Thursday, August 27, 2015

Out-of-state murder suspect caught in Jamaica

From the Daily News:

Queens cops have collared a man wanted in a triple murder in Ohio, police sources said Wednesday.

Ohio police had tipped off the NYPD that the suspect, Daveron Minnis, might be in Jamaica, Queens, and provided the license plate number for his white Dodge Charger, sources said.

An NYPD electronic license plate reader went off after it detected the tag near 177th St. and 106th Ave. Two 103rd Precinct officers, Caroline Arias and Brendan McGurran, transmitted the information over their radio and Officers Christopher Yonick and Robert Koehler responded, sources said.

The four cops followed the Charger, then boxed it in at 175th St. and 105th Ave. before taking Minnis into custody.

Target replacing Forest Hills B&N

From the Daily News:

A new Target store is slated to take over the space formerly occupied by Barnes & Noble at 7000 Austin St., in Forest Hills, the Daily News has learned. The store will be the first flexible-sized location in Queens for Target, which has recently been offering more compact shopping experiences for city-dwellers.

Target inked a deal for a 15-year, 20,795-square-foot lease and is slated to open at the property in mid-2016.

Giant affordable housing project planned for Sunnyside Gardens

From Sunnyside Post:

The developer that plans to construct a 10-story, 220-unit residential building on Barnett Avenue (near 52nd Street) is about to face some heavy resistance from Sunnyside residents who are dead-set against the project.

Phipps Houses, which announced its plan to develop the site at Community Board 2’s Land Use meeting in June, said that it would be seeking a zoning change in order to build the apartment complex on the site, which is currently zoned for manufacturing.

The site, which is next to the Phipps Garden Apartments, is currently used as a parking lot by local businesses and residents, and has about 225 spaces.

All 220-units would be classified as “affordable.” More than half would be two or three bedrooms. Only 5% of the units would be studio apartments.

Since the Land Use meeting, many residents have come together and joined forces with the Sunnyside Gardens Preservation Alliance, a group dedicated to the preservation of the district, in opposition to the developer’s plan.

They have put together a petition calling on Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer and Community Board 2 to block the plan. The group has already gathered about 500 signatures on paper—going door-to-door– and has launched an online campaign via, which in two days has generated 130 signatures. (click for petition)

Plan to clean up stink of Flushing Bay

From DNA Info:

The Department of Environmental Protection will begin dredging sediment from the bottom of Flushing Bay in 2016, according to a city official, at a cost of $47 million.

Sediment has formed over years due to Combined Sewer Overflow, or CSO, from nearby roads and highways.

It hasn't helped that a runway at nearby LaGuardia Airport partially blocks the water from "flushing," according to DEP Commissioner Emily Lloyd, who testified about the funded project at a May city council hearing.

Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras-Copeland, who lead the testimony as the Council's finance chair, told Lloyd the smells are compared to rotten eggs and has plagued her district for years.

The project, scheduled to be completed in 2019, will remove most of the gunk at the bottom and make a "significant" difference, Lloyd said.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

The history of Jamaica High School

From the New Yorker:

As late as 1998, Jamaica held a respectable standing among the city’s large high schools. Though it was no longer the √©lite institution of earlier years, more than seventy-five per cent of the students graduated on time. But, by 2009, the graduation rate had tumbled to thirty-nine per cent. A confluence of events brought about the decline. In that period, talented students in northern Queens were given the option of attending two other high schools, both based on college campuses. In 1995, Townsend Harris, a magnet high school on Parsons Boulevard, moved onto the campus of Queens College. With roughly half the number of students as Jamaica, Townsend Harris had graduation rates that fluctuated between ninety-nine and a hundred per cent. During the eighties and nineties, Jamaica allowed students to enroll in courses at York College, a liberal-arts institution about a mile south of the high school. In 2002, York became the location of Queens High School for the Sciences, which granted admission based solely on standardized-test scores.

In 2004, in the name of greater choice, the Bloomberg administration revised the districting rules to allow students to attend any high school in the city. Given the realities of residential segregation, and of school quality as a determinant of real-estate values, there was something almost radical in that idea. It’s even possible to see the Bloomberg plan as a long-awaited response to Arthur Levitt’s claim, in 1954, that the problem in New York was not segregated schools but segregated neighborhoods. But it also meant that students whose parents—owing to language difficulties or work demands, immigration status or a generalized fear of bureaucratic authority—could not or would not pursue other educational options for their children found themselves relegated to increasingly unappealing schools.

The demographic balance that characterized Jamaica during my years became impossible to maintain. In 2011, the year that the city formally decided to close the school, fourteen per cent of the student population had disabilities and twenty-nine per cent had limited English proficiency. In the year before the school closed, it was ninety-nine per cent minority, a demographic that would not in itself be a concern were it not also the case that sixty-three per cent of the students qualified as poor.

HPD ignores fire escape safety complaints

From NBC:

More than 2,000 complaints about fire escape safety were called in to 311 over the last year and a half, resulting in nearly 500 violations, an I-Team investigation has found. Many of those problems went months before being fixed.

Data from 311 shows it takes an average of three weeks for investigators to resolve safety complaints about fire escapes. For some residents, it can take months to get a response. Some complaints are quite serious, from blocked exits to missing slats. Rust is another common violation.

Arverne development resists hipster invasion

From the NY Times:

The growing popularity of surfing in the Rockaways has created a resurgence, attracting large beach crowds, fueling new businesses and generating other economic boosts.

But it has also made the two New York City-sanctioned surfing beaches, near Beach 90th and Beach 67th Streets in Queens, packed with wave seekers.

“Surfing has completely exploded, and we’re jammed into small areas,” said Conrad Karl, a local surfer and restaurateur. “We need to spread out a little bit. It would be safer.”

Calling the crowded lineups of surfers potentially dangerous, many surfers are pushing for a new or expanded surfing area, specifically along a stretch from Beach 66th Street to Beach 60th, an area that Mr. Karl calls “basically dead, going to waste” since it is closed to both swimming and surfing.

But, as it happens, the surfers’ campaign has collided with another explosion in the area: the infusion of hundreds of new residents into the vast Arverne by the Sea development along that same stretch of beach.

Many of its residents also want those beaches opened, but for swimming. The problem is that city officials forbid swimming and surfing in the same area, because swimmers and surfers could collide.

Developers fail to register apartments with tax incentives

From the NY Times:

Developers of nearly 200 small buildings in New York City have flouted the terms of tax breaks they received by failing to place their apartments on the rent-stabilization rolls, state and city officials said.

In letters that went out Tuesday, officials from three agencies told the owners to register their units as rent-stabilized or risk a range of penalties, including being required to return the value of their tax incentives. The action affects 2,472 apartments in 194 buildings scattered across the city, but mostly in Brooklyn.

The developers received discounts on property taxes under a state program known as 421-a, which is meant to spur construction. Advocates for affordable housing and Mayor Bill de Blasio, a Democrat, had criticized the program, which led to $1 billion in forgiven taxes in New York City last year, for not producing enough low-cost housing. They persuaded the Legislature this year to modify the rules to require more units for low-income tenants in exchange for the tax breaks.

The buildings in question did not necessarily have to offer below-market rents, but if the apartments were rentals, the 421-a program required the owners to register them with the state as rent-stabilized apartments. That would entitle tenants to leases whose rents are regulated by the city and the guarantee to renew their leases every year.

The 421-a program also benefits condominiums, and in each of the 194 buildings in question, the owners had originally intended to build condos, but changed their mind, possibly because of market conditions, and decided to rent the apartments rather than sell them, officials said.

Regardless of motivation, the officials said, by avoiding rent-regulated leases the owners could give themselves flexibility to clear out tenants when they decided to go through with the sales.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Four Freedoms Park President defends Katz gift

From Roosevelt Islander:

I asked FDR Four Freedoms Park Conservancy President Sally Minard:

Do you think it appropriate for a NY State park located in the Manhattan jurisdiction on Roosevelt Island to receive funds from the Queens Borough President discretionary capital budget earmarked for Queens parks?

Will FDR Park return the money to the Queens Borough President's Office for use in Queens parks?...

Ms. Minard replied:
Less than 1% of the Borough President’s appropriation is designated for FDR Four Freedoms Park. The funds, combined with funding from Manhattan, New York State and private sources will support installation of new lighting to illuminate the exterior of the memorial park. This lighting installation will make the remarkable Louis Kahn design, a sculpture in the New York landscape, visible from the Queens and Manhattan shorelines after dark. The beauty of the illuminated Kahn design will be a new experience that will be shared equally by residents of Queens and Manhattan.

Every month, thousands of Queens residents already share the free educational and public programming, commemorative events, musical performances, and health and fitness sessions offered to visitors at FDR Four Freedoms Park. They come to enjoy the Park’s lush lawn, tree shaded allees and peaceful waterfront promenades with spectacular Queens and Manhattan skyline views.
Well I didn't expect this lady to look a gift horse in the mouth, but by her logic, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer should be allocating funding toward Gantry Park in LIC because Manhattanites can see it and on occasion take the ferry over to use it. (Somehow I don't see that happening.)

How about we just keep it simple and require that the BPs spend their pots of money in the boroughs they represent? Is that really too much to ask? Or is helping developers sell real estate now the primary function of elected officials?

Another hotel for downtown Jamaica

From DNA Info:

More hotel rooms may soon be coming to downtown Jamaica, which is already on its way to become the next lodging hub in Queens.

Pride Ventures recently filed an application with the Department of Buildings to construct a 283-room hotel at 149-03 Archer Ave., between 149th and 150th streets, as first reported by The Real Deal.

The 18-story lodging would be located only three blocks away from the Jamaica Long Island Rail Road and AirTrain station.

It would also be built nearly across the street from two other hotels — Marriott-brand Courtyard and Fairfield Inn and Suites — which are currently under construction at 147-43 Archer Ave.

Those hotels would be located in one 16-story building, and would contain a total of about 330 hotel rooms.

Legislation introduced to eliminate LPC backlog

From Curbed:

A bill making its way through the City Council would impose deadlines on the 50-year-old Landmarks Preservation Commission in regards to designating landmarks and historic districts. While its sponsor says the bill is supposed to make things more efficient and help the commission deal with its backlog, advocates are concerned that it would hamstring the LPC, and eliminate dozens of items that are being considered as landmarks.

Intro. 775, authored by Queens Councilman Member Peter Koo and Brooklyn Councilman David Greenfield, would impose deadlines on this process. For individual and interior landmarks, the commission would have 180 days to hold a public hearing once an item is calendared and then another 180 days to take action (vote to designate or vote not to designate) once the public hearing is held. For historic districts, it would be one year from calendaring to public hearing and then another year from hearing to designation vote.

The bill, which goes before the council on September 9, also aims to deal with the nearly 100 items (94 buildings and two districts) backlogged at the LPC. Eighty-five percent of these items have been calendared for more than 20 years. Earlier this year, the LPC had proposed de-calendaring all of the backlogged items, but, unsurprisingly, that was met with much public disdain. Instead, the commission backed off and devised a schedule to deal with those items at public hearings organized by borough. The bill would give the LPC 18 months to deal with the entire backlog, but any backlogged items not addressed during that time period would be automatically de-calendared.

There's one more provision in the bill. If the commission fails to designate an item, be it a landmark or a historic district, the property in question would be barred from reconsideration for five years.

Shit hits the floor in South Jamaica

From the Daily News:

A leak spilling sewage across three floors of a Queens housing complex has outraged tenants and their local city councilman.

The sewage leak at the South Jamaica Houses is the latest black eye for the problem-plagued New York City Housing Authority, which took more than 12 hours just to send somebody with a mop, frustrated residents said.

The smelly sewage spill flooded the basement and the first two floors, closing the community center and forcing the cancellation of several activities.

Residents said the flooding began Sunday evening at about 6 p.m., but has been an ongoing issue for about three years.

Fed-up tenants, dissatisfied with the city's response, reached out to Councilman Ruben Wills, who chastised the agency for the mishap.

DeBlasio defends green space-to-housing plan

From the Observer:

Speaking at a press conference celebrating the start of an $87 million roof repair project at the Queensbridge Houses—the largest public housing project in the nation, according to the administration—the mayor pushed back on attacks on his housing authority Chairwoman Shola Olatoye and the “NextGeneration NYCHA” plan she commissioned for him. Critics, including Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., have argued that NextGeneration’s development provisions could cost NYCHA residents precious green space and badly strain city resources and infrastructure.

Mr. de Blasio repeatedly emphasized that 13,500 of the new apartments would rent for below-market-rate, and that the city would plan construction in concert with residents—two things he said were missing from former Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s proposal for “infill,” which would have focused mostly upscale development on NYCHA space. The liberal mayor also stressed that new construction would create revenues that would other wise be unavailable to the authority, which currently runs deficits of hundreds of millions of dollars each year, and has a $17 billion backlog in repair work.

The mayor even promised that any parking or recreational space sacrificed to new construction would be restored in some form to residents.

“We’re going to make sure any facilities that people have, whether it’s parking, playground, whatever a development, are made whole, even if it means someplace else in the same development. We’ll make sure people have the same amenities,” he said. “We obviously will account for any infrastructure needs.”

He did not elaborate on the details of how such adjustments would work.

Of course he didn't because there's no place to put that stuff.