Thursday, July 24, 2014

Homeless shelter imperils 125-year old business

From the Queens Courier:

For more than a century, one East Elmhurst family has been helping their neighborhood bloom.

Donhauser Florist, located at 71-01 Astoria Blvd., was established in 1889 by Hans Donhauser, a German florist who immigrated to the United States. While working at a Brooklyn cemetery he heard that St. Michael’s Cemetery in Queens was in need of a florist.

He then moved to East Elmhurst and built a greenhouse on 71st Street and Astoria Boulevard. After a few years, 12 more greenhouses were added and a flower shop was built on 49th Street and Astoria Boulevard.

Donhauser’s family worked at the shop, including his sons, daughters and even his great granddaughter Gladys.

“When your parents are in the business, you’re in the business,” said Gladys about working at the shop since she was 12 years old. “It’s all I’ve known.”

Donhauser Florist moved to 71-01 Astoria Blvd. and replaced one existing greenhouse, while the other 12 were later sold to become the Westway Motor Inn.

Gladys, who grew up at the house currently still standing next to the shop, has owned the store since 1977 together with her husband William Gray, who initially started working at the 49th Street shop.

However, the Grays, who have been married for 60 years, say business has been up and down ever since the city’s Department of Homeless Services decided to first use the Westway Motor Inn, located right next door, as a temporary homeless shelter.

“It was once an exquisite hotel with beautiful rooms and a pool,” Gladys said. “Since about a decade ago we started to have problems with it. People were afraid to come around the shop.”

Two weeks ago, the city approved converting the motel into a permanent homeless shelter housing more than 120 families.

NY Times exposes how ethically challenged Cuomo is

From the NY Times:

With Albany rocked by a seemingly endless barrage of scandals and arrests, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo set up a high-powered commission last summer to root out corruption in state politics. It was barely two months old when its investigators, hunting for violations of campaign-finance laws, issued a subpoena to a media-buying firm that had placed millions of dollars’ worth of advertisements for the New York State Democratic Party.

The investigators did not realize that the firm, Buying Time, also counted Mr. Cuomo among its clients, having bought the airtime for his campaign when he ran for governor in 2010.

Word that the subpoena had been served quickly reached Mr. Cuomo’s most senior aide, Lawrence S. Schwartz. He called one of the commission’s three co-chairs, William J. Fitzpatrick, the district attorney in Syracuse.

“This is wrong,” Mr. Schwartz said, according to Mr. Fitzpatrick, whose account was corroborated by three other people told about the call at the time. He said the firm worked for the governor, and issued a simple directive:

“Pull it back.”

The subpoena was swiftly withdrawn. The panel’s chief investigator explained why in an email to the two other co-chairs later that afternoon.

“They apparently produced ads for the governor,” she wrote.

The pulled-back subpoena was the most flagrant example of how the commission, established with great ceremony by Mr. Cuomo in July 2013, was hobbled almost from the outset by demands from the governor’s office.

While the governor now maintains he had every right to monitor and direct the work of a commission he had created, many commissioners and investigators saw the demands as politically motivated interference that hamstrung an undertaking that the governor had publicly vowed would be independent.

The commission developed a list of promising targets, including a lawmaker suspected of using campaign funds to support a girlfriend in another state and pay tanning-salon bills. The panel also highlighted activities that it saw as politically odious but perfectly legal, like exploiting a loophole to bundle enormous campaign contributions.

But a three-month examination by The New York Times found that the governor’s office deeply compromised the panel’s work, objecting whenever the commission focused on groups with ties to Mr. Cuomo or on issues that might reflect poorly on him.

Ultimately, Mr. Cuomo abruptly disbanded the commission halfway through what he had indicated would be an 18-month life. And now, as the Democratic governor seeks a second term in November, federal prosecutors are investigating the roles of Mr. Cuomo and his aides in the panel’s shutdown and are pursuing its unfinished business.

Before its demise, Mr. Cuomo’s aides repeatedly pressured the commission, many of whose members and staff thought they had been given a once-in-a-career chance at cleaning up Albany. As a result, the panel’s brief existence — and the writing and editing of its sole creation, a report of its preliminary findings — was marred by infighting, arguments and accusations. Things got so bad that investigators believed a Cuomo appointee was monitoring their communications without their knowledge. Resignations further crippled the commission. In the end, the governor got the Legislature to agree to a package of ethics reforms far less ambitious than those the commission had recommended — a result Mr. Cuomo hailed as proof of the panel’s success.

While some reports of tension between the governor’s office and the commission surfaced in the news media at the time, the examination by The Times provides the first full accounting of how extensively the governor’s aides involved themselves in the commission’s work and the level of disruption that this caused.

Read the whole thing. You'll fall off your chair.

Mayor and BP ax library board members

From the Queens Courier:

Eight trustees of the Queens Library were banished from the board in a sudden email blitz Wednesday.

Six members were dismissed by Borough President Melinda Katz and Mayor Bill de Blasio cut loose two board members.

The eight members cut loose were Joseph R. Ficalora, Jacqueline E. Arrington, Patricia Flynn, William Jefferson, Grace Lawrence, Terri C. Mangino, George Stamatiades and Stephen Van Anden.

Van Anden and Flynn were the mayoral appointees.

One of the trustees fired by Katz, who wished to remain anonymous, called the move “politics at its worst.”

“I got a letter emailed to me today,” the former trustee said. “I’m not surprised. I’m okay. I’m not shocked; I was waiting for it.”

The firings came after a protracted battle over the tenure of library director Tom Galante, who drew fire after a smoking deck was built outside his office in the Central Library in Jamaica as well as revelations that he augmented his $400,000 salary with more than $200,000 in part-time pay from the Elmont, L.I., school district.

Lawmakers reacted strongly and recently enacted legislation gave politicians the power to summarily remove board members.

Wilding incident at Highland Park

From A Walk in the Park:

In what police describe as a "wilding" spree, authorities are asking for the public's help in tracking down a gang responsible for a series of vicious attacks which left two park patrons with gun-shot injuries and a third with a stab wound that required 40 stitches.

The bloody rampage happened in broad daylight on May 18, 5:45 p.m. when a group of men, believed to be in their late teens to early 20's roamed through Highland Park in East New York armed with sticks, canes, knives and at least one gun, police said.

Media reports initially said it was an altercation stemming from a basketball game. Investigators however believe the attacks were random and three separate incidents as the victims did not know each other.

A 18-year-old man reported being attacked by the gang and slashed four times in the left arm which required 40 stitches to close the wound. He told the police he didn't know why he was targeted.

A 17-year-old male was playing basketball when he was approached by a Hispanic man who asked, "are you Trinitarios?" (a violent New York-based street gang composed of Hispanics) The assailant then shot the teen one time in the left hip. The victim was treated at Jamaica hospital.

A 20-year-old man says he was walking in the park when he heard shots. He ran and he was struck one time in the right side of the chest by a bullet.

He was taken to Brookdale Hospital where he is expected to survive.

He told cops he never saw the shooter and doesn't know why he was targeted.

There are no cameras in the park.

And the NYPD is unaware of the correct spelling of Highland Park?

Parks messes up bocce courts

From the Queens Courier:

Juniper Valley Park’s three new bocce courts opened on Wednesday with a ribbon cutting ceremony and talk of meatballs and spaghetti. But for the players, most of whom are older Italians, the new courts don’t meet their standards.

Queens Borough President Melinda Katz said that the new courts, which replaced two older ones, were “Grade-A.” But many of the players present during the ceremony weren’t such generous graders.

“It looks nice. They spent a lot of money on this,” John Pistone, 62, said. “So I give them an A for effort but for efficiency, I give them an F.”

Pistone and his fellow bocce players complained that the new $850,000 courts weren’t leveled correctly and that the design of the overhead shades didn’t prevent rain from soaking the courts. The bulk of the money came from Katz’s office and Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley allocated another $50,000.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Elmhurst protests Pan Am; DHS takes kids to dinner & a movie

From COMET Civic:

Photos of Pan Am homeless shelter protest:

Videos of Pan Am homeless shelter protest:

In the meantime, the DHS took the kids to a movie and then to a restaurant that had been shut down by DOH a couple of times in the past few years. Your tax dollars at work!

This field trip was supposedly to protect them from "hatred". If you can find the hatred in the above photos/videos, then please let me know. I think the only people hated here are the owners of the Pan Am and leaders of DHS who lied to the community about their intentions.

I'm sure it's also a coincidence that the spot they were taken to is not only Asian, but a hop, skip and jump from the proposed Glendale shelter?

Margery Perlmutter headed to BSA

From the NY Observer:

Mayor Bill de Blasio has tapped Margery Perlmutter, a land use attorney and architect, to be commissioner of the Board of Standards and Appeals — as well as swapping out a previous nominee for the Landmarks Preservation Commission due to potentials for her to recuse herself from votes.

Ms. Perlmutter’s name was submitted for approval to the City Council Monday night, the mayor’s office told the Observer, along with two picks for the LPC.

Ms. Perlmutter is a partner in the land use practice group at the law firm Bryan Cave LLP, where she helps shepherd clients through the city’s zoning and land uses processes, including the types of appeals she’ll soon oversee. She previously worked as an architect for two decades, and sits on the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission. She did not respond immediately to a request for comment.

While it’s not the highest profile appointment, the BSA wields significant power — it can grant zoning variances, special permits, and reviews appeals to the determinations of the Department of Buildings.

The mayor’s office will also announce Tuesday two new nominations to the Landmarks Preservation Commission — and the rescinding of one prior nomination, Marcie Kesner. The firm where Ms. Kesner works, Kramer Levin, had enough clients with business before the city that there was concern she’d have to recuse herself from LPC votes often.

In the meantime, Mr. de Blasio has nominated Adi Shamir Baron and John Gustafsson for spots on the LPC.

Sand unswept in Far Rockaway

"Today, went to Beach 20th Street in Far Rockaway. Was oddly amused with the amount of sand on the boardwalk. As a lifelong resident of the Rockaways, I am acutely aware that at this point in time we have nothing else going for us except the beach. As you know, the city keeps dumping everything thay can imagine in the Rockaways. This particluar mound, which is one of four, is the largest and has been growing for the past two months. It's located nearby to senior buldings. The old folks have to navigate around the mounds along with the cyclists, joggers and beachgoers. I guess the parks department is too busy harassing beachgoers walking dogs and enjoying themselves than to sweep up the mess." - anonymous

Weekend park slobs leave a lot of mess

From PIX11:

Caring for NYC Parks is big and dirty job. After a weekend of summer fun, NYC Parks Department crews pick up an estimated 120 tons of litter and garbage.

After a recent number of improvement projects in parks across the borough, the city and neighbors want to keep things looking nice.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Sometimes the photos already have the perfect caption

And here I thought Jerkfest was that fundraiser they have where the pols sing and dance and make bad jokes.

Astoria Cove developers offer more affordable units

From DNA Info:

The developers behind a plan to build thousands of new apartments on Astoria's waterfront said this week that the project will include 345 affordable units, up slightly from their last proposal but still short of what local leaders want for the development.

2030 Astoria Developers said last month they were working to increase the number of affordable housing units in their Astoria Cove proposal — five mixed-use buildings with nearly 1,700 apartments on a portion of the Hallets Point peninsula.

The developers — a group of investors which includes Alma Realty — had last proposed 295 affordable units, which attorney Howard Weiss said accounted for 20 percent of the residential floor area of the development’s waterfront parcel (three buildings) but only 17 percent of the entire project.

He says they’re now applying the city’s Inclusionary Housing Program to the entire site, including two other buildings, which will result in 345 affordable units, or 20 percent of the entire project.

That still falls short of the 35 percent Community Board 1 requested of the project last month, when the board presented a list of stipulations to the developer following a lengthy public hearing the week before, where a number of speakers said they were worried about affordability.

Rally in the works to bring Civic Virtue back to borough hall

From the Forum:

Time has not put a damper on the fight to bring Civic Virtue back to Kew Gardens and advocates said they were planning a major rally for the cause.

Richard Iritano, leader of the Civic Virtue Task Force, said he and his team were making hundreds of phone calls and emails to organize one a massive effort against the removal of the historic statue and call for its immediate return to the front of Borough Hall. After months of waiting for letters of support and other commitments from Queens elected officials, Iritano said he was ready to press forward alone if he needed to.

“We want this to be a democratic process and so far, we’re not getting any cooperation,” Iritano said. “Where are the letters of support? We will move ahead with this rally with or without them.”

Now, the activist said he hoped to see those same elected officials come back to supporting the cause as he and his task force assemble another massive rally for next month.

“The consensus has long been established. We want it back,” Iritano said. “There still seems to be all these delays and stall tactics coming from those in office.”

Robert LoScalzo, a documentary filmmaker and member of the task force, learned through a Freedom of Information Law Request that $49,464 city dollars went towards the restoration work of the statue and another $49,801 paid for its transportation.

Queens BP & Council Member "forgot" to fund Brinckerhoff Cemetery acquisition

A lot of money went to crap. None of it was allocated for the purchase of the Brinckerhoff Cemetery, which has a paltry asking price of $150,000. And now the owner is threatening to ask for a hardship in order to get the Landmarks Commission's decision overturned.

Way to go, Melinda Katz & Rory Lancman!