Wednesday, March 20, 2019

More heavy metal debris is falling from elevated tracks, this time in Sunnyside and Richmond Hill


 In what’s become an alarmingly commonplace occurrence of late, a small piece of rusty metal plunged from the elevated 7 train track and crashed into a car in Queens on Friday.

Officials say the hunk of metal dropped onto the trunk of a car on Queens Boulevard and Skillman Avenue in Sunnyside, causing a dent.
The man whose car it hit was surprised to see how much damage the metal inflicted. The incident comes after two separate incidents in the past month where debris fell from the 7 train tracks in Woodside.
No one was hurt, but cars were damaged every time debris fell.
“This is outrageous! More rusty metal debris falling from the 7 train, this time in LIC. Look at that dent— a person would have died!” Tweeted Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer. “I sent a letter to [the MTA] last week demanding an expeditious inspection of the 7 train structure. What is the hold up?!”


MTA workers were seen inspecting a section of tracks Monday afternoon as they looked into whether metal that apparently crashed into a car's roof in Queens was debris from elevated subway tracks.

The alleged incident occurred Monday when a woman behind the wheel heard a thump, pulled over, got out, looked up and apparently found damage on the roof of her car.

The woman believes it was a piece of metal that fell from the elevated tracks along Liberty Avenue and 115th in Richmond Hill.

She says the debris rained down as a train passed above.

However, the MTA says it looked into Monday’s incident but did not find “anything abnormal at the scene.”

In a statement, the MTA said: “We obviously take any report like this seriously and sent a team to investigate. We didn’t find anything abnormal at the scene – there was no debris on the ground, the track was inspected from both sides and all components were found to be secure. Our systemwide inspection of all elevated track structures continues.”

Falling debris from elevated tracks has damaged at least three cars in the last month, including a car impaled by a wooden beam. MTA president Andy Byford said the agency is looking to other cities, including Chicago, for help on maintenance tips for elevated tracks.

"We are reaching out to sister agencies — a classic, obvious example being Chicago because they operate a lot of overhead structures — to see if there is anything that they do additional to what we do," Byford said.

Wait, our transit system needs to be advised from other city's transit authorities to basically clean up after themselves? Too bad Felix Unger is a fictional character and deceased, because he would have been an excellent consultant for the MTA.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Bill passes to legalize basement apartments which might spur more gentrification

Image result for basement apartment new york

NY Daily News

Marlene Hernandez moved from her two-bedroom apartment in Bushwick to an illegal basement apartment in East New York two years ago out of necessity.

“I simply couldn’t afford Bushwick anymore, I had to go somewhere else,” the 29-year-old single mother of one told the Daily News. “Even if you live with a roommate, you’re paying $1,000, $1,200, to stay in a room. So I figured, why not live in a basement where I can have my own privacy?”

Some 114,000 New Yorkers live in illegal basement apartments, according to the housing advocacy groups Chhaya Community Development Corporation and the Pratt Center for Community Development.

Basement and cellar apartments must meet minimum requirements for light, air, sanitation and exits and be approved by the Department of Buildings.

A bill signed by Mayor Bill de Blasio on March 5 aims to turn illegal basement and cellar apartments into safe, legal, affordable housing, starting with a three-year pilot in East New York and Cypress Hills, Brooklyn.

But the new law has Hernandez worried. She’s paying $1,200 a month for her off-the-books place and argues that New Yorkers in her position may have to keep finding illegal apartments to keep their rent down, or face higher rents for legal apartments.

“My landlord isn’t going to lower my rent,” she said. “What incentive does he have to legalize my apartment?” she said.

The pilot program will provide $12 million in low-interest loans and grants to eligible low- to
middle-income homeowners, living in one- to three-family homes, to convert their basements into legal apartments. If successful, the city would look at expanding the program to other neighborhoods.
A report from the Citizens Housing and Planning Council (CHPC) in 2017 said such a program could add up to 38,000 housing units.

All basement apartments legalized with funds from the grants and loans will have to conform to HPD’s affordable housing rules, which cap rents at 30% of a tenant’s income. Landlords who decide to create legal basement apartments without the city’s help will not have to abide by the income cap.

“If they legalize basement homes, landlords can just take advantage,” Hernandez said. “They know that there are people who are able and willing to pay regular apartment prices for these units.”
Jessica Katz, executive director of CHPC, acknowledged that the pilot’s pathway to legalization opens the door for landlords to raise rents. But, Katz said, the benefits of legalization outweigh the possibility of higher rents.

“There is a risk that the landlords will raise the rent,” Katz said. “We’re trying to find the right balance between bringing up the quality of those apartments and protecting the tenants, but also not scaring off tenants who have in certain ways benefited from the legal gray area that they’re living in.”

If anyone else recalls, this is where Councilman Espinal described these areas which he represents as a guinea pig for this housing plan.

I have a gut feeling that East New York and Cypress Hills are going to become "hot", "hip" and "niche" towns pretty soon.

Monday, March 18, 2019

Hudson Yards got twice as much tax subsidies as Amazon and their condos' property taxes are dirt cheap

6 Sq Ft

 The $20 billion, 28-acre Hudson Yards megaproject has been in the news recently as its official March 15 grand opening approaches. The New York Times reports that the nation’s largest residential development has gotten more than a little financial help from the city government to get there. In fact, public records–and a recent study by the New School–reveal that the development has received nearly $6 billion in the form of tax breaks and additional government assistance, twice the controversial $3 billion in incentives held out to Amazon to entice the retail tech giant to bring its second headquarters to Queens.

Where did $6 billion in taxpayer dollars go? Included in that tally were the $2.4 billion spent by the city to bring the 7 subway line to Hudson Yards; $1.2 billion was set aside for four acres of green space within Hudson Yards. The City Council kicked in $359 million to shore up interest payments on bonds when the development fell short of its revenue projections.

The point to be made is that the world’s most successful real estate developers–In this case Related 
 Companies and Oxford Properties Group–are among the biggest beneficiaries of generous government tax breaks, meant to encourage development.

Of the incentives given to the Hudson Yards project, defenders say they’ll reap an enormous benefit to the city in the form of thousands of new jobs created. The subway extension is definitely a boon, and who can argue with parks and improvements at what was for years a jumble of old factories, tenements and a stretch of rail yards once known as “Death Avenue.

But the city was lacking a subway stop on the far west side before the wealthy developers made it happen, and the counter-argument in both the case of Amazon and Hudson Yards is that big businesses with big profits at stake should pay their own way rather than getting government incentives–particularly tax breaks–sorely needed elsewhere.

The New School’s recent analysis, headed by Bridget Fisher and Fl├ívia Leite, focuses on a particularly fortuitous property tax break that developers within the Hudson Yards area benefitted from which has cost the city more than $1 billion so far. This incentive can mean as much as a 40 percent discount for future developers in the area for as long as 20 years.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Glendale residents raise concerns of soil contamination from Superfund site.



State agencies briefed the public on Monday about a Glendale superfund site that will have another round of remediations in the near future after the toxic PCE has been determined to be no detriment to public health.

The Department of Environmental Conservation and the Department of Health held a meeting on March 11 in a small room of the North Forest Park library where residents complained that they were not properly notified of the contaminants beneath the soil in their community.

But DEC claimed there was little chance the public could be breathing the chemical since it is deep underground and a study of 10 homes in 2006 showed no sign of PCE in the air – an admittedly small size – but that 30 year project would flush the soil of the contaminant.

“We should have had flyers coming to our house, we should have been informed by you people,” one attendee said. “Nothing.”

This is why there’s nobody here tonight, nobody knows,” another person said, with many attributing QNS for learning about the meeting.

With most of the contamination up to 100 feet below the surface at the deepest parts, DOH does not consider soil vapor intrusion to be an issue for a few reasons: because although the PCE is concentrated in the ground water, there is a layer of clean water between the chemical and the surface; homes are not at risk because the foundations, unless there are crack in the pavement, will seal out the vapors; and there is no risk of people ingesting PCE because the surrounding communities are on the municipal system which is supplied from upstate.

But Robert Nardella, 78, however, maintained concern about his home after the presentation because of the claim by DEC that the underground plume had migrated west at a shallower level and pointed out that some residents may have dug wells on their property over the years as a means to water their lawn or fill above-ground pools to get around water restrictions.

“Why is it being addressed again?” Nardella told QNS. “I was confused as to why this is coming up again when they did everything to minimize our concerns, you know, saying there was no more vapor and that it’s going deeper and deeper into the ground.”

Nardella was also concerned about his home, which was built in the early 1930s which just have wood floors over dirt in the basement, offering no protection from possible soil vapor intrusion.
“There are still many homes next to that site that have dirt over a wood floor, mine included,” Nardella added. “If there are any vapors coming up, I don’t have any protection.”

Councilman Holden's bill for mandatory lead inspection and prevention passes.

Image result for sewer main project middle village queens

 Queens Chronicle

Last April, Councilman Bob Holden (D-Middle Village) held a red flag and declared a CAC Industries lot a “red flag site” after learning that a sewer main project in Middle Village was stalled late in 2017 after high levels of lead were found in the soil.

On Wednesday, Int. 1063 passed the City Council, which requires any city development to provide notice to the relevant Council member and community board within five business days of discovering or becoming aware of a hazardous level of lead in soil.

The bill is Holden’s first to pass in the City Council.

“Increased transparency between city agencies and the public is a value that I campaigned on and I’m pleased to see this bill accomplishing that,” he said in a statement.

The soil that had been excavated during the Penelope Avenue sewer work was sitting in a yard leased by CAC Industries across the street from PS/IS 128, a K-8 school. The dirt had been sitting uncovered at the site until a tarp was eventually placed over the mounds.

In April, Holden took aim at the Department of Design and Construction, saying, “If they knew this was contaminated, to leave it uncovered is criminal. To leave it uncovered across from a school is more criminal.”

The discovery about the soil was made after CAC Industries, the project’s contractor, tried to bring the dirt to a dump but management there declined to take it after a visual inspection.

Testing revealed lead levels in the dirt mounds between 300 and 600 parts per million, exceeding the federal limit for bare soil where children play.

Eventually, the soil was removed and relocated to a facility in New Jersey.

 “It is common sense that local officials should be notified of any dangerous contamination so they can help inform and protect their constituents,” Holden said in his statement. “There is no excuse for carelessness that this bill will correct.”

Other bills in the package address lead-based paint hazards, lead testing in water, blood lead screenings, childhood lead poisoning prevention and the availability of lead hazard testing.

Hell's Kitchen rent-stabilized tenants experiencing discrimination and landlord intimidation by technology

NY Post

 A group of tenants in a Hell’s Kitchen apartment complex say they are being locked out — by technology.

And now they are suing their landlord for the return of their low-tech keys to the front lobby.

“It’s ridiculous that everyone is spending all this money to go to court just to get a key,” said Mary Beth McKenzie, 72, an artist who has lived in the West 45th St. building for nearly five decades. “For 45 years I’ve had a key. And now, we can’t get keys.”

Instead of keys, the building’s owners have installed a new electronic security system called Latch, which requires a smartphone app to access the building’s lobby, where a newly built elevator and the tenants’ mailboxes are located.

McKenzie’s 93-year-old husband has been a virtual shut-in since the new technology was introduced last year because he doesn’t use a cellphone and has difficulty walking up the three flights of stairs to their apartment, she said. Tenants in the complex at 517-525 West 45th St. don’t need to use the lobby to access the stairwells to the buildings, which are between four and five stories each.

McKenzie and some of the other rent-regulated tenants who are suing for the return of their keys say Latch also includes a GPS function that allows the building’s owners to monitor their movements and even their social media.

The app, which is currently in use in more than 1,000 residential buildings in the city, also comes with an 84-page contract which states that any information collected through the Latch system goes to the building owner, the tenants say.

 “It’s a form of harassment,” said McKenzie, whose paintings hang in The Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Smithsonian. “What happens if your phone dies? I don’t want to be stuck on the street and I don’t want to be surveilled.”

 The owners — a limited liability company controlled by Offir Naim and Shai Bernstein — said they installed Latch to provide tenants greater security following a burglary in August 2018, according to court papers. And the GPS function is optional, they said.

  The Latch system also allows tenants to buzz someone, such as a courier, into the building without having to be at home, court papers say.

Yeah, this is a phenomenal idea. Especially with the rise of cellphone, mail and package delivery theft going around.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Mayor de Blasio wants 10 billion dollars to save Downtown Manhattan from climate change

NY Daily News

Mayor de Blasio proposed extending the South Street Seaport area by two city blocks into the East River — part of a $10 billion effort to fend off rising sea levels as a result of climate change.

“We had to find something that would work, no matter how expensive or ambitious it was,” de Blasio said Thursday at a press conference downtown.

The plan, part of a resilience study released Thursday, calls for extending the shoreline by a maximum of 500 feet, or two city blocks. The new segment of the shoreline, which would be 20 feet or above current sea levels, would serve as a flood barrier during storms — but it could also be home to buildings, including potential private development, de Blasio acknowledged.

But it will be necessary to keep lower Manhattan from being underwater, he argued -- saying the city’s study had found that by 2100, 20% of the streets in area would experience daily tidal flooding, even in sunny weather.

“This is the existential threat. This is the core issue we all must face as aggressively as humanly possible,” de Blasio said.

 The plan, announced six years after Hurricane Sandy swamped the city, may sound familiar to some New Yorkers — in 2013, Mayor Bloomberg proposed a similar project dubbed “Seaport City.” That plan would have leveraged private development on the new land to pay for the massive expense of building it.

De Blasio said whether the new land would contain private developments depended on whether the federal government would pony up any cash for the plan.

 From the perspective of the City of New York alone, this would be extraordinarily difficult to fund. I think it comes down to simply this: if there’s federal money in play, it probably looks one way, if there’s not federal money in play, we have to get some private money and there has to be some development,” he said.

What happened to the affordable housing plan? What about emergency funding for NYCHA?

The mayor proves yet again where his priorities lie, with the real estate overlords. New development? If all those luxury towers around there are under threat now from accelerating sea level rise, why would you build more "private" development on the new shoreline
If there is a light side to this idiotic proposal, this ten billion dollar defense of luxury real estate from the effects of climate change seems to be inspired not only from de Blasio's obeisance to his biggest donors (obviously still) but from a mentally retarded female character from the classic comedy show Arrested Development.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Kew Gardens Community Board rejects de Blasio's tower jail

The Kew Gardens community board voted unanimously against the plan for a new local jail advancing to the next stage. Queens Community Board 9 voted unanimously Tuesday night to urge the City Planning Commission not to green light the plan for a new jail in Kew Gardens, which would allow the plan to advance to the city's land use review process.

The planning commission must decide by March 25 whether to certify the jail plan as complete and send the plan through the city's land use review process, known as ULURP. The vote Tuesday is largely symbolic, but city rules say the planning commission must explain any decision that goes against community board recommendations.

"The City Planning Commission does irreparable harm by starting the ULURP clock," the community board's resolution states. "This proposal, designed without any communication with the affected communities, will quite simply overwhelm and destroy the small historic residential neighborhood of Kew Gardens, and also adversely affect the adjacent community of Briarwood."
A spokesperson for City Council Member Karen Koslowitz, who represents Kew Gardens, declined to comment on the vote.
 Queens BP Melinda Katz finally chimed in:

Queens Borough President Melinda Katz and Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. sharply rebuked the mayor's office last week for what they said was a failure to collaborate with the local communities that would house the new jails.

"We are deeply disturbed by the lack of meaningful local engagement on the borough-based jails project to date," Katz and Diaz Jr. wrote in a letter dated March 8. "The process of developing the borough-based jails system must start anew."

"The irony ... of unveiling a citywide plan for 'modern community-based jails' in the absence of community input is not lost on the boroughs," Katz and Diaz Jr. wrote.

 Admin note: The woman who wrote these articles (and the one on Meeks) is Mara Kaufman, the one who got repressed from reporting on this crucial meeting by the mayor's arbitrarily opaque rules

Congressman Gregory Meeks is the new chairman of the Queens Machine


 U.S. Representative Gregory Meeks was unanimously elected Monday as the new chairman of the Queens Democratic Party. Meeks succeeds former U.S. Rep. Joe Crowley, who stepped down in February.

Meeks was considered the most likely successor to Crowley, according to a City & State report that broke the news ahead of the Monday election. Crowley left the post after he joined one of the country's top lobbying firms. Meeks, a Crowley ally, is unlikely to spearhead radical changes within the party, City & State reported. He's a vocal opponent of a bill that would raise taxes on Wall Street traders and supported the Amazon HQ2 deal for Long Island City.

In 2013, Meeks was named one of the 13 most corrupt Congress members by the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a nonprofit that investigates the influence of money in politics. In 2006, Meeks paid a below-market sum for a St. Albans house built by one of his campaign contributors on land owned by another contributor, according to the CREW report. He has also failed to report loans on personal financial disclosure forms, CREW found.

Utterly disgraceful. And they talk about the President and his own sordid corruption and abuse of  power? This political neoliberal gangster has made a productive and lucrative career with his own dirty deeds and wheeling and dealing in his career as an elected official. And Jamaica is still blighted in the two decades since he's "represented" the district.


Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Brooklyn train station inundated with dust from Canarsie Tunnel construction


NY Post

“I want to get the f–k out of here,” said Aaron Burnett, 37, who left the station after seeing how bad the dust was. “They need to shut the train completely down. That’s what they said they were going to do anyway. If it’s going to cause health problems, they should close it!”

MTA board members — who are still waiting for an independent consultant on the project to be hired — say they will demand that the agency tell them what is in the dust at the station.

“Is this what riders have to look forward to for 20 months?” said Andrew Albert, an MTA board member who heads the New York City Transit Riders Council. “This is just the beginning.”

An MTA spokesman said in a statement that the platform is safe for all riders. 

 Why does that statement eerily resemble former EPA commissioner Christie Todd Whitman's reassurance that the air quality was safe to breathe at Ground Zero in 2001.