Friday, April 12, 2024

Caption Mayor Adams

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AOC electioneers on the Late Show, her primary opponent calls for equal campaign time on the program

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NY Post

The Democratic primary challenger to New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez fired off a letter to CBS demanding equal time after “Late Night” host Stephen Colbert’s fawning interview with the three-term lefty incumbent on Monday.

Candidate Martin Dolan, who is squaring off against AOC in the June 25  primary for the 14th congressional district encompassing parts of Queens and The Bronx, accused CBS of giving the incumbent free air time to promote her reelection bid.

“CBS just gave $300,000 in free air time to AOC. We want equal time,” Dolan told The Post Wednesday.

 “Give us a fair fight,” Dolan, a 66-year-old former Wall Street banker and Westchester County native, said later in a letter to CBS.

Dolan claimed that under Federal Communication Commission rules covering broadcast networks, he’s entitled to equal air time.

“Section 315(a) of the FCC rules requires stations that allow candidates to use their facilities to give equal opportunities to all other candidates,” reads the letter, obtained by The Post. “There are exceptions for news, not for entertainment shows, or the result can be what you see around the world: incumbent regimes dominating their press.”

During the more than 10-minute interview, Colbert joked with AOC about the eclipse and her interest in becoming a scientist as a student.

He then gave her time to explain her positions including calling Israel’s retaliatory response in Gaza “genocide” and discuss her thoughts on Democrats who voted blank or uncommitted in the primary in protest of President Biden’s response. AOC also claimed credit for Biden’s move to cancel student loan debt

There were no hard-hitting follow-up questions.

Colbert did ask one softball question, whether the democratic socialist would back Biden’s re-election. She said she would.

Wednesday, April 10, 2024

Yes (not yes)

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AMNY

 

City Council members on Monday voiced several concerns over Mayor Eric Adams’ sweeping “City of Yes” zoning amendment designed to make it easier for Big Apple businesses to operate and expand.

Legislators grilled Department of City Planning (DCP) officials over certain components of the 18-point plan, known as the “City of Yes for Economic Opportunity,” during a Monday hearing. The proceeding followed the City Planning Commission’s (CPC) approving the measure last month.

Dan Garodnick, who serves as both DCP commissioner and CPC chair, said the proposal is aimed at modernizing zoning rules that were written over 60 years ago, which he described as “too complex, restricted and outdated.” It seeks to fill the nearly 17,000 storefronts across the five boroughs, while allowing businesses to open and expand into spaces where they are not currently permitted.

“It will help revitalize commercial corridors, fill vacant storefronts and boost our economic recovery across the board,” the mayor said at a rally preceding the hearing.

Bronx City Council Member Kevin Riley, chair of the council’s Zoning and Franchises Subcommittee, said he is concerned the plan does not address the concentration of “last mile” large package distribution warehouses — utilized by e-commerce companies like Amazon — in some corners of the city. The problem is particularly acute in areas like Red Hook, Brooklyn, and Hunts Point in the Bronx, Riley said.

“The city needs to rethink comprehensively how packages are being delivered to our homes and the concentration of large packaging warehouses in certain neighborhoods,” Riley said. 

The council member also raised the alarm about the city Department of Buildings’ (DOB) ability to enforce the rule changes with its current resources and staffing levels.

“The Department of Buildings does not have the needed staff or resources to address violations of the zoning resolution,” he added. “The administration needs to pledge to increase DOB’s resources so that our quality of life concerns that our communities are rightfully raising are fully addressed.”

The plan would allow “clean manufacturing” — like 3-D printers and jewelry makers — to operate in commercial districts, make it so more businesses can operate on upper floors of buildings and authorize new corner businesses like bodegas to open in residential zones. Additionally, the changes would clear the way for life sciences labs to open near hospitals and allow for activities like dancing that are currently barred in some commercial zones.

Council Member Alexa Aviles (D-Brooklyn) who represents Red Hook, said there was a “full omission” of proposals to address the concentration of last mile facilities in the plan.

“We know the climate impacts, the polluting impacts, the thousands of additional diesel trucks in our community and yet no portion of this has addressed that in earnest,” Aviles said, referring to the pollution from trucks picking up packages from the facilities.

Garodnick said regulating the facilities is a “challenging topic,” but noted that zoning changes might not be the best way to address what is partially a transportation issue.

“We can certainly commit to turning over all land use possibilities [and] working with our partners at the city and state,” he said. “You have my commitment to continue to work with you on that.”

City Hall spokesperson William Fowler later insisted, in a statement, that adding a requirement for companies to seek a “special permit” for citing last-mile warehouses, as Aviles seeks to do, would be out of the legal scope of the plan.

“While we urge the City Council to adopt ‘City of Yes for Economic Opportunity’ as we continue to craft policy for last-mile warehouses and logistics in New York City more broadly, a special permit is not legally allowed to be added to the proposal,” Fowler said.

In a separate line of questioning, Council Member Lynn Schulmann (D-Queens), asked how DOB will manage enforcing the zoning changes with limited staff and resources. Garodnick insisted that the zoning changes will actually lighten the workload for DOB enforcers by “clarifying” the rules.

“This proposal is designed to make it easier for them to read, respond to and enforce the rules that we’re putting on the books,” Garodnick said. 

 

Squatters rejoice!

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QNS 

Queens accounted for the most foreclosures among the New York City boroughs in the first quarter of 2024, with 191, according to a report by the real estate agency PropertyShark.

These 191 foreclosures accounted for 45% of the 424 cases that occurred in New York City this quarter. Its volume was equivalent to the amount of first-time filings in Brooklyn, Manhattan and Staten Island combined. This amount of foreclosures also marked the most in Queens since there were 294 in the first quarter of 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic began.

The 11377 zip code, which covers parts of Woodside, East Elmhurst, Jackson Heights, Sunnyside and South Astoria, earned the designation as the foreclosure epicenter of New York City. There were a total of 31 foreclosures that occurred within that zip code for the first quarter this year.


 

Saturday, April 6, 2024

Judge orders squatters to GTFO

 

  NY Post

A judge has dismissed a lawsuit brought by a pair of alleged squatters who sued the owners of a $930,000 Queens home after cops escorted them off the property last month.

“The case is over,” the couple’s attorney Rizpah Morrow told reporters outside Queens Civil Court Friday, shortly after Judge Vijay Kitson discontinued the case with prejudice, meaning the claim cannot be refiled.

“The landlords, the owners, own the house, they have possession. The people who said they were locked out have walked away from the situation. They are no longer requesting to be restored to possession and we still have their stuff,” she said.

The two men did not show up for their scheduled court appearance.

One of the home’s owners, Juliya Fulman, told reporters that although they prevailed in the case, the systemic issues it highlights remain, making it a hollow victory.

“Right now, there is a very big problem with these criminals and these squatters. Lawmakers need to make laws in order to protect the people, the citizens,” she told The Post outside the courtroom.

“These criminals are trying to drive people out of New York, and that is not going to happen,” she continued.

“I still don’t feel like I have the full justice in this case because there are people who broke into my house. They claimed they had property there. I would like to know how they got property there.”

The couple had spent over half a million dollars renovating the Jamaica residence as an investment property. Fulman told The Post last week that she incurred thousands of dollars in legal fees defending the ownership of her home.

“I want justice. I want these people to come forward. I want them to say how they got into the house, how their belongings got there, and yeah, it would be very good for them to reimburse us for all of our time and legal fees, so coming here today I don’t know if we accomplished much,” she said.

The suit, filed March 14, had claimed the men were unlawfully removed from the residence, which they said they were legally renting from Fulman and her partner Denis Kurlyand since January.


City of Yes this plan sucks

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QNS

A resounding NO for the “City of Yes” echoed throughout the halls of the Ridgewood Presbyterian Church during a Ridgewood property owners meeting early last month, as urban planner Paul Graziano presented his argument against Mayor Eric Adams’ initiative.

The Ridgewood Property Owners and Civic Association, comprised of dozens of Ridgewood denizens, expressed concerns about the economic and housing aspects of the plan. They are worried about how these changes could affect a neighborhood known for its rich city history and numerous small businesses, especially given the existing challenges related to multi-family housing.

Graziano, who continues to present his findings on the City of Yes to civic groups across the city, gave Ridgewood natives a unique look at how the potential changes to zoning text amendments across the city could specifically impact Ridgewood’s quality-of-life.

Dozens of property owners at the civic meeting each took pen and paper to share their concerns in letters to the Mayor and City Council, motivated by Graziano’s presentation.

Ahead of a detailed report specifically looking at Ridgewood neighborhoods, Graziano said the impact of the City of Yes could change the neighborhood more than expected.

“This is an apocalypse, a nuclear bomb, whatever you want to call it,” said Graziano, while emphasizing that if this is approved in any form, communities will become unrecognizable.

The City of Yes plans to modernize and update the city’s zoning regulations to support small businesses, create affordable housing, and promote sustainability, as it’s written on the New York City Department of City Planning website.

The three step plan listed on the DCP’s website, and as part of the Mayor’s initiative, is to turn the city into a modern hub for businesses- allowing for a growing push for renewable energy, providing legislative changes for more building spaces, and focusing on building housing in a seamless way.

Within the city’s plans, Graziano claims that there are greater changes to what Ridgewood natives know as city life if the City of Yes is approved without further considerations. One particular change involves the conversion of multi-family dwellings into apartment style complexes on residential neighborhoods.

“The department of city planning and the Mayor have stated publicly that lower density neighborhoods are the cause of the housing crisis and therefore must be eliminated,” Graziano said, adding that the purpose of the zoning changes are to allow developers to build without limitations.

Graziano states that the construction of additional apartment complexes would be particularly noticeable in areas of Ridgewood characterized by multi-family homes that stand alone, not attached to other buildings. Furthermore, the City of Yes initiative aims to allow the creation of Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) — small, separate living spaces — which could be constructed in a property owner’s backyard.

Graziano has estimated that, if the City of Yes proposal is approved without any modifications, a site that currently has two detached singe family homes could be replaced by an apartment complex with 43 units. In his presentation, Graziano says the two houses make up slightly under 40,000 square feet, which could make space for a 43 unit building.

“Why would you want to allow this in residential areas?” Graziano asked.

More rejection blowback to the bus routes of yes

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QNS 

 With the MTA’s Queens Bus Network Redesign project in its final stages, Community Board 11 in Northeast Queens voted down a motion endorsing the proposal as it currently stands.

At their meeting on Monday, Apr. 1, board members and local residents said their main problem is with the changes to the Q13 and Q31 bus routes in Bayside. In particular, Bell Boulevard, a popular commercial corridor for shopping and dining which is part of the bus routes, would see a significant reduction in bus service if the plan goes into effect as is. 

Despite the concerns, the board’s transportation committee decided to approve the plan given the vast improvements that the MTA made based on community input from initial drafts. 

But at the end of the meeting, where issues with the bus redesign plan were one of the main topics of discussion, the motion to recommend the plan failed to pass in a vote of 19-14. 

The MTA’s initiative to rehaul the city’s largest bus system first launched in 2019 with the goal of providing faster and more convenient service to see an increase in ridership. The process was paused due to the pandemic until it was restarted in 2021. After rounds of drafts based on community input, the final plan was published in Dec. 2023. 

Throughout the review process, community boards have analyzed the proposed route adjustments within their districts, attended detailed presentations by MTA representatives, and voiced their concerns.

“We’ve been working on this… for years,” said CB11 Transportation Committee Chair Victor Dadras. “I will say that we had lots of issues. The MTA to their credit, did extensive work based upon the comments they received, not just from us, but from the community.”

However, the board members were unable to overlook their two primary concerns and thus could not align their vote with the transportation committee’s recommendation. Their concerns were reinforced by members of the Bayside Village Business Improvement District, local civic groups and transportation advocates.

They collectively cited their disapproval with the reduction in service along Bell Boulevard, which could hurt both local businesses and the consumers. They also cite the proposed increase in distance between stops as a major drawback of the plan overall. 

The existing Q31 runs between Bay Terrace and Jamaica along Utopia Parkway. And under the new plan, 84 stops will be removed along Bell Boulevard, 47th Avenue, 48th Avenue. While the route will be extended by slightly more than a mile, the average distance between stops is increasing from 762 feet to 1,224 feet. 

Increased spacing between stops under that new plan has been a chief concern among critics of the plan who say it would be a burden for those with mobility issues such as elderly and disabled riders. But the MTA says that it will allow them to speed up service by cutting out stops they say are underutilized. 

The Q13, which goes from Fort Totten to Flushing, will still run along Bell Boulevard but 6 stops in each direction will be removed. Along the entire route, the average distance between stops will almost double from 688 feet to 1,146 feet under the new proposal. 

“We’ll have no way to get to the shopping and restaurants on Bell,” said board member Jena Lanzetta, who is also President of the Northwest Bayside Civic Association. “We need to go back to the drawing board and I will not be voting for this.”


Thursday, April 4, 2024

NYC Crapbot

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Associated Press

 An artificial intelligence-powered chatbot created by New York City to help small business owners is under criticism for dispensing bizarre advice that misstates local policies and advises companies to violate the law.

But days after the issues were first reported last week by tech news outlet The Markup, the city has opted to leave the tool on its official government website. Mayor Eric Adams defended the decision this week even as he acknowledged the chatbot’s answers were “wrong in some areas.”

Launched in October as a “one-stop shop” for business owners, the chatbot offers users algorithmically generated text responses to questions about navigating the city’s bureaucratic maze.

It includes a disclaimer that it may “occasionally produce incorrect, harmful or biased” information and the caveat, since-strengthened, that its answers are not legal advice.

It continues to dole out false guidance, troubling experts who say the buggy system highlights the dangers of governments embracing AI-powered systems without sufficient guardrails.

“They’re rolling out software that is unproven without oversight,” said Julia Stoyanovich, a computer science professor and director of the Center for Responsible AI at New York University. “It’s clear they have no intention of doing what’s responsible.”

In responses to questions posed Wednesday, the chatbot falsely suggested it is legal for an employer to fire a worker who complains about sexual harassment, doesn’t disclose a pregnancy or refuses to cut their dreadlocks. Contradicting two of the city’s signature waste initiatives, it claimed that businesses can put their trash in black garbage bags and are not required to compost.

At times, the bot’s answers veered into the absurd. Asked if a restaurant could serve cheese nibbled on by a rodent, it responded: “Yes, you can still serve the cheese to customers if it has rat bites,” before adding that it was important to assess the “the extent of the damage caused by the rat” and to “inform customers about the situation.”

A spokesperson for Microsoft, which powers the bot through its Azure AI services, said the company was working with city employees “to improve the service and ensure the outputs are accurate and grounded on the city’s official documentation.”

At a press conference Tuesday, Adams, a Democrat, suggested that allowing users to find issues is just part of ironing out kinks in new technology.

“Anyone that knows technology knows this is how it’s done,” he said. “Only those who are fearful sit down and say, ‘Oh, it is not working the way we want, now we have to run away from it all together.’ I don’t live that way.”

Stoyanovich called that approach “reckless and irresponsible.”An artificial intelligence-powered chatbot created by New York City to help small business owners is under criticism for dispensing bizarre advice that misstates local policies and advises companies to violate the law.

But days after the issues were first reported last week by tech news outlet The Markup, the city has opted to leave the tool on its official government website. Mayor Eric Adams defended the decision this week even as he acknowledged the chatbot’s answers were “wrong in some areas.”

Launched in October as a “one-stop shop” for business owners, the chatbot offers users algorithmically generated text responses to questions about navigating the city’s bureaucratic maze.

It includes a disclaimer that it may “occasionally produce incorrect, harmful or biased” information and the caveat, since-strengthened, that its answers are not legal advice.

It continues to dole out false guidance, troubling experts who say the buggy system highlights the dangers of governments embracing AI-powered systems without sufficient guardrails.

“They’re rolling out software that is unproven without oversight,” said Julia Stoyanovich, a computer science professor and director of the Center for Responsible AI at New York University. “It’s clear they have no intention of doing what’s responsible.”

In responses to questions posed Wednesday, the chatbot falsely suggested it is legal for an employer to fire a worker who complains about sexual harassment, doesn’t disclose a pregnancy or refuses to cut their dreadlocks. Contradicting two of the city’s signature waste initiatives, it claimed that businesses can put their trash in black garbage bags and are not required to compost.

At times, the bot’s answers veered into the absurd. Asked if a restaurant could serve cheese nibbled on by a rodent, it responded: “Yes, you can still serve the cheese to customers if it has rat bites,” before adding that it was important to assess the “the extent of the damage caused by the rat” and to “inform customers about the situation.”

A spokesperson for Microsoft, which powers the bot through its Azure AI services, said the company was working with city employees “to improve the service and ensure the outputs are accurate and grounded on the city’s official documentation.”

At a press conference Tuesday, Adams, a Democrat, suggested that allowing users to find issues is just part of ironing out kinks in new technology.

“Anyone that knows technology knows this is how it’s done,” he said. “Only those who are fearful sit down and say, ‘Oh, it is not working the way we want, now we have to run away from it all together.’ I don’t live that way.”

Stoyanovich called that approach “reckless and irresponsible.”