Friday, October 15, 2021

Better know your district candidate: The Fighting 29th

Queens Chronicle

Lynn Schulman has run for City Council before. But the Covid-19 pandemic gave her a sense of mission and urgency, and the desire for a change.

“The coronavirus laid bare all the inequities of city government,” Schulman told the Chronicle in an interview. “We are going to need to find new ways to approach all kinds of different issues: housing, homelessness, public safety.”

Schulman, who is the Democratic nominee for the 29th District seat held by Karen Koslowitz, likens Covid on her website to her experiences in the LGBTQ community AIDS epidemic in the 1980s, “when I saw a generation of my friends and neighbors die because of the indifference of those in power to those in my community.”

Healthcare, education and small business advocacy were the themes she stressed the most during the phone chat.

“Queens was the epicenter of the virus,” said the decades-long activist. “Over the last 20 years, 10 hospitals in the area have closed, some in this district. There’s a lack of hospital capacity.” She believes real estate interests are behind the closures aside from the former hospitals’ economic viability.

“Hospitals closed for a number of reasons,” said the former 10-year employee in the city’s Health + Hospitals system.

She said the problem can be addressed through existing hospitals expanding their capacity.

“Regardless of how it comes out, if we don’t expand capacity, people will die,” she said.

If Schulman gets elected and has her way, the outgoing mayor’s edict to eliminate Gifted and Talented programs in city schools will be very short-lived.

“Kids only get one chance at an education,” she said. “And no matter what the ZIP code a kid lives in they should have the same opportunity as anybody else. I am a proponent of having Gifted and Talented programs in every elementary school. People forget that in the 1980s and ’90s there were kids, including those in underserved communities who were part of Gifted & Talented programs and classes. The problem is that the slots were reduced over the years.”


Queens Chronicle 

Michael Conigliaro of Rego Park is nothing if not direct when asked why he sought the Republican nomination in the City Council’s 29th District.

“I’ve seen a decay in the degree of leadership,” Conigliaro said in a recent interview. “I’ve seen a decay in the quality of life. I’ve seen an uptick in crime. I’ve seen business owners leaving the district either because of high taxes or the result of the pandemic and not having enough protections for them and their landlords to help them stay here. I’m seeing our education system being hijacked by progressive ideologies.

“Basically I want to come in and really just get the district on track.”

Conigliaro, a father of two and a law office manager, also serves on Community Education Council 24.

Two of his top priorities involve what he does and does not want going onto a large swath of land by the Queens Criminal Courthouse in Kew Gardens.

“There is an impending jail looming over our district’s head,” he said. “That’s a reason for my running — to stop that jail from going up.”

With the City Council voting to shut down the Rikers Island jail complex and build smaller lock-ups in Kew Gardens and three other boroughs by comfortable margins, Conigliaro admits it would take a lot of votes to turn around to stop it.

“They’re also putting new jails in the Bronx, Brooklyn [and Manhattan],” he said. “First and foremost, I would sit down with the representatives of those areas and form a coalition to show the new mayor that this is just a bad idea, one that no community wants.”

Given his way, Conigliaro said the money allocated to the four jails should be redirected to rebuilding and modernizing the Rikers jail facilities.

On the land dedicated to the new jail, he wants a hospital to fill some of the gap created by the closure of a number of hospitals in Queens in the last two decades. And he admitted it would take time and attention to determine who would build it, who would run it and, in the case of a city facility, where the money would come from in a municipality that has massive predicted budget deficits that must be closed in the next three years.

“No. 1, what I would have to do, in all honesty, is educate myself, find out where I can get the money and about what incentives might be available,” he said. “No. 2, I would need to sit down with [New York City] Health + Hospitals, with healthcare individuals, people who could guide me on how to better go about that.”

Better know a district candidate: The fighting 32nd


 Queens Chronicle

With over 30 years of civic experience, Joann Ariola is hoping to take her knowledge to City Hall next year and fight to keep residents in her district from moving out of state in what she called an “exodus.”

“I was raised in this district, I raised my children in this district and now my grandchildren are being raised in this district,” Ariola said in a sitdown interview this week with the Chronicle.

“What I’m seeing is an exodus within the community because they’re not seeing the public safety that they were accustomed to,” she said. “They’re not seeing the quality of life that they were accustomed to, and therefore they’re exiting.”

Ariola, a mother of three sons, does not want to visit her grandchildren in another state, she said.

Ariola is running in November’s City Council race for District 32, one of the most competitive races in the city this year. She is looking to maintain the Republican seat held by Councilman Eric Ulrich (Ozone Park), who is being term-limited out this year and who has endorsed Ariola. Outside of Staten Island, it is the last Republican-held City Council seat.

Ariola is the chairwoman of the Queens Republican Party, the president of the Howard Beach Lindenwood Civic Association and a member of Community Board 10. She founded the Lindenwood Alliance before it merged with the Howard Beach Civic Association.

Her opponent is progressive activist Felicia Singh.

On the doorsteps of constituents, Ariola said, she gives them her three top issues: public safety, quality of life and education of the children.

When asked about her opponent’s claims that she is a one-issue candidate, Ariola said it all begins with public safety.

“If you don’t have public safety, you don’t have anything,” she said. “You will not be able to enjoy your beautiful parks. You will not be able to feel safe when your child is at school or when you’re on your way to work and you get mugged or thrown on a train track.

Queens Chronicle 

 As the daughter of immigrants, Felicia Singh wants voters to know that she understands the difficulty of navigating New York City’s systems as well as the middle-class struggle.

Her father, who is a Sikh from Punjab, is a taxi driver who lost his medallion during the pandemic and had to file for bankruptcy. Her mother, who is Muslim and from Guyana, is a school bus matron.

“These are the stories that I want to center in City Hall because they’ve been missing due to lack of representation,” said Singh.

Previously an English teacher, she is now running in the City Council race for District 32, in arguably the most competitive race in the city. The seat has been held by Republican incumbent Eric Ulrich (Ozone Park) for the past 12 years and he is backing Singh’s opponent, Queens GOP chairwoman Joann Ariola.

“The best advocate is someone who’s had to navigate the same systems everyday New Yorkers have to,” Singh said in an exclusive sitdown interview with the Chronicle. “We need folks who have the world view of being working class, of being a daughter of immigrants.”

Singh is running on a platform centering education and the environment. She served in the Peace Corps and taught in India, Thailand and China for a cumulative two and a half years. Her teaching experience includes time at schools on Long Island and at Coney Island Preparatory Public Charter School.

As part of her education platform, Singh supports a cap on charter schools, removing mayoral control of schools, free CUNY and SUNY tuition and more investment in the public school system.

“Why can’t I be able to send my child to the local school that’s in my neighborhood? Why are we not fixing that issue?” asked Singh, calling the New York City school system “one of the most segregated in the nation” and adding that the Gifted and Talented program adds to that.

“If you are a student who would love that opportunity to participate in Gifted and Talented, you have to be lucky enough to have it in your school,” said Singh. She calls for investing in the schools in people’s own districts. The conversation, she said, is similar to the law enforcement conversation of “preventing crime versus responding.”

As for law enforcement, Singh proposed reallocating at least one billion dollars from the police budget and putting that toward programs like violence interrupters who intervene in conflicts and B-HEARD, the Behavioral Health Emergency Assistance Response Division, which handles mental health crises.

She said the system in which police are called for violent situations is “not going anywhere” and that her opponent is a one-issue candidate who wants to put police on every corner. She assures that she will expand public safety, but through alternative means.


Flushing's drowning pool

The Flushing Meadows Corona Park Pool & Rink has been closed during the COVID pandemic.


 A heralded Queens public pool central to New York City’s failed 2012 Olympic bid has been shuttered since before the pandemic — while as many as a dozen workers show up daily without swimmers to serve.

It’s one of six public indoor pools closed for maintenance even after the six others run by the city reopened last month following an 18-month COVID-spurred shutdown.

The Flushing Meadows Corona Park Aquatic Center was shuttered Jan. 13, 2020, for what the Department of Parks and Recreation described as “emergency repairs” after the roof started shedding concrete.

At the time, the department said in a press release, “the pool will be closed to the public for at least six weeks,” with “extensive ceiling netting” to be installed over the pool and a neighboring ice rink.

The pool’s public entrance on the eastern edge of the park is now padlocked, with handwritten signs reading “Pool is closed, sorry” pasted on the front doors.

That netting is now permanently in place over the drained 50-meter pool, according to workers at the facility, which first opened its doors in 2008. Chunks of concrete falling from the ceiling are to blame, the Parks Department says.

Conditions are so far-gone that Parks says it is developing plans to reconstruct the roof.

The Blaz abolishes municipal workers medicare



CBS New York

Governor Kathy doesn't like to kiss and tell about government business

 Progress New York

 Twenty Government Agencies in New York are responsible for over 66 per cent. of appeals seeking the release of Government records, an analysis of New York State Committee on Open Government data has shown, with the New York Police Department behind the largest number of open records requests that triggered challenges.

Of 4,077 FOIL Appeals tracked on a spreadsheet maintained by the Committee on Open Government, the NYPD was responsible for at least 961 challenges filed by the makers of FOIL Requests. The New York State Dept. of Corrections and Community Supervision, the City of Rochester Law Department, Suffolk County, and the New York State Dept. of Health rounded up the top 5 Government Agencies triggering the most FOIL Appeals.

Combined, 20 Government Agencies in New York generated 2,731 challenges out of a total of 4,077 FOIL Appeals tracked on Committee on Open Government spreadsheet. The data was provided to Progress New York in response to a request filed under the State’s Freedom of Information Law, or FOIL.  Progress New York is seeking records about FOIL Appeals and their dispositions ; records about FOIL Appeals and determinations made thereon are required by law to be forwarded to the Committee on Open Government.

As has been widely-reported, Gov. Kathleen Hochul (D-NY) has promised that, “Transparency will be the hallmark of my administration,” she told talk show host Joseph Scarborough during an MSNBC interview.

Despite her promise, Government Agencies in New York refuse to explain their record of triggering so many FOIL Appeals.

The office of the Deputy Commissioner for Public Information at the NYPD did not answer a press inquiry about having been the target of so many disputes over their decision to deny or withhold access to Government records. Silence was also the response from officials with the New York City Dept. of Health and Mental Hygiene and the New York City Dept. of Transportation, two of the top 20 Government Agencies triggering the most FOIL Appeals. In total, five New York City Agencies were amongst the top 20 Authorities that gave rise to the most challenges.

In 2015, the news Web site Gothamist reported that New York City Hall were “screening” open records requests that reflected on Mayor Bill de Blasio (WFP-New York City). For this report, the press office supporting Mayor de Blasio did not answer an interview request.

The press office supporting Gov. Hochul, likewise, did not answer an interview request for this report.

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Transporation Alternatives study on open streets confirms residents don't want them



NY Daily News

Mayor de Blasio has allowed cars to conquer open streets.

The city’s “Open Streets” program, which launched in the summer of 2020 with the goal of closing streets to cars for certain parts of the day, has been mostly abandoned, said a report published Tuesday by the street safety advocacy group Transportation Alternatives.

The goal of the program was to give New Yorkers more outdoor space to social distance during the pandemic — and proved to be wildly popular in many neighborhoods.

But data from Tuesday’s report suggests the program is not so popular among de Blasio officials.

Transportation Alternatives surveyed every one of the 274 street segments listed as part of the program, and found that 54% of them did not have barriers to keep cars from rolling through during hours the city Department of Transportation permitted them to close to traffic.

It’s a damning finding for a program that de Blasio in May called “great for the neighborhood, great for tourists too.” The mayor in April 2020 said up to 100 miles of streets would be part of the program — but Transportation Alternatives found just 24 of the city’s 6,300 miles of streets actually served as car-free “open streets” over the course of 2021.

The report also found glaring inequities in what remains of the Open Streets program.

Some 84% of the street segments listed as part of the program in the Bronx had no barriers to keep cars out in 2021 — and the borough is home to just 2% of the program’s streets that are actually enforced, the report found.

“This report makes one thing clear: New Yorkers love Open Streets, and they want to see them succeed,” said Transportation Alternatives executive director Danny Harris. “However, Mayor de Blasio has broken his promise to expand the program equitably.”

This report makes it more clear that they didn't even bother to talking to the residents where these open streets are. Danny Harris is the second most deranged and delusional person in this city behind the Blaz.

After the floods, home insurance premiums rise above sea level


 Premiums will be going up for most of the 53,000 New York City property owners covered by the federal flood insurance system, government stats reviewed by THE CITY show.

The National Flood Insurance Program rates that took effect Oct. 1 for new policyholders — and will hit in April for existing ones — have homeowners like Brooklyn’s Carly Baker-Rice facing new stress, on top of the toll of recent storms.

Baker-Rice and her husband bought their house in Red Hook last June in a move from Fort Greene, even though they predicted they’d eventually be “up to their knees in sewage” due to flooding in their new place, she said.

Just over a year into homeownership, that happened sooner than she thought. In August, Tropical Storm Henri flooded their basement and on Sept. 1, the deadly remnants of Hurricane Ida sent water splashing in through the front door.

Baker-Rice is still dealing with the damage and waiting for her insurance claims to go through — and she hasn’t been able to obtain a quote from her broker yet about how a new federal flood insurance policy might make her premium go up.

 “It makes my heart race, and I’m already somewhat crippled by the amount of stress that I’ve been under for the last month,” said Baker-Rice, 38, who works as a corporate training consultant. “It’s incredibly frightening to not know what it’s going to go up by, knowing what some of the existing rates out there are.”

Prices will go up for at least 62% of flood insurance policies in New York City. More than 53,000 properties, including 19,440 single-family homes, are insured by FEMA’s program in the five boroughs, an analysis by THE CITY found. Nationally, more homeowners will be taking bigger hits: FEMA estimates 75% will see increases, which could be as much as 18% per year.

In the city’s 10 poorest ZIP codes, 38% of premiums will increase and 62% will decrease. The figures are roughly the same for the city’s 10 wealthiest ZIP codes.

Due for an increase: about 75% of covered properties in Queens, 65% in Brooklyn, 59% in Staten Island, 46% in The Bronx and 43% in Manhattan.


The million dollar deadbeat



 As he hints at running for governor, lame duck mayor Bill de Blasio has racked up nearly $1 million in debts to lawyers, campaign consultants and taxpayers that records indicate he currently can’t pay.

The mayor owes one of the city’s biggest lobbyist law firms upwards of $435,000. On Thursday, the city’s Department of Investigation commissioner informed him he must reimburse taxpayers nearly $320,000 for his use of an NYPD securing detail during his failed 2019 cross-country presidential campaign.

Meanwhile, the latest filings for his various campaign and political action committees reveal he’s got more than $182,500 in outstanding campaign debts — and only about $11,800 cash on hand.

Between all of this, he owes upwards of $929,000, THE CITY found.

Danielle Filson, a spokesperson for de Blasio, declined to respond to nearly all of THE CITY’s questions, stating only that he was awaiting his appeal on NYPD reimbursement.

“Once that decision is made, the mayor will of course proceed accordingly,” she wrote.

But Filson would not discuss his modest cash reserve or any of his debts, including his biggest unpaid bill: the $435,000 he owes Kramer Levin & Naftalis — a firm that regularly lobbies City Hall on behalf of real estate developers seeking favors from the mayor’s administration such as zoning changes and city permits.

Between 2015 and 2017, the firm represented de Blasio personally during multiple investigations of his fundraising tactics. As of Tuesday, he had yet to pay a dime of his long-outstanding bill. And at least for the moment, the firm — which has sued other clients for non-payment — has given the mayor a pass.

De Blasio hired Kramer Levin in 2015 after he began getting inquiries from law enforcement and ethics entities regarding his fundraising tactics. The firm then represented him for two years. By the time its services were no longer needed in 2017, Kramer Levin had billed him for some $300,000.

But he likely owes even more due to interest on the initial bill accumulating over the last four years.

According to court papers the firm has filed accusing other clients of non-payment, Kramer Levin starts charging interest after 30 days of missed payment. The papers state that their protocol is to charge a per annum rate of 9%, which would bring de Blasio’s unpaid bill up to $435,000.

In the last year, Kramer Levin has filed lawsuits against a Diamond District dealer for $1.2 million in allegedly unpaid bills, and two hotel developers for $4.7 million. Both suits are pending.

As of last week, the law firm had taken no such action against de Blasio, even though the bills he owes are now overdue by four years.

God says no to Governor Kathy

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul speaks during a Women's March and Rally for Reproductive Rights at the state Capitol Saturday, Oct. 2, 2021.

NY Post

 An upstate New York federal judge granted a preliminary injunction against Gov. Kathy Hochul’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate, barring the state Department of Health from enforcing the requirement on healthcare workers who claim religious exemptions while the case is being decided. 

“Upon review, plaintiffs have established at this early stage of the litigation that they are likely to succeed on the merits of this constitutional claim,” wrote Utica federal Judge David Hurd Tuesday.

He granted the request in response to a religious-freedom lawsuit filed last month against Hochul, the DOH and Attorney General Letitia James by 17 anonymous healthcare workers — the majority being Catholic — claiming the state’s mandate violated their constitutional rights.

Hurd’s decision extends a temporary restraining order granted shortly after the suit was filed and prohibits employers from citing the state’s mandate to deny exemption requests. It also pauses the DOH’s ability to enforce the rule, or revoke any religious exemptions granted since the mandate took effect on Sept. 27.

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Danny Dromm calls the cops on open street protesters!

Why doesn't little Danny call Transportation Alternatives and send the bike stasi over to help him?

Assembly holding hearing on ADUs tomorrow

We're about to get royally f*cked.



NY Post

More than $4 billion has flowed from City Hall to scandal-tarred shelter operators over the last eight years, accounting for more than a quarter of the money spent by the Big Apple to tackle its homelessness crisis, an examination of city records reveals.

The $4.6 billion in contract identified by the Post account for 29 percent of the $15.8 billion in contracts let by the Department of Homeless Services over Mayor Bill de Blasio’s nearly eight years in office.

The money has gone out to more than half a dozen shelter operators — including the embattled CORE Services Group — which have each been accused of issues ranging from failing to deliver on multi-million dollar contracts to executive profiteering.

Recent newspaper expos├ęs revealed, for instance, that CORE’s CEO Jack Brown established for-profit vendors that paid him handsomely thanks to millions in taxpayer funds from CORE, which also employed several of his friends and relatives. 

 “The idea that public dollars are going to fund lavish lifestyles of nonprofit executives and their families, instead of helping the neediest, should outrage every New Yorker,” said an outraged Councilman Stephen Levin (D-Brooklyn), who chairs the Council committee who oversees the DHS, when told of The Post’s findings.

“That money should be going to get families and children out of shelters and into apartments,” he added. “A child should not be spending a year and a half of their life living in a hotel room.”

For years, homeless activists and social service providers have argued that City Hall underfunded contracts to operate the Big Apple’s shelter system — and, compounding the problem, often failed to pay them on schedule.

That meant well-established organizations often refused to bid on the work, opening the door to less reputable providers.

“The amount of money identified and the amount of scandal suggests there are major, major problems with these contracts,” said John Kaehny, the head of government watchdog group Reinvent Albany, who called on the feds to get involved.

“Only federal investigators have the money and the resources to get to the bottom of this massive systemic failure,” he added. 

 Stephen Levin is outraged about all this, yet he was the one who was appointed to make sure that these "non"-profit provider executives would be grossly profiting off the homeless crisis which has exacerbated under his watch in the last 8 years. The Blaz couldn't find a better sycophantic feckless enabler.



The mirage broker

A rendering of the Eastern Mirage

NY Daily News 

A prominent Queens businessman and political donor is facing accusations that he and his wife lured hundreds of unwitting Chinese nationals into pouring a quarter-billion dollars into two development projects with the promise that their investments would help secure residency in the United States.

According to a complaint filed in Brooklyn Federal Court by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, Yi “Richard” Xia and his wife Julia Yue persuaded more than 450 investors to shell out $229 million to fund the construction of two five-star hotels, one in Flushing and the other in Corona.

The Flushing development, which was dubbed the Eastern Mirage Project and supposed to be finished in 2013, remains incomplete, and according to the SEC complaint, is “an unfinished and empty glass tower.” The other development, the Eastern Emerald Project, is “a largely vacant dirt hole surrounded by a concrete wall.”

Xia’s solicitations for investments spanned from 2010 to 2017, the SEC contends.

According to its complaint, Xia, 52, and Yue, 41, pitched the hotel projects as a way for investors from China to obtain American residency through the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ EB-5 program, which allows foreign nationals to qualify if they invest $500,000 or more in a project that creates or preserves jobs.

But, the SEC claims, the investors who made loans to project developers were being deceived.

Instead of their cash going where it was promised, money investors sent to the Mirage project was redirected to the Emerald development, and money intended for the Emerald project was sent to the Mirage job, the complaint claims.

“Defendants represented to investors that their $500,000 capital contributions would be used only for the construction and operation of that specific project. Instead, defendants repeatedly misappropriated money from one project and used it for another,” the complaint states. “Xia also misappropriated investor funds for personal and other improper expenses.”

To that end, the complaint claims that “at least $9.7 million in ill-gotten gains” were funneled into Yue’s personal bank accounts “for no legitimate business purpose.”

Xia also promised investors the projects would be financed through government bonds and bank loans, according to the complaint, which contends those assertions were false.

Xia and his wife did not immediately return calls seeking comment.

 Campaign finance records indicate that over the years Xia has donated generously to political causes, including contributions to Assemblyman Ron Kim, Councilman Peter Koo, state Sen. John Liu and a Democratic political action committee that wheeled thousands of dollars to former Rep. Joe Crowley.

Monday, October 11, 2021

This block blocks the NYPD


Caption the Blaz and his tax boondoggle wife 

That sidewalk is being obstructed by de Blasio's manspreading and that oblivious hipster.

It's a gas!


 NY Daily News

Federal researchers will release nontoxic particles and gases into the New York City subway this month as a part of a study on airborne terrorism threats, officials announced Sunday.

Researchers from the Homeland Security Department and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology aim to find “actionable data for emergency preparedness authorities,” according to an advisory from the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

The particles and gases that will be used in the study are designed to imitate biological and chemical agents, authorities said. The scientists will set up air testing devices at dozens of locations across the subway from Oct. 18-29 to conduct the study.

The Homeland Security Department did an environmental assessment of the gases and particles to be released to ensure they’re safe, officials said.

It’s not the first time the feds have used the city’s subway system as a testing ground for potential airborne attacks.

This month’s research is part of the Urban Threat Dispersion project, which in 2016 conducted similar experiments in the subway.

But U.S. officials haven’t always notified straphangers they’re involved in the test.

The Army in 1966 sprayed a bacteria officials said was harmless directly onto city subway riders as part of an experiment made public in 1980. The subway riders — accustomed to wild experiences underground — did not notice the test, which Army officials said made the system a prime target for a covert attack.

MTA officials promise the latest airborne tests will be much more transparent.

 Just forget about COVID-19 and the Delta Variant for a few more weeks

The vaccine mandate big chill


NY Daily News 

New York City restaurant and bar owners fear that their bottom line could freeze up this winter if Mayor de Blasio doesn’t renew an emergency permit allowing them to use propane heaters for outdoor service.

The permit, first issued by de Blasio in October 2020, lifted a ban on portable propane heaters to help keep eateries and watering holes open at a time when indoor service was prohibited because of COVID-19. But the waiver expired over the summer, and de Blasio has not said whether he’ll roll out another one ahead of this cold season.

James Mallios, owner of Amali, a Mediterranean restaurant on the Upper East Side is concerned.

Mallios said the propane heater permit was “one of the few bright spots” during the pandemic and that his restaurant would’ve gone belly up without it.

“Without exaggeration, if we did not have propane heaters last season we would be out of business,” said Mallios, who estimated he could lose nearly half of his 75-seat capacity if he can’t have propane heaters this winter.

Mallios is one of 85 restaurant and bar owners who sent de Blasio and Council Speaker Corey Johnson a letter in April, pleading to keep propane heaters burning this winter.

Neither men responded to the note, Mallios said. “That was disheartening,” he added.

 Before de Blasio’s emergency permit, propane heaters were long prohibited in commercial and hospitality settings due to fire hazards.

FDNY data shows there have been no propane-related explosions or fires at any city restaurants or bars since de Blasio’s order, which specified that heaters could only be placed on sidewalks, not near street seating.

Still, FDNY inspectors have issued more than 1,200 propane compliance violations and confiscated at least 1,000 improperly stored tanks since the ban was lifted, according to the data.

“In some of the most egregious incidents, 20-pound containers of propane were found on roadways, concealed by planters and other objects designed to provide vehicle impact protection,” said Frank Dwyer, an FDNY spokesman.


Sunday, October 10, 2021

Forest Park path alternative

 Queens Chronicle

 Parts of the west section of Forest Park began to close over the past week as the Parks Department began construction on a pedestrian and bike path connecting Glendale to the side adjacent to Woodhaven.

The nearly $4 million project will create a path that will slice through the section of park just east of the Forest Park Golf Course on the western half of the park from the intersection of Myrtle Avenue and Forest Park Drive to the Seuffert Bandshell Parking Lot.

The Glendale-facing entrance begins along a segment of Forest Park Drive that now functions as an off-ramp for the Jackie Robinson Parkway. The renovation will replace what is now a dirt path worn in the shoulder of the heavily trafficked street with a sidewalk-width road intended to be shared by cyclists and pedestrians.

The design for the path continues past that point along Forest Park Drive to cut south through the park until it connects back to the wooded area behind the bandshell parking lot. The southern section will build off of an unused concrete expanse in the park blocked off to car traffic with a two-pronged path consisting of a wide pedestrian route on one side and a two-way bike path on the other.

The entrance to that wide, dual-purpose path will contain plantings and a seating area and adult fitness equipment further down. The redesign will also provide security lighting along the section of Forest Park Drive.

Residents began to notice the project getting underway when they saw a gate go up around the Forest Park picnic area by the bandshell section of the park. Last Friday afternoon construction crews were on site demarcating the path and clearing debris from the path.

Though the picnic area could be blocked off for a year — the length of time Parks expects the construction to take — the project will also provide new picnic tables, grills and coal bins in the bandshell-adjacent section when it is finished.

The total price tag for the project is $3.93 million, consisting of $1.89 million of discretionary funds contributed by Councilman Bob Holden (D-Middle Village) and his predecessor, Elizabeth Crowley, $1.2 million from the Borough President’s Office and $841,000 from the mayor.

“I’m glad this project is moving forward. Our parks are very precious throughout the city, especially in this district. That’s why I’ve allocated more than $1.3 million to Forest Park for various projects,” Holden said in a statement.

While street safety advocates celebrated the addition of a bike path to improve connections and accessibility between Forest Park and Glendale, they spoke to the larger concern over how difficult it is to safely access other large portions of the park by bike or foot.

“This project should be a model to create bike-friendly entrances from all surrounding neighborhoods, including Woodhaven and Ozone Park,” said Juan Restrepo from Transportation Alternatives in a statement. “With the nearby Jackie Robinson Parkway and Woodhaven Boulevard, Forest Park remains inaccessible to the people the park should serve. NYC DOT must amplify the new bike path by creating a network of protected bike lanes to the park.”

Juan is quite a little Hitler about the streets of NYC. Such an exemplary spokesman for the Transportation Totalitarians.


NY Post 

It’s highway robbery — and the MTA doesn’t even know the culprit.

The authority is down at least $56 million thanks to “unbillable” tolls for which officials cannot find an address to mail the bill, State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli said Thursday.

MTA Bridges and Tunnels was unable to send bills for six million crossings through from September 2019 to June 2021 — leaving millions of dollars uncollected, the comptroller’s office said in a letter to the MTA following up on three-year-old audit into its cashless tolling.

A huge chunk of the lost revenue — $33.9 million — stemmed from the MTA and its vendors not having agreements with other states’ DMVs to access vehicle registration information, particularly for temporary plates.

Another $21.8 million went uncollected because license plates were either too dark, too bright, missing a state name — or just missing altogether. Thousands of transactions worth another $2.9 million went unbilled due to bad image quality.

Ex-Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced plans to remove tollbooths at the MTA’s seven bridges and two tunnels in late 2016. The program got underway a few months later.

The system’s flaws have come into sharp focus in recent months. In September, the MTA Inspector General flagged a transit employee who bragged to co-workers about eluding tolls with an obscured license plate and owed $100,000 in tolls and fines.

Trust fund dilletante brats take advantage of affordable housing tax break


 If you have a modest income but access to lots and lots of cash, New York City has an apartment ownership program that’s right up your alley. Even if it wasn’t meant for you at all.

 The changes at the building in Brooklyn’s Williamsburg neighborhood began in 2009, when a guitar shop owner whose father was a renowned art appraiser purchased a four-bedroom apartment. His mom lent him the money. Then came a writer who borrowed from her mother, a psychologist. A movie production manager and her partner, a photo director, bought their unit with a loan from her father, a physician in Maryland. A flurry of additional purchases without mortgages followed, including by a Shakespearean actress whose father lives in a terraced penthouse overlooking Central Park and a fashion designer whose father is a gynecologist in California.

Similar colonies of young people with creative sensibilities and well-off parents have taken root in Williamsburg for years, but the gentrification of this particular six-story building on South 2nd Street had a surprising set of enablers: the taxpayers of New York. It’s one of about 1,000 properties across the city that receive a special property tax break created to make homeownership affordable for low-income people. The building had income restrictions, and these buyers met them. At the same time, they had access to a lot of cash, which they used to score their units at well below market prices. Never mind their wealth or their parents’; the tax break doesn’t require any limit on assets or preclude gifts.

The children of America’s wealthy are quietly sewing up deals like this in some of New York’s most desirable neighborhoods, in buildings known as Housing Development Fund Corporation cooperatives, or HDFCs. These buildings were at one time in financial (and often physical) distress, and many are still shunned by conventional mortgage underwriters—hence the need for buyers to pay cash. Many are no longer cheap, because the agreements that once limited resale prices have expired. But even at prices that can crest well above $1 million, they’re discounted to the market, because of the income limit on buyers and the lack of available financing in some cases. And the taxes can be remarkably low. On South 2nd Street, the owners enjoy annual property tax discounts of roughly 70%.

The tax break was designed to be simple—too simple, as it turns out. The program sets a maximum taxable value for every HDFC unit across the city. This year it’s $11,079, in a market where the median price for a home has risen to $770,000. Because of this system, half the aggregate tax benefit will go to the top 20% of eligible buildings by value. Struggling buildings in poorer areas, meanwhile, will get no benefit at all. Their values are too low for the tax break to have any effect, and because of their HDFC status, they don’t get an abatement that most market-rate co-ops receive. Dozens have been foreclosed on in recent years for unpaid taxes.

In short, because of inadequate rules, poor design, and decades of lax oversight, these low-income tax subsidies are being scooped up by the well-to-do. “They’re just gaming the system,” says Penny Gurstein, an expert on affordable housing who directs the Housing Research Collaborative at the University of British Columbia. “This is now just being used as a playground for the rich.”

Across the U.S., studies have shown that local property tax systems, which raise more than $500 billion annually, are deeply unfair, favoring the wealthy and systematically applying higher effective tax rates to lower-valued properties. New York’s outcomes are among the most unequal. But even in a system shot through with inequalities, the exploitation of the HDFC program by affluent bargain hunters stands out.

HDFC sales are infrequent, and not all of them go for big-dollar prices. Nonetheless, it happens often enough that the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development acknowledges that “strong reforms are needed.” The agency made a run at that in 2016 but failed in the face of what a spokesman called “strong objections from many HDFC co-ops and their elected representatives.” Since then, the most desirable HDFC apartments, swept along by the forces of the New York real estate market, have only drifted further beyond the reach of the people they were set up for.

An HDFC cooperative exists, per New York state law, “exclusively to develop a housing project for persons of low income.” That doesn’t stop some HDFC buildings from advertising how lax they are about enforcing income limits. Bloomberg Businessweek found dozens of listings dating to 2010 that failed to mention income restrictions for the building or plainly said there were none. A four-bedroom unit at 238 W. 106th St. was listed this year for $1.85 million and advertised as having “no income restrictions,” despite city records showing it benefits from the exemption for low-income housing. The building’s HDFC status lowered its taxable value this year by $3.6 million and cuts its owners’ tax bill by more than $400,000. A building manager at ABC Realty, which manages the building, told Bloomberg Businessweek she would inform the brokers that “they need to be compliant.”

When income limits are enforced, the rules can be as complex and unintuitive as everything else about New York City real estate. Depending on its governing documents, a building will set the limit by various methods. One looks like this: Take the annual common charges for the unit, plus the estimated annual utilities, and multiply that by six (or seven if the buyer’s family is big enough). Then add 6% of the seller’s original purchase price. That’s your income ceiling. Some buildings keep it simpler—and perhaps get to a higher number—by using a percentage of the area median income, or AMI, for the New York metropolitan area. Buildings that are committed to low-income ownership might set the limit at 80% of AMI, which matches the city’s definition of low-income. But an HDFC can go as high as 165% of AMI. This year that translates to $137,940 for a single person and $196,845 for a family of four.

For buildings with high prices and tight income caps, gifting is just about the only way a qualified person can buy some of these apartments, especially if an all-cash deal is necessary. The upshot is that a child of well-to-do parents is something of a perfect buyer.