Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Perhaps not the city's biggest priority

From Crains:

The head of a New York City real estate data and listing site is set to propose Tuesday at the Massey Knakal Brooklyn Real Estate Summit an aerial gondola system that would run along the Brooklyn waterfront and into Manhattan.

"This would offer an incredible commute," said Daniel Levy, head of CityRealty, of his East River Skyway proposal. "You would get the best view you could imagine and a comfortable environment while avoiding the mayhem of the L train in the morning."

The system would be built in phases: the first running from the Brooklyn Navy Yard to Williamsburg, and then from Williamsburg to the Lower East Side. Subsequent phases would branch out to eventually connect Dumbo to the South Street Seaport, and Greenpoint, Brooklyn, and Long Island City, Queens, to Roosevelt Island. There, the network would meet up with the existing gondola route between Roosevelt Island and Manhattan.

New waterfront developments are on track to bring thousands of additional units to Brooklyn and Queens, and the aerial gondola system would help alleviate congestion on the subway lines, according to Mr. Levy. He estimates each phase would cost between $75 million and $125 million to build.

Soccer stadium may be built at Aqueduct instead

From Capital New York:

Developers behind a proposal to build the city’s first Major League Soccer arena are looking to develop land near the Aqueduct Racetrack in Queens, after plans to build near Yankee Stadium fell apart, sources told Capital.

Manchester City Football Club owner Sheik Mansour bin Zayed al-Nahyan and the New York Yankees, which are partnering in the joint venture for the New York City Football Club, are now looking at a possible site “adjacent to the aqueduct racetrack in Queens,” a source told Capital.

Sources told Capital the club is now looking to develop the site near the racetrack because there is an abundance of land primed for development.

Thar she blows!

From the Times Ledger:

Whale and dolphin sightings in the Rockaways have increased over the last five years, making American Princess watch and adventure cruises that launching from Riis Landing in Breezy Point the new popular pastime.

Tom Paladino, owner and captain of American Princess Cruises, said the abundance of sightings is due to cleaner waters and an increased food chain.

“There is definitely an increase in bait food called bunker [menhaden] along with sand eels and the mammals go where the food is,” Paladino said. “A possible contributing factor can also be warmer waters and climate change.”

The most common species of whales and dolphins, which have been spotted in the Rockaways, Long Island and the Jersey shore, have been humpback and fin whales and bottlenose and common dolphins, according to Paladino.

“I have been giving four-hour tours for the last seven years to view these mammals in the wild, but the last few weeks there have been multiple whale and dolphin sightings every day and the boat has been packed — it’s amazing,” Paladino said. “Last week there were humpback whales breaching and putting on a terrific show during all our tours and dolphins have been spotted in groups.”

The cruises are scheduled Wednesdays through Sundays from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m.

Protecting and polishing the Bloomberg legacy

From the NY Times:

When the de Blasio administration unveiled a promotional video this summer in its bid to lure the Democratic National Convention to Brooklyn in 2016, most viewers saw a slick, breezy collage of a pulsing New York City — schoolchildren and Citi Bikes, culinary wonders and brochure-worthy parks.

Veterans of the previous administration saw something else: a rare, if silent, affirmation of the Bloomberg age from the successors who have sharply criticized it.

“V impressed w #DNCNYC video,” Howard Wolfson, the former deputy mayor under Michael R. Bloomberg, wrote on Twitter last month, ticking off six Bloomberg-era changes, like green taxis and pedestrian plazas, highlighted on screen. “Lots of great selling points!”

Asked about Mr. Wolfson’s message, Peter Ragone, senior adviser to Mayor Bill de Blasio, emailed a smiley face.

The relationship between successive administrations is rarely uncomplicated. Perceived digs fester. Legacies wax and wane. And that magic date — the point at which a mayor is expected to cease criticisms of his predecessor — is never universally agreed upon.

Yet in the more than eight months since Mr. de Blasio’s inauguration — an event at which a number of speakers, though not Mr. de Blasio, assailed the former mayor — an entirely peaceful transfer of power has proved particularly elusive. After a stinging critique of Mr. Bloomberg’s tenure helped propel Mr. de Blasio to victory last year, the mayor and his surrogates have continued to issue pointed barbs at times, while appearing less eager to highlight Mr. Bloomberg’s contributions to some well-regarded policies that have been continued or expanded.

In recent weeks, as Mr. Bloomberg’s reign has faced withering criticism over the handling of disaster relief after Hurricane Sandy and oversight at Rikers Island, among other issues, former Bloomberg administration officials have increasingly moved to defend their former (and, in many cases, current) boss.

Traffic confusion in Forest Hills

From DNA Info:

On Wednesday, residents at a community board meeting complained that one change made last week — a ban on northbound traffic making left turns onto Queens Boulevard from Yellowstone Boulevard — had confused drivers and caused chaos in the area.

Community Board 6 Chairman Joe Hennessy said that the board, which covers Forest Hills and Rego Park, had questioned the DOT about the traffic “being pushed into the side streets" as a result.

Drivers who seek to turn onto Queens Boulevard must continue to drive on Yellowstone Boulevard through residential areas and look for alternative routes leading back to Queens Boulevard, according to the plan posted on the DOT's website.

There are no signs indicating which way to go.

“It’s very confusing,” said Stephen Melnick, a longtime Forest Hills resident. “I think they are just pushing the problem a few blocks away.

"They are doing the good thing on Queens Boulevard but at the same time they may be creating another problem along those side streets.”

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Liu finally admits he lost

From the NY Observer:

John Liu’s comeback bid is over.

The former city comptroller and mayoral candidate formerly conceded to State Senator Tony Avella this morning, acknowledging that a gap of 568 votes was too great to overcome with paper ballots.

“Public service, to me, is a calling, not a career, and this race was always about the opportunity to continue to serve our community,” Mr. Liu said in a statement. “While we may have fallen just short in the voting booth, our message resonated loud and clear – the people of this district want a true Democrat who will stand up for our progressive values and we will hold our elected officials accountable by their actions, not just their words.”

The Queens Democratic Party, led by Congressman Joseph Crowley, coaxed Mr. Liu into running in a Democratic primary against Mr. Avella earlier this year. Drawing on the support of local elected officials, a bevy of unions and a significant fund-raising advantage, Mr. Liu came last week within 5 percentages points of knocking off Mr. Avella, according to unofficial Board of Election returns.

But it was always an uphill slog for Mr. Liu in an oddly-shaped eastern Queens district where Mr. Avella, despite his alienation from the political establishment, remains popular. Mr. Avella’s win came as he crushed Mr. Liu in the heart of the district–the 26th Assembly District, including the neighborhoods of Whitestone, Bayside, Bay Terrace, Little Neck and Douglaston–by nearly 1,000 votes. Assemblyman Ed Braunstein, one of many Queens Democrats to back Mr. Liu, represents the district.

CB11 denies variance for car dealer

From the Queens Courier:

Community Board 11 unanimously refused to renew a zoning variance that allowed a Bayside Toyota dealership to operate in a residential area after neighbors complained.

Star Toyota and Scion has been operating on Northern Boulevard for 40 years with the variance, but locals want the dealership gone for being, according to one board member, a “bad neighbor.”

“The community wants them removed because they don’t respect us,” said board member Steven Behar. “It’s as simple as that.”

Residents complained that the dealership parked their cars on residential streets and illegally dumped garbage in the neighborhood.

As a requirement of the variance, the dealership must meet with the community board every 10 years so their business can be reviewed.

After reviewing the business this time, the board decided to act on the complaints and vote down the renewal.

There are two more steps in the process: Borough President Melinda Katz is expected to announce a decision on Sept. 18 and, if she supports the community board’s decision, the Board of Standards and Appeals will make a final decision.

Actually, the BSA makes the final decision regardless of what Katz decides.

Pathways to hell

From the Daily News:

Since 2010, more than 1,300 eviction notices have gone out because Pathways [to Housing] — which serves 700 mentally ill clients — stopped paying rent for months at a time. Pathways’ contract with the state was recently canceled, and the state attorney general is now investigating where all that taxpayer money went.

In fact, Pathway clients have good reason to fear getting the knock.

The state Office of Mental Health, Pathways’ main source of funding, said on Friday that Pathways admits 52 clients have actually been evicted since 2010. Legal Aid Society lawyers trying to fight the evictions say 24 of those evictions have occurred since Jan. 1, 2013.

So I guess we'll need more homeless shelters then?

DOB no longer updating stalled sites list

From The Real Deal:

Within the past month the DOB removed from its website links to hundreds of spreadsheets that formed a weekly accounting of properties that were identified as stalled sites. The spreadsheets debuted in July 2009 after the DOB formed the Stalled Sites Unit to track the growing number of distressed construction parcels as development ground to a halt during the recession.

That same year, the city launched the Stalled Sites Program, to help developers extend their permits and then restart their projects. The webpage for stalled construction sites was the repository for those spreadsheets, and became a resource for both communities to track derailed projects and for investors to looks for troubled developments.

That webpage remains in place, but the long list of the spreadsheets going back to July 21, 2009, has been removed and the agency has stopped providing public updates to it. The last list available, through August 17 shows more than 530 addresses on it.

That figure of more than 530 stalled sites is misleading, a review last month by The Real Deal found. Many of those buildings have changed hands or new plans have been filed or the projects have been recapitalized. They can remain on the list, however, until construction actually starts again and a DOB inspector visits the site to ascertain that it is active.

Brokers once scoured the weekly lists looking for potential deals, but as the economy improved, fewer and fewer of the properties remained distressed. So the list today is less valuable.

A spokesman for the agency said the city continues to maintain a stalled sites list internally, but officials did not see the need to continue to update the list publicly after the Stalled Sites program ended in mid-2013 during the economic recovery, which made stalled sites rarer.

Skeeter spraying for southern Queens

From the Queens Courier:

On Tuesday, Sept. 16, there will be West Nile spraying in parts of Queens, including along the Brooklyn-Queens border, to help reduce the mosquito population and the risk of the disease.

The spraying will take place between the hours of 8:00 p.m. and 6 a.m. the next morning. In case of bad weather, the application will be delayed until Wednesday, Sept. 17 during the same hours.

The following neighborhoods are being treated due to rising West Nile virus activity with high mosquito populations, according to the city’s Health Department:

Parts of City Line, Cypress Hills, Highland Park, Howard Beach, Lindenwood, Ozone Park, Spring Creek and Woodhaven (Bordered by Jamaica Avenue and to the north; Shepherd Avenue, Fulton Street Line and Fountain Avenue to the west; Jamaica Bay to the south; and Rockaway Rail-Line, Rockaway Boulevard and Woodhaven Boulevard to the east).

NY Senate bill would provide citizenship benefits to illegal aliens

From the NY Post:

Illegal aliens in New York could score billions in Medicaid and college tuition money — along with driver’s licenses, voting rights and even the ability to run for office — if Democrats win control of the state Senate in November, The Post has learned.

A little-known bill, dubbed “New York is Home,” would offer the most sweeping amnesty available anywhere in the country to nearly 3 million noncitizens living in the Empire State.

It would bar police from releasing any information about them to the feds, unless it involves a criminal warrant unrelated to their immigration status.

Under the proposed legislation, undocumented immigrants could also apply for professional licenses and serve on juries.

The plan hinges on Democrats — who now control both the governorship and the state Assembly — wresting control of the Senate from Republicans, who oppose immigration amnesty.

GOP officials maintain that amnesty for illegal aliens would open the door to fraud and abuse and increase the risk of terrorism.

For example, the bill would let illegals vote in local and state elections, but they would be barred by federal law from voting for presidential or congressional candidates.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Ridgewood monument should get more respect

From the Queens Chronicle:

On Jan. 31, 1968, Private First Class Richard Gilley, of Maspeth, was killed in action on a Vietnam battlefield three weeks shy of his 21st birthday.

Almost 50 years after his death, a memorial dedicated in his name sits unkempt and dirty next to the former American Legion post at 776 Fairview Ave., underneath the Forest Avenue station along the M train line, in Ridgewood.

Multiple homeless people live alongside the chainlink fence in front of the memorial and bottles, plastic bags and old food containers litter the area surrounding Gilley’s plaque and rusting flagpole.

The property the shrine sits on belongs to the Greater Ridgewood Youth Council, which plans on moving into the adjacent building it purchased in 2009, but hasn’t yet due to financial reasons.
Until 2004, the building belonged to American Legion Post No. 562, which dedicated the memorial in 1972.

GRYC Director Bob Monahan said his organization deserves some of the blame for not maintaining the memorial properly, but that beautification work should start in the near future.

“I would imagine over the next week or so that we’ll get rid of the weeds. We’ll do the best we can to clean it up,” Monahan said. “That whole corner is being replaced and it’s going to be a beautiful little area. It will be quite stunning.”

According to Monahan, the GRYC has attempted to clean the area before, which also includes a general plaque for all soldiers killed in Vietnam, but the presence of homeless people living next to the monuments precludes the space from staying clean for very long.

In 1972, this may have been an ok spot to place the monument. But this is 2014 and just the fact that there is a train station above this spot that hosts a number of daily slobs who throw stuff down onto the tracks is reason enough to move it out of there.

Enterovirus may be headed here soon

From Metro:

The New York State Department of Health is calling upon parents to be aware of the symptoms of enterovirus EV-D68. More than 12 children across the state, near Albany and in Central New York, have been confirmed as having the serious respiratory illness.

The enterovirus is spread through close contact with infected persons, and the health department recommends frequent hand washing, avoiding contact with eyes, nose and mouth, avoiding kissing, hugging or sharing utensils with sick people and disinfecting surfaces. Prevention is especially important for infants and people with compromised immune systems or chronic conditions, the health department said.

Symptoms reported include fever, runny nose, sneezing, coughing,and bodyaches, according to the health department.

Turning parking spaces into micro apartments

From the NY Times:

What is the solution to affordable housing in New York?

One number has been repeated over and over — 200,000 subsidized units, to be built or preserved over a decade. Mayor Bill de Blasio promised it, but has yet to explain how he’ll get there.

Here are two other numbers: 9 x 18. In square feet, that’s 162, smaller than the most micro micro-apartment.

It is the size of a typical parking space. That lowly slice of asphalt has prompted three young architects — Miriam Peterson, Sagi Golan and Nathan Rich, fellows at the Institute for Public Architecture — to come up with what could be an innovative way to ease the housing crisis.

I’m intrigued by their proposal, “9 x 18,” because it’s about more than apartment buildings plopped onto vacant land. It considers how parking spaces — mandated in outmoded zoning regulations, prolific at public housing sites — might be leveraged into something more ambitious, something that encourages a mix of housing in active neighborhoods with accessible transit, public services and lively streets. In effect, the proposal trades asphalt for housing and amenities.

And even if “9 x 18” isn’t perfect or foolproof — especially when it comes to finances — at least it is concerned with more than hitting some arbitrary number.

After all, the New York City Housing Authority, albeit with a wealth of federal money, did build nearly 200,000 subsidized apartments in the two decades after World War II. But that was hardly an unqualified success: Too many of those apartments ended up in projects on the far edges of the city, without shops or grocery stores, surrounded by vast parking lots that acted like moats, thwarting street life and cutting off residents from the rest of the neighborhood. Many of the projects are crumbling today. The housing authority is broke.

The “9 x 18” proposal capitalizes on an outdated and onerous zoning mandate that requires private developers to build parking spaces for new apartments in certain parts of the city.

At one time "market rate" housing was "affordable" in most parts of the city. And if the parking spaces in question are at housing projects on the "far edges" of the city, then how can units be built on top of them that will have "accessible transit, public services and lively streets"? Did anyone proof this article?