Sunday, July 12, 2020

22,000 votes got spoiled in Queens election results

Queens Eagle

New York’s arcane election laws are preventing some candidates and election observers from reviewing nearly 22,000 invalidated ballots, say a group of Queens political activists.
The Board of Elections only allows candidates and election attorneys to review copies of ballot envelopes deemed invalid if they receive a court order to do so. A spokesperson for the BOE, Valerie Vazquez, said people who request copies of the envelopes with a court order also receive a notation of the preliminary determination, which explains why an absentee ballot was tossed by election officials. It could be that the envelopes were filled out incorrectly or were not postmarked, she said. Campaigns, usually through election attorneys, can then challenge those disqualifications.
Overall, 21,980 ballots were preliminarily disqualified, according to a handwritten breakdown provided by BOE officials to members of the New Reformers, a political organization that represents a slate of candidates for Democratic district leader positions. 
  In an email exchange shared with the Eagle, BOE attorney Steve Richman told attorney Arthur Schwartz, who represents 20 Queens candidates, that the candidates did not submit a request to review ballots by a Wednesday morning deadline. Schwartz countered that the deadline applied to a review of registration records and not to observe invalidated absentee ballot envelopes.
“Why do you have to be Mr. Difficult. Let the observers look at the envelopes which aren't being opened. Maybe it will enhance your reputation of being open and transparent,” Schwartz wrote.

Saturday, July 11, 2020

Trump wears the mask

Header media

W.W.R.D.? (What will Reynoso do?)

Hi folks,

One of the advantages of having a blog with longevity is that you get to follow the tweeding stories as they unfold. Then you get to call out the tweeders on their BS. Let's take a little trip down memory lane...

It was 2014, and a lot in Ridgewood close to the Bushwick border was being rezoned to allow a filthy eyesore truck lot to be transformed into a gleaming new residential project. Hopes were high that the developers would include affordable housing in their plans. The electeds got to work:

From the Times Ledger:

Some argued the rents described by developers — with studios going for about $1,000 and two-bedroom apartments renting for up to $1,800 a month — would not be affordable to most in Ridgewood and invite an influx of young, wealthier inhabitants...

Katz’s nod of approval came with two suggestions. She requested an unspecified number of apartments be reserved for those making 60 percent of the area’s median income and urged a different commercial overlay be used to recruit a wider array of businesses.

An applicant representative said the landlord would be willing to use the zoning suggested by Katz during the June 11 Planning Commission hearing, application documents show.

The spokesman also agreed to permanently offer eight units in the larger development as affordable housing. When prompted by the commission, he committed to increasing this to 20 percent of the building’s apartments provided the city permits a bulkier development than currently authorized by its Inclusionary Housing program.

From DNA Info:

The proposal for the 88-unit building originally had no affordable housing, but developers committed to 50 percent affordable units, along with the affordable community space after discussions with Reynoso's office and community members, the councilman's office said.

"Any project that runs through a ULURP process will need to meet demands of real affordability, and I’m pleased that we were able to achieve that here," Reynoso said.

The affordable units, of which 20 percent will be permanently affordable, will be distributed to people earning between $23,000 to $105,000 per year.

50% of 88 units is 44. 20% of 44 is 8. Eight units will be "permanently" affordable.

Now, let's take a look at what the community actually got, courtesy of Ridgewood Post:

Forty apartments in a newly constructed building in Ridgewood are up for grabs through the city’s affordable housing lottery — but only for those who make at least $61,000 a year.

The building, called the “The Strand,” is located at 18-81 Starr St. It has a mix of studio, one-bedroom, two-bedroom and three-bedroom units, which cost upwards of $1,797 a month through the lottery.

Residents must make 130 percent of the area median income to be eligible for the lottery.

Ok, so now we're at 40 affordable units instead of 44? Rent for a studio was supposed to be $1000, now it's starting at $1800? Instead of 60% of the median income, the applicants have to make 130%? Minimum income of $23,000 has now become $61,600?

So, Antonio Reynoso, what are you going to do about this developer pulling a fast one? Or is being complicit with this part of the overall plan?

JQ Update:

Another tidbit from that old DNA article mentions that the developer behind this was the Slate Property Management Group LLC.

You remember those guys right? They were the ones who bought Rivington House for a song from the city and then tried to flip the building to some "mysterious buyer" for luxury condo development for 10 times for what it's worth as de Blasio was busy with his pay to play Campaign for one New York fundraising shenanigans and meetings with his "agents of the city" in city hall.

And speaking of Ridgewood and longevity (you're welcome), the creative geniuses behind Slate joined forces with craft swill makers Rockaway Brewery and attempted to open a pop up beach when this fraudulent affordable housing building was a toxic dirt yard about 4 years ago, which I called out for weeks in my role as a muckraking commenter back in the day.

Friday, July 10, 2020

Small businesses in Queens get smaller PPP rescue loans

Queens Eagle

 Nearly 21,500 Queens-based businesses received a loan of less than $150,000 through the federal Paycheck Protection Program, newly released data from the federal government shows. 

The PPP loans totaled $602,995,888 and enabled those Queens businesses to retain 72,765 employees, according to the data. The loan program, designed to help small businesses continue paying employees during the COVID-19 economic slowdown, passed as part of the federal CARES Act in April.

The data is included in two massive spreadsheets released Monday by the federal Small Business Administration in response to Freedom of Information Act requests and pressure from elected officials.

One spreadsheet lists companies that received more than $150,000. Despite the intention that the PPP loans go to small businesses, some of the country’s largest corporations received funding, including McDonalds and Wendy’s franchises. The SBA named all businesses that received more than $150,000.

A second spreadsheet included companies that received less than $150,000, but the federal government did not name them. Instead, the spreadsheets include the loan amount, business zip code and the town — or in the case of most Queens businesses, the neighborhood. The spreadsheet also includes each firm’s North American Industry Classification System number, a code used to classify a company’s type of business.

The data dump shows that 21,480 companies with Queens zip codes received PPP payments of less than $150,000. They range from a South Ozone Park information services firm that received $2 to a Whitestone construction firm that took in $149,990, according to the data.

The average loan amount was about $28,072 and the median loan was $16,710, according to an analysis of the data, but some of the data may be flawed, said Tom Grech, president of the Queens Chamber of Commerce.

Extremely low loan amounts, like the $2 listed for the South Ozone Park company, may have been typos by the SBA, Grech said.

Thursday, July 9, 2020

The 71% and the 75%



The 25%


The New York City housing market is in crisis as tenants are unable to pay their rent due to the coronavirus pandemic, according to a new report from Bloomberg Businessweek.

A quarter of the city's renters have not paid rent since March, the report said, citing information from the Community Housing Improvement Program, which represents landlords of rent-stabilized buildings.

As renters fail to pay, landlords are lacking funds to pay their own bills, so the city could see hundreds of millions of dollars in delinquent property tax payments, according to the Bloomberg report.

More than 735,000 households in New York City have lost income due to the pandemic, according to the Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy. An estimated 526,000 of these households filed for unemployment insurance and one in four households now face eviction, according to the center.

Despite the pandemic and budget cuts, plans to build the borough tower jails still proceed


Officials at a senior citizens’ residence next to a Lower Manhattan jail say they were told by city officials that they’ll have a few extra months before demolition starts next door.

The Manhattan Detention Complex’s knockdown is being delayed from next March to June or July, according to Charlie Lai, executive director of the Chung Pak building for seniors, which is adjacent to the jail and is scheduled to receive protective upgrades before the demo work starts.

“That will give us only 12 months or so to complete everything,” he said, including shielding for a rooftop solarium and new windows. “I am extremely anxious about, you know, getting it started so that the building has its own envelope of safety.”

The call to Lai last week from the city’s affordable housing agency marked one of the latest signs that the de Blasio administration’s 10-year, $8.7 billion plan to replace Rikers Island with smaller jails in every borough except Staten Island has hit some early snags.

Another sign: some recent pandemic-spurred funding changes, which prompted one Lower Manhattan community group to crow this week: “We have saved Chinatown for now.”
But city officials said the plan to demolish and replace the 24-story jail tower known as The Tombs is still a go — along with the rest of the planned new lockups.

“There have been no cuts to funding for borough-based jails and the city remains committed to closing Rikers and building a jail system that is smaller, safer, and more humane,” said Maggie Halley, a spokesperson for the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice.

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Neir's perseveres

NY Post

Before the pandemic, things were looking dire for the historic watering hole Neir’s Tavern in Woodhaven, Queens. It nearly closed due to a threatened rent increase  — the bar was paying around $2,000 a month, which was going to go to $5,400, according to owner Loycent Gordon — until 

*Mayor Bill de Blasio stepped in and helped strike a deal with the new landlord to keep the doors open. But when the city went into lockdown in March, the bar seemed like a goner.

“When this happened after we got Neir’s a new lease on life, it felt a punch in the gut just as we were catching our breath,” Gordon, who is also a lieutenant in the FDNY, told The Post.

But once again, the Lazarus of saloons is back slinging burgers and beers — now with outdoor seating and a range of creative ideas to engage regulars, who Gordon said really saved the place.

“People came out for the first weekend despite us not having the most sophisticated set-up. We are focusing on our strengths and have whittled down our menu to fries, sweet potato fries, burger and wings,” said Gordon, 40, who bought the bar in 2009 when it was under threat of being turned into a convenience store.

Founded in 1829, Neir’s houses a 150-year-old mahogany bar and has provided a scenic backdrop for movies including “Goodfellas and “Tower Heist,” and was featured in an episode of Anthony Bourdain’s “Parts Unknown.” It also, Gordon points out, survived the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918.

Sunday, July 5, 2020

City defunds the police by abolishing placard abuse enforcement

NY Post

City Hall has pulled the plug on its latest effort to tackle rampant placard abuse by municipal employees, shutting down the NYPD unit meant to enforce the most recent crackdown.

Officials said Friday they are axing all 116 positions that were dedicated to placard enforcement through attrition and zeroing out the unit’s $5.4 million annual budget — just a little more than a year after Mayor Bill de Blasio rolled out the effort to great fanfare.

“A dedicated unit is no longer needed because we are enhancing enforcement coverage by introducing new technology and other advancements that allow any TEA to do this work more seamlessly,” said City Hall spokeswoman Laura Feyer, explaining away the budget cuts.

The cuts are projected to remain in effect for at least the next four years — effectively permanently disbanding the effort.

 The de Blasio administration also admitted in response to questions submitted early Friday that officials had yanked just five placards from city employees under de Blasio’s three-strike policy for placard abuse, which was another highly touted policy announced in City Hall’s February 2019 crackdown.

DeBlasio & Council screw community out of better police protection

From the Queens Chronicle:

Residents of Southeast Queens thought 40 years of advocacy and hard work had come to fruition in July 2017 when Mayor de Blasio joined them along with NYPD brass and elected officials in Rosedale, next to the land that was finally going to become the NYPD’s new 116th Precinct.

But with a stroke of his pen, de Blasio transferred the $92 million in capital funding to other projects, including a community center in Roy Wilkins Park in St. Albans.

NYPD critics, including those on the City Council, had advertised that they were looking to cut $1 billion from the NYPD’s operating budget, and much of that was switched to other departments for social service programs.

The NYPD last week told the Chronicle that it was committed to fulfilling its promise to the residents of Southeast Queens.

But the mayor and Council also agreed on more than $530 million in cuts to the NYPD’s capital budget, and the 116th Precinct proved to be too tempting a target.

And one of the most ardent proponents of police reform on the Council — Public Safety Committee Chairman Donovan Richards (D-Laurelton) — also was the biggest supporter of the precinct in City Hall.

“I voted against the budget,” Richards told the Chronicle in an interview.

See what they lost out on by caving.


See where all that money that was snatched from the 116th of which it's still being spent on the NYPD is actually going to. What is the "special expense"?

One thing's for sure, the city and the NYPD (and the protesters of Occupy City Hall) feels the residents of Southeast Queens lives aren't that special and don't matter much.



Saturday, July 4, 2020

Happy Birthday America

A hard rain's gonna fall...

Queens Chronicle

A march to support New York’s besieged Police Department ended with an angry confrontation last Sunday night between pro-cop demonstrators and a group of Black Lives Matter activists.

The march, which ended at Juniper Valley Park in Middle Village, looked like a repeat of a similar, peaceful walk earlier in the week — a display of solidarity with cops who have been the target of mass demonstrations in New York and around the country following the death of George Floyd at the hands of a police officer May 25 in Minneapolis.

But as the approximately 60 marchers entered the park after a mile-and-a-half walk through the neighborhood and along Metropolitan Avenue, they were met by about 20 counterprotesters. The counterprotesters carried signs calling for the defunding of the Police Department and accusing the NYPD of protecting “bad cops” on the force.

Heated words were exchanged and the two groups flipped middle fingers at each other, but there was no physical altercation.

“I saw the BLM people walking towards us” at the end of the march, said Phil Wong, one of the organizers of the pro-cop walks. “They were clearly there to start an exchange.”

Police who had been accompanying the march in order to control traffic and keep the walk orderly quickly rushed from the edges of the park when they saw the confrontation shaping up. The cops stationed themselves between the groups, working to calm the potentially serious situation. The two groups exchanged chants. “Black lives matter” drew a response of “All lives matter” from the pro-cop marchers.

No arrests were made.

The weather put a damper on the confrontation. A sudden, heavy downpour sent both groups scurrying out of the park after about 15 minutes. A handful of die-hards remained in the park to hash out their differences in the soaking rain.