Sunday, May 3, 2015

Whitestone to rally against development plan

From We Love Whitestone:

SAVE THE DATE: Sunday May 17 - 1PM

We Love Whitestone will be holding a RALLY on May 17 at the location at 1PM. I will be setting up an EVENT INVITE - share with your FB friends, share it with your neighbors....please come and support your everyone WE HAVE A VOICE!

Deconstructing Weisbrod-speak

I had to chuckle at this Queens Chronicle op-ed by City Planning Commissioner Carl Weisbrod, defending how he is planning to force low and medium density outer borough neighborhoods to their knees.

Paragraph 3 is a lie, plain and simple.
"Notwithstanding the misperceptions perpetuated in last week’s Queens Chronicle editorial (“Save Queens from City Hall,” April 23) we are not proposing growth or major change. Let’s get the facts straight: No upzoning is proposed for Queens neighborhoods, and certainly no skyscrapers, under our Zoning for Quality and Affordability proposal. No changes at all are being proposed to the size and shape of buildings in one- and two-family neighborhoods."
So which is it: no upzoning or no skyscrapers? It's such a lie. Huge portions of Queens will be affected by this. And what's the definition of a one- and two-family neighborhood? Is it an area that has one and two family houses or zoned for them?

Paragraph 4:
"Instead, our proposal simply allows buildings to incorporate affordable and senior housing, to be better designed and to fit quality ground-floor retail space where permitted. The resulting buildings will fit more graciously into their neighborhoods, and facilitate a better quality of life, better enabling residents to shop within walking distance of their homes. The small incremental height proposed in our zoning text change for multifamily districts does not permit a single additional square foot for market-rate housing."
Who says? I find it absolutely galling that Weisbrod can make a blanket statement like this.

Paragraph 5:
"Why are we proposing this now? Since 1916, the rules for how we build have changed as the city has changed. Each change brought its own challenges. The city’s “contextual” zoning regulations, created in the mid-1980s in response to disruptive “tower-in-the-park” developments, are unintentionally forcing new buildings to fit within inflexible envelopes, leading to bad design and high costs that hinder housing affordability. Moreover, developers cannot take advantage of zoning incentives for affordable housing, leaving those units on the cutting room floor."
Ok. So now we get to the heart of the matter. The developers have their panties in a bunch because they aren't able to build as big and charge as much as they want because contextual zoning stops them from doing so. The last sentence about affordable housing not being built is laughable.

Paragraph 6:
"Architects and nonprofit organizations that support the city’s housing and neighborhoods have identified aspects of these dated rules as an impediment to both quality housing and affordable housing. We agree. The City’s Zoning for Quality and Affordability proposal tweaks the zoning code for medium- and higher-density districts to permit property owners the flexibility to build what they are already allowed to build."
Translation: the Building industry told us what we need to change so they can increase their profits. We agree.

Paragraphs 7 and 8 are just ridiculous. I'm not even going to comment on them.

Paragraph 9:
"Only 5 percent of residents of low-income senior housing near transit own cars. Yet current regulations require costly parking that often reduces the amount of desperately needed senior housing that can be provided, and yields no benefit to the overwhelming majority of its residents. Developing housing for seniors with low incomes is not profitable. It requires public subsidy. Precious public dollars that support much-needed housing for low-income seniors can go further when they’re not used to subsidize unnecessary parking spaces, which cost more to build than it costs to buy a car."
This proposal looks to eliminate or severely reduce parking for *ALL* senior housing.

Last Paragraph:
"It’s important to note that this proposal is still in the early stages. Although April 30 is the last day for public comment on the scope of the environmental review, we have not completed the proposed zoning text, nor begun the official land use review process, which provides multiple opportunities for public input. We appreciate how much communities care about issues that affect them, and we welcome their engagement. But the public discourse will be most constructive only if the facts are clear to all."
Translation: Don't worry. Whatever you've written, we're going to ignore it anyway. Suckers!

Then to put the cherry on top of this shit sundae, we have our borough historian spouting the same nonsense in letters to the editor, and he signs it with his official title. Blech!

Udall's Cove Preserve may expand with new funding

From the Queens Chronicle:

Volunteers for the Udalls Cove Preservation Committee’s annual wetlands cleanup on Saturday filled a 25-cubic-yard Dumpster and got rewarded with a total of $710,000 in city and state funding.

Walter Mugdan, president of the UCPC, said he was “absolutely thrilled” with the surprise announcements from City Councilman Paul Vallone (D-Bayside) and state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) at Saturday’s event, held on Sandhill Road, between Douglaston and Little Neck.

“We now have the good problem of determining where to use the money,” Mugdan said.

Avella provided $210,000 from the state budget that can be used to help purchase the Callender property, a privately owned land just outside the nature preserve. The 11,8000-square-foot parcel went on the market last spring and the UCPC has urged the city to acquire it.

Mugdan’s group and other area associations have pledged $50,000 toward the purchase. The owner is asking $585,000 for the site, but has said he’s flexible about negotiating.

Vallone announced at the cleanup that he and Borough President Melinda Katz were both providing $250,000 each to the UCPC for land acquisition. But Mugdan said they have specified they want the money for purchases within the preserve.

“That means we can’t use the money for the Callender property, but we will talk to them and they might be flexible about its use,” he said.

The UCPC and area groups such as the Douglas Manor Association, the Douglas Manor Environmental Association, Douglas Shores and the Westmoreland Association fear that if the Callender property is sold privately for residential construction, any house would tower over the park and be “an undesirable visual intrusion.”

It's funny how some well-heeled communities get government money to stop development but others, well...

DSNY hunts scavengers

From CBS 2:

Unwanted items are often left on New York City sidewalks for garbage pickup, but turning someone else’s trash into your treasure could land you in trouble with the law.

As CBS2’s Weijia Jiang reported, such scavenging is even costing the city money.

You may not know, but as soon as anything is left on a curb, it becomes the property of the city. It is illegal to grab and go.

CBS2 saw one man allegedly try to do it.

“When the super gave me the authorization, ‘Come pick it up,’ I think it’s no problem,” he said when Jiang pointed out that picking up discarded items is illegal.

Inside the man’s van was a residential microwave, refrigerator and washing machine – all appliances containing metal, police said.

Only sanitation crews or licensed vendors are authorized to take items. When they pick up less, the city loses money.

For that reason, police look for scavengers around the clock.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Did a squatter kill the football coach?

From DNA Info:

Police investigating the murder of a Queens father of three earlier this week are checking a vacant house the gunman was seen entering, authorities said.

Jerwaine Gorman, 34, a father of three young children and Rosedale Jets head coach, was shot in the chest while sitting in a Mercedes-Benz in South Jamaica on Wednesday afternoon.

The gunman walked up to the car, which was parked on 167th Street near Linden Boulevard, around 12:30 p.m. and fired one shot at Gorman, police said.

After the shooting, the suspect fled on foot towards 166th Street and was seen entering an abandoned house there, police said.

Four men were found inside the home and taken into custody for questioning, but it was not clear whether any of them was the gunman. No arrests have been made as of Friday morning, police said.

One of the men questioned had on a gray T-shirt which matched the description of the one the gunman wore, sources said.

Sources also said the house was not considered a spot known for drug use and a motive for the shooting remains unclear.

Bayside malls may finally be fixed

From the Queens Chronicle:

After being in financial purgatory for four years, the iconic medians and malls that make up Bayside Hills may finally be repaired.

“There are craters and all kinds of crazy looking things along the malls,” said Bayside Hills Civic Association President Michael Feiner during the group’s meeting on Tuesday night. “We’ve been lucky that Joe Black from the Parks Department put some wood chips in recently to fill in those holes, but the problems that were there years ago are still there and still worsening.”

The area’s former councilman, Dan Halloran, allocated $50,000 in 2011 for the Department of Transportation to make repairs. However, according to Feiner, the DOT and the Parks Department are debating over which agency is responsible for the malls and the original allocation is not enough to significantly rehabilitate the area.

But now, Borough President Melinda Katz is stepping in. According to Barry Grodenchik, director of community boards, and Budget Director Richard Lee, Katz has agreed to allocate $450,000 to the project.

“Ounce for ounce, Bayside Hills probably has more malls than any other area in Queens,” Grodenchik said. “The borough president has heard your complaints and she wants to make these malls as beautiful as they once were. She really wants to turn this area into something special.”

In addition, state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) allocated $275,000 last year for renovations at Capt. Dermody Triangle, located at 48th Avenue and 216th Street in Bayside Hills. The green space, named after the abolitionist William Dermody, is in need of repairs to its sidewalk, lawn and monument.

“If you notice, we have some money over here and some over there,” Feiner said. “It just seems like there isn’t a lot of communications going on between our elected officials.”

CB7 unhappy with municipal lot plan

From the Queens Chronicle:

The city announced Tuesday plans for 208 units of affordable housing — 60 of those for senior citizens — in a Downtown Flushing municipal parking lot, but it does not have the blessing of Community Board 7.

The project, called One Flushing, was brokered by the Department of Housing Preservation and Development, which members of the community board say left them out of the planning process.

In a letter dated April 24 to board members, Chuck Apelian, CB 7 vice chairman and head of its Land Use Committee, wrote that HPD “refuses to meet and include input before a developer is selected” for the project.

Apelian added that a meeting was held in March at the Borough President’s Office with HPD, but that the agency’s presentation “was extremely guarded, confusing and perfunctory, designed to limit our participation.”

He said the community board has “great concerns” about proper development “on this very narrow and complicated site” that is adjacent to the Long Island Rail Road.

Assemblywoman catches AirBnB'ers on hidden camera

From CBS 2:

Business is still booming for Airbnb in New York City, even though a report last year from the state attorney general found that most of the listings in New York City violate the law and take affordable housing off the market for New Yorkers.

As CBS2’s Sonia Rincon reported, Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal, D-Manhattan, went undercover to see exactly how it’s happening.

Rosenthal used a hidden camera and got one leasing agent to admit he didn’t really live at an apartment and that it wasn’t really supposed to be rented short-term.

“If somebody asks you something, never mention in the building Airbnb,” he told her. ” … Because this is supposed to be residential.”

State law prohibits someone from renting out an apartment for less than 30 days unless that person is also staying in the unit.

But those aren’t the types of places Rosenthal found on Airbnb.

“Thousands of units that belong in the housing market to rent to New Yorkers are taken off the market and reserved for tourists,” Rosenthal said.

She says the apartments she saw had no evidence of anyone living there.

“So, in fact, they were hotel rooms,” Rosenthal said. “There were no clothes in the closet. There was no food in the kitchen.”

Friday, May 1, 2015

Koo doing LPC chair's dirty work

From the Queens Chronicle:

City Councilman Peter Koo (D-Fushing), chairman of the Landmarks Committee, has introduced a reform bill that will reduce the time it takes for the Landmarks Preservation Commission to consider potential sites.

The legislation (Int. 775) imposes a timeline on the designation of landmarks and historic districts.

“Landmarking in New York City is an arduous process that has kept many properties in a state of perpetual limbo, unable to reap the benefits of an actual landmark designation,” Koo said. “Since the creation of the landmarks law 50 years ago, many potential landmarks have languished on the LPC calendar for as long as 49 years with no end in sight.”

He called that inaction “unacceptable.” The legislation would give the LPC 18 months to clear that backlog.

You may recall that last year when the LPC chair announced that she was clearing up the backlog there was a shitstorm and she backed down. So she found a stooge to do this for her.

Pretty much everyone is opposed to Edgestone plan

From the Queens Chronicle:

A long-delayed construction project has Whitestone residents, elected officials and Community Board 7 furious at the developer for trying to change plans from 52 single-family houses to 107 townhouses.

The Edgestone Group recently met with CB 7’s Land Use Committee to discuss its plans to build the townhouses with 203 units on the waterfront at 151-45 Sixth Road.

At the recent meeting, representatives told committee members that the development of remediation plans with the state Department of Environmental Conservation to move the contaminated soil took longer than expected.

“The owner has been flip-flopping for two years and now they say they don’t have to build the waterfront park,” said Chuck Apelian, committee chairman. “They have no credibility.”

CB 7 District Manager Marilyn Bitterman said Edgestone has not filed plans with any city agency and if it wants to proceed with the additional housing it will have to go through the public review process. Back in 2008, the area was rezoned from manufacturing to R3-2.

Apelian agrees, adding that he believes the developer will clean up the site and then flip it for more money to a new owner.

He noted that area elected officials are totally against the Edgestone plan and “I think the developer will listen because no one want it.”
State Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) said that Edgestone “is declaring war on the community” and that it is unacceptable to challenge the pre-approved plan. “This kind of threat will not be tolerated,” he added.

He and Councilman Paul Vallone (D-Bayside) don’t always see eye to eye, but in this case they are in agreement.

“Quadrupling the amount of units and eliminating the waterfront park is a direct attack on Whitestone’s quality of life and I stand firmly with our community to call for the developers to abandon their ill-conceived plan,” Vallone said.

Will term limits improve community board process?

From the Gotham Gazette:

At a hearing of the City Council's Committee on Governmental Operations Thursday, issues of community board function will be taken up through bills to introduce term limits for board members and to add professional urban planners to board staff.

The term-limit bill, introduced by Council Member Daniel Dromm in December last year, would allow community board appointees to serve up to six consecutive two-year terms. Currently, there is no limit on how many terms a community board member can serve. The bill, co-sponsored by Council Member Ben Kallos, who chairs the government operations committee, would enact the six-term limit starting for members appointed in April 2016.

The bill provides exemption for current board members who would be grandfathered along current no-limit rules. Community board members are appointed by borough presidents; there are 59 boards in the five boroughs.

"This is just one of the areas in which community boards should be reformed," said Lauren George, associate director of good government group Common Cause New York. "In terms of increasing representation, this will be a big step in improving the way community boards represent the changing dynamics of the city. When experienced members basically get a lifetime membership, they tend to have entrenched interests. They don't reflect the neighborhood, age and ethnic diversity, or sometimes even gender diversity."

George also said recruitment to community boards is extremely challenging, which is especially true in certain parts of the city, and term limits could encourage new people to join.

Sunnyside deals with problem bar

From Sunnyside Post:

A bar/restaurant located on the corner of 48th Street and Barnett Avenue has come under fire by local residents.

Several residents have complained about noise coming from the 47-15 Barnett Avenue establishment, while others allege that it has been operating well past 4 am (after hours).

Community Board 2 Chair Pat O’Brien said the board has fielded more than six complaints regarding the establishment in recent months.

Furthermore, the operators of the bar/restaurant—called Baru–have failed to show up at several board meetings in recent months to discuss the renewal of their liquor license, according to board records.

Emilo Rubio opened Baru in 2012 as a Colombian restaurant.

Anti-hotel rally in Broadway-Flushing

I'm sure you remember the monstrosity from this post a week ago. The owner denies that it will be a hotel.

Original home, circa 1926. The John J. Halleran residence.