Saturday, March 31, 2007
In Another Yards, Eminent Domain Chugs Along
This article is about Sunnyside, but the photo is of a beautiful house on 65th Place in Woodside headed for the wrecking ball under the LIRR expansion plan.
To The Editor:
It is settled law; government through eminent domain has the power, as indeed it should, to take private property for a public use and to pay just compensation. Traditional examples are schools, roads and government buildings.
The issue of late is the 5 to 4 decision of the U. S. Supreme Court in the Kelo case that equated economic development with public use. In short, private property for just compensation can be taken by government and turned over to a private, for-profit developer if it is done to enhance economic development.
The Kelo case generated much controversy-as indeed it should have-resulting in some jurisdictions not including New York City, pushing for legislation to prohibit such taking. The trouble with the concept of taking for allegedly economic purposes, apart from the speculative nature of a purported project, is that it often ignores the ugly reality that such projects involve private, for-profit entrepreneurs and all too often the result of unsavory back room political shenanigans, with the public effectively shut out of any meaningful say in the matter. Indeed, the financial particulars and taxpayer contributions are often purposefully obscure.
The Supreme Court tends to decide cases on a very narrow basis. I believe it would not take too much to have one or more of the five justices who supported the majority decision to distinguish the Kelo case and arrive at a different result.
I believe the Willets Pont matter would be just such a case. (EDC Begins Talks On Willets Point, Queens Tribune March 22, 2007) A recent study by Hunter College found there are some 225 businesses in Willets Point, employing more than 1,400 people. These are viable businesses that serve an important public need, support many families and pay taxes. That they do not deal in silk and lace is of course irrelevant. In short we are not talking about an economically depressed area, but in fact a vibrant one.
The notion these businesses should be thrown to the wind for a hotel, a convention center and more luxury housing because that is what will consume the majority of the area, is not only absurd, but downright stupid. Within walking distance of Willets Point are many hotels, so the notion that another hotel is an economic plus is without any probative value. Many millions of taxpayer dollars have been committed to an enlargement of the Javits Convention center, so another convention center would serve no legitimate purpose.
If the City wanted to put up solely public housing for the poor, it might have a point. But if we are talking for the most part about a hotel, a convention center and luxury housing, I do not think given the current economic status of Willets Point that the Kelo case would and should not be a precedent. In the absence of convincing hard evidence, not speculative, not from so called “ paid experts,” there is no basis to claim a right of eminent domain for an economic purpose, when the current economic base in Willets Point, is good. To the extent the area needs some cosmetic uplifting, taxpayer dollars should be utilized.
A Gucci store that sells merchandise for the rich does not serve any greater public need than a body and fender shop. Indeed, in a city that is increasingly accommodating to the rich and crowding out the poor and the middle class, I believe a body and fender shop is more important. Willets Point businesses should not in my opinion rely too heavily on help from local and citywide politicians whose constituency is often the real estate interests in this city. One hopes the Willets Point businesses band together and take legal action to oppose the taking of their livelihood on the dubious ground an economic purpose would be served thereby. I venture to guess that if those businesses contacted the law firm that represented the homeowners in the Kelo case, it might well be interested to represent them.
Benjamin M. Haber,
Here is a link from No Land Grab about the eminent domain issue:
Eminent domain case gets serious consideration in court (but the press mostly passes)
What will Gioia, Gianaris and Vallone complain about now?
City defends Con Ed in new study
City Report Defends Con Ed for Key Choice in Blackout
Maybe when the overdevelopment they promote causes another blackout, they'll pounce on Con Ed again.
Photo from NY Times
Former Cinema Site No Closer To Cleanup
Looking at that construction fence makes me happy about this:
Property Owners Face Fines For Not Removing Graffiti
Photo from Queens Chronicle
This monster completely dwarfs the tasteful 1 and 2 family homes that line the rest of the block. As if cramming all those people into the building isn't enough, the owner has probably generated some nice extra cash by lining the entire roof line with cell phone towers. Can you hear me now?
DOB records indicate that residents have been complaining about the elevator being out of service since 2005. There are 6 floors in the building and 20+ units. That's better than a stairmaster!
Friday, March 30, 2007
"At the Queens County Republican dinner last night, Councilman Dennis Gallagher's face went from pink to beet red when he observed fellow Republican Tony Nunziato, cousin of liberal Dem Councilman Eric Gioia (no one knows how that happened), walking into the Reception House on Northern Boulevard with a stack of Juniper Berry magazines. The magazine, published by the Juniper Park Civic Association, contains a scathing editorial about Gallagher's blatant abuse of power and his ongoing war against the civic.
Gallagher immediately ran crying to Republican Party Chair, Phil Ragusa, who with Anthony Como and another party man, marched over to JPCA president Bob Holden and Nunziato and instructed them not to give out the magazine. Nunziato angrily said that he was giving the stack of magazines to the president of a local organization who had requested them. Ragusa backed off. The person who Nunziato handed the magazines off to in turn started handing them out to others. The joke was on Pinky.
This is typical of Gallagher to try and stifle free speech and it fits into his strong-arm Tammany Hall style politics. Gallagher is now removing JPCA board members from the community board. Edward Kampermann received his pink slip (or should I say "Pinky" slip) removing him from CB5 in the mail yesterday and the axe is sure to fall on more victims in the next few days.
Before the last election, voters in the 15th Senate District had one choice for 12 years (6 elections)... Serf Maltese. In a district where Democrats outnumber Republicans by more than 3-1, it was unbelievable that the Democrats could not come up with one candidate in all those years. Last November, a Democrat candidate emerged to accept the challenge to Maltese. Albert Baldeo, a Guyanese-American, without any help from the Queens Democratic Party, came within 700 votes of upsetting the longtime Senator. The donkey party now had egg on their face. The same can be said of the Republicans. Markey has had only one challenger in her 10 years in office. And many other candidates including Gallagher ran unopposed for several years.
The jig is up in Queens County. The voters are sick and tired of backroom candidates and dirty deals. The next few years promise to be interesting."
The residents at Lane Towers have recently become aware of the proposed hotel development at 70th Road and Austin Street as revealed on the front page of the Feb. 15 Queens Chronicle.
We urge Community Board 6 to reject this outlandish attempt to build a structure that is wholly unsuited for our block and neighborhood. The proposed area of construction is an increasingly heavily traveled and over-congested portion of Austin Street and 70th Road. Currently, the residents struggle to find parking and even getting out of the local garages is a terrific challenge.
This hotel will do nothing but make a difficult situation fabulously worse, impacting the daily lives of the people who live in the area. The local residents gain nothing from this ill-conceived idea, except more noise, more traffic, more pollution, less parking and a general lowering of the quality of life.
The innate character and value that is unique to Forest Hills will be decimated, as this hotel will obliterate one of the key benefits of living in Forest Hills — a nice neighborhood close to Manhattan without the obvious disadvantage of being in Manhattan.
The residents who move into the apartments and houses of Forest Hills do so because they do not want to live in Manhattan. This benefit is precisely what would be negated by the developer’s self-proclaimed intent of turning Forest Hills into a “mini Manhattan.” We don’t want to live in “mini Manhattan.”
The developer, Heskel Elias, has stated he will not build the hotel if he does not get the variance necessary to construct such an oversized, garish and out-of-character building in the neighborhood. For the benefit of the residents of Forest Hills, the residents of Lane Towers urge you not to approve such a variance.
Simha Chandran, president
Lane Towers — Board of Directors
Coney Island certainly has a unique character all its own, and the people who live and work there want to keep it that way.
Thor v. the mermaids
Fight to preserve Coney Island spirit
Rally against Coney Island condos
CONEY I. CARNIES BARKING
Photo from Forgotten NY.
Here's a slideshow and an interactive map. Below is their full-color centerfold:
In the meantime, the Daily News reports that something smells fishy along the East River in Brooklyn:
$70M asked without any pier review.
April - Public scoping meeting for Environmental Impact Statement (EIS)
Spring/Summer - Agency review of EIS Chapters
Summer - Launch Business Assistance and Workforce Program
Fall - Release Draft EIS and begin Uniformed Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP)
Spring - Complete ULURP Summer - Select Developer
Summer/Fall - Begin Acquisition Process
Begin Business Relocation
In the meantime:
Whither Willets Point redevelopment
Photos from Queens Courier
"The latest video of the NY Times printing plant site where you can see exposed fill potentially contaminating Mill Creek and the adjacent wetlands. A NY Times rep, at the CB#7 meeting of 2/22/07, said no fill will be exposed or placed near the wetlands. Liar! Liar! Pants on fire!!!!!" - Alan
Don’t Landmark Sunnyside
Regarding the lack of debate in Sunnyside Gardens over the Special Planned Community Preservation District now in place and the push by a small group to landmark the district.Many of us who found out about landmarking at the first government meeting on Nov. 29 thought we were in the middle of researching, discussing and finding answers about how best to preserve the neighborhood. Instead, our voices were cut off when the Landmarks Preservation Commission decided to listen to outsiders who are preservation experts in other neighborhoods, and to a small group of residents spreading fears of overdevelopment, and to calendar Sunnyside Gardens on March 6 while we were in the middle of this process.
Many homeowners and renters are still just learning about the complex issues at hand. Homeowners in the Bengali community have literally been shut out of the process and only came to a public meeting on Feb. 27 because a few of us reached out to them. After three months of research and meetings with two people from City Planning, with four people from the Landmarks Preservation Commission, with two lawyers, three preservationists and six urban planners, it is my deep belief that we would be better protected from overdevelopment with an adjustment to the current PC District regulation, and we would be better able to exist as a community of people, not just houses and buildings, by having continued open dialogues and debates.
I asked the commission, the City Council and the community board for translation of announcements back in December for homeowners who are not proficient in English. This request acknowledges that in Queens, we are in the most diverse locality in the United States, and that while I know many immigrants who speak several languages including English, there are also homeowners who are not proficient in English. Several of us have experience and expertise in reaching out to non-English speakers and in how to organize simultaneous translation. Our requests have fallen on deaf ears at the commission, our community board and our City Council.
We are calling for Landmarks to stop this process and for the community to have an open public debate on the detailed and complex issues of zoning and regulation. We have an alternative proposal and we would like to present it in an effort to not only address issues in Sunnyside Gardens but to begin a discussion about the greater Sunnyside community.
(April 17 at 2pm, hearing. They have it Bengali as well.)
As a resident of Sunnyside Gardens for over 11 years and a homeowner here for eight and a half years, I have come to love and greatly appreciate the unique character and ambiance of the neighborhood. It offers a quality of life and a sense of place that is rare in New York City and is something I would not ever want to see disappear.
Unfortunately, during the years I have been fortunate to live here, I have seen changes take place to many of the homes and more important, to the gardens that are not respectful of the character of the neighborhood. Extensions that are out of scale and do not match the design of the homes, along with numerous driveways and parking spaces that have been added, despite the fact that they are not allowed under current guidelines for the neighborhood. If these changes continue, Sunnyside Gardens will be gardens in name only.
While the gardens are a Special Preservation District, anyone who takes the time to stroll through the entire neighborhood will see countless examples of changes that violate, not only the spirit, but also the letter of the law of the district. It is for this reason I support wholeheartedly the designation of Sunnyside Gardens as a Landmark District.
Such a designation will offer many benefits. One of the most important and one that will greatly reduce the number of violations, is the fact that new and prospective residents will know that the has been designated a landmark neighborhood. Currently, many who buy homes here are not made aware of the rules that exist within the Preservation District. This has resulted in many of the problems we face today, and in many unpleasant situations where owners have made a change or started to, only to find out after the fact that what they have done is not allowed.
While some fear the intrusion of a government agency into the process, the rules that will be put in place — with community input I should add — will be far clearer and the process for getting approval for any desired changes, far easier and much faster than is currently the case.
Photo from AM NY.
But there's apparently money available to paint the Parks Department symbol onto the soccer field grass. Forget about making improvements that any park user can actually see or appreciate. Its' more important to show off to the people flying into Laguardia - who can't see what a disgrace the rest of the park has become.
So while the Fountain of the Planets (center) is left to decay into a rotten pool of filth (notice it is greener than the grass) it is surrounded by Parks Department symbols. How appropriate.
These photos (from Google Earth) appear to be a year or so old. QC will try to find out if the symbols are still being maintained. Adrian - are you still misusing our tax dollars to show off like this?
Thursday, March 29, 2007
This was 2004, before his re-election. In 2007, all bets are off.
P.S. The Ratner mention is classic as well.
Gallagher, civic spar on interviews
Civic leader and CB5 member Robert Holden has said he believes Queens County Democrats and Republicans agree not to run candidates in certain districts so incumbents can stand for re-election unopposed. In a telephone interview, Holden said his request to bring an attorney and stenographer to an interview with Gallagher concerning his reappointment to the board were denied.
Can't blame him for wanting that session recorded. Not surprised that the Pinkster said no, either.
This follows QC's exclusive on how Pinky taunted an ex-Marine at a shopping mall and how Pinky continues his Napoleonic crusade.
In related news, it looks as though Queens Crap can cross the Middle Village-Maspeth Civic Association off of our Christmas card list this year (despite featuring their meeting as a community event a couple of weeks ago). Look at the ridiculous response one of their members received when they disagreed with the organization's obvious butt-kissing:
When harassment is an indication of mental illness
Dennis Gallagher Must Go!
Crappy finds himself a little disturbed by this, for a civic association should be happy to see their elected officials held accountable for their indefensible actions, like removing people from a community board who are committed to bettering their neighborhood. It seems their only crime is disagreeing with their councilman on zoning changes and variances.
Issues such as parking and crowded schools already are problems within the district, and they would be exacerbated by the new zoning, state Senator Frank Padavan, a Republican of Queens, said. "They should be looking for ways to decrease density," he said of the area around Hillside Avenue. "There's no more space."
Jamaica Rezoning Proposal Is Drawing Fire in Queens
Amanda Burden weighed in, too: "There have been long-standing issues that the Jamaica community has had with water, sewer, traffic, and this is a tremendous opportunity to get these issues addressed," she said.
Why do we need to upzone in order to address these things? Shouldn't they be addressed first?
From the Queens Chronicle: Jamaica Rezone Gets Community Board's OK
AirTrain Blues: New Plan May Shutter Local Shops
From the Times Ledger: CB 12 backs Jamaica transport plans
I wonder how the Queen feels about this plan. More people in Jamaica will mean less room on the E & F trains for her Forest Hills subjects.
Anthony, oh, Anthony, how did you ever get this far in life?
State Never Saw Business Plan For Atlantic Yards Project
Kudos for pushing through a project of this magnitude without thinking of the cost or consequences.
This man wants to be president. (Actually, he sounds a lot like another guy named George.)
Photo from Wikipedia
Mike points finger of blame at borrowers too
There's nothing quite like being victimized by a scam artist and then being told it's your own fault by the people who were supposed to protect you from that scam artist.
Meanwhile, Dan Doctoroff is preparing to unveil the mayor's 2030 plan:
Doctoroff's Healthy Fear
"The fear is that we're going to see growth that the infrastructure and the environment can't sustain. Quality of life deteriorating, and then just as happened in the '70s, you'll begin to see the decline. That's what our real concern is."
Guess what, Danny boy? That's happening right now, right here in Queens.
Hey how about this for ducking a direct question?
Have cancer? Who cares? Dr. Frieden has refused to investigate citizen concerns about a cluster of Polycythemia Vera in Queens. However, banning fat and unleashing dogs are big priorities for him.
Street namings and resolutions don't come cheap.
Here's what he's talking about:
For the first time, the cost of running the City Council will average $1 million per member.
Under a new budget approved yesterday, the Council will spend $54.6 million on itself in 2007-08 - a 7.5% increase over the last budget.
That works out to an average $1,070,754 for each of its 51 members.
Think your City Council member is worth $1M?
The crappy structure on the left boasts exposed water meters, and three parked cars on its property. At least the tree was spared from becoming another parking spot
For now, most homeowners in Jamaica Estates care about their homes. Most lawns remain unpaved and unfenced. Most trees remain untouched.
Some streets don't even have sidewalks! It feels like being on the edge of a city.
You be the judge - is this home an example of Queens or crap? Water meters and wires are not exposed; the lawn is green; the height is the same as its neighbors. On the other hand, the pink color makes the home look like a life-size dollhouse. - by mazeartist
Wednesday, March 28, 2007
Take Me Out to the Mall Game
So will this stadium's revenue go toward fixing up Flushing Meadows, or is the plan to continue to use the grass as a parking lot on game days?
As a side note, the Voice is also declaring that the next Mickey Mantle plays in Queens:
Inheriting the Mantle
Illustration from ProjectBallpark.org
From: Kevin Walsh
Subject: The "Real" Flushing Meadows
Dear Councilmember Monserrate:
I am Kevin Walsh, author of the book Forgotten New York (HarperCollins, 2006) and webmaster of the site on which it is based, www.forgotten-ny.com.
Many of my readers have reacted to a recent page I posted about the disgraceful conditions in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, including this forwarded message (see below). The park should be Queens' crown jewel, but its abandonment and neglect by the Parks Department is a shame.
Action is desperately needed in the park, which serves a vast area including Corona and Flushing. Please help make the necessary repairs happen.
From: Michael Texier
Sent: Mar 28, 2007 8:25 AM
To: Kevin Walsh
Subject: The Real Flushing Meadows
I just wanted to drop a note to tell you how great your posting on the real Flushing Meadows is. It's so good that you are helping to bring to light this forgotten treasure.
The World's Fairs represent an amazing time in New York City and it's tragic that the site is so neglected. I remember my incredible disappointment when after having read a story about the Fountain Of The Planets I went out to Flushing Meadows the following weekend for the first time hoping to see this incredible sight along with the other bits and pieces left over from the fairs. Seeing the sad remains was a total let down. Sometimes ruins can be grand, but in this case it is only decrepit.
I really hope your story gets picked up and more people realize what is being lost. Just because it isn't Central Park and it isn't in Manhattan doesn't mean we shouldn't care about something that is such an important piece of New York history.
Will the Councilman reply? We'll let you know.
Pollution and the constant drone of speeding cars from the thoroughfare keeps children and their parents away, locals said...
Play's grounded at city park
According to the findings, 380,000 people, or about 17% of Queens residents live within 500 feet - two city blocks - of a busy road. Tailpipe pollution poses serious health risks to residents living within that zone, including heart and lung diseases and asthma attacks.
Health-risk zones tied to traffic: study
Two health studies Environmental Defense examined found a 50% rise in the risk of asthma for children living within 250 feet of a busy road.
The risk of heart disease jumped 85%...
"The impact is significantly higher the closer you are to the road," said Andy Darrell of Environmental Defense. "There is a 500-foot risk zone around busy, congested roadways. That is a conservative estimate."
The Environmental Defense report is available here: Heavy New York Traffic Puts Health at Risk.
Photo from NY Daily News
Set Up For a Fall
"Since most people in foreclosure end up losing their homes, some of these worst affected neighborhoods are going to be devastated..."
Perhaps, but that's all the better for the developers.
What am I saying, these are still small one family houses. They've just had some minor alterations. No, these definitely aren't new buildings.
Believe me now? Told you these are alterations. I repeat, these are NOT new buildings.
Tuesday, March 27, 2007
"There were work crews inside the building at the time of the collapse. Welders working on the first floor heard a rumble and saw dust and just ran for it, 1010 WINS Juliet Papa reported. No one was living in the building at the time, and all 12 workers have been accounted for."
Interesting thing is that the DOB website reports that the cause was "FAILURE TO CARRY OUT DEMO IN SAFE & PROPER MANNER," however, the permits applied for were alteration permits.
Not to worry...the DOB Command Team is on the case...
And one final thing: The person who owns the property is a Forest Hills developer, and this was a self-certified job.
Photo from 1010Wins.com
“Many people in the Parks forestry offices struggle every day to protect trees, (but) when it comes to capital division projects, they are told to shut up and stay out of it.”
Arborist and Flushing resident Carsten Glaeser documented 89 trees he said were damaged during the Kissena Lake restoration project in 2005.
Even Johnny Liu has injected himself into the controversy:
For a War Rarely Honored, a Disputed Memorial
“That just doesn’t make sense — a grass that’s more conducive to people or animals urinating,” [John Liu] said. “I don’t know of any grasses that have more of a diuretic effect than others.”
QC agrees, John, your quote just doesn't make sense.
Parks Defends Memorial’s Tree Plan
Open House Report: Astoria Windsor's Dose of Blue
"It's sandwiched between a car detailer and a ramshackle freestanding house, and right across the street from the Sunoco station in what is, at best, an "okay" neighborhood."
Now Curbed's readers are generally pro-development, but the comments on their thread (as of the posting of this entry) are unanimous in the sentiment that what's being built in Astoria is quite fugly.
Of course, there are always the people out there who think this stuff is fantastic and improves the neighborhood.
Photo from Curbed
One of these things doesn't belong here
The rest of these things look kind of the same
Can you guess which one just doesn't belong here
Guess before my song is done...
And now my song is done.
So let's see...we have:
- A 1940s rowhouse where the garage was replaced with a dwelling unit
- Cars parked on the space in front of the ground floor apartment
- The front of the building built out further than its neighbors
- The contiguous roofline altered
- The hideous balcony/ballustrade and stuccoed facade.
- A slew of violations
- A self-certified job
All the makings of a piece of Queens Crap!
Photo courtesy of mazeartist
Ditty courtesy of Sesame Street
Monday, March 26, 2007
On Churches, Some See Increased Preservation Effort
Except in Queens, where they can't be torn down fast enough to make way for housing, be it luxury condos or senior apartments. This happens right after the LPC looks at the request to evaluate it for designation, sees a Queens address, has a good laugh, and chucks it in their circular file.
Photo of Astoria Presbyterian Church from Greater Astoria Historical Society
HOME $ICK NYERS
It's nice that Senator Schumer is concerned about this, but why did he wait so long to do something about it? It's not like this practice and its consequences were a big secret. Do you ever wonder if politicians intentionally allow problems to fester so that they can appear as though they have ridden into town on a white horse and saved the day?
In Surge in Manhattan Toddlers, Rich White Families Lead Way
Compare to Manhattan, where rich folks seem to be having a lot more kids than the rest of the city. They'll soon be the only people who can afford to raise them.
We call it the "Maspeth mystery building" because DOB does not have any new building permits filed for it under its address. City planning records indicate it contains 9 "residential units" but has 15 "total units." Use the city map and enter this address and you will see what we mean. City planning also says that the building was built in 1986, however neighbors will tell you that it definitely was completed sometime during the Bloomberg administration.
Sunday, March 25, 2007
"The original library is one of 1,689 free public libraries built in the country between 1883 and 1929 through funds provided by philanthropist Andrew Carnegie. Each boasts a distinct architectural style that was based on the community it was in.
The Elmhurst Library was opened in 1906 and cost about $46,000 to build."
Modern Building Eyed For Elmhurst Library
Sadly, it comes as no surpise that the city wants to destroy another beautiful building in Elmhurst. Next thing you know, they'll want to tear down Newtown High School - thank God at least that's landmarked and can't be replaced with a cinderblock piece of shit.
Here is a suggestion from Queens Crap - instead of tearing this building down, why not just expand the library into the latest piece of Huang family crap across the street and next to the Dutch Reformed Church? Since the city seems to allow them to build whatever they want regardless of the zoning code, and their latest Elmhurst creation certainly has the sought after 29,600 square feet, it would be a match appropriately made in hell.
First photo from Forgotten NY.