homeless, when she said that “homelessness is a complex issue that is the result of problems that have been ignored for decades.”

Tousif Ahsan, a member of the Ridgewood Tenants Union, also attempted to speak “in support of our homeless neighbors.”

“Get the [expletive] outta here,” one man screamed. Most of Ahsan’s speech was inaudible amid the jeers.

District 30 Councilmember Robert Holden, whose 2017 victory over incumbent Elizabeth Crowley was driven by anti-shelter sentiment, did not condemn his constituents’ commentary. Instead, he stoked their anger.

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Church holds mass in honor of Mother Cabrini, the saint who won and got screwed out of the city's women's statue program

NY Post

More than 1,000 parishioners packed a Brooklyn church on Sunday to give Saint Frances Cabrini her dues — after the city passed her over for a statue, despite a groundswell of support.

The overflow crowd at Sacred Heart of Jesus and Mary & St. Stephen church was the latest outcry from Catholics and Big Apple Italian-Americans after Cabrini was snubbed by First Lady Chirlane McCray’s “She Built NYC” statue program.

Cabrini, an Italian immigrant who founded 67 institutions to help the needy, finished first in a citywide poll asking who should get an effigy — but McCray and former Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen nonetheless decided not to grant her the honor.

“That’s a disgrace,” said Connie Gessler, who said Cabrini taught her grandmother. “Why did they have an election if they weren’t going to give one to the person with the most votes? How would she like it if we didn’t make her husband mayor if he got the most votes.”

The mass came after hundreds of Cabrini supporters gathered at Mother Cabrini Park on President Street and to the church.

NY Post 

Brooklyn Catholics are waging a holy war against First Lady Chirlane McCray.

After McCray enraged the faithful by ignoring the public’s top choice for her women’s statue program — Mother Frances Cabrini, the patron saint of immigrants — the Brooklyn Diocese has launched a campaign to build its own monument to her.

“Mother Cabrini recently received the most votes in the ‘She Built NYC’ competition, which aims to build more statues honoring women,” the Diocese wrote in a press release. “But despite earning this top ranking, a public statue honoring her life is not being planned.”

The flock felt compelled to act after The Post revealed McCray’s statue snub, according to Monsignor 
David Cassato of the Italian Apostolate, which is leading the fundraising effort along with the diocese.

“There was a story in the New York Post about Mother Cabrini, that she did not receive a recognition of a statue, and that’s what precipitated our honoring her,” said Cassato, who plans to donate $1,000 to the cause.

Brooklyn Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio noted Cabrini is deserving of the “She Built” honor because she literally helped build New York City.

“Her work to establish orphanages, schools, and a hospital, along with her commitment to immigrants, absolutely should be recognized,” he said. “The failure to honor Mother Cabrini with a public statue would be an affront to many New Yorkers, especially Italian-Americans, who see her as most deserving.”

McCray, meanwhile, insisted through a spokeswoman that she is not “anti-Catholic.”

“To claim that the First Lady is anti-Catholic is a falsehood and outrageous,” said spokewoman Jaclyn Rothenberg.

“She was invited to speak at St. Patrick’s Cathedral and has worked with Catholic Charities on a variety of mental health issues. Every one of the monuments for She Built go through the same process and the decision-making on this one was no different.”

Cabrini was public’s top choice for a statue, garnering 219 nominations, but she, along with two ohter top-5 vote-getters — Emily Warren Roebling, who directed the completion of the Brooklyn Bridge, and Manhattan Music School founder Janet Schenck — were tossed in favor of more women of color and an LGBTQ activist.

The woman who finished in second place was journalist and author Jane Jacobs. So it makes sense why her and Mother Cabrini were blown off by the craven phony first lady/co-mayor and the neoliberal developer crony and fixer Alicia Glen. Because if they were alive they would be excoriating the policies affecting the affordable housing and homeless crisis those two elitist women are complicit with.


Sunday, October 6, 2019

The Queens Machine is suffering from AOC derangement syndrome

NY Post

 If the Queens Democratic establishment was badly rattled by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s stunning victory against incumbent and kingmaker Joe Crowley last year, then a largely ignored civil court race this summer shook the city’s most powerful political machine to its core.

During primary elections in June, a Hispanic woman from the Bronx routed the candidate hand-picked by the Queens County Democratic Party for a seat on the county’s Civil Court — a race that had not been contested in nearly four decades.

“It was an incredible moment, and it was as important as AOC’s victory,” said a political strategist active in Queens and the Bronx. “Suddenly, people smelled blood.”

Insurgent candidate and lawyer Lumarie Maldonado Cruz, 47, beat Wyatt Gibbons, 56, with nearly 62% of the vote compared to 38% for Gibbons, a Queens attorney.

“AOC’s victory reminded me of my obligations to stand up for what is right,” Maldonado Cruz said when she entered the race earlier this year.

Still reeling from the victory of Ocasio-Cortez over Crowley, a 10-term Congressman and longtime Queens party boss who was also chair of the House Democratic Caucus, the party was again caught “asleep at the wheel” with no discernible strategy during the June primaries, said the strategist. He, like many of the political consultants and elected officials interviewed by The Post, did not want to be identified for fear of antagonizing the Queens party or AOC.

In addition to the judicial race, the party nearly lost the election for Queens district attorney. Party-backed candidate Queens Borough President Melinda Katz should have trounced little-known, late-to-the-race progressive Tiffany Caban, but instead squeaked by, after a month-long series of recounts, by 60 votes.

“They hate AOC,” said Baruch College political scientist Doug Muzzio, referring to the leaders of the Queens County Democrats. “She killed their meal ticket.”

But as they battle for relevancy against a progressive wave, the moderate Democrats in the Queens party are still mired in the past, observers say.  The party is still controlled by Crowley’s old backers — “the three white men in the room” who have controlled Queens politics for more than three decades and reaped the benefits.

Michael Reich is the longtime executive director of the political party, and Frank Bolz is the law chairman. Gerard Sweeney has held his appointment as counsel to the Queens public administrator since 1992. In that capacity, he has raked in tens of millions of dollars for the law firm, administering estates of those who die without wills in Surrogate’s Court.

In March, party delegates elected a scandal-scarred lawmaker as the new kingmaker. But observers told The Post that Rep. Gregory Meeks, an 11-term Congressman from southeast Queens, is a lightweight.

“Meeks is essentially a backbencher in Congress, who lacks Crowley’s gravitas,” Muzzio told The Post. “He’s their puppet.”

The true political powerhouse in Queens is obvious.

AOC has national stature, demanding the attention of the House Speaker and the president. She has more than 5 million Twitter followers.

de Blasio draws up tax break for landlords following state overhaul of rent regulations

The Real Deal

Landlords are finally getting some love from the de Blasio administration.
The city is preparing a proposal to overhaul a tax break program, in part to make it more appealing to owners of apartment buildings.

Department of Housing Preservation and Development Commissioner Louise Carroll said the J-51 tax break needs to be “right sized” because the incentive hasn’t kept up with the market.

“We’re looking at the program holistically, both as to what would be an appropriate reimbursement for the work done, what would be an appropriate tax exemption to incentivize people to take it and what would be the right tax abatement so that the program works,” she said during a Crain’s event Wednesday.

It’s not clear what the city agency wants to change, but state legislation would be required. A representative for HPD said the proposal will aim to make the benefits “more targeted and cost-effective” for owners while making sure tenant protections are as strong as possible. The agency expects to deliver its proposal to the state Assembly at the start of the next legislative session.

The tax break, which is set to expire next year, is provided to landlords who renovate apartment buildings in exchange for their keeping units rent-stabilized for the duration of the benefit, which can be from 14 to 34 years. In a bill signed by the governor in July, state officials expanded the types of condo and co-op properties eligible for the benefit and extended the J-51 program through June 2020.

Friday, October 4, 2019

Hunters Point library makes it hard for the handicapped and elderly people to get to the books

NY Post

A state-of-the-art new Queens library that took $41 million to build over more than a decade isn’t fully accessible to people with disabilities — and bookworms are outraged.
The Hunters Point Library in Long Island City features a three-tiered fiction section that can only be reached by a steep staircase.
But the design fails to consider wheelchair-bound users, some elderly folks and anyone who isn’t able-bodied, advocates say.
“I’m appalled,” Christine Yearwood, founder of the disability rights group Up-Stand, told The Post. 

“Everybody — young, old, able-bodied and disabled — should be able to enjoy it.”
Yearwood, who lives in Astoria, added: “With all of the delays they had a chance to do this the right way … It’s off-putting.”
 The eye-catching lit house opened on Sept. 24 to much fanfare, complete with a sleek modern facade facing East River. Its design began in 2010 and construction started in 2015.
The library has one elevator but it doesn’t stop at the fiction section, which is on three separate levels above the lobby, according to Gothamist, which was first to report the accessibility problems.
By law, public buildings must meet accessibility requirements in the American Disabilities Acts. And the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions has a checklist noting “All parts of the library should be accessible.”
On Friday, elderly library visitors called it a major screw up.
“[It’s] an unfortunate oversight, clearly,” said Dottie Jeffries, 68, who was browsing for books. “I hope there’s a way to remedy this.”
A 74-year-old man, who lives across the street from the building, added, “I’m disappointed. It should be accessible to everyone.”
Queens Public Library President Dennis Walcott said the library is aware of the issue and plans to move the books.

 The issue with this "library" is that it's more designed to hold gilded events and galas for city officials, lobbyists, corporate owned local news reporters, business executives and myriad plutocrats. The book and the bookshelves are obligatory.

It's a big club...

Wolkoff adds public library to "5 Pointz" tower, community board approves

A Queens community board reversed its opposition to a new proposal for 5Pointz Towers — a luxury complex planned at the site of a famed former Long Island City street art mecca — thanks, in part, to a library.

The yes vote came just over two months after Community Board 2 wrote a letter to the City Planning Commission recommending denial of the application, alleging the developer had “sought every way to thwart community board review.”

On Thursday night, the board made a surprise 180-degree turn — in the middle of its meeting. First, members voted 20-to-8 against the developer’s application. Then they voted 23-to-5 in favor of the towers after a proposal to set aside 5,000 square feet for a library.

The space was viewed by board members as a possible replacement for the Court Square Library, which is in danger of losing its longtime home in the Citigroup Building.

The board’s land use chair, Lisa Deller, said after the meeting the idea had not been previously discussed with the developers or the Queens Public Library.

The board’s advisory vote marked the latest chapter in the saga of 5Pointz — the former warehouse complex that drew artists and art lovers from around the world until the owners whitewashed the walls before demolishing the buildings in 2013.

Developer David Wolkoff, who co-owns the property with his father, Jerry, filed an application with the City Planning Commission in May to build 1,100 apartments and to increase each of the complex’s two towers by one floor, tweaking previous plans.

“I’ve been in the community over 47 years,” Jerry Wolkoff told CB2 Thursday night. “The community never had a problem with me until I wanted to build this building.”

MTA to finally relase study for reactiviating Rockaway Rail


A long-delayed study into whether it’s possible to reactivate a dormant Queens rail spur is finally seeing light at the end of the tunnel, THE CITY has learned.

The MTA in 2016 committed to a planning and feasibility study looking at the potential use of the Long Island Rail Road’s former Rockaway Beach Branch, a 3.5-mile stretch of railway between 
Ozone Park and Rego Park that has been out of service since 1962.

The results of the study — for which the MTA awarded an $864,000 contract to Systra Engineering in October 2017 — were supposed to be made public last year. But MTA spokesperson Aaron Donovan told THE CITY the findings now will be released by the end of 2019.

“It’s like a national secret of some sort,” said Rick Horan, director of the Queens RAIL and WAY Task Force, which wants the space used for transit and parkland purposes. “Why is it delayed?”

Part of a larger MTA and Port Authority analysis about Kennedy Airport “one-seat ride” service, the study is examining “the operational and physical feasibility” of having commuter rail or subway trains run on the old Rockaway Beach Branch.

 The MTA wouldn’t say what has delayed the process.

“They’ve gone sort of radio silent and it’s very disappointing,” said Phillip Goldfeder, a former Queens assemblymember who pushed for reactivation of the line during his three terms in Albany. 

“This is something that is completely underutilized, something which could transform how people in some parts of Queens commute.”

Since Rockaway Beach Branch service ended 57 years ago, concepts for restoring the railway have been floated in different forms. Much of the space under what was once the LIRR’s Ozone Park station is now filled by small auto-related and scrap businesses.

“Seems like a waste of space up there,” said Barry Williams, 34, who works near the elevated structure. “Why not do something with it?”

BREAKING NEWS! NYC Department of Buildings inspector refused to take a bribe!

NY Daily News\

A pair of Queens contractors hoping to dodge building safety code violations tried to bribe a city inspector, city investigators announced Tuesday.

Ismail Mohammad Hassan, 22, and Mohamed Ali Hassan, 50 – no relation – were each charged with bribery in the third degree after they offered $400 to a buildings inspector in exchange for not issuing violations at a residential and commercial construction site in Queens, according to the Department of Investigation.

The contractors were trying to evade violations after failing to follow safety rules and get required construction permits for 55-43 Myrtle Ave. in Ridgewood, officials said. A stop work order was issue for the property, owned by H Management Corp., on Monday morning after the inspector saw unapproved construction work.

After the contractors offered the $400 bribe on Monday morning, the DOB inspector informed the Department of Investigation who put him under surveillance, officials said.

When the inspector returned to the construction site to discuss the violations later that day, Mohamed Ali Hassan removed $290 from his pocket, handed the cash to Ismail Mohammad Hassan, who placed the money into the inspector’s hand, according to city investigators.

When the buildings inspector asked where the rest of the money was, Mohamed Ali Hassan allegedly said if he came back later they would provide the rest.

 That's funny. It's like the D.O.B. decided to pinch these guys because the inspector thought he was getting stiffed.

Donovan Richards is running for Queens borough president with Claire Shulman's backing

NY Daily News 

Far Rockaway City Councilman Donovan Richards jumped into the race to succeed Queens Borough President Melinda Katz Wednesday, running on a platform of equitable economic growth.

“As we watch the skyline transform and grow in front of our eyes, each and every day, there are too many of us that are being left behind,” Richards told the small crowd, adding that economic growth must be “managed correctly.”

He went on to tout three committee chairmanships in his six-year tenure on the council: public safety, zoning and environmental protection.

As Borough President, Richards pledged he’d diversify community boards, expand public transit options in Eastern Queens, conduct participatory budgeting, and overhaul the Queens property tax system, which he described as racially biased.

He told the Daily News that he will accept real estate donations, adding that, “My integrity would never be compromised.”

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

NYC Ferry so white


Riders of Mayor Bill de Blasio's subsidy-soaked ferry system are significantly richer and whiter than their mass transit counterparts, according to new data reluctantly released by the city.

The long-sought figures reveal that 64 percent of ferry riders are white, with a median income ranging between $75,000 and $100,000. By comparison, studies have shown that two-thirds of subway riders and three-quarters of bus riders are people of color, with median incomes at around $40,000 and $29,000, respectively.

The disparities are likely to intensify criticism of the troubled transit project, which will cost New York City taxpayers more than $600 million over the next three years. In order to keep the price of a trip equal to a subway swipe, the system currently benefits from a per-rider subsidy of about $10, set to jump to nearly $25 on some newly-expanded routes, according to an analysis from the Citizen Budget Commission.

Faced with questions over the ballooning price-tag, de Blasio has repeatedly championed the service as an antidote to transit inequality, part of his broader agenda to make New York the "fairest big city." A spokesperson for the Mayor's Office did not respond to inquiries about whether this new breakdown in ridership would force him to reevaluate that position.

 The Economic Development Corporation, the quasi-public agency that operates the system, previously declined to provide data to back up that claim. The results of three previous rider surveys were not made public, and the agency has ignored multiple freedom of information requests sent by 
Gothamist and other media outlets.

 The new demographics were shared with the media in a slideshow marked "not for distribution," which has not yet been posted online. An EDC spokesperson would not say why the slideshow was being withheld from the public.

Is anybody going to factor the $10 subsidy per rider with the free shuttle buses the NYC Ferry provides?



NY Post

Mayor Bill de Blasio promised to run the most transparent administration in Big Apple history, but City Hall appears to have violated the state’s open records law by withholding key data about the East River ferry, experts said Wednesday.

In April, The Post demanded the statistics compiled by the Economic Development Corporation about the $637 million NYC Ferry system’s ridership under the state’s Freedom of Information Law — only to be repeatedly rebuffed and told the search for the records was still ongoing.
However, EDC revealed the existence of the data by leaking a presentation summarizing its findings to another newspaper Monday night.

“It violates the Freedom of Information Law,” said John Kaehny, an open-records expert who runs the good-government group Reinvent Albany. “It’s really unacceptable — and particularly lame.”
The Post filed the FOIL request on April 15 asking for “the results of the demographic survey of boat riders, by line and by stop, if available,” as well as for contracts and other related documents.

The agency confirmed it received the records request on April 22 and later released the contract and some supporting paperwork, but never provided the crucial ridership data.
Instead, it claimed in letters dated May 20, July 5, Aug. 2 and Sept. 6 that agency officials were “continuing to search for additional documents.”

However, EDC’s 13-page presentation summary reveals that as it stonewalled The Post and others, it had already conducted at least three surveys of its ridership.

“This is the 4th onboard survey conducted in NYC Ferry’s 2 years of service,” it disclosed on the second page of the presentation.

The document shows that the previous surveys covered summer 2017, winter 2018 and summer 2018. The most recent survey covered in the memo examined ridership from this summer.

“This is really not acceptable conduct by any government agency,” said Susan Lerner, the head of watchdog group Common Cause New York. “The data is subject to FOIL, there is no excuse for playing games.”

 “Certainly the spirit of the law has been violated,” she added. “This sort of game-playing should not be countenanced.”

Recall that Mayor de Blasio broke the "spirit of the law" with his illicit pay to play Campaign For New York PAC he ran in City Hall and still avoided indictments from Attorney General Cy Vance and acting Southern District Attorney that replaced Preet Bharara. So whatever the spirit of the law entails is pretty much dead.

(Beware) Ridgewood is getting citibikes

NY Post

  Citi Bike will begin installing stations in Bushwick in Brooklyn and Ridgewood in Queens next week, the company announced on Wednesday.

In total, the two neighborhoods will get 85 new stations of the bulky blue rental bikes, on top of a handful installed earlier this year ahead of the now-canceled L train shutdown.

The eastward expansion is the first step in Citi Bike’s plan to triple its fleet to 40,000 bikes and double its coverage area, which is currently limited to Manhattan up to 130th Street and sections of Brooklyn and Queens near the East River.

 “Citi Bike is regularly shattering ridership records, as more New Yorkers and visitors alike discover what is, hands down, one of the most fun, healthiest, and sustainable ways to get around the city,” city Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg said in a statement. “We are very excited about this latest development and cannot wait to add more new neighborhoods in 2020 and beyond.”

 There was a great post on Citibike's expansion months ago by an ally that merits a rebuttal to Polly here.

New York Gentrification Watch

 Last week on Curbed, via the NY Daily News, it was reported that a nonprofit, New York Communities for Change, commissioned a study to look at how well Citi Bike was serving NYC residents. Conducted by the Urban Politics and Research Governance Group and called “Bridging the Boroughs,” it came to the totally shocking, unseen and far out of left field conclusion that Citi Bike is being used exclusively by a young white affluent demographic.

 Initially, my reaction to the Bridging the Boroughs study was, “No DUH. Of course.” But a few minutes into reading about it, alarm bells immediately started going off. Here’s why:

That Citi Bike is exclusively catering to a demographic that doesn’t include the poor and people of color shouldn’t have been a surprise to anybody. It’s so obvious that I can’t even believe people would waste time creating a study based around this very obvious fact. After all, this is who that service is for–tech-oriented, upper middle class white millennial-age transplants who have the money and the time to waste on what’s essentially a luxury.

 It was people like this for whom Citi Bike was created, people who have the disposable income–and the waste of time–to use a system in which they have to jump through hoops to commute by bike. Urban planners, Big Development and their political cronies know this. It’s why Citi Bike was rolled out in the first place. Contrary to everyone’s assertions that it was about making bike riding more accessible to New Yorkers, Citi Bike seems to me to have been a cynical strategy to alert certain affluent demographics on the west coast and perhaps in Europe that NYC was now “up to their standards” and worth moving to.

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

City turns controversial College Point homeless shelter to house women only.

Flushing Post

The highly contentious College Point homeless shelter on 20th Avenue will open this week, but instead of its original plan to house 200 single men the shelter will now be home to 200 single women. 

Local elected officials, who announced the change Monday, viewed it as a positive step, although far from ideal. The shelter, which has been the source of great protest, is slated to open Wednesday.

In December 2018, the Department of Homeless Services (DHS) first announced that a new 200-bed shelter for single men would open at 127-03 20th Ave in October. Since that announcement, elected officials and community members have objected to its opening, organizing petitions and rallies to highlight their misgivings.

Critics have argued that the site is too close to schools and residential neighborhoods, yet not close enough to adequate public transportation options. They also argue that the area is already unfairly burdened by a large number of public services.