Saturday, February 15, 2020

Judge orders circumcision on luxury tower development

New York Times

 In an extraordinary ruling, a State Supreme Court judge has ordered the developers of a nearly completed 668-foot condo tower on the Upper West Side to remove as many as 20 or more floors from the top of the building.

The decision is a major victory for community groups who opposed the project on the grounds that the developers used a zoning loophole to create the tallest building on the West Side north of 61st Street. A lawyer representing the project said the developers would appeal the decision.

Justice W. Franc Perry ordered on Thursday that the Department of Buildings revoke the building permit for the tower at 200 Amsterdam Avenue near West 69th Street and remove all floors that exceed the zoning limit. Exactly how many floors might need to be deconstructed has yet to be determined, but under one interpretation of the law, the building might have to remove 20 floors or more from the 52-story tower to conform to the regulation.

“We’re elated,” said Olive Freud, the president of the Committee for Environmentally Sound Development, one of the community groups that brought the suit.

“The developers knew that they were building at their own peril,” said Richard D. Emery, a lawyer representing the community groups that challenged the project before the foundation was even completed. Mr. Emery said this decision sent a warning to other developers who proceed with construction in spite of pending litigation.

The question at the heart of the suit was whether the developers had abused zoning rules to justify the project’s size.

It is common for developers to purchase the unused development rights of adjacent buildings to add height and bulk to their project. But in this case opponents of the project argued that the developers, SJP Properties and Mitsui Fudosan America, created a “gerrymandered,” highly unusual 39-sided zoning lot to take advantage of the development rights from a number of tenuously connected lots. Without this technique, the tower might have been little more than 20 stories tall, instead of the nearly finished 52-story tower that now stands.

The decision also sets an important precedent, said Elizabeth Goldstein, the president of the Municipal Art Society of New York, one of the advocacy groups that brought the suit against the project.

“The way this zoning lot was constructed has been invalidated, and that is extremely important,” Ms. Goldstein said, adding that the decision would deter other developers from attempting similar strategies.

Scott Mollen, a lawyer with the firm Herrick, Feinstein, which is representing the project, said the ruling contradicted earlier decisions from the Department of Buildings and the Board of Standards and Appeals that were based on a long-established zoning interpretation. SJP, one of the developers, said they would “appeal this decision vigorously.”

Felony crimes made big jumps this year in the "Safest Big City", especially in the "World's Borough"

New York City experienced its worst January for serious crime in five years, according to NYPD data set for release Tuesday and expected to show an ongoing spike that department officials attribute to the state's new bail reform law.

The latest Compstat data through Feb. 2, shows that total overall serious felonies — such as homicide, burglary, robbery and auto theft — are up 16.4% over the same period in 2019. The increase is 6% when compared to 2015, the data shows.

After years of steady declines in crime, the city has seen double digit increases in burglaries, grand larcenies and auto theft — the latter up 70% over 2019 — since Jan. 1. Robberies and felonious assaults saw single digit increases. A positive trend within the data shows homicides down nearly 20% since the same period last year and a decrease in rapes by 18%, according to the latest data.

 In January, serious felonies citywide continued to rise throughout the month. NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea is scheduled to talk about the overall upward trend Tuesday during his monthly crime briefing. He is again expected to call on the legislature in Albany to tinker with the bail law, which took effect Jan. 1. The new law eliminates bail for most nonviolent crimes.

Ridgewood Post

Crime across the city and in the borough of Queens jumped significantly in the first month of 2020 — which top NYPD brass attributes to bail reform.

Major crimes spiked 20 percent in the first 26 days of the year in Patrol Borough Queens North — which includes Long Island City, Sunnyside, Astoria, Jackson Heights, Ridgewood, Forest Hills and Flushing — as compared to the same period in 2019.

There were 758 serious crimes from Jan. 1 through Jan. 26, 2020 in Queens North; up from 629 during the same period in 2019, according to NYPD data.
Major crimes climbed 31 percent for the same 26-day period from the year prior in Patrol Borough 

Queens South — which includes the Rockaways, Jamaica, Queens Village and south. There were 712 crimes committed from Jan. 1 through Jan. 26, 2020; up from 543 in 2019, according to NYPD data.

Queens Chronicle

Days before a new civilian patrol was set to begin in the neighborhood, a 60-year-old man was robbed and severely beaten in broad daylight in the Cityline section of Ozone Park that borders on Brooklyn.

Graphic photos of the victim, Shahab Uddin, bleeding profusely from the face, posted on Facebook sparked residents to call an emergency meeting of the Ozone Park Residents Block Association this week to deal with what they are characterizing as a neighborhood “crime wave.”

“The brutality of this crime really got to me,” Sam Esposito, head of the OPRBA and a former police officer, told the Chronicle.

Uddin was walking home from Liberty Avenue on 76th Street at around 11 a.m. Sunday when he was attacked from behind by a lone assailant who beat him and stole his cell phone and wallet, his family said.

He has been hospitalized since then, unconscious with severe facial wounds and bruises, according to Esposito.

It is the second time in three months someone in the largely Bangladeshi community near the border with Brooklyn has been badly beaten in an unprovoked attack.

In November, a man on his way to work was set upon by a group of young men at the elevated A-train station at Liberty Avenue and 80th Street, a few blocks from the site of Sunday’s assault.

That attack spawned a neighborhood rally that drew several hundred people to protest what was called poor police coverage in a crime-prone section of Ozone Park.

Crime has “been going up over the last 18 months and we knew it,” said Esposito.

The most recent crime stats seem to bear him out.

In January, when crime citywide rose sharply, the 106th Precinct — which covers Ozone Park and Howard Beach — saw robberies jump 58 percent over last year. Felonious assaults were up 57 percent.

Although the bail reform laws are a major factor in this precipitous rise in crime, the New Bad Days have been here for quite some time.

Queens, Bronx and Manhattan civic groups continue their battles against borough tower prisons


  A group of homeowners in Kew Gardens, Forest Hills and Briarwood is planning to sue the city in a last-ditch effort to stop a new jail from going up in their neighborhood and get the mayor's office to return to the drawing board.

The group, which calls itself the Community Preservation Coalition, is preparing to file an Article 78 lawsuit over the city's decision to approve building a new jail in Kew Gardens, part of a $9 billion plan to replace the detention facilities on Rikers Island with a new jail in every borough except Staten Island by 2026.

Article 78 refers to a civil law that empowers New Yorkers to challenge decisions made by public agencies or officials on the grounds that it was unlawful, arbitrary or capricious.

"We really want them to do a meaningful review," Kew Gardens Civic Association President Dominick Pistone told Patch in an interview. "We don't think they've fulfilled their obligations under the City Charter."

The New York City Charter lays out a series of design and funding details that officials must include for a capital project to be approved by the mayor. 

Members of Queens Community Board 9, which voted unanimously against the Kew Gardens jail plan last year, previously accused the mayor's office of failing to meet those requirements in a Sept. 27 letter to the City Council. 

The Kew Gardens Civic Association, which is helping spearhead the legal effort, sent a letter to homeowners Wednesday soliciting contributions to fund the lawsuit, pitching it as "an investment in preserving your home," according to a copy obtained by Patch.

NY Post

A group of South Bronx residents is suing the city in a bid to block a new jail from coming to their neighborhood as part of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s larger efforts to shutter the Rikers Island prison complex.

The suit, filed Tuesday in Bronx Supreme Court on behalf of the Diego Beekman Mutual Housing Association and other parties, seeks to halt construction on a 19-story, 886-bed jail planned for the site of the NYPD’s tow pound in Mott Haven — a neighborhood located in the nation’s poorest congressional district.

It alleges the de Blasio administration and City Council broke the law by snubbing alternative sites for the jail, failed to reveal the true environmental impact of the project to residents and snubbed the entire public-review process.

“The Mayor and Council Speaker broke the law and rigged the process to saddle a low-income community of color with a jail, plain and simple,” said Arline Parks, CEO of Diego Beekman Mutual Housing Association, which represents 5,000 residents in 38 buildings.

NY Daily News

 The city’s plan to construct a jail in Chinatown routinely neglected community input, including 
Native Americans concerned about the possibility of large amounts of human remains in the area of the planned facility, a lawsuit set to be filed Friday claims.

The suit, which will be filed by Neighbors United Below Canal and American Indian Community House, claims the city’s plan will cause “irreparable damage to indigenous lands” and that the city failed to adequately reach out to neighborhood organizations and affected residents.

“The work and outreach that’s gone into this lawsuit is work the city should have been doing in the first place," said Jan Lee, who runs Neighbors United Below Canal. “It’s a robust case because we did meaningful outreach to our neighbors and came to realize just how deeply negligent the mayor’s plan was from the very beginning.”

The suit, which was shared with the Daily News, also alleges the city violated its own land use procedure, in which the City Council must approve projects before they can be built, by changing the proposed location of the Manhattan facility from 80 Centre St. to 124-125 White St. at the last minute. The White St. location is where the borough’s current jail , known as “The Tombs,” stands.

“Although the community was not pleased with the initial proposal to build a new jail structure at 80 Centre Street, the change of location was even worse,” a draft of the lawsuit reads, noting that the new plan puts the jail near residences, small retailers and a senior center.

The city also identified that there is a “moderate to high” possibility of Native American remains at the site of the proposed Chinatown jail, but still failed to reach out to the indigenous community, neighborhood advocate Christopher Marte told the Daily News.

Man looks forward to city contract to build more tiny houses under de Blasio's latest plan to build "affordable" housing

Entrepreneur Tom Saat built a teeny, tiny house in Queens.

“It has a stand-up shower, compost toilet, full-size refrigerator and a second-story high enough to stand in,” said Saat, a 57-year-old Turkish immigrant who worked on his 300-square-foot home in Astoria before moving it to a Long Island City industrial warehouse last year.

“It took my family more than a year to build,” he said. “I have a construction background and watched a lot of YouTube videos. God bless the internet.”

Tom Saat sits atop the roof of tiny house he built. Photo: Courtesy of the Saat family

Saat, who runs a business as a general contractor, is among those excited about the de Blasio administration’s bid to boost affordable housing by easing restrictions on backyard dwellings and basement apartments. The mayor revealed the proposal last week ahead of his State of the City address at the American Museum of Natural History.

“People should be allowed to put tiny houses in their backyard — or someone else’s backyard with their permission,” said Saat, who actually lives in Lower Manhattan. “And there should be lots assigned for tiny-house owners.”

Saat’s eight-foot-wide, 23.5-foot long house on wheels, with an electronic, retractable second floor, cost roughly $50,000 to build. He and his family eventually moved it out of an industrial warehouse in Long Island City on Thanksgiving Day last year and headed to a more affordable lot upstate in Stormville, N.Y.

Saat conceded that his little home, while cozy, does not comply with city building codes in its current state: The 6.5-foot second-story ceiling does not meet the required minimum clearance, for instance, and the bathroom uses removable plastic bags for waste.

“Number one goes into a separate container which can include a small chlorine tablet inside for keeping it clean, germ- and odor-free,” he said. “Number two goes into the plastic bag area and sawdust, or other natural dust made from coconut shell, is used to cover number two each time it is used. Once or twice a month, this bag is replaced.”

If the city were to ease restrictions, Saat said, he would consider offering classes on building tiny homes in the boroughs. He had planned to offer classes in Queens before heading north.

De Blasio administration officials predict at least 10,000 additional units, including newly approved basement apartments and tiny backyard homes, could be added to the city within the next 10 years under the proposed changes, which the City Council must approve.

I think it's necessary to also post the conclusion of this article, which throws this ridiculous (and gross idea) into the growing dung heap of de Blasio's housing policies:

Other architects, however, remained a bit skeptical.

Lorena del Río, an assistant professor of architecture at The Cooper Union who has worked on affordable housing in Madrid, said, “It’s not going to resolve the bigger problem. Affordable housing should have even higher standards in terms of design so that people don’t end up living in a closet.”

The solution to the city’s housing crunch, she suggested, involved more alliances between the public and private sectors — and the “political will” to regulate housing prices.

“That is the future of affordable housing,” she said. “Not tiny houses.”

 Not only should people not end up living in a closet, but people shouldn't end up shitting in plastic bags every day.

Friday, February 14, 2020

Woman lucks into an "affordable" apartment next to catering hall parking lot and cacophony ensues
Brick Underground

When Laura moved to an Astoria two bedroom with a roommate, she couldn’t believe her luck—at first. It’s affordable for her, in a great location, and has huge closets. But as with most things that seem too good to be true, it is. Her apartment looks out over the parking lot of Astoria World Manor—and it turns out that living next to an event space is anything but a celebration for Laura. Here’s her tale. 

I'm originally from Central New Jersey, but I've been in New York City since 2008. A few years ago, I was living in an apartment in Astoria near Broadway and Crescent and needed to move. My friend was looking for a share that was more affordable. We joined forces, but our apartment search was daunting. We saw quite a few duds. So, when we finally saw a two-bedroom apartment on Astoria Boulevard with a great layout, and best of all, huge closets, we jumped on it. 

The biggest bedroom (mine) is in the back of the building and faces the parking lot for the Astoria World Manor, an event space that looks like a place time forgot. I suspect looks the same as it did when it was built in the 1950s. When we took a tour with our real agent, he said, "Look, it's a parking lot! It'll be quiet!" Yes, I thought, parking lots are quiet. Little did I know...

It's hard to say the exact moment I realized my neighbor would be an issue, since I've been living there since 2012. But I quickly learned that folks leaving weddings, quinceañeras, and other parties fueled by alcohol are not quiet. I've listened to arguments, cries of joy, endless honking—I still have no idea why people need to honk at each other in a parking lot—and celebratory chanting. 

Sometimes the staff will hang out in the parking lot afterward, blasting music and yelling. I'm not sure what it is about that particular parking lot that makes people forget that they are surrounded by residential buildings. 

The worst noise, though, is the catering hall’s snowplow. For some reason it comes out at 2 or 3 a.m. when it snows and the grinding sound on the pavement is excruciating. I've left phone messages documenting the sounds, begging to have the plow wait until at least 6 a.m. I’ve even tried calling 311, to no avail.

In addition to all that noise, the place just seems to attract drama. One of the strangest things I've witnessed actually has nothing to do with the parking lot. My friend texted me asking if I was ok because she said a car had crashed into the World Manor! I ran downstairs to see and it was really a sight. I assume the car was trying to make a U-turn that turned into a K-turn and forgot to put the car in reverse. 

In general, I don't mind the noise that much, especially on Fridays and Saturdays. It’s the parties on Sundays and weekdays that stretch until 2 a.m. that really get my goat. I listen to podcasts or meditation apps to help me fall asleep in general. Once asleep, I can usually get used to or block out noise, as long as it doesn’t last that long. However, the snowplow will usually wake me out of a sound sleep and keep me awake until the workers are done plowing. (Fortunately, we haven’t really seen snow this winter.) While I haven’t missed work because of the late-night noise, I have gone to work exhausted many times.

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Open letter to the city on saving the Q103 and abolishing the BQX

Queens citizens remained pissed about MTA's bus redesign austerity plan

Queens Chronicle

An estimated 150 concerned area residents turned out for a meeting of the Forest Hills Community and Civic Association on Monday evening, prepared to speak out on the MTA’s controversial Queens bus network redesign proposal.

“None of our members were consulted about this proposal,” said association President Chris Collett.

“If it goes into effect as proposed, I think it’s going to be a disaster.”

The plan is the subject of a series of ongoing meetings and workshops being held around the borough since Jan. 21.

According to a handout distributed at the meeting, 18 bus lines currently serve the area. The meeting focused primarily on one of them, the Q23, which, according to Collett, is used by 17,000 individuals each day.

Individual and organizational stakeholders who ride the Q23 include senior citizens, caretakers for children and the elderly, students, school employees, children going to after-school activities, members of religious organizations, diners, healthcare professionals, store owners and employees, shoppers and delivery persons, the handout noted.

Among the locations within three blocks of the Q23 route are medical facilities, houses of worship, schools, shopping districts and senior centers.

Forest Hills resident Claudia Valentino sees the line as “a spine that connects all parts of the community to essential destinations.” One of her concerns is that the proposed changes would include “replacement lines (that) go nowhere that we need to get to and create a transit desert in the middle of our neighborhood.”

Community activist Anna Guasto, a resident of Forest Hills Gardens, agreed, suggesting that “the proposed bus changes will not serve the needs of the established community. The everyday quality of our lives will be impacted.”

Guasto was also concerned over the “element of danger for women” that would result from having to walk farther distances at night.

And, while open to some changes, she added, “The MTA came in from afar and made life-altering decisions without considering the daily lives of the people who live there.”

Upcoming hearings aka "workshops" for the MTA's bus redesign austerity plan are as followed:

• Wed., Feb. 19, 6:30-8:30 p.m., Queens College, 65-30 Kissena Blvd., Flushing;
• Thu., Feb. 20, 7-8:30 p.m. (public workshop), Korean Community Services of Metropolitan New York. 203-05 32 Ave., Bayside;
• Tue., Feb. 25, 7:30 p.m., Community Board 5 Transportation Committee, Christ the King High School, 68-02 Metropolitan Ave., Middle Village;
• Tue., Feb. 25, 7 p.m., Community Board 14 Transportation Committee, Knights of Columbus, 333 Beach 90 St., Rockaway Beach;
•Wed., Feb. 26, 6:30 p.m., Community Board 7 Transportation Committee, Union Plaza Care Center, 33-23 Union St., Flushing;
• Thu., Feb. 27, 7-8:30 p.m. (public workshop), Cross Island YMCA, 238-10 Hillside Ave., Bellerose;
• Wed., March 4, 6-8 p.m., NYC Health + Hospitals, 79-01 Broadway, Elmhurst;
• Thu., March 5, 7-8:30 p.m., Poppenhusen Institute, 114-4 14 Road, College Point;
• Thu., March 12, 6:30-8:30 p.m. (workshop), August Martin High School, 156-10 Baisley Blvd., Jamaica;
• Mon., March 16, 7-8:30 p.m., Queens Community Board 8 Transportation Committee, Hillcrest Jewish Center, 183-02 Union Tpke., Hillcrest;
• Wed., March 18, 7-8:30 p.m., Holy Cross Greek Orthodox Church of Whitestone, 12-01 150 St., Whitestone; and
• Thu., March 19, 7-8:30 p.m., North Shore Towers, 272-48 Grand Central Pkwy., Floral Park.

Maspeth community board objects to Home Depot development

Ridgewood Post

 Community Board 2 voted against a plan filed by Home Depot that calls for a massive home-improvement store and a six-story self-storage facility on a manufacturing site in Maspeth.

Home Depot needs a special permit since the 59-02 Borden Ave. site is located in a manufacturing district and the proposed six story self-storage facility does not conform with permitted uses.

The proposed development also calls for two one-story retail buildings. The retail buildings and separate Home Depot store comply with zoning regulations and can be built as of right.

The board rejected the application and said it would only approve the special permit if Home Depot agrees to use the two retail buildings for industrial use only. The Board in making the request said it aims to preserve the manufacturing integrity of the district.

The board’s decision is merely advisory, with the City Planning Commission and City Council ultimately determining the plan’s fate.

The site is located within the Maspeth Industrial Business Zone, which was established to ensure the preservation of industrial businesses. Those who oppose the application argue that this sets a bad precedent.

Home Depot, represented by the law firm Akerman LLP, argues that the self-storage facility would be of value since it meets the needs of small businesses– particularly contractors– and is a model that has worked elsewhere.

The company said that there are no self-storage areas within a quarter mile and that the facility would be in demand. The facility would be operated by a third-party vendor.

The development site is bound by Borden Avenue to the north, 55th Drive to the south and Maurice Avenue to the east. The self-storage facility would be located to the rear of the site—by the Long Island Expressway– and adjacent to the proposed 134,000 square foot Home Depot store. The two one-story retail buildings would front onto Maurice Avenue.

Quincy Ely-Cate, from the Maspeth Business Industrial Association, said he is against the proposal. He said the self-storage facility does not comply and he does not want it to take space in the IBZ. He said that there are 850 industrial businesses and 15,000 related jobs within the IBZ that need to be protected.

 “These businesses are currently under threat and face tremendous pressures from the increase in industrial real estate rents and valuations as developers encroach on these designated areas with speculation of alternative non-conforming uses,” he said.

A bridge grows in Kew Gardens...


 The newly-constructed eastbound Union Turnpike bridge crossing the Grand Central Parkway will open Friday, according to the state Department of Transportation.

The completed bridge will debut at midnight, barring any inclement weather that could cause transportation officials to reschedule its opening.

The overpass, located near the entrance ramp to the eastbound Grand Central Parkway, will allow the state transportation department to demolish the existing bridge, which is just west of the new one.

D.A. Vance plans to overlook a bulk of cases because of work overload from bail reform law


There may end up being a startling and some say worrisome consequence of New York’s controversial criminal justice reform laws.

CBS2’s Marcia Kramer has learned that Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. is considering dropping some cases over an inability to comply with new evidence rules.

Overwhelmed by paperwork and what he calls the “unsustainable hours” required to comply with the new so-called “discovery” rules enacted by state lawmakers as part of the new laws, Vance is considering the drastic step of simply letting some bad guys off the hook, not indicting them, Kramer reported.

“We are evaluating whether to defer or even decline prosecution in certain classes of cases,” Vance said in a Jan. 24 email to the approximately 500 assistant district attorneys who work for him.
Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. (Photo by Jeenah Moon/Getty Images)
CBS2 urban affairs expert Mark Peters said Vance is being driven to consider the extreme solution by new rules that require prosecutors to turn over evidence to defense attorneys within 15 days of an arrest.

“That’s a real public safety concern,” Peters said. “Whenever you’ve got a situation where prosecutors feel like they need to start declining cases — not because they don’t have enough evidence, not because they’re not convinced of guilt, but simply because the burdens of discovery make it impossible to get the work done — that’s going to impact public safety"

How much work was Cy overloaded with when he blew off witness accounts of Harvey Weinstein's sexual assaults and Donald Trump and his kin's screwing over their clients from his former Soho building?

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Developers and investor consortium looking to supress environmental review of luxury tower development by Flushing Creek


Along the banks of the Flushing Creek—one of New York’s most vital and most polluted waterways—dozens of construction cranes loom over the landscape, and half-finished glass towers cast ominous shadows over the water. During heavy rain storms, the waterway regularly swells, flooding pathways in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, the streets of Willets Point, and even portions of the Van Wyck Expressway. And after those storms, the city’s overtaxed sewer system often pours raw sewage into the creek and Flushing Bay, causing a stench to waft from its brackish waters. Dead fish occasionally float upon its surface.

But this chunk of Queens real estate has been targeted for development by a consortium of landowners and stakeholders, including a group called the Flushing Willets Point Corona Local Development Corporation (FWPCLDC) that has long pushed for revamping the waterfront. Last December, the group quietly submitted plans to redevelop a 29-acre stretch of industrial property along the waterfront, which would include rezoning the northernmost section from manufacturing to residential use.

The proposal calls for creating a Special Flushing Waterfront District, which could accommodate a huge mixed-use development with more than 1,700 apartments, retail, a hotel, and publicly accessible open space (including a riverfront promenade that would connect to the recently opened Skyview Flushing Creek Promenade). Developers also want to integrate a publicly accessible road network with the existing street grid, effectively expanding downtown Flushing. The portion of land that would be rezoned could eventually be home to just under 100 below-market-rate apartments.

While proponents say the development will benefit the community, critics are concerned that development will have “immense impacts” on the fragile condition of the Flushing waterfront. 

“Adding significant residential development could overwhelm the Creek’s overburdened infrastructure that already releases over one billion gallons of raw sewage and stormwater runoff into the Creek every year,” the Guardians of Flushing Bay, a group of environmental activists, said in a statement. “Though the plan aims to provide critical access to a virtually inaccessible swath of the waterfront, it is essential that this project, if enacted, be implemented in a way that would enhance coastal resiliency, recreation opportunities, ecological stewardship and equitable access to the waterfront.”

The proposal comes as downtown Flushing experiences a development boom: Between 2009 and 2019, the neighborhood saw the second-largest number of condos constructed in New York City after Williamsburg, Brooklyn, according to Nancy Packes Data Services, a real estate consultancy and database provider. Over the past five years, rents have climbed by a whopping 21 percent. Although historically home to a largely working- and middle-class Chinese immigrant population, many of Flushing’s new developments—such as the massive The Grand at Skyview Parc, which has two-bedrooms selling for around $1.27 million—cater to a new wave of immigrants with deep pockets.

With Flushing booming, the waterfront remains the last frontier for developers. But given the size of the proposal from the FWPCLDC, as well as the fact that the Special Flushing Waterfront District is situated in a coastal flood hazard area, critics have argued that an environmental impact study—which is not required for this particular project—must be conducted before the plan moves forward.

“They’re adding three million square feet along the waterfront,” says Tarry Hum, chair of the Queens College Department of Urban Studies. “Can you imagine the environmental impact?

Update: Community Board 7 approves the rezoning anyway

 At a tense Monday night meeting, Community Board 7 voted 30-8 to approve a development team’s plan to rezone a large section of land by Flushing Creek.

Dozens of protesters showed up to criticize the land-use application filed by FWRA, a consortium of real estate firms behind the project.

The development group wants to rezone a section of the area so it can construct a 13-tower project with 1,725 residential units and 879 hotel rooms–along with retail and office space–by the waterfront.

The 29-acre property is bound to the north by 36th Avenue, to the east by College Point Boulevard and to the south by Roosevelt Avenue.

FWRA seeks the creation of the Special Flushing Waterfront District and a rezoning in order to move ahead with the proposed plan.

The standing-room only meeting was heated. Activists grew frustrated that they were unable to speak until after FWRA presented its lengthy and time-consuming presentation, which continued on until after 9 p.m.

“Let us speak,” some in the crowd pleaded during FWRA’s presentation.

CB 7 Chairman Gene Kelty walked into the crowd and tried to hush some of the unsatisfied people who were waiting for their turn to speak.

In a video of the meeting, one frustrated woman tells Kelty, “Why are you saying this is a public hearing? This is not a public hearing and you know it.”

The footage shows the CB 7 chairman saying, “It is a public hearing,” uttering a few more words that are drowned out by other noise, and then appearing to lunge at the woman to steal her phone before being stopped by police officers and others.

“Let us speak! Let us speak!” the group chanted as Kelty walked away.

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Broker fees begone not yet

NY Post

An Albany judge on Monday issued a temporary restraining order halting the Empire State’s new lightning-rod rule that renters can no longer be charged broker’s fees.

The ruling by Justice Michael Mackey came after the influential Real Estate Board of New York and other industry honchos, including big-name brokerages like the The Corcoran Group and Sotheby’s Realty, filed a lawsuit against the Department of State on Monday.

The temporary ban means brokers can, for now, continue collecting hefty commissions from tenants when they rent a residence.

REBNY and the New York State Association of Realtors declared in a statement that it also means “that thousands of hardworking, honest real estate agents across New York State can do business in the same way they did prior to last week’s DOS memo without fear of discipline by the DOS.”

Michael Blake abusing affordable housing program that he monitors New York
Bronx Assemblyman Michael Blake is one of six officials appointed to a new task force charged with investigating corruption in the state's troubled Mitchell-Lama housing program.
But a Crain's analysis shows that Blake—a Democratic National Committee vice chair and candidate for Congress—has for years taken advantage of a different homeownership program by improperly subletting a government-subsidized condominium intended for moderate-income tenants, in violation of a host of rules and restrictions.
State and city housing officials said they would investigate the apparent abuse.
It was this sublet that controversially enabled Blake, who earns a six-figure salary, to run for his seat in 2014 despite his having resided for years in Washington, D.C., while serving in the Obama administration.
Voting records and Board of Elections documents show that Blake has lived for almost seven years in a building called the Aurora, constructed on a parcel of city-owned land in 2008. The offering plan submitted to the New York attorney general's office states that the project received multiple construction loans from the city Department of Housing Preservation and Development as well as through the state's Affordable Housing Corporation program.
The building also benefited from the federal HOME Investment Partnerships Program and from the state's contentious 421-a tax credit. Accordingly, the bulk of the condominiums were priced below market value—in the case of the space Blake occupies, for persons earning no more than 130% of the region's area median income. As of 2019, that figure stood at $97,110 annually for a household of one. 
Blake's financial disclosures with the Joint Commission on Public Ethics indicate his earnings have exceeded that amount every single year he has held elected office, thanks in part to the multiple consulting jobs he has done in addition to his legislative duties.

Council member Brennan looking to curb e-commerce warehouse development

The Real Deal
Politicians’ fight against Amazon is not over.
The e-commerce giant’s bid to build a Queens campus died a year ago, but warehouse projects have proliferated as e-commerce companies seek infrastructure to speed deliveries. And one Brooklyn official has had enough.
City Council member Justin Brannan is calling for a special permit requirement for large warehouse projects. That would give the Council power to stop the developments, which Brannan says are hurting the quality of life, especially in the outer boroughs.
Brannan wrote an op-ed in Crain’s last week saying they have led to “clogged streets, pedestrian hazards, increased asthma, low-wage jobs and the death of brick-and-mortar neighborhood retail.”
He is asking the Department of City Planning to “institute a special-permit requirement for all warehouse development over 250,000 square feet” to give communities and local officials input into when and how such projects come to their neighborhoods.
The move would force large warehouse projects subject to navigate a process similar to the city’s seven-month Uniform Land Use Review Procedure.
“A special permit means a community won’t be bulldozed — literally and figuratively — in the development process,” Brannan wrote. “Local leaders and elected officials will be able to consider the potential collateral damage to long-term plans for neighborhood development, and potentially be able to reach outcomes that benefit local residents, landlords, retailers, and even consumers.”
Other projects have triggered such proposals, some of which have been enacted. In the past two years the city has required special permits for hotel and self-storage projects in certain light-manufacturing zones, and Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration said earlier this year that it supported such a requirement for hotel construction citywide. The move would enhance the New York City Hotel Trades Council’s opportunity to unionize new hotels.

Monday, February 10, 2020

The Queens Machine three kahunas suddenly gets all transparent.

Beginning next month, the Eagle will devote even more coverage to the
court officers, law clerks and other workers who make our courts run.

Why? -QC

Zero Vision shown by city regarding destroyed fire hydrant in Whitestone


 For years the residents of 5th Avenue in WHITESTONE Queens have been advocating and begging for safety. They have asked for extension of bollards to prevent speeding cars and trucks from turning up their narrow residential street to a one way conversion going toward the bridge. Always met with different excuses, never once coming up with a safe Solution.  

In the last 3 months, the hydrant on the corner has been taken out three times by speeding cars careening into oncoming traffic and jumping the sidewalk. A few months ago,  a speeding car took the turn at such high speeds that it bounced off the hydrant and spun to the other side totaling a parked Jeep. The mother and her two daughters and just parked the Jeep and missed getting hit or killed by two minutes. 
When will enough be enough. The residents of 5th Avenue need help. 

Also, the hydrant is now MIA and the block has a missing hydrant over 3 weeks. GOD FORBID THERE IS A FIRE!  

The residents have reached out to all the elected representatives as well as DOT and DEP. NO reply on when if ever the hydrant will be replaced

Bail reform law has caused an exodus of prosecutors

NY Post

At least 40 employees in Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez’s office have quit since the start of the year, The Post has learned — and insiders are blaming increased workloads tied to reforms that require them to provide evidence to defendants within 15 days of their arraignments.

Staring down the barrel of a hard deadline to get pages from police officers’ memo books, surveillance footage, phone records and other materials over to defense attorneys, prosecutors are routinely clocking 11 and 12-hour days to avoid losing their cases altogether, multiple sources told The Post.

“Morale is terrible,” one Brooklyn prosecutor said. “People are feeling overworked and underappreciated.”

Sources said that the grind since the reform took effect is so brutal, supervisors have had to order assistant DAs to stop working and go home for the sake of their sanity.

“People are kind of talking about it openly saying ‘I don’t know, should I ride this out?’” one Brooklyn prosecutor told The Post.

Another prosecutor said that the number of their colleagues dusting up their resumes is unlike anything they’ve seen in past years — and that some are blaming their tense new working conditions under discovery reform.
“Almost everyone I know is looking for another job,” the prosecutor said.

Sunday, February 9, 2020

Spend an hour with the Mayor and his state of the city address variety show

Trust me, this is worth it just to watch Chirlie de Blasio get no response from the audience filled with the city's elected and appointed officials and elites. No one respects this woman and the Brooklyn Machine and her husband are trying to rig the borough president seat for her. This also has a surprise cameo later on that might shock you.

Liz Crowley's brief and poor quality video plea to save Rockaway city bus lines

Marine Park development stopped because of multiple violations and residents complaints.


City regulators shut down a Marine Park development site after the builders flagrantly ignored city-approved construction blueprints — and put workers’ lives at risk in the process, according to a Department of Buildings spokeswoman.

“We issued a stop work order for the site…and issued violations to the contractor for disregarding the approved plans and putting workers in jeopardy by skirting safety regulations,” said Abigail Kunitz.

Neighbors filed 11 official complaints to the department since June 2018, claiming that the project at the intersection of Avenue T and Hendrickson Street was not conforming to the permitted plans by exceeding height limits and creating an unapproved elevator shaft, among other violations. 

The department eventually conducted an inspection on the site on Feb. 5 and found the outlaw elevator shaft — including a bulkhead that rises well above the two-story building — as well as missing guardrails and netting meant to protect construction workers, according to Kunitz.

On an otherwise sleepy street stocked with one-family homes, the sizable height of the rising building alarmed neighbors, who claimed the structure did not match the plans posted outside of the site. 

“It is two completely different structures than were presented to people on my block,” said David Fitzgerald. “It now has a massive steel frame with a four-story tall elevator shaft. We don’t even know what this building is.” 

The building also entirely eclipses its next-door neighbor, blocking all the sunlight to the adjoining backyard, according to Fitzgerald

“The whole building blocks out all the light from that man’s backyard,” he said. “It may not bother everybody, but the ones that think like me — that’s just not right.”

Saturday, February 8, 2020

Broker fees begone!
NY Post

Tenants will no longer be forced to pay a broker’s fee when renting an apartment in New York City, a report said Wednesday.

The ruling — which was made on Friday and went into effect Wednesday — came as a welcome reprieve for city residents who have been forced to plunk down broker costs in addition to a security deposit and first month’s rent, according to the Wall Street Journal.

New York is one of a few cities in the US where residents are charged a fee to rent an apartment. The move is the latest push to create more favorable rules for tenants.

The apartment listing site StreetEasy said about 45 percent of New York City rental listings last year included a broker’s fee.

Renters may still, however, choose to hire a broker to help them rent an apartment and then pay a fee.

Landlord groups said the change would force them to raise rents on their apartments.

Friday, February 7, 2020

MTA plans to cut Astoria's Vernon Blvd bus route

Astoria Patch

The MTA's proposal to eliminate the Q103 bus route along Vernon Boulevard has riled Astoria residents, who say the line is needed now more than ever.

Under the transportation authority's preliminary proposal to entirely redraw the Queens bus map, released Dec. 31, the Q103's north-south route along the Astoria waterfront would be cut.
As a replacement, the MTA's plan would shift those riders to a new version of the Q69 bus, which would still run along 21st Street — about 0.4 miles east of Vernon Boulevard — but continue further into Long Island City.

MTA officials working on the redesign said their proposal is only a draft and that the Q103 elimination isn't a done deal, but the mere suggestion had locals up in arms at two recent meetings on the plan.

At an MTA presentation on the redesign plan Friday in Astoria, nearly all of the 30-some attendees came to address the Q103 proposal: When one planner leading the presentation asked who had a question that wasn't about the Q103, the audience roared with laughter.

 Actually, someone should have asked if this was a way to open up the road for the BQX.

Like this woman did;

Nice house in Astoria to be demolished for five story apartment building


Permits have been filed for a five-story residential building at 31-17 28th Avenue in Astoria, Queens. Located at the intersection of 28th Avenue and 32nd Street, the lot is one block south of the Astoria Boulevard subway station, serviced by the N and W trains. Bell Realty is listed as the owner behind the applications.

The proposed 50-foot-tall development will yield 15,442 square feet, with 11,251 square feet designated for residential space. The building will have 16 residences, most likely rentals based on the average unit scope of 703 square feet. The masonry-based structure will also have a 30-foot-long rear yard.

T.F. Cusanelli and Filletti Architects is listed as the architect of record.

Thursday, February 6, 2020

Mayor de Blasio proposes housing fund program for basements, backyard sheds and upzoning garages


The de Blasio administration wants to make it easier for homeowners to legally add apartments in basements, atop garages — and even in backyard tiny houses — to boost affordable housing.

The plans, shared Wednesday with THE CITY, entail easing parking requirements as well as supplying low-interest loans to finance construction that would bring the new digs up to code.

“The key to unlocking more housing for New Yorkers is just below our feet,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a statement. “Legalizing basement apartments will give homeowners a new way to make ends meet and give thousands of New Yorkers an affordable place to live.”

He’s expected to formally announce the effort Thursday during his State of the City address at the American Museum of Natural History.

The city plans to set aside $150 million in capital funds for the loans. Zoning changes woud address rules that currently require additional parking spaces for new apartments in many residential areas — action that could take at least two years, the mayor’s office indicated.

De Blasio administration officials expect at least 10,000 safe and affordable units could be added to the housing-starved city within the next decade under the proposed changes, which require City Council approval.

The new dwellings could even include “tiny homes in a backyard,” City Hall officials said, though they didn’t offer details.

The Pratt Center for Community Development estimates that New York City already has as many as 114,000 occupied basement apartments.

Will Spisak of Chhaya Community Development Corporation, a housing advocacy group, said he was “cautiously optimistic” about the new de Blasio plan.“if this really does allow for easier basement conversion experiences, and allowed folks to create accessory dwelling units on their property, this could be really transformative for a lot of homeowners,” said Spisak, the organization’s director of housing justice.

MTA resorting to privatization to serve low transit areas

NY Daily News

Night-shift workers living in places with spotty overnight bus and subway service may get a new way home under a MTA proposal.

The agency on Tuesday announced plans to hire an outside company to provide a publicly subsidized on-demand car or van service for riders in places where “bus service is less frequent than subway service or is unavailable.”

Transit honchos intend to use the service in areas outside of Manhattan that are more than a half-mile from the nearest subway or train station, have “limited or no overnight bus service nearby.”

The proposal — which MTA officials note is required by the state law setting up congestion pricing in lower Manhattan — was offered to bidders in January. It appears to be targeted at app-based car service companies like Uber, Lyft and Via, which serve a combined 700,000 daily riders in New York City.

The program’s stated goal is to serve a growing number of people who work non-traditional hours, like medical professionals and service industry employees. It would give riders in the targeted areas subsidized car or van rides — and could be a boon for e-hail companies that have already cut into the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s ridership.

MTA officials also want riders to be able to pay for the late-night rides with OMNY, the agency’s new digital payment system.

“We are seeking to leverage new mobility technologies to enable more New Yorkers to benefit from the public transportation network during the overnight hours, and to enhance the experience of overnight subway customers in low-cost ways," said Mark Dowd, who in November was hired as the MTA’s chief innovation officer, a role created through a state-mandated reorganization of the agency.

The program is scheduled to launch as a temporary pilot in June.

Uber, Lyft and Via have in recent years partnered with other cities to fill their transit deserts.

Via in 2018 launched a program with Berlin’s public transit agency Berliner Verkehrsbetriebe to provide on-demand van rides in an effort to supplement the city’s bus, tram and train routes. Also in 2018, Lyft cut a deal with the Detroit transit officials to offer discounted car rides between midnight and 5 a.m. for riders using one of the city’s bus routes.

Bringing that model to New York may prove tough.

J.P. Patafio, the head of buses at Transport Workers Union Local 100, said transit bosses did not tell him about the idea to outsource transit services. He likened the pitch to unregulated dollar vans.

“They (the MTA) need to invest in more bus service, and if they want a different type of service they should have put it in the (Local 100) contract the board ratified last month,” Patafio said. “We’re certainly not allowing non-union companies to do our work.”

Some transit advocates wondered why the MTA is looking to pay to outsource its services when the agency is in the middle of a “revenue neutral” redesign of each borough’s bus network.

“Isn’t this what a bus is supposed to do?,” Tri-State Transportation Campaign executive director Nick Sifuentes asked. “Buses work well during off-peak hours because traffic is less of an impediment to service.

"That's the standard technique of privatization: defund, make sure things don't work, people get angry, you hand it over to private capital." - Noam Chomsky

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Mayor de Blasio prefers that his appointed officials testilie instead of testify

NY Post

Mayor Bill de Blasio is opposing a bill requiring officials correct the record if they give inaccurate statements in sworn testimony — and is allegedly threatening to prevent his commissioners from testifying before lawmakers if the bill passes.

The administration’s reluctance to support the legislation comes just a week after The Post revealed that de Blasio officials mislead the City Council about the ouster of a whistleblower.

Mayoral spokeswoman Freddi Goldstein called the bill Tuesday “unnecessarily duplicative.”
“It’s our policy to correct the record with the City Council if someone misspeaks at a hearing,” Goldstein said.

Councilman Ritchie Torres blasted the administration’s response as “Trumpian.”

“There’s no rational justification for obstructing legislation that would require public officials to tell the truth unless you have something to hide,” he said.

The bill, which Torres introduced in 2018 and had a hearing last March, would amend the City Charter by requiring agency heads who give a “materially inaccurate statement” in sworn testimony or an official report to correct the record.

“There is a clear obligation not to make knowingly false statements,” Torres told The Post. “But there’s no obligation to subsequently correct false statements that might have been made unknowingly. The bill is to close that gaping loophole.”

He claims members of the city Law Department essentially put the proposal on ice by threatening, “If you pass the bill then we will no longer allow commissioners to testify before the City Council.”

Torres called “threatening obstruction of City Council oversight a Trumpian assault on the separation of powers.”


Daycare center will be scrapped because of Glendale homeless shelter

 Shelter could scare off day care center 1

Queens Chronicle

As the homeless shelter for 200 single men moves ahead at 78-16 Cooper Ave. in Glendale, a day care center planned for 79-40 Cooper Ave. could be pulling out.

“Right now, we’re actively considering whether we want to pull out of the site altogether,” said Ted Hockenberry, CEO of Children of America, the would-be operator of the center.

A decision on the future of the site will be made by the company within the next 10 days, he told the Chronicle Monday.

Hockenberry, located in Florida, said he might visit the location himself or send someone from the company to check it out.

Jim Perretty, chairman of the board for the company, has already been there.

“It’s a great area. I’m actually surprised that they’re considering putting that type of facility in on that main road,” he said, referring to the homeless shelter.

The day care center, a 15-classroom facility, would hold approximately 167 children, consisting of two infant groups, two toddler groups, seven preschool groups, a pre-K group and one school-age group.

“The demographics do support having early child care solutions in the area and we think it would be a complement to the families that are in that area but we don’t want to be not successful and have families fearing going to the school, picking up, dropping off because of the proximity,” Hockenberry said.

The proposed shelter, at the site of a shuttered factory, has been on-again and off-again for years. 

Opposed by many in the community, it would be the first in Community District 5. The developer of the day care center was requesting a special permit from the Board of Standards and Appeals to build the center and went to Borough Hall after Community Board 5 voted 39-0 in favor of the move in April.

Last August the Department of Homeless Services announced the planned shelter was on again.

“That’s really prompting us as we’re coming down to the 11th hour,” Hockenberry said.