Saturday, January 20, 2018

Public advocate offers to help file Whitepointe lawsuit

From the Queens Chronicle:

Whitestone residents upset with the controversial Waterpointe brownfield cleanup may have an influential new ally.

Public Advocate Letitia James said she would help in the potential launch of litigation over the situation at the We Love Whitestone Civic Association's meeting on Wednesday night.

"I'm prepared to seek and try to find a law firm that will represent you in your interests," she said. "This is totally unacceptable."

The Edgestone Group, which conducted the cleanup, plans on building 52 single-family homes at the property. The firm could not be reached for comment.

Many in the community are upset with the Department of Environmental Conversation over the project, because the agency agreed to let Edgestone pursue a different cleanup method than first planned. Rather than the Track 2 residential cleanup that was originally planned, the developer conducted a Track 4 unrestricted residential one, which is less stringent in terms of the chemicals allowed at the site.

The DEC issued a certificate of completion for the cleanup last month.

City moves families out of shelter and moves in single men

From Eyewitness News:

At a time of record homelessness in New York City, especially among homeless families, there is a controversy about a shelter in Queens.

A hotel in Long Island City is no longer taking in some homeless families.

Families were given new locations in other boroughs where they had to report Wednesday night. But the transportation promised in that letter never showed up until well after Eyewitness News called the city for answers.

Suddenly a bus which had been parked there before we arrived opened its doors and people finally started loading up. No answers, no apology, no way to live.

You can't trust the government.

BDB accused of engaging in retaliation

From the NY Times:

In 2016, as federal investigators dug into allegations that Mayor Bill de Blasio traded favors for political donations, a senior official at a city agency at the center of the probe was demoted and given a sharp pay cut.

That official, Geneith Turnbull, has filed a lawsuit against the city, alleging that her demotion was motivated by discrimination, and was meant to punish her for standing up to her supervisors.

Ms. Turnbull was a deputy commissioner at the Department of Citywide Administrative Services until she was demoted in February 2017, in what City Hall said was a reorganization of the agency. The lawsuit, filed this month in Federal District Court in Manhattan, accused the city of demoting Ms. Turnbull in retaliation for repeatedly voicing concerns about a pay raise given to one of her subordinates, who she believed had in some way helped to protect Mr. de Blasio during the federal investigation.

The lawsuit also alleges that her demotion was part of a pattern of discrimination against older, minority employees at the agency. Ms. Turnbull is black.

Ms. Turnbull was demoted on the same day that Ricardo Morales, another senior employee at the administrative services agency, was fired. Mr. Morales has filed a notice of claim with the city in preparation for a wrongful-dismissal lawsuit; Mr. Morales had resisted pressure from City Hall over negotiations between his agency and Harendra Singh, a mayoral donor who did business with the city.

Friday, January 19, 2018

An icy dilemma

From CBS 2:

A water leak is creating dangerous, slippery conditions on a sidewalk in a Queens neighborhood.

As CBS2’s Dave Carlin reported exclusively Thursday, complaints are pouring in. But the water is still flowing and turning into ice in the cold.

A two-story cascade of water has created icy dangers on the sidewalk to the below-grade Grand Central Parkway Service Road between Aberdeen and Tudor roads.

The unwanted waterfall started gushing over the top of a wall more than a week ago.

What a victory!

From Crains:

The de Blasio administration financed an all-time high 24,356 units of affordable housing last year, the mayor announced today.

That number included the construction of 7,177 apartments and the preservation of 17,359 that might have otherwise become market-rate dwellings. Half of the total will be available for residents making less than $33,400 a year, or $43,000 for a family of three, though it was unclear from the announcement what the lowest incomes served will be.

Can someone explain how only adding ~7K "affordable" apartments to the inventory is a victory? We need hundreds of thousands of affordable apartments and the city's response to this is to upzone areas that are currently "low density" and relatively affordable so that developers move in and build market rate housing. Throwing more money at landlords year after year so they keep rents stable also seems like a plan destined for future failure.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Illegal conversion could lead to a 7-year prison sentence

From CBS 2:

The insatiable demand for affordable housing in New York City at times creates an illegal supply of rentals.

Now, for the second time in five years, a Queens man has been charged with illegally converting a single-family home into a multi-unit dwelling.

On first glance, it’s not clear why the home in Elmhurst would need three satellite TV dishes. A resident insisted there was nothing illegal happening there.

“No illegal conversion,” the man who didn’t wish to be identified told CBS2’s Tony Aiello. When asked if they’d allow a camera crew in for a look, the resident claimed “it’s not a perfect day today.”

It certainly proved to be a bad day for the owners, 53-year-old Segundo Chimbay and his wife, 52-year-old Maria Chimbay. The Queens District Attorney charged them with illegally converting the home on forlay street into five small apartments, including one in the attic and one in the cellar.

Authorities say at one point fifteen people lived there, all of them sharing one kitchen on the first floor. Rents were between $750 and $1,400 a month, according to authorities. The Chimbays also allegedly told renters to ignore the vacate order placed on the front door.

Flushing landlord cheated tenants, city

From the Village Voice:

One stormy evening last summer, in a corner of a playground on Union Street in Flushing, a small crowd gathered. They were residents of 140-35 Franklin Avenue one block to the south, and they were there to hear Aaron Carr, a former state legislative aide who now runs the nonprofit Housing Rights Initiative, explain how their landlord had been swindling them out of hundreds of thousands of dollars in rent money.

Their building, a six-story apartment complex typical of this low-rise immigrant neighborhood, had turned up during a trawl by HRI staffers through city tax records, Carr explained. The building’s owner, Hewlett Associates, had filed with the state in July 2007 for a J-51 tax abatement, a rebate available to landlords who upgrade their buildings. By law, anyone getting J-51 money for a building must agree to keep it rent-regulated as long as it receives the tax break; Hewlett, however, had recently filed a property tax form with the New York City Department of Finance that casually listed its J-51 benefits while listing only 14 rent-stabilized units — in a building of 113 apartments.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Cuomo wants lots of new taxes

From Crain's:

Gov. Andrew Cuomo called for an array of new revenues to close the state’s $4 billion budget hole on Tuesday while sketching his spending plan for the coming fiscal year.

The governor asserted that Albany could reap $750 million from sales of health care nonprofits to private entities, $140 million from a new tax on health insurers, $170 million from an opioid surcharge, $300 million through a one-year suspension of certain corporate tax credits and $318 million through an internet sales tax.

The 2017 federal tax legislation eliminated the state and local tax deductions, which let New Yorkers report less on their returns to the Internal Revenue Service. Cuomo reiterated his earlier calls to restructure New York’s tax system by replacing the income tax with a payroll tax—eliminating the excise on employees for money earned, and putting the burden instead on employers for wages paid.

This idea won a swift and bitter rebuke from a top small-business trade group.

The governor again teased a congestion pricing plan that would fund the moribund subway system through a new charge on cars entering the Manhattan business district. He offered few new details other than insisting that he would not impose tolls on the four city-owned East River bridges, but promised a full proposal later in the week.

Paper reports that Glendale shelter plan is dead

From QNS:

Late on Friday, Jan. 12, a spokesperson for the Department of Homeless Services confirmed to QNS that “there is currently no shelter operating on premises and we currently have no proposal for this site.” Samaritan Daytop Village, the human services organization that was going to operate the Cooper Avenue site, gave a similar statement acknowledging its past involvement and confirming that it “will not be providing any services or operating any program at the Glendale location.”

Records from the Department of Buildings appear to indicate when the shelter plans may have changed. Shortly after it was reported that the initial plans for the shelter were approved, DOB records show that a proposed renovation to the four-story structure submitted by George E. Berger & Associates was approved on April 2, 2015. Over the next two years, there were three amendments to the renovation approved under the same applicant, the records show.

The last amendment under that applicant was approved one year ago on Jan. 11, 2017. Since then, there were two additional amendments proposed in June of 2017 under a new applicant, SW Engineering Company. George E. Berger & Associates is listed as the filing representative on those amendments.

One of those amendments was approved, and the other is still pending with the amendment fee due, records show.

The plan all along was to pretend to renovate the structure into a hotel or something else and then ink a deal with the city to make a mint running a shelter there. I wouldn't get hopes up too high that the deal is dead, although the longer it takes to move forward, the less likely this scenario seems.

Rikers closure a land grab: union head

From the NY Post:

The union head who represents Rikers Island corrections officers slammed plans to close the jail complex as nothing more than a “political con game” and a “land grab” that would enrich well-connected real estate developers.

Elias Husamudeen, president of the Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association, said Sunday the closure plan has nothing to do with helping blacks and Latinos as some have argued, but “everything to do with business.”

The union big honed in on a report overseen by former New York State Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman that called for the closing of Rikers within ten years — noting its claim that the city and state stand to gain $17 billion if the island is repurposed for use by LaGuardia Airport.

“It has everything to do with business,” Husamudeen said Sunday during an interview on John Catsimatidis’ 970 AM radio show. “There’s so much wrong with this. This is such a political con game.”\

Husamudeen pointed to the make-up of the Lippman commission, charging that only two people on it have experience with jails.

“The majority of the people on your committee are real estate developers,” he said, referring to Lippman’s commission. “This is really a sham, it really is. It’s a land grab.”

Husmudeen argued that politicians should be more focused on the safety of corrections officers, citing more than 2,000 assaults against union members since de Blasio became mayor.

“My thing is: take your island, take your jail, take the island. We don’t care. Make the jails safe,” he said.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

NYPD caught covering up shelter crime

From the Daily News:

A Queens man suffered a one-two punch when a homeless shelter resident struck him in the face — then cops refused to put key details of the assault in their report and closed the investigation in one day, the Daily News has learned.

Edward Karakash, 29, said the man called him a “cracker” and slugged him outside of the Queens Blvd. car repair shop where he works, on Dec. 18.

The auto shop near 54th St. in Sunnyside is adjacent to a Quality Inn which the city has converted into a homeless shelter.

“A laundry van for the hotel was blocking my driveway and I was honking the horn,” he said. “A guy comes out of the hotel with a friend and starts threatening me. He said, ‘I’m gonna knock you out, cracker!’ Then he punched me in the temple.”

The suspect ran into the hotel. Karakash went to the hospital where he was treated for bruises after telling cops what happened.

His mother, Karine Karakash, 50, an eyewitness to the attack, said doctors initially believed he had broken bones in his face.

Unbeknownst to Karakash, cops closed their investigation the same day even though he gave them a photograph of the perpetrator, video of the assault and told police where his attacker lived.

The complaint report claims wrongly that Karakash refused to give his contact information and says there were no witnesses.

“They did not put on the report that he was from the homeless shelter,” Karakash said. “They just put that it was a random person who ran away.”

It was only when community activist Bill Kregler, a former Republican candidate for Queens Borough President, got involved that the cops changed their tune.

Karakash said the neighborhood has had problems with shelter residents before. Back on Oct. 14, someone else from the shelter hit him with his car and the police refused to take a report.

“I got hit while I was taking a picture of the plate,” he said. “The police said they weren't going to take a report.”

Years ago when similar problems were happening near the Pan Am, this blog reported that crime in the area was increasing and that police were not taking reports. They publicly denied this and several of the reporters covering the situation claimed we were lying. It's clear who was telling the truth and who is full of crap, now, isn't it?

Cease and desist list now in effect

From the Times Ledger:

A cease-and-desist list targeting unwanted real estate solicitations went into effect with the new year, allowing residents of northeast Queens to opt out of receiving fliers and door-to-door visits.

State Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside), who fought to have at least part of an expired cease-and-desist zone restored, reminded residents of Auburndale, Bayside, College Point, Malba, Murray Hill, North Flushing, and Whitestone to add their addresses to the list on the Department of State website.

“There may be 1,033 houses already on the list, but there is always room for more,” Avella said. “The Department of State will continue to accept new submissions and will update the list monthly.”

The cease-and-desist list established by the Department of State emulates a zone covering all of Queens County that was established in 1989 and expired in 2014. At three public hearings, residents and civic associations blasted the real estate industry for tactics they considered aggressive and complained of fliers littering their communities.

According to the Department of State, “no licensed real estate broker or salesperson shall solicit the sale, lease or the listing for sale or lease of residential property from an owner of residential property located in a designated cease-and-desist zone if such owner has filed a cease-and-desist notice with the Department of State indicating that such owner or owners do not desire to sell, lease or list their residential property and do not desire to be solicited to sell, lease or list their residential property.”

The new list will expire in 2022, but the IDC senator is hoping to get a law passed in the state to ban real estate solicitations in Queens indefinitely.