Thursday, December 12, 2019

City Council gets to hear it from South Ozone Park residents about city's shitty response to sewage overflow

120219queenssewer20MATTJamaica Patch

In the basement of Laron Harmon's South Ozone Park home, no space went to waste. It was fully furnished, and Harmon kept all his clothing down there. It's where his daughter, who was back home from college for Thanksgiving, had put her clothes into the washing machine. His 10-year-old son's toys and bicycle were there too.

About 2:30 a.m. on Nov. 30, that basement started filling with waste. Harmon had gotten used to sewage and flooding issues in the three decades he'd lived there, and he cleaned out the sewer trap in his basement twice a year. But he had never seen anything like this.

"By nine o'clock in the morning, I had close to four feet of sewage in my basement," he said.
Harmon was one of four South Ozone Park residents who recounted tales of raw sewage flooding their homes that morning as part of a City Council oversight hearing Wednesday on how city officials dealt with the crisis, which affected an estimated 74 homes.

"I'm one of those families that had to sleep in their car, in my driveway with my children," Harmon said in his testimony.

 Nearly two weeks later, residents like Harmon continue to grapple with the aftermath of the sewage that devastated their homes. Harmon said he still hasn't gone back home, where there's no heat or hot water. Instead, he's living in a hotel.

"I've never seen nothing like this before," he said. "This was a disaster."

City Council representatives lambasted the Department of Environmental Protection, which oversees the city's wastewater plants and sewer system, for being slow to respond to the crisis and promoting a narrative that blamed the backup on residents pouring grease down their drains.

"They certainly didn't deserve to be publicly shamed in the midst of a tragedy," City Council Member Adrienne Adams said.

Adams said her constituents' calls to 311, the city's emergency hotline, went unaddressed for hours and that it took the Department of Environmental Protection hours to arrive at the scene and start fixing the issue.

Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Vincent Sapienza said crews had arrived that morning, hours before Adams claimed, but acknowledged that issues communicating with 311 representatives meant they were slow to realize all the flooding complaints were connected.

Queens Eagle 

 Some lost prized possessions, like clothes, toys and furniture. Others said they waded through knee-deep muck to try to stem the tide of raw sewage. One man questioned how he would ever get the stench of human waste out of his basement, where the wastewater rose more than four feet.

Inside the City Council chambers on Wednesday, South Ozone Park homeowners took turns describing the impact of the sewer backup that flooded dozens of basements during Thanksgiving weekend.

The wastewater affected about 80 houses in the early morning hours of Nov. 30, destroyed belongings and filling home with a lingering odor.

“It was almost like I was in a horror movie,” said Kari White, president of the 149 Street South Ozone Park Civic Association. White described moving from house to house in his neighborhood as wastewater filled neighbors’ basements. He said he refused to even enter one house because it was the stench was so foul.

Comptroller Scott Stringer, who is tasked for making sure these residents get compensated for their destroyed belongings, did not show up at the hearing.

City paid consulting firm to manipulate the violence statistics at Rikers Island with shady and unethical tech methods


In April 2017, partners from McKinsey & Company sent a confidential final report to the New York City corrections commissioner. They had spent almost three years leading an unusual project for a white-shoe corporate consulting firm like McKinsey: Attempting to stem the tide of inmate brawls, gang slashings and assaults by guards that threatened to overwhelm the jail complex on Rikers Island.

The report recounted that McKinsey had tested its new anti-violence strategy in what the firm called “Restart” housing units at Rikers. The results were striking. Violence had dropped more than 50% in the Restart facilities, the McKinsey partners wrote.

The number was bogus. Jail officials and McKinsey consultants had jointly rigged the Restart program in its earliest phase to all but guarantee there would be few violent episodes, according to documents and interviews. They stacked the units with inmates they believed to be compliant and unlikely to get into fights or to attack staff.

Publicly, McKinsey and top corrections officials touted the drop in violence in these units as an early sign of their project’s success — without disclosing that they had tilted the scale in favor of that result. After McKinsey handed off the inmate selection process, about a year into the firm’s work at Rikers, jail officials continued to manipulate the population of the Restart units to keep their violence numbers low.

In October of this year, the New York City Council voted to approve Mayor Bill de Blasio’s proposal to close Rikers. The vote occurred during the same month that a federal monitor, appointed by a court to oversee reform at Rikers, revealed that violence by jail guards there continues to worsen. Overall, using the metrics employed by McKinsey, jailhouse violence has risen nearly 50% since the firm began its assignment.

The full story of how New York City came to pay McKinsey $27.5 million only to abandon many of the firm’s recommendations and decide to shut Rikers has never been told. A ProPublica investigation, based on interviews with 36 people, half of whom worked directly on the project, as well as more than 10,000 pages of project documents, internal emails and other records, reveals that problems dogged the project at every stage.

Among the issues that plagued the project: McKinsey, which had never before advised a jail or prison system, made data errors that further undercut the results it reported from Restart units. The firm also persuaded the Department of Correction to spend millions on the sorts of advanced data analytics favored by McKinsey’s corporate clients. The department never ended up using many of the those data products, some of which simply did not work very well.

What happened at Rikers is a cautionary tale of a public-sector consulting boom that has emerged over the past decade. In recent years, government agencies across the United States have entrusted management consultants with more and more facets of public administration, from designing school systems to shaping Medicaid policy. Public-sector consulting in North America is a more than $9 billion industry, with an average yearly growth rate of about half a billion dollars, according to ALM Intelligence, which monitors the consulting business. McKinsey was anxious to expand into a potentially lucrative branch of public-sector work, corrections consulting, according to a former McKinsey consultant who worked on the project.

As I am sure you all are aware, and this is mostly directed to the residents of Kew Gardens, Mott Haven, Boerum Hill and Chinatown, this report was used to justify closing Rikers. 

In the future, who will they contract to study and manipulate the data after the four borough tower jails get built?

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Con Edison will gouge New York residents electric and gas bills for the next three years

Con Edison, the privately owned utility company that theoretically powers our city, has reportedly resolved to raise rates beginning January 1: Under the proposal, electric would go up 13 percent over the next three years, while gas would jump an astounding 25 percent. Hm well, at least you know you're getting solid and uniformly reliable service for all those extra dollars you're paying out; at least you know that this added, unavoidable expenditure will be Worth It in the long run!

Here is a breakdown of the average rate hikes, which would vary somewhat depending on customers' electricity and gas consumption. Most of you would be looking at a roughly 4.2% rise in 2020, followed by a 4.7% increase in 2021, and a 4% bump in your electric bills for 2022. As for gas, the average bill would jump 7.5% in 2020, 8.8% in 2021, and 7.2% in 2022.

Many people are displeased with this scheme, which stands to make already burdensome monthly payments significantly more expensive. AARP has already filed its grievances with the state Public Service Commission, pointing out that, as it stands, "tens of thousands" of customers find themselves unable to pay their utility bills and see their services cut every year.

"We think it’s an unfair rate hike,” AARP lobbyist Bill Ferris told the NY Daily News: “We have a problem in New York State with energy affordability.” With everything affordability, some would say!

Monday, December 9, 2019

Hotel owners are profiting off of the homeless crisis

NY Daily News

Owners of dozens of recently-built homeless hotels are saving millions of dollars on city taxes through an obscure rebate program that allowed them to hold on to $12.5 million in the 2018-2019 tax cycle.

Of the owners benefiting from the tax break — known as the Industrial and Commercial Abatement Program — the biggest winners include Sam Chang, Harshad Patel and Riverbrook Equities, according to a New York Hotel Trades Council analysis obtained and vetted by the Daily News.
Chang, for example, has built 49 hotels since 2006.

Of those, 14 have housed the homeless. Five have received ICAP rebates and saved approximately $2.3 million on their 2018-2019 tax bills, city records show.

Chang, who still retains ownership in one of the hotels, the Holiday Inn JFK, saved $791,323 in taxes for that property during the last tax cycle.

In all, 44 homeless hotels appear to have received both the ICAP rebate and homeless subsidies within the past four years, city records show. There are a total of 151 hotels that get ICAP rebates. From 2015 to 2019, homeless hotels that got the rebates saved more than $30 million.

All the while, owners like Chang and other operators who get the tax rebates are getting paid by the city to house the homeless. That money is routed to the hotels through homeless service “management companies,” which get the money directly from the city.

A spokeswoman for Chang’s McSam Hotel Group said the company has done nothing wrong.

“McSam Hotel Group complies with New York City laws, rules and regulations in building hotels. We never build hotels with the intent of housing homeless persons," spokeswoman Lisa Linden said. 

"McSam Hotel Group makes no decisions regarding whether homeless persons are housed in hotels. The management companies make those decisions.”

Harshad Patel said the rebate fulfills its mission of creating jobs and that critics are ignoring the big picture.

“It’s the only reason we are building,” he said. "We have a lot of expenses.”

The city projects it will spend $2.1 billion overall on tackling the homelessness crisis in 2020. In 2018, $384 million went from city coffers to housing homeless people in hotels. Less clear is how much of the city’s homeless budget is going specifically to hotels that already receive the ICAP rebate.

Whatever the cost, affordable housing advocates believe it’s a waste of taxpayer money.

“What the city needs to do is build housing to house the homeless,” said Cea Weaver, Housing Justice for All’s campaign coordinator. “It’s a better use of our resources. It’s better than paying hotel owners twice.”

Sunday, December 8, 2019

Multi-family homes will be destroyed for mega tower.

LIC Post

Three more century-old homes in Long Island City are slated for demolition.

The multi-family homes are all located on the same block – one at 23-10 45th Ave. and two at 45-03 and 45-07 23rd Street.

The demolitions will clear the way for the construction of a 45-story building near the southeast corner of 23rd Street and 45th Avenue in the heart of Court Square.
Development Site

Permits for the demolitions were filed Nov. 8. A total of seven multi-family homes on the block are in the process of being torn down to make way for the new high-rise.
The addresses of the buildings to be bulldozed extend from 23-10 to 23-16 45th Ave., and 45-03 to 45-09 23rd St.

The new project, however, will not cover the corner two-story building currently at 45-01 23rd St. The developer noted in city filings that attempts to purchase the property and its development rights from the owner were unsuccessful

Homeless shelter landlord plans to build school next to Pan American Hotel

Jackson Heights Post

The owner of the homeless shelter at the former Pan American hotel has filed plans to build a school on an adjacent site, according to building records.

David Levitan, one of the largest homeless shelter landlords in the city, has filed plans with the Department of Buildings to construct a 4-story school at 79-20 Queens Blvd in Elmhurst, on the lot directly next to the 79-00 Queens Blvd. shelter that he also owns.

Levitan, who is listed as the property owner on record, filed the plans on Nov. 22 to build the 39,764-square-foot school.

The school will house at least 18 classrooms, as well as multiple science labs, a music room, a fine arts room, a media lab, a teachers lounge, a cafeteria and kitchen, a rooftop play area and several offices, according to the plans.

The building will reach 53 feet in height, according to building plans. The plan makes no mention of whether the school will be public or privately run.

The school will sit next to the shelter, as Levitan bought a number of properties along the strip.
Levitan bought three sites — 79-20 Queens Blvd., 79-14 Queens Blvd. and 79-13 51st Ave. — next to the former hotel for $3,750,000 in April 2014, months after he brought the hotel site for $23,100,000 in January 2014, according to city records. He bought each lot from Panamendel Corp.

Wow. Apparently, with over tens of thousands of homeless children attending school, something like this was inevitable. The tale of two cities continues...

Saturday, December 7, 2019

Middle Village tops in dog plops complaints

Ridgewood Post

Middle Village has a shituation on its hands — the neighborhood has the highest number of poop complaints in the city, according to a newly released study.

The number of complaints in Middle Village increased by a shocking 205 percent from 20 complaints in 2017 to 61 complaints in 2018. The neighborhood has had 86 complaints or 57.7 complaints per 10,000 households so far this year, according to a Renthop study which analyzed 311 data.

Its runner-up, Westchester-Union Port in the Bronx, is far behind with just 19 complaints or 21.6 complaints per 10,000 households for the year to date.

Dog-owners in Maspeth also have been failing to pick up after their furry friends–based on the number of complaints.

Maspeth comes in at number three on the list of the most poop-filled neighborhoods across the city. It has had 20 311 complaints or 18.8 complaints per 10,000 households for people not picking up after their dogs this year, according to the study.

Friday, December 6, 2019

de Blasio sent homeless families to live in squalid homes in New Jersey that were run by slumlords

NY Post

Homeless New Yorkers moved to New Jersey under a controversial city program were left living in squalor at the mercy of exploitative landlords, a damning new report from the Department of Investigation says.

It’s the latest blow suffered by City Hall’s controversial Special One-Time Assistance program, which provides families in New York’s maligned shelter system a year’s worth of rent if they relocate outside of the five boroughs.
“The SOTA program was designed to help New York families break the cycle of homelessness and set them on the path to achieve stable, affordable housing,” said DOI Commissioner Margaret Garnett. 

“However, DOI’s investigation has found the promise of the program is not being fulfilled.
“Instead, because of a lack of proper oversight and poorly designed paperwork, our investigation showed some SOTA families placed in housing outside of New York City were living in squalor under the roofs of unscrupulous landlords.”
The laundry list of hardships SOTA participants found themselves facing suggests some went from the frying pan to the fire.
One apartment’s temperature was a chilly 42.6 degrees thanks to a defective boiler.
Another home was infested with insects and vermin — and also lacked heat.
A third property was deemed suitable despite having 52 open violations in 2018.
But the owners of those properties, the report found, “collected tens-of-thousands of dollars in rental payments upfront from the City to provide these sub-par conditions with little risk of accountability for their actions.”

The de Blasio administration has spent $89 million since the SOTA program’s inception to relocate roughly 5,000 families, according to an investigation published by the New York Post in October. Nearly 1,200 of the families landed in Newark, which is New Jersey’s largest city and among its poorest.
Officials in the city filed a lawsuit in federal court there Monday, accusing New York City Hall of dumping the Big Apple’s homeless on the other side of the Hudson River and asking a court to stop the practice.

Chirlane McCray's ThriveNYC program shuns the homeless

NY Post

The head of first lady Chirlane McCray’s embattled mental health program, ThriveNYC, claimed that it doesn’t have an abnormally high staff turnover rate — even though the plan’s own data says it’s 40 percent.
“I don’t think our attrition rate or turnover rate is higher than most city agencies,” Thrive director Susan Herman said at a Bronx press conference Thursday announcing the program’s expansion into 13 city libraries.
The city tracks its employees using a “separation rate” that includes retirement as well as firings and departures. From 2008 through 2017, the average separation rate for NYC government staff hovered around 7 percent.
The Administration for Children’s Services, which struggles to keep employees in jobs handling cases of abused children, had a 10 percent turnover rate between 2014 and 2017.
The Post reported last week that the average time a staffer at the $1 billion ThriveNYC program stayed in their position since the program started in 2015 is just 10.5 months, despite generous average pay of $104,000, according to program data obtained through a Freedom of Information Law request.
A ThriveNYC spokeswoman pointed out that if new staff who were added when the program opened a dedicated office in January are not taken into account, the average tenure jumps to 18 months. That’s still nearly half as long as the average 36 months ACS workers stay in their jobs.
McCray and Herman were at the Bronx Library Center announcing a new initiative called “Spaces to Thrive” that will provide mental health workshops in libraries, a dedicated bookshelf on the subject, and a public information campaign.
But the $45,000-a-year Spaces to Thrive initiative won’t include any outreach to the homeless who often seek shelter in public libraries.

 Yeah, I know this story is about Chirlie's overpaid aides doing narrative control about the scandalous Thrive program but the last line here deserves more attention.

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Mayor Big Slow finally shows up to South Ozone Park to assess waste water damage

CBS New York I am here now he says. Idiot.

D.E.P. immediately blames 300 homeowners for the rivers of feces in their basements

NBC New York

New York City residents are dealing with awful and vomit-inducing conditions days after a sewer backup forced them to leave their homes. Officials say the disruption pushed human waste into about 300 homes in Jamaica, Queens.

They think cooking grease poured down the drain might be the culprit. The city’s water agency says drinking water is safe and unaffected.

Cynthia McKenzie said she woke up around 3 a.m. Saturday to an odor she thought was a gas leak, only to realize that sewage water was rushing into her basement.

“When you open it, it just smells,” she said. “It makes you want to vomit. We have to pack up all the clothes.” 

 Raw sewage. There were worms coming out of the toilet. Sludge. Feces. All kinds of stuff," said South Ozone Park resident Gwen McElroy.

Why does the city (mainly the D.E.P.) think the residents are at fault and are sticking with that theory before they actually find the cause? This preemptive determination smells shittier than the stench and the gallons of biological waste they are hosing back out.