Saturday, November 22, 2014

Schneiderman fines dirty developer

From the Queens Courier:

The developer of a Rego Park building was forced to pay a combined $100,000 in restitution and back wages after ignoring legal obligations for receiving tax benefits, according to Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.

The state settled with Tuhsur Development, LLC after the firm violated mandates of the 421-a program, which offers tax incentives from the city when constructing buildings.

In exchange for benefits under 421-a, landlords and developers must add properties to the rent regulation system, and building workers must receive prevailing wages.

However, Tuhsur neglected to pay prevailing wages to workers at 63-36 99th St. in Rego Park. The firm was forced to pay nearly $10,000 in back wages to three building service workers and $90,000 in restitution to the city.

Developers work on introducing "microsuites"

From DNA Info:

Through a friend of a friend, David Abramovich found a sunny room in a five-bedroom apartment in an industrial building near the Barclays Center when he relocated here from San Francisco this summer for his job at crowdfunding start-up Indiegogo.

The 33-year-old tech worker pays $895 a month. That's nearly 60 percent less than the average price for a Brooklyn studio, according to real estate firm MNS.

Altogether the Prospect Heights home has six roommates, a steady stream of guests crashing on the couch and the occasional small concert staged in the living room of the fourth floor walk-up that still has manufacturing companies on lower floors.

"A lot of people don't want to have five roommates, especially in their late 20s and early 30s, and once in a while, it's like, 'Yo, there are a lot of dishes in the sink,'" Abramovich said. "But it turns out I like to live with a lot of people. And price is important to me."

Some developers are now trying to create their own versions of these types of housing set-ups — albeit up-to-code (which Abramovich's apartment is not) — with sleeker amenities and even social directors like on cruise ships.

Recognizing the thriving underground housing market for single young professionals, whether out of college for a year or even a decade, who subdivide apartments — sometimes illegally — companies are eyeing a model based on "micro-suites," where up to three tenants, each with their own small room, share a kitchen and bathroom.

Each tenant will be on the lease — something that is rare in the underground housing market. Having only one or two tenants on a lease can be problematic if there are problems with the apartment but is a boon for those who don't have credit scores needed to rent their own apartments.

And here's an article from Crains about modular construction.

Subways will stay crowded

From NBC:

If you take the subway to get to work, you’ve noticed it: the MTA says subways are more crowded than they’ve ever been, and even as a fare hike is being proposed, the MTA says there’s nothing they can do about the overstuffed trains. Andrew Siff explains why.

Because the DeBlasio administration is all about the little people

From DNA Info:

Since he started his $205,180-a-year job, Silver has had sitdowns with Bette Midler, Dr. Ruth Westheimer, Donald Trump, billionaire real estate investor Douglas Durst and the wife of a Russian oligarch to discuss their pet park projects, according to his daily schedules.

But Silver's schedules show that he held scores of meetings with heads of powerful nonprofits, wealthy donors, lobbyists and celebrities while he only had five meetings with local community groups.

Do you believe police stats?

From the Daily News:

The city experienced the lowest crime rate in August, September and October since at least 1994, new statistics show.

Total crime, which focuses on the so-called seven majors — murder, rape, robbery, felony assault, burglary, grand larceny and grand larceny auto — is down 7.9% for the last three months as compared to the same period last year, data reveal.

Police Commissioner Bill Bratton said the record lows are proof that both his liberal and conservative critics need to back off.

“The reality of this city is that the city is getting safer and it’s getting safer because the cops are focusing on what they do and by and large are not paying attention to the left or to the right, which is appropriate,” Bratton said.

The way I look at it, if the police are refusing to take reports (and we all know they are), you can't claim that crime is down. Not to mention how much unreported crime there is because the victim is fearful or what have you.

Is the city safer than it was during the crack epidemic? Yes.

Is it safer than it was 10 years ago? I doubt it.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Council proposes new mixed use zones

NYCC Engines of Opportunity - 11-19

From Crains:

While the de Blasio administration focuses on affordable housing, the City Council on Wednesday proposed new zoning to spur the city's manufacturing and "creative" economies.

The 40-page report represents the council's attempt to reverse the six-decade decline in the city's manufacturing sector, which employs 76,000 workers, down from its height of 1 million in 1940. Industrial businesses, which pay wages nearly double those in the growing service industry, are under threat by the explosion of residential development and rely heavily on zoning to preserve their footprint in the city.

The report also comes amid tension between the council and Mayor Bill de Blasio over the future of the city's 21 industrial business zones. Mr. de Blasio is looking for ways to add apartments to the IBZs, which former Mayor Michael Bloomberg shielded from residential rezoning but largely ignored during his final years in office. Critics sense a similar lack of enthusiasm from Mr. de Blasio, whose first budget slashed funding for the IBZ program and whose aides talk of putting "workforce housing" in industrial areas to advance the administration's goal of creating 80,000 affordable units.

With that in mind, the council wants to create three new kinds of zoning districts to help grow manufacturing and industrial businesses: an "industrial employment district," a "creative economy district" and a "real mixed-use district."

Mysterious oil truck at Memorial Field

Hey Crappy! So last week I was walking my dog to Memorial Field in North Flushing. I previously reported on the newly reconstructed ballfields at 149th Street and 26th Avenue, which included a new bioswale on the eastern 20' of the park, to capture rainwater and mitigate flooding. However, as with most bioswales, it quickly became a garbage magnet - which was cleaned up several days after I contacted Queens Crap.

Well, I thought I'd give it another whirl, because the bioswales are truly excellent at attracting trash as can be seen in these pics. And, since maintenance by the Parks Department is next to zero, I thought I'd reach out to you again.
Outside of the athletic fields is even more interesting. A few weeks ago, I noticed a fuel truck at the northwest corner of Bayside Avenue and 149th Street parked illegally and reeking of what smelled like burning oil. It also had yellow "CAUTION" tape wrapped around it. I figured it was a disabled truck that was going to be moved in a few days.

Well, lo and behold: two days later, the truck was gone. However, as I was walking up to the field...there was the truck! Now on the east side of 149th Street at 28th Avenue, the truck was there reeking of combustible fuel - with the yellow tape around it AGAIN!

This is a disaster waiting to happen, Crappy. Why hasn't the DEP or the 109th Precinct gotten this polluter off the streets?

- North Flushing Resident

Another illegal conversion leads to death

From the NY Post:

An apartment in the Brooklyn building where a blaze killed a tenant and injured 16 others had been illegally divided into cramped, dangerous living spaces, FDNY sources said.

The fire, sparked by a faulty refrigerator wire, broke out at about 12:35 a.m. Wednesday in a three-story building on Flatbush Avenue near Farragut Road that also housed a storefront church, ­according to the sources.

The tenement was plagued by perilous electrical conditions, ­including exposed wires, fire ­marshals said. After the blaze, the Department of Buildings ordered the remaining residents to vacate.

The owner of the building told The Post that without his consent, a second-floor tenant had created 11 illegal small rooms in his apartment.

Fun Friday Foto

We made it through another week, even though we have these mooks in charge of the decision making. Why don't you give them a piece of your mind and caption this photo.

Vibrant and diverse clothesline decor

From the Times Ledger:

Whitestone’s got an unusual problem. One of its houses has been hosting dead geese in its backyard since last Friday.

A Whitestone resident, who has been living in the area for 25 years, went into her backyard that morning and saw roughly 16 to 20 dead geese hanging on a clothesline in the backyard of a house on 150th Street and 15th Drive.

She said the yard behind the house tends to be a mess, with garbage cans that the owners collect as well as an irrigation system. She said she did not want to get the owners in trouble but was worried about the possible threat of disease in the neighborhood.

But according to another resident in the area, who has been living there for 50 years, this isn’t the first time the owners have hung up animals since they moved to the neighborhood in April 2011.

“I did see it last winter, but not as much,” she said. “Now it’s just clothesline-full.”

The occupants of the house could not be reached to explain the mysterious bird appearance.

Pharmacies also filthy

From PIX11:

Pharmacies aren’t just for prescriptions anymore.

From anti-freeze to light bulbs, cough medicine to milk, they sell it all. But are they handling it all?

A PIX11 investigation uncovered filthy conditions inside city pharmacies, clawing through state records to expose conditions that could make customers sick.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

DHS accused of lying 3 times this week

From DNA Info:

The city booked 100 rooms at an airport hotel for a "government group" — but then filled the rooms with homeless people instead, according to the hotel's manager.

Pierre Merhej, the general manager of the Radisson Hotel on 145th Street in Jamaica, said a representative from the city called his hotel’s sales office last month and said the city would need dozens of rooms at the 385-room hotel for a “government group” in November, he said.

“When you say they have a government group, as hotel people we like government groups,” Merhej said, adding that November is usually a slow month for the hotel, which is a few blocks from John F. Kennedy Airport.

The hotel only found out when the city called to finalize the reservation that the rooms would be used by the Department of Homeless Services to help temporarily house a portion of the city's homeless population — which is currently more than 58,000.

From the Queens Tribune:

The Glendale-Middle Village Coalition is calling on the City to throw out a study done on the proposed Glendale homeless shelter site that the area is safe to house a 125-family shelter.

The coalition has filed a lawsuit against the City of New York and the Dept. of Homeless Services to throw out the previous environmental impact statement that was made at the site earlier this year and to do a new study.

Back in July 2014, the Dept. of Homeless Services released a letter and a report saying that an environmental study done by AECOM USA found that the site at 78-16 Cooper Ave. is environmentally safe for the shelter and they would be moving forward with plans to build one there.

Several opponents of the shelter said the report was not done correctly and contained a lot of wrong information about the neighborhood, including the amount of open space available.

This lawsuit calls for the DHS and the City to throw out the study done by AECOM and conduct a brand new environmental impact statement on the site.

According to the suit, which was obtained by the Queens Tribune, the group wants the study thrown out because they did not take a “hard look” at whether or not the shelter would have at least one negative environmental impact on the neighborhood and did not provide a reason elaborating their findings.

From the Queens Courier:

One Elmhurst grassroots organization is claiming the conditions at the proposed permanent homeless shelter at the former Pan American Hotel are breaking the law.

Elmhurst United, a grassroots organization that has been voicing its opposition to the homeless shelter at 7900 Queens Blvd. since day one, released a statement arguing that conditions at the homeless shelter violate city laws. The statement was released after a Queens Courier report that the city is seeking approval for a $42 million contract to operate the site as a permanent shelter.

The Department of Homeless Services did not immediately respond to request for comment.

The group claims the shelter violates the NYC Administrative Code, which states, “No homeless family shelter shall be established which does not provide a bathroom, a refrigerator and cooking facilities and an adequate sleeping area within each unit within the shelter and which otherwise complies with state and local laws.”

According to the organization, the site does not have kitchens in every unit, which was why initially DHS did not consider the site to be a “permanent family shelter.”

Other conditions include “inadequate sleeping quarters” with four to five people living in a single room with bunk beds pushed up against windows, according to Elmhurst United.

Bayside watermain project underway

From the Times Ledger:

Bayside is undergoing a major underground transformation and with it some headaches for its neighbors above ground.

A massive water main replacement project is underway in the northeast Queens neighborhood to install 7,000-foot trunk water mains with a 48-inch diameter, 13,000-feet distribution mains and 657 sewer pipes.

The $20 million project is being done by the Department of Environmental Protection, along with the Department of Design and Construction and the Department of Transportation, will last two years.

While construction occurs, dust, noise and heavy equipment will be an inevitable part of the landscape.

City workers began the project around the intersection between Luke Place and 216th Street, and it will travel north until it reaches the corner of 39th Avenue and 216th Street. Besides trunk and distribution water mains and sewer pipes installation, the project includes tree pruning and roadway reconstruction.

“The new water mains will improve pressure and the quality of water,” said a spokesman for DEP, “while also providing a critical redundancy to the distribution system that will help minimize disruptions during future maintenance work.”

According to the DEP, workers will also install 38 fire hydrants and 26 manholes.

Hudson Yards is more than the city bargained for

Dan Doctoroff
From the Daily News:

Wherever you wander along midtown Manhattan’s far West Side, you’ll come across the dusty din of jackhammers, cranes and construction crews lifting new hotels, condos, and office buildings into the sky.

Welcome to Hudson Yards, the 26 acres around the MTA’s West Side railyards that New York’s real estate moguls keep touting as this city’s next great commercial district.

But the slick pitchmen for Hudson Yards rarely mention the scandalous subsidies taxpayers have shelled out the past 10 years for this megaproject.

The city will have paid nearly $650 million in subsidies into Hudson Yards by the end of this fiscal year, according to a review by the city’s Independent Budget Office — and more will be needed in the future.

That’s not exactly how the project was sold when the City Council approved it in January 2005.

It never is. It's always lies.

Honeymoon is over for DeBlasio

From NY Observer:

In the first measure of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s approval rating since late August, his popularity is holding steady citywide – but white voters increasingly disapprove of the mayor in a growing racial divide.

“His job approval rating two months in is positive and pretty good, but disturbingly ethnically divided,” Quinnipiac University Poll Assistant Director Maurice Carroll said this afternoon.

Voters overall citywide approve of Mr. de Blasio 49 percent, with 36 percent disapproving — moving little since the last poll in late August showed the mayor with a 50 percent approval rating.

A full 50 percent of white voters now disapprove of the mayor’s performance, up from 45 percent in August — with just 34 percent of whites approving of the job he’s doing. That’s in sharp contrast to the mayor’s favor with black voters: 71 percent of black voters support the job he’s doing, with only 14 percent disapproving. Among Hispanic voters, 56 percent approve and 27 percent disapprove.

IDC and GOP make a deal

From the Epoch Times:

The unusual power-sharing arrangement in the New York state Senate between Republicans and a splinter faction of Democrats will continue despite the GOP’s gains, the chamber’s top Republican said Monday.

Following a closed-door meeting with fellow Republican lawmakers, Senate Leader Dean Skelos also announced he would support legislative pay raises for lawmakers and state commissioners if the question came up in a lame-duck session this year.

The Senate had been led by a coalition of Republicans and the breakaway Independent Democrats, but Republicans won the majority outright in the Nov. 4 elections and will hold 32 seats in the 63-member chamber come January.

The gains prompted speculation that Senate Republicans would brush off the five-member Independent Democratic Conference.

Skelos said he and Sen. Jeff Klein, who leads the IDC, will work out the details of the arrangement. Republican senators unanimously re-elected Skelos to his leadership position on Monday.