Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Crowley campaign reacts really inappropriately

Two anti-establishment 30th CD candidates - Democrat Charles Ober and Republican Tom Ognibene - will team up (today) to denounce an anonymous letter recently received by residents throughout the Queens district that attacks Ober because he is gay.

Ober's campaign alleges that the letter, which employs the word "faggot" multiple times, is part of a "dirty tricks" effort to undermine his candidacy.

In a brief phone interview, Ober, who says he is the first openly-gay candidate for office in the 30th CD, declined to say who he thought was behind the letter, but did note that he is not being supported by the Queens Democratic Party, which is backing Elizabeth Crowley, cousin of Rep. Joe Crowley, the party chair.

Ober, Ognibene Decry Anti-Gay 'Hate Mail' In The 30th

"It's outrageous that Charles Ober is allowing himself to be used by Tom Ognibene and the Republicans, since Ognibene’s entire career has been an affront to everything Ober claims to stand for.

Rather than standing with Republican Tom Ognibene, Charles Ober should work with other Democrats to take back this seat for the party."
- Alyson Grant, campaign manager for Liz Crowley

You'd think they'd try to deny authoring the flier instead of making such an asinine statement attacking the victim. So they probably did send it out. This sounds like typical Queens Machine tactics.

Astoria to get another power plant

Authority Approves Power Plant for New York City

The New York Power Authority is authorizing a new power plant in Queens to help feed New York City's growing need for power.

The state authority has selected Astoria Energy LLC to build a new gas-fueled plant in Queens under a 20-year contract. The decision will help make up for the loss of the Charles Poletti Power Project in Queens, which is due to close in 2010.

The power will serve government customers, including the New York City schools and hospitals, subways and commuter trains, and public housing.

Have no fear. Peter Vallone, Jr. is "on it".

Doesn't Astoria already have its fair share of power plants? I mean, why not plunk one down in the middle of Douglaston? Angry NYer agrees.

Update: Pete got fiery with the mayor today:

Powerhouse more hideous than ever

Hey folks, Crappy knows a budding piece of crap when I see it. I've been making fun of this horrendous design for more than a year now. As the project progresses, it becomes even more obvious that I was right. This Restless person agrees:

I hated the Powerhouse the second I noticed the sun bouncing off its plastic Coppertone top, long before I knew it was one of Karl's. In fact I thought it might be a Donald Trump enterprise, because of the tacky casino faux-class of its round castle towers and metallic color. As I said in the comments, "If I worked at the U.N., right across the river, I would sue for degradation of view."

Thanks to Curbed for linking to this first.

Suspending the gas tax

As gas prices soar to new records daily, the Republican-led state Senate will call for the suspension of the state's gasoline tax as a way to cut the price at the pumps by more than 30 cents a gallon.

NY Senate to propose suspending gas tax

However, the proposed suspension could create a $500 million hole in state finances, already shaken by a likely recession, and would face opposition in the Democrat-controlled Assembly.

Developer pleads guilty to bribery

A Smithtown developer pleaded guilty to a felony bribery charge yesterday - the second person to admit guilt and agree to cooperate in a widening building department corruption probe that has rocked town government.

Robert Fitzpatrick, 55, of Bayport, pleaded guilty to third-degree bribery before Suffolk County Court Judge Martin Efman. He was released on his own recognizance until his sentencing on July 14.

As part of a plea deal, Fitzpatrick faces a reduced maximum sentence of 1 to 3 years in prison, or as little as no jail time at all.

Prosecutor Kevin Ward said Fitzpatrick admitted to offering a $5,000 bribe to then-chief building inspector Robert Bonerba in March 2003 in connection with a house being built by Smithtown developer Frank Esposito.

Ward said Fitzpatrick lied on building permits for the developer's house to save money on permit fees and avoid a higher tax liability.

Smithtown developer pleads guilty in bribery case

Why not just do this in the first place?

NYC DOT Has New Congestion Plan

NEW YORK (AP) -- There's a new plan to reduce New York City congestion. However this program released by the city's Department of Transportation yesterday will not include fees to drive into midtown, like Mayor Michael Bloomberg's ill-fated plan tried to do.

The latest plan called the Sustainable Streets program calls for using a green approach to making the streets more car and pedestrian friendly.

Highlights include doubling the number of people who bike by 2015, new parking policies to reduce the number of drivers adding to traffic by driving around looking for a spot, rapid transit bus routes, and new public plazas.

Transit advocates say the plan is a good start.

And here's another way to raise money without congestion pricing: EXTERIOR TRAIN ADS ON TRACK. Amazing how resourceful we can be when we're not relying on federal government handouts.

Safety regs put damper on development

From Curbed:

So now, developers, builders and unions are complaining that the the city's safety crackdown is so tough that, in the words of today's Times, it "is causing unnecessary delays and layoffs at some major construction sites..."

Developers, Builders Say the Safety Thing is Causing Delays

Hey, better safe than sorry!

Fencing lessons in Maspeth

This wonderful company at Maurice Avenue, 53rd Drive and 61st Street opens their gate every day and tethers it to a telephone pole. I believe in NYC you are supposed to have a fence that opens 'in' and not 'out' for safety reasons. Second, you are not allowed to tie anything to public utility poles. Third, and most importantly, you may not block the sidewalk. Looks like both DOB and DOT need to make a visit to this corner.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Two construction accidents within 12 hours

Within a 12-hour span, two construction workers have been injured at two different sites in Manhattan and on Staten Island, as the city promotes its fourth annual Construction Safety Week.

Aqueduct getting total makeover

Locally based SL Green Realty Corp. plans to revitalize the legendary Aqueduct Race Track. The redevelopment plan includes working with the Hard Rock brand, which will help develop and operate a fully integrated entertainment complex--with racing, gaming, restaurants, retail and hotels.

SL Green Teams for Aqueduct Race Track Redo

SL Green’s vision for Aqueduct includes a gaming floor housing 4,500 video lottery terminals. Future amenities may also entail a Hard Rock hotel designed to four-Diamond standards which would include restaurants, a spa and fitness center, a pool and a display that would showcase some of Hard Rock’s most valuable music memorabilia; an Aqueduct Entertainment Complex which would include nighttime entertainment and high-end retail and outlet shops; and a Hard Rock Live Entertainment venue that would feature some of the greatest names in the music industry. If selected, SL Green will work with the state and the local communities in realizing this vision for a revitalized Aqueduct.

Waldheim waits for rezone no longer

The long-awaited rezoning of the Waldheim area of Flushing is expected to kick off with a community forum on Thursday.

Residents finally to see Waldheim rezoning plan

The city planners are scheduled to unveil the Waldheim rezoning plan and listen to feedback at the meeting in the auditorium of Flushing Hospital.

"After many years of study, community input and deliberation, the long-awaited proposal for the rezoning of the Waldheim neighborhood is moving closer to reality," said Waldheim Neighborhood Association secretary John Tsavalos.

Working with the association, the Department of City Planning is considering ways to preserve the area's one- and two-family homes, "while recognizing its vibrancy and growth," said Tsavalos.

Gene Kelty, chairman of Community Board 7, noted the community has been waiting years for this rezoning and that the board "will try to expedite approval for the proposed plan as quickly as possible."

City Councilman John Liu (D-Flushing) said that as the community grows, "we need to protect the quality of life and neighborhood character that attracted so many of us to live in Flushing in the first place."

District Manager Marilyn Bitterman said the community board is expected to vote on the rezoning as early as June.

Photo from Forgotten NY

Birthday party for Borden Avenue Bridge

From Miss Heather:

Queens Borough President Helen M. Marshall and LaGuardia Community College President Gail O. Mellow and the NYC Centennial Bridge Commission cordially invite you to the opening of the Borden Avenue Bridge Centennial Exhibition at NYDesigns, 45-50 30th Street, 7th Floor, Long Island City, New York.

Festivities begin at 6:00 p.m. and you can R.S.V.P. by calling (718) 482-5154.

City still rolling in dough

Somebody forgot to tell New York the economy is crashing.

Even as the nation's financial woes worsen, cash is still rolling into city coffers, Mayor Bloomberg admitted Monday as he prepares to unveil a new budget.

The city is still on pace to rack up a $4 billion surplus this year - a welcome stash of money, but a slightly politically sticky situation for the mayor.

Bloomberg is trying to clamp down on spending to get ready for what he says will be tough times ahead, including imposing a hiring freeze and ordering several layers of cutbacks in city agencies.

He soon heads into budget negotiations with the City Council, which may have some other plans for the extra cash.

Mayor wary of surplus in budget

Idle teachers are a huge waste of money

New York City is paying $81 million over two years in salaries and benefits for teachers without permanent teaching jobs, according to a report being released on Tuesday.

$81 Million for Reserve of Teachers

The teachers are part of the so-called reserve pool, which holds teachers whose positions have been eliminated, but who have yet to secure a new permanent teaching position at another school.

The reserve is an outgrowth of the city’s contract with the teachers’ union, which ended seniority rights in staffing decisions as well as the automatic transfer of teachers who had been cut because of shrinking enrollment, the closing of large schools or the elimination of particular programs. At the time, Chancellor Joel I. Klein said he would rather absorb the cost of the teachers in the reserve pool than saddle principals with teachers they did not want.

Under the contract, teachers whose positions have been eliminated from one school and cannot find another to hire them, or who simply do not look for a new job, are assigned to schools to fill in as substitute teachers or temporary replacements. They collect full teacher salary and benefits.

Willets Point to be redeveloped in 2 stages

The so-called Staged Acquisition Alternative is summarized in draft plans for Mayor Bloomberg's $3 billion plan to transform Willets Point from a gritty industrial zone into a gleaming megacomplex with a hotel, retail stores, a 400,000-square-foot conference center and roughly 5,500 residential units.

City Economic Development Corp. officials discussed the option while presenting the Willets Point plan to the City Planning Commission on April 21, kicking off the public review process.

Under the alternative, the heavily polluted 62-acre site would be divided into two segments.

The western portion would be developed first, with land acquisition beginning in 2009, followed by site cleanup and then construction. Once the western portion is finished sometime in 2013, the eastern portion would proceed down the same path, with construction expected to conclude in 2017.

But [Borough President Helen] Marshall said it is impractical to develop the site piecemeal, particularly because it would produce the awkward juxtaposition of families living alongside contaminated land cluttered with junkyards and auto-body shops.

Borough President Marshall rips 'crazy' option to split Willets Point plan

Photo from Village Voice

Redefining a "green roof"

From LIQCity:

“...the roof-deck is Astroturf…so much for a “green” roof-deck. Wonder if they’ll still try to snare a tax rebate for having a roof garden from the city.”

Eastcoasters get the birdseye view of Avalon Riverview's new "roof garden"

Wow now you can get lead poisoning or cancer without ever leaving home!

3-to-1 on Upper East Side

...when Dr. Mitchell Blutt, a modern-day tycoon made rich on Wall Street, wanted a mansion of his own, he found Mr. Carnegie’s neighborhood, now known as Carnegie Hill, not surprisingly plumb out of space.

In Manhattan, a Plan to Turn 3 Landmark Homes Into One

To solve the problem, Dr. Blutt bought the two town houses directly east of his current home on East 90th Street, between Park and Madison Avenues, in order to combine the three Romanesque Revival, four-story town houses into one 17,000-square-foot dwelling. His plans have prompted protest from neighbors, who see an intrusion of a suburban-style “McMansion,” and from preservationists, who fear that they would destroy the character of the landmark-protected buildings.

Dr. Blutt had proposed a three-story rear-yard addition that would extend some 15 ½ feet beyond the buildings’ original rear walls. He also wanted to add more than 20 feet to the height of the buildings by adding a fifth floor, as well as a concrete bulkhead for a new elevator shaft.

“It’s an audacious proposal,” said Simeon Bankoff, the executive director of the Historic Districts Council, which works to preserve New York’s historic neighborhoods and buildings. “It’s the kind of thing that seems to be extraordinarily conspicuous consumption.”

If this were in Queens, it would already have been approved. And if it's good enough for Queens, it surely should be good enough for the Upper East Side.

Pete pushing revised detector bill

The bill (Intro 650) mandates companies get a permit if they have any equipment, which can detect radioactive, biological or chemical weapons. The bill, which was drafted by the Police Department, has been toned down since its original introduction, which was hotly contested.

According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, a coalition of 40 groups oppose the bill because they fear it will impede their ability to test for air and water quality for academic and research proposes. That rests on the assumption that the police department would heavily guard the distribution of its permits.

Detector Permits Debated Tomorrow (Today)

When first introduced, these members had signed on: Vallone, Joseph Addabbo Jr., Leroy Comrie, Lew Fidler, Vincent Gentile, Letitia James, Michael Nelson, Domenic Recchia Jr., Kendall Stewart, David Weprin and Thomas White Jr.

Now the only sponsors are: Vallone, Fidler, Sara Gonzalez and Nelson.

John Liu doesn't like it:

Candystripe crap

Amazing what can be squeezed into a triangular corner lot when green space is not a requirement.
The makeshift curtains on this big steaming pile may make give you flashbacks to a hospital stay where a volunteer brought you a magazine, or perhaps a minty fresh feeling.
Nowhere could I find the number of dwelling units in this baby, located at 2852 West 7th Street in Brooklyn.
The permits for this date back to 2004.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Video proof that Crowley and Maltese are not too bright

Middle Village, Maspeth, Glendale, Ridgewood, Richmond Hill and Woodhaven are "all sections of Queens"? Holy crap, who knew? I'm glad you're running to make the city safer for animals (and not people) throughout "all of the boroughs and this council district". Here I thought this council district was part of one of the boroughs, so I'm glad this substitute teacher and union painter cleared that up. And hey, Liz: next time, don't record within earshot of screaming kids.

"You see Serf in the neighborhood all the time, but did you know he works just as hard in Albany?" Sad that they actually have to ask the voting public this question, ain't it? I only see Serf in my neighborhood posing for photos or stuffing his face. I never saw him once actually working. So, the answer is yes, I believe he takes his loafing self up to Albany and works "just as hard" up there.

Thank you to the NY Observer Politicker for bringing us these unintentionally hilarious political spots.

Getting tagged for illegal fliers

Great report on Fox 5 about illegal postering of public property:

Steep Fines for Flyers and Posters

There's more on reporter John Deutzman's blog:

Dems up in arms over Padavan school

Democrats are criticizing the naming of a Queens public school complex for a Republican state senator, calling it a political stunt intended to tip the scales to the incumbent.

Democrats decry school being renamed after Republican politician

Schools Chancellor Joel Klein is expected to rename the Glen Oaks Campus in Bellerose the Frank Padavan Campus, the senator confirmed Sunday. Padavan is being challenged for a 19th term by City Councilman James Gennaro (D-Queens), who slammed the name change, saying it amounts to using a public school to "make an in-kind contribution to the Padavan campaign."

"This is outrageous," he said. "This is a new low in the annals of political desperation. If his [poll] numbers don't go up after this, I guess they will be renaming the Statue of Liberty after him next."

But Padavan said the renaming ceremony will be attended by a host of officials, including several Democrats.

"It's a bipartisan event," said Padavan, contending no effort is being made to boost his reelection bid.

Miss Heather celebrates Construction Safety Week

Happy Construction Safety Week From New York Shitty!

No more parking on the lawn

New Zoning rule to ban paving front lawn into parking lot

New York's front yards are slated to get endangered species protection this week when a new zoning rule bars homeowners from paving their entire lawn to make room for cars.

Homes will be required to keep 20% to 50% of their front yards covered with greenery, a reaction to parts of Brooklyn and Queens where yards have become vistas of concrete. "It's a good law," said Alec Litster, 38, pointing to the paved yards on both sides of Talbot St. in Kew Gardens, Queens. "It looks terrible. It kind of ruins the block."

The greenery also offers a big environmental boost, because rainwater will soak into the earth instead of gushing into the city's overburdened sewers, City Planning Commissioner Amanda Burden said.

The rules, expected to be approved Wednesday by the City Council, will cover 41,829 acres of neighborhoods. Existing concrete yards are exempt.

"I don't know why anyone would disagree with the law, because it keeps the value of the home," said Ian Springer, 49, who spends $80 a month on his Laurelton, Queens, lawn.

Parking is so precious in some areas, though, that a guaranteed spot can be a selling point, said Darren Lee of Richmond Hill, Queens. "What people are looking for is, does it have a garage or a parking space or a driveway?" said Lee, 30, a real estate salesman who wishes he could park in the concrete yard that is in front of his house but has no curb cut. "In front of my house, that would be great."

Send them a legal aid attorney

Mayor Bloomberg's offer to use taxpayer dollars to pay for a criminal defense lawyer for the speaker of the City Council, Christine Quinn, and possibly for other council members, is a sharp departure from practice in Washington, where public officials who may have violated criminal statutes almost always pay for their own defense.

The federal government usually covers legal fees in civil or administrative cases, but rarely in criminal cases, a former federal prosecutor who has represented President Clinton, Senator McCain, and two former secretaries of defense, Robert Bennett, said.

Lawyers for Council Seen as a Departure

When Mr. Bennett was told that the criminal defense lawyer hired to represent Ms. Quinn, Lee Richards III, is charging $600 an hour, he said he thought that the rate was "pretty unusual."

"Normally when the government pays, there are rates that are significantly less than that," he said. Governments often pay a discounted rate when hiring private lawyers.

The moving of the Grange

Few visit Hamilton Grange at its current location on Convent Avenue and 141st Street - and many New Yorkers are not even aware it exists.

But National Park Service officials say that will all change in June, when the 18-room home is removed from the location where it was cast aside in 1893 to make way for the street grid in Hamilton Heights.

Crews are preparing to lift the building up 45 feet so that it can be moved past the neighboring St. Luke's Episcopal Church.

It will then be transported around the corner to the 141st Street side of St. Nicholas Park.

"The beauty is that it will still be on what was Hamilton's land," said Stephen Spaulding, chief of architectural preservation for the Park Service.


High profile projects up in the air

To different degrees, the very same economic challenges facing Atlantic Yards are impacting real estate projects both big and small throughout the five boroughs. As the Metropolitan Transportation Authority faces a budget crisis, long-planned developments, such as the Fulton Street Transit Center, have faced dramatic delays and less ambitious revisions. The original plans for Hudson Yards have been thrown into disarray, while the construction of individual apartment buildings in Queens and Brooklyn have simultaneously been put on hold due to a lack of available financing.

As the economy takes tumultuous turns toward recession, developers, community groups and city officials alike are questioning whether these projects will go through at all or at least in the way many had previously imagined.

Real Estate Slump Hits New York

Slush scandal comes to Queens

Hiram Monserrate, a city councilman from Queens, has supplied more than $400,000 in city funds in recent years to a nonprofit agency that has been run by some of his closest aides and whose financial records have devolved into what its current director calls “a mess.”

Dysfunction at a Charity That Relies on Council Largess

The organization, Libre, which offers a wide array of programs and services for the Latino community, has not filed a tax return for the past two years. It has never registered as a charity with the state attorney general’s office, as required. And its director says unpaid bills and poor record-keeping grew so problematic that he had to all but shutter Libre last year.

Why water rates are going up

"The person using the hydrant to water his lawn and clean the sidewalk is a city employee. On top of this he works for the city DOT in the sign shop.

(Notice free city sign nailed on the city trees saying to keep dogs off his property.)

This property is located on 64th Street in Maspeth as you make the quick turn onto 63rd by the piece of crap you showcased. In the pics you can see the hydrant connected and then all his nice clean sidewalk compliments of us the taxpayers." - anonymous

Sunday, April 27, 2008

3 Queens hospitals owe for big water bills

Water bill scofflaws beware: The city wants you to pay up - or else.

The top three offenders in Queens identified by the DEP are all hospitals.

Scofflaws in hot water with city

Leading the Queens list was Caritas Health Care - better known as Mary Immaculate Hospital - which owes more than $1.1 million in unpaid water bills.

"We are working with the DEP to resolve the issue," Juliette Lewis, a spokeswoman for the Jamaica-based hospital said, declining to discuss details.

But officials from the two other hospitals disputed their places on the list.

Parkway Hospital - second on the deadbeat list - was threatened with closure in 2006.

"We emerged from our bankruptcy on Feb. 28," said Fred Stewart, a Parkway executive. "[The bill] would had to have been satisfied for us to come out of bankruptcy."

Officials at Flushing Hospital - No. 3 on the list - said they stopped paying their bill because they believed the facility was being overcharged.

"The situation was just recently rectified, and approximately $250,000 of erroneous charges have been credited to the hospital, allowing us to now make the appropriate payments," said Michael Hinck, the hospital's associate director of public affairs.

Texas takes NY businesses away

New York state's skyrocketing business taxes are taking a toll on its corporate dominance.

For the third time, New York has been trumped as the home to the most Fortune 500 companies.


Adding insult to injury, it was unseated by Texas, which can now boast of having fostered the country's most profitable companies, a Fortune list released last week shows.

California topped us in 2003, and Texas beat us by one firm in 2005.

"It doesn't take a corporate CEO to understand that with low business taxes and a zero-percent tax on individual income, Texas is a much more attractive place to locate than New York," said Scott Hodge, president of the Tax Foundation.

New York's tax system ranked third to last in the nation in the 2008 Business Tax Climate Index put out by the Washington, DC-based foundation.

Texas has no personal-income tax - compared to New York's 6.5 percent - and rather than a corporate-income tax, which tops 17 percent in New York City, it has a gentler franchise tax, said E.J. McMahon, director of the Manhattan Institute's Empire Center for New York State Policy.

"The Fortune 500 companies that are based in New York City, or that have offices in New York City, are the most heavily taxed corporations in the country, bar none," McMahon said.

Toxic turf getting attention

Health officials are still trying to figure out whether the lead found in some artificial grass poses a serious health hazard for children who play on the fields.

But even as testing and analysis continue, some officials in the New York region have torn up decade-old fields and laid down new lead-free synthetic surfaces. Others have decided that the lead does not pose an immediate health risk and are leaving their fields alone for now.

In New Jersey, where health officials this month raised the issue of lead in the nylon fibers of synthetic turf, fields in Ewing, Hoboken and Newark are being replaced.

Worry on Athletic Turf Prompts Some Digging

Backyards are valuable green spaces

It is often said that parks are the lungs of the city. But just as parks help clean the air and cool the city, so do an often neglected resource: the thousands of privately owned front and back yards of the city's rowhouses and apartment houses. The tools to green the city are right under our noses — and PlaNYC2030 and most of New York City's citizens are missing them.

An Unknown Urban Forest

While Mayor Michael Bloomberg's PlaNYC highlights and relies on the substantive and undeniable environmental benefits of publicly owned open space, privately owned public space is barely even on the city radar screen. As environmental concerns move front and center and urban open spaces are increasingly threatened, these back yards suddenly appear to be a valuable resource that we can no longer afford to disregard.

I'm sorry, here in Queens we have no need for this type of land use. Bring on more concrete!

Dutch Kills inundated with hotels

Residents of Dutch Kills, a postage stamp of a neighborhood near Queens Plaza in the western part of the borough, love its abundant light and low-rise charm. So with construction under way on a 16-story hotel with a curving glass facade at the corner of 39th Avenue and 29th Street, the local reception is not universally warm.

For a Raft of New Hotels, the Sound of Grumbling

In the past two years, developers have applied for permits to build hotels on at least 14 local sites, most of them in an eight-block area. The permits indicate that many of these structures would rise at least nine stories high. Construction is under way at several sites.

Steven Bahar, one of the developers, said critics should consider the alternative to such construction. “If we don’t build in New York and the areas that are close to mass transit,” he said, “where are the city planners supposed to put development? In the suburbs, where people use cars and destroy the environment?”

Good point. We all know people in Queens don't own cars and the environment is pristine.

Looking forward to Rockaway rezone

Susan Anderson lives on Beach 26th Street in Far Rockaway, on one of the area’s remaining bungalow-lined blocks. Ms. Anderson, who is an artist, bought two bungalows on the street in 2004, and she hopes to turn the one that still has its original cedar shingles into her studio. But over the past few years she has watched in dismay the construction of a 15-story oceanfront condominium just a few yards away.

For Humble Bungalows, a Plan to Save the Sunshine

“I call it the shadow caster,” Ms. Anderson said the other day, sitting on a wooden folding chair in her kitchen, where the ceiling also has the original cedar. Shadows from such buildings irk many New Yorkers, but when they appear along the beach, and when the structures they obscure are beloved bungalows, the shade can seem especially gloomy.

To address this issue, the Department of City Planning announced on Monday a rezoning plan to stop the construction of such high-rise apartment buildings on many blocks in five neighborhoods on the Rockaway Peninsula: Far Rockaway, Somerville, Edgemere, Rockaway Park and Rockaway Beach.

The proposal seeks to ensure that new buildings are developed on a scale suitable for the neighborhoods, dotted as they are by modest working-class homes with screened-in porches. Over the last few decades, many of the bungalows, which once covered the Rockaways, have been replaced by their architectural opposites, tall apartment buildings and condos.

More slush funding found

A Bronx City Councilwoman earmarked thousands of taxpayer dollars for a tenants association in her former apartment building - an association residents say doesn't exist.


Councilwoman Maria Baez, a Democrat representing the Fordham and Kingsbridge sections, allocated $7,500 of her Fiscal Year 2008 discretionary funds to the 2401 Davidson Avenue Tenants Association, a group supposedly located in the six-story building she called home until 2005.

The building is also the registered headquarters for her campaign committee, "Friends of Maria Baez," and home to her campaign treasurer, Nilda Velazquez, who lives in Baez's former apartment.

But the building's superintendent and more than a dozen residents interviewed at the 60-unit building said there is no tenants association.

[Baez] declined to answer specific questions about the tenants group.

"I will not allow anyone to assassinate my character as a Latina woman," she said.

Crap dwellers kicked to the curb

More than 40 Brooklyn families face eviction and foreclosure on condos they bought from a developer who pulled off a massive swindle and then fled the country.

Builder flees & 40 Hasidic families face eviction in Brooklyn swindle

The families, all Hasidim from Crown Heights, paid developer Eliyahu Ezagui - one of their own - for the apartments before they were built at two sites: 770 Lefferts Ave. and 613 East New York Ave.

"We trusted him, we thought we knew him, he told us he had the blessing of the grand rabbi. We had contracts, so we gave him the money," said Jeff Minsky, who lives at 613 with his wife and six children.

Ezagui, 47, did not give the buyers deeds when construction was completed in what is the single biggest local case of subprime mortgage fraud on record.

Sunday special: when compromise is not the best option

From Curbed:

More than two years ago, when plans surfaced about NYU's dorm at the site of St. Ann's Church on 12th Street, the university pledged to maintain the facade of the church...The facade of the church has been incorporated into the site of the dorm, but not into the dorm itself. Nothing on the worksite seems to indicate that there will be a connection between the aging steeple and what what has been called a "puke-colored-brick monstrosity."

Checking In on God's Dorm: A Hollow Gesture

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Helen confused on Willets Point

Queens Borough President Helen Marshall led a rally this week in favor of developing Willets Point:

"It's going to turn a place that is really been deserted practically, except for very crude kind of business enterprises, automobile-related and such,” said Queens Borough President Helen Marshall. “And we are going to turn in into a livable, wonderful community where people live."

But there was this in the Gazette:

Queens Borough President Helen Marshall, who had been a strong advocate of the $3 billion plan, said last Friday after seeing emerging alternate plans: "I am very disappointed with any alternate plan that does not include a convention center."

How can you rally in favor of something when you know there's a good chance that you'll be disappointed with it?

DCP and DOB have different curb cut rules

As construction has boomed in recent years, many property owners have sought — legally, with a permit from the Department of Buildings, and illegally — to make curb cuts, which are, literally, cuts into the curb that create the entrance to a driveway.

The Politics of Curb Cuts and Driveways

Many of their neighbors...are unhappy, arguing that the cuts reduce the amount of on-street parking, effectively converting public sidewalk space into the entrance for private driveways. Then there is the aesthetic issue: a paved-over front-yard driveway may be convenient for its owner, they say, but it is not much to look at for everyone else.

The city’s Planning Commission, meanwhile, has proposed changes to city zoning, known as the Yards Text Amendment, which would require a certain percentage of front-yard space in certain zoning districts to have grass or other greenery planted on it, thereby preventing homeowners from paving their entire front yards. A planning department spokeswoman said the agency expects the City Council to approve the amendment on April 30.

Curb cut permits, though, are issued by a different agency –- the Buildings Department — and that agency interpreted the new zoning differently, ruling that a driveway is allowed in an eight-to-10-foot strip along the edge of the property known as a “side lot ribbon.”

Suckers pay to BBQ in LIC

"I live in a new apartment complex in Long Island City. It's owned by the same company who have 3 other building there, one of them being built right now. We currently pay an "amenity fee" of fifty dollars per tenant per month for the use of the the facilities, which includes a swimming pool, screening room, billiard room, and outdoor space, known as the sun deck...

So, it now transpires that they are considering charging us approximately 35 dollars per hour to rent out gas grills on the sun deck, and whether or not anyone is using them, they will have to be rented out. There is nothing about this in our lease, and tenants are wondering whether the management company will have to change the terms of the lease to this effect?"

Ask Curbed: Are We Getting Grilled in LIC?

Excuse me while I go pop a dog on the grill in my yard (for free).

Weiner at Jamaica Bay on Earth Day

A convertible that runs on french fry oil? Better put sunblock on your schnozz...and stay away from Bloomberg.

Liz Crowley disses gays

Last night, both Elizabeth Crowley and Charles Ober were invited to speak to the Stonewall Democratic Club in Manhattan. Only Ober, who is openly gay, showed up, and later earned the club's endorsement.

Democrats Act Like Republicans in Gallagher District

Club president Matthew Carlin said via email, "We invited both candidates to speak and seek our endorsement. I was told that Ms. Crowley knew we would be voting last night, but she neither attended the meeting, nor sent her regrets or an advocate. Mr. Ober gave a brief, but impressive, presentation and took a few questions." They endorsed him after a short discussion.

But the Queens Democratic establishment is largely uniting behind Crowley, who is related to the Queens County Democratic leader, Representative Joe Crowley.

According to the article, Crowley is endorsed by Congressman Joe Crowley (big surprise) and party animals Congressman Anthony Weiner, Assemblywoman Marge Markey, Assemblywoman Cathy Nolan, Councilman Eric Gioia, Councilman Joe Addabbo and Ed Koch. You have to wonder if they've actually met Liz and had a conversation with her...

Putting schoolkids' lives in danger

An overcrowded South Ozone Park school has long caused trouble for students and parents, so when a city inspector fined P.S. 124 last month for violating safety codes, anger came as no surprise.

The community asked for a school expansion, according to District 27 Community Superintendent Michelle Lloyd-Bey. Parents wanted the school converted from pre-kindergarten through fifth grade to K-8, and got their wish in 2006.

Overcrowded School Gets Fined

Parents said a variety of factors forced the school conversion. A wave of multi-family dwellings engulfed the neighborhood, bringing in more residents with children.

...insufficient space forces students into the hallways during their free time. A city inspector called this a fire hazard and cited the school March 31. It was reported that city officials reviewed the situation last month, but made no plans to correct it.

Employing illegals = tax evasion

The head of a business that supplies skilled, but undocumented carpenters to many home-construction projects on Long Island was sentenced Friday to 6 months at a federal halfway house for income tax evasion.

Businessman gets 6-month sentence in tax evasion

Jay Kuhn, the head of Kuhn Brothers Construction, in St. James, had faced up to 3 years in prison after he was charged with evading $400,000 in federal taxes by paying his workers off-the-books.

The arrest of Kuhn in July by agents of the Criminal Investigation Division of the Internal Revenue Service was the first public revelation of an ongoing federal probe into the payment of off-the-books wages to undocumented immigrants in the home-building industry. Three executives of other carpentry businesses are awaiting sentencing as a result of the investigation.

Michael Conroy, the head organizer for the Empire State Regional Council of Carpenters, who was in court, said because of the off-the-books situation, he believed taxpayers and the government around the country are cheated out of billions of dollars in revenue.

PlanYC and Newtown Creek

One year into plaNYC, the view of Newtown Creek hasn't changed perceptibly. The lack of progress in the field underscores the monumental nature of the challenge. While plaNYC did not address Newtown Creek directly, many of its initiatives, if carried through, would bode well for its restoration. The mayor's initiative presented citywide goals that would speed up the remediation and redevelopment of contaminated sites, create new parks and green spaces and address the problem of raw sewage in the harbor.

Cleaning Up a Creek

On open space, the mayor proposed seven initiatives aimed at increasing the amount of green cover around the city. In 2007, the city opened the first ever park along the creek—this one at the Newtown Creek sewage plant—and is set to open up a second on the Greenpoint waterfront in 2008.

And, as usual, Maspeth will still get shit - literally.

English Spoken Here

To The (Queens Gazette) Editor:

As an American and a concerned citizen I'm very troubled we do not as of yet have an official language, which I believe ought to be English. I believe we need legislation that addresses this issue which I think needs to happen. The United States is a nation of immigrants, just like our borough of Queens which is known as the international borough. We are a nation that is proud of our cultures and traditions and that I believe are the things that make us a great nation with much diversity. As such I think we need to have an official language for we need a strong central language to unite all citizens. I also think this would help immigrants connect and succeed in America. Declaring English the official language is essential and beneficial for the U.S. government and its citizens. Official English unites Americans, who speak 322 languages (based on [the] 2000 Census) by providing a common means of communication. It also encourages immigrants to learn English in order to use government services and to participate in the democratic process.

There now is legislation [pending] in the House of Representatives, known as H.R. 997, to make English the official language and I would like to ask my [fellow] Queens residents to write their Congress-man or woman to vote yes on this bill.

Remember what President Theodore Roosevelt said, "We have only one flag and therefore have room for one language, the language of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, the language of the Declaration of Independence".

[On this] I rest my case.
Sincerely Yours,
Frederick R. Bedell Jr.

Banking on an upzoning on Grand

There's a rumor that the Maspeth-Middle Village-Glendale rezoning has been put on hold while city planning figures out how to slip in an upzoning along Grand Avenue in Maspeth to accommodate the Polish and Slavic Credit Union building at 66-14 Grand Avenue (Meanwhile, they downzoned part of Grand Street, further down the road in Brooklyn). Let's have a look at the current permits...hmmm, a partial job permit. Building stories 2, dwelling units 1. They have permission to build a (very deep) cellar and the bank on the first floor right now. One more story containing a dwelling unit shouldn't be all that difficult to figure in. Could it be that the rumors are true?

Friday, April 25, 2008

Hunters Point South project exploits loophole

The city's planned Hunters Point South megadevelopment could rise above the Long Island City waterfront on the backs of tax-free bonds sold through a special nonprofit organization, a top city official said Wednesday.

Tom McKnight, a senior vice president of the city Economic Development Corp., said the uncommon approach would create a significant cost savings for the project, which will use city subsidies to provide 3,000 residential units that will be affordable to middle-income families.

But housing advocates said the proposal to sell tax-free bonds is an end-run around requirements to build housing that would be truly affordable to the average Queens resident.

Tax-free bonds plan to bankroll Hunters Point South high rises

...the Hunters Point South plan has been panned by housing advocates who say Queens' median household income - $48,000 a year - falls well below the lowest prices anticipated for the project's rental units.

The EDC did not respond to requests to define exactly what "affordable to middle-income" would be.

Housing advocate Elena Conte of the Pratt Center for Community Development said the city's plan to sell tax-free bonds is carefully designed to exploit an affordable housing loophole.

If the city were to apply for tax-free bonds directly - instead of setting up the nonprofit organization to do so - they would be subject to a federal requirement that 20% of the units be affordable to families making less than half of the local median income, she said.