Monday, March 2, 2015

Has anyone else had a run-in with these people?

They're getting quite bold.

Big backlog at DOB

From the Observer:

The Department of Buildings‘ review of new building plans has slowed to a crawl because the city agency is getting buried under an avalanche of permit applications.

According to the most recent agency performance report from the Mayor’s Office of Operations, when it comes to new buildings it is taking the city’s DOB nearly twice as long to complete the first plan review, which is the period from the complete submission of the application to the date the plan examiner is able to issue a decision upon the submitted plans. That process has risen to an average of 15.7 days in the fiscal year to date compared with 8.5 in the previous FYTD, the data indicate.

In addition, it takes 16 percent longer, or a total of 13.3 days, to complete a first plan review of a building project requiring significant alterations (called Alteration Type 1 or Alt-1) versus 11.5 days year-over-year. And that number could be skewed, one real estate pro said, by projects that are considered Alt-1s, but don’t require a lot of work, like change of use.

Anyone else think this will be used as an excuse to change procedures to allow for even more lax oversight of developers?

Lots of illiterate people in the U.S.

From Forbes:

A report conducted by the OECD and commissioned by the U.S. Department of Education entitled Time for the U.S. to Reskill? has found that a staggering 36 million adults in the U.S. are “low-skilled.” That is, they lack the most basic skills in literacy, numeracy and problem-solving deemed minimally necessary for meaningful employment in a high-tech global economy.

Moreover, one-third of these low-skill workers are immigrants.

What the OECD does not discuss, however, is that many of these immigrants may have entered the U.S. illegally. Thus, they may not be eligible, or may not believe they are eligible, for government-sponsored educational benefits. Moreover, because of their status, illegal immigrants might be afraid to get training in crucial language skills. In addition, English may not be spoken in the home, at work, or in their community, further hindering English language development.

Historically, the low-skill status of immigrants has not been so troubling. In fact, it has been a hallmark of the American immigrant experience for centuries. Whether Irish, German, Polish, Italian, Mexican, Chinese or what have you, new immigrants (legal or not) have historically taken the low-rung, low-skill jobs that more skilled or longstanding Americans no longer felt compelled to take.

Moreover, the children of these immigrants have historically gained access to new skills through America’s free and extensive primary and secondary schools, near-free community colleges and low-cost state universities. Consequently, they accrued far greater skills than their parents did, enabling they and their offspring to move quickly up the American economic ladder.

Unfortunately, this comforting narrative has been interrupted.

The mess on Metro

I must have passed this spot dozens of times in the last couple of years, but it wasn't until I was stuck in a line of cars navigating the slippery snow yesterday that I noticed that this house at 72-55 Metropolitan Ave in Middle Village was abandoned. So I looked it up on DOB's website:
I'm sure that the lack of permits since these violations were issued, along with all the snow we've had this year have served to worsen this disaster.

Stopping stop and frisk may have increased shootings

From AM-NY:

NYPD Commissioner William Bratton will speak publicly Monday about the latest downward crime trends in the city at a time when shootings continue to increase.

A persistent uptick in shootings has been one of the few troublesome crime trends facing Bratton since he took over as commissioner in January 2014. Police data show that shootings have increased around 17 percent so far this year over the same period last year, when the city reported an overall 6.3 percent increase in shootings.

Bratton has insisted the shootings are unrelated to the large drop in stop and frisk activity by cops. But the latest police data showed the New York City police precincts with the largest increases in shootings last year -- as well as, in a few cases, more homicides -- also reported having the lowest numbers of stop and frisks in 2014.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Are sign regulations unconstitutional?

From Capital New York:

The Second Circuit Court of Appeals will allow a constitutional challenge to city zoning laws that regulate what kinds of signs can be displayed in a person's window.

The order on Friday stems from a federal suit filed by Brigitte Vosse, a fashion designer who owns a condominium in the Ansonia, an apartment building on Manhattan’s Upper West Side.

Vosse constructed an illuminated peace sign to hang from her 17th floor living room window in December 2010. In court filings, she claimed that the sign was part of her opposition to war and American military policy abroad and that the regulations violated her First Amendment rights.

In September 2011, Vosse was fined $800 and forced to remove the peace sign by the city’s Environmental Control Board, which found that it violated a zoning regulation banning signs at heights of more than 40 feet. The E.C.B. refused to rule on the constitutionality of the law.

Vosse then sued the city in federal court, arguing that the zoning policy “disparately preferred some groups of displayers to others,” since flags, banners, and pennants are allowed at the same height, according to Zoning Resolution Section 32-62.

The case against the city was dismissed in November 2013 by federal district court judge Jed Rakoff, who ruled that Vosse had no legal standing to sue. However, Rakoff did not rule on the constitutionality of the underlying zoning regulation.

Friday’s appellate court ruling upholds Rakoff’s dismissal of the case, but a three-judge panel ruled that the lower court must review whether the zoning laws are in violation of the First Amendment.

Tuberculosis outbreak in Brooklyn

From DNA Info:

There has been an outbreak of tuberculosis among young Chinese immigrants in Sunset Park, according to a Department of Health and Mental Hygiene alert.

There have been 15 confirmed cases since June 2013, with seven of those identified since September, according to the alert. Health care providers were advised to look out for symptoms including fever, a cough lasting several weeks, night sweats and weight loss.

“While overall tuberculosis (TB) rates in NYC have declined steadily over the past two decades, the proportion of cases among persons born outside of the United States has increased to 84%, and local TB transmission continues to occur,” the alert read.

Most of those stricken with the disease have been young men who frequent Internet cafes and work in out-of-state restaurants.

You have to live in very close contact with someone for an extended period of time in order to pass TB along. Officials may want to look into the living conditions of the victims.

Creative parking takes over city streets

From PIX11:

Ice piles line city streets.

But New Yorkers manage to make the most of possible parking places.

The NYC Department of Transportation suspends Alternate Side Parking regulations for snow and cold weather. The rules were suspended 16 days in February 2015 and 18 times in last year.

A spokesperson for the NYC Department of Sanitation, which is in charge of snow removal and street cleaning, is anticipating bright sunlight early in the day to assist in snow and ice removal.

No one seems to care about property tax inequality

Sunnyside Yards: Katz wants it built

From LIC Post:

Queens Borough President Melinda Katz has been a strong advocate for decking over the Sunnyside Yard for months—despite the cool reception it has received from western Queens leaders.

Katz began advocating for developing the yards in September, when she announced that they have the “potential for extraordinary development.”

Katz plays an important role in what ultimately happens to the Yards since the area would need to be rezoned before construction could begin. The community board and the borough president would get to weigh in on a rezoning—before it is shuffled along to the City Planning Commission for review and then the city council.

At the council level, Majority Leader Jimmy Van Bramer would have the ultimate say.

In September, Katz released a 138-page strategic policy statement where she said that the “partial or complete decking of the Sunnyside Rail Yards has the potential for extraordinary development.” She added that it is the largest parcel of ‘vacant’ land remaining in the city.

At the October community board meeting, Queens residents became more aware of Katz’ position when former CB2 chairman Joe Conley said that he had been in discussions with her about building over the Yards. He then called on the board to write a letter to Katz calling for a feasibility study.

While many members of the board were caught off guard by Conley’s request, they were eventually swayed by him and voted in favor of sending Katz the letter.

Conley was then subject to heavy criticism for requesting the letter.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Nolan hires lawyer for Sunnyside Yards project

From the Times Ledger:

As Mayor de Blasio pushes his Sunnyside Yards affordable housing megaproject forward, one elected official is warning that “this is a critical time for our neighborhoods in western Queens.” State Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan (D-Ridgewood) announced Feb. 19 that Ira Greenberg, an attorney from Sunnyside Gardens, has joined her staff to work on transportation, housing and zoning issues related to the threat of over-development in western Queens.

“I look forward to having Ira Greenberg as a part-time counsel in my office as we face the challenges in preserving our communities,” Nolan said. “Keeping our neighborhoods strong in the face of ongoing development pressures is a priority of mine. Having someone with Ira Greenberg’s skills and experience will help my office and our community.”

Nolan said Greenberg would work with agencies, residents and all parties to make sure our local voice is heard. She pointed out Greenberg will be in the office to respond to any new proposals while she is at work in Albany.

Greenberg, who has lived in Sunnyside or Woodside his whole life, and currently lives in Sunnyside Gardens with his wife and two children, is keenly aware of the rising level of anxiety in the neighborhood. One community activist, Patricia Dorfman of the Sunnyside Chamber of Commerce, is planning to make T-shirts that say “Queens Lives Matter” to capture the sense of unease that is coarsing through the neighborhood. “It may seem insensitive to those with life and death grievances, but “Queens Lives Matter’ sums up the problem for me,” Dorfman said.

Greenberg, who was president of the chamber for three years, said, “People are nervous despite the fact that construction would be many years away. One thing I do know is if they spend an exorbitant amount of money just to build a deck over the yards, they’re going to have to get their money back and that means thousands more units in much bigger buildings. And let’s remember, Amtrak and the MTA aren’t just going to give that land away for free.”

City wants large lot developed

From the Observer:

The city is looking for a developer to purchase a fee interest or a long-term lease and then redevelop a seven-acre parcel along the south side of Rockaway Boulevard near John F. Kennedy International Airport.

“This is an ideal location for businesses that benefit from the proximity to JFK International Airport,” according to the New York City Economic Development Corp.‘s recent request for expressions of interest, or RFEI.

The city-owned irregularly-shaped vacant lot is bound to the north by Rockaway Boulevard, to the south by Nassau Expressway and to the west by the Federal Aviation Administration office building, in Springfield Gardens, Queens. The area is home to one of the air cargo industry’s largest concentrations of customs brokers and freight forwarders, other airport-related industrial facilities, residences and retail uses.

Activists don't like Melissa's cop plan

From the Daily News:

Police reform activists slammed on Thursday a push by the City Council and Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito to add 1,000 new cops to the NYPD.

Mark-Viverito has made a headcount hike a top priority and plans to include it in the Council’s budget proposal, though it was left out of Mayor de Blasio’s latest plan.

“We don’t think that the largest police force in the country needs another thousand cops,” said Monica Novoa of the Coalition to End Broken Windows, among groups that rallied outside City Hall Thursday. “We don’t need more officers implementing broken windows policing.”

She said she was puzzled to see Mark-Viverito, a leading progressive, pushing the $90 million a year plan.

Parkway Hospital is now a famous TV location

"Did you happen to notice the veiled reference to Parkway Hospital on Law & Order SVU? The 2/18 episode had to do with sex trafficking and trying to find a girl a pimp was hiding in his secret torture lair.

I couldn't help but laugh when the location was revealed on screen as "Basement of abandoned hospital, 70-33 113th St, Forest Hills, Queens"


DHS at it again in Williamsburg

From Brownstoner:

We found this very interesting rendering on the fence at 14 Olive Street in East Williamsburg that seems to show an old stable and factory building — but it actually appears to be a controversial homeless shelter that will be nine stories tall! (Apologies for the not-very-clear photo — the rendering was posted high up on the fence.)

In front is what looks like a circa-1900 Brooklyn stable building, with a commercial or factory building from the early 20th century or even earlier rising behind it. (We’d say the building in the back almost looks like an Jacobean country house!)

A sign above the quaint stable-style door says “Joseph & Son Restoration Inc.” Our first thought was that a salvage-architectural-design firm was putting up a new commercial building in its working style. Googling revealed Joseph & Son Restoration may be a smoke damage repair service.

The site is currently an empty lot, and the new-building permit is for a nine-story, 30-unit dormitory or hotel. The second floor will house a “community facility” described as an “ambulatory diagnostic and treatment health care facility” on the Schedule A.

We don’t see any specific mention of what might be the smoke restoration business. (The first floor will include a “warehouse,” parking for six cars, a lobby, trash compactor room and janitor’s closet.) We’re wondering, though, if it might employ some formerly homeless people living at the facility? The owner listed on the permit is Jozef Birnbach and the architect of record is Victor Filletti.

There is a Facebook page dedicated to “stopping the proposed huge nine-story homeless shelter at 14 Olive Street,” in its words. The page has not been updated since 2013. A petition from the group raises concerns about a nearby church and school, among other things.