Sunday, August 31, 2008

Life in 21st century Manhattan

This is life at 452 Fort Washington Ave., where tenants have waged a three-year battle with slumlord Dorothea Levine over remarkably decrepit conditions.

Landlord's workers rip out walls & toilets to 'fix' rent-control apartments

As of this week, the 54-unit building had more than 400 open code violations, more than 60 deemed "immediately hazardous," ranking it among the city's worst, Department of Housing Preservation and Development records show.

Again and again landlord Levine has been cited for lead paint, rats, mice and roaches, exposed wires, broken smoke detectors and moldy ceilings, the records show.

Conditions hit a new low in January when contractors arrived at Almanzar's apartment and claimed they needed to make repairs in her bathroom. They tore out her toilet, tub, floors and walls.

"They said they were going to fix it, but they never came back," Almanzar said. "How are we supposed to live like this?"

The building code gives landlords 24 hours to repair unusable bathrooms. Three families at the building have lived for six months without sinks, showers or toilets.

Records show that nearly 60 of the violations building management claimed to have repaired in 2007 and 2008 still existed when inspectors returned.

Well, it appears there's a stop work order on the place. Maybe the Red Cross should be called. Except they may be busy down south for awhile.

Waterfalls to have earlier daily shut off

Statement from Public Art Fund:

"Based on an updated recommendation of the Parks Department, we are reducing the hours of operation of "The New York City Waterfalls" beginning Monday, Sept. 8, from 101 hours per week to 49.5 hours per week in a further effort to stem the impact on the trees. The hours of operation will be Tuesdays and Thursdays through Sunday from 12:30 pm. to 9 p.m., and Mondays and Wednesdays from 5.30 p.m. to 9 p.m., through the scheduled end of the exhibition on Oct. 13."

City Caves In To Residents' Ire About Waterfalls

The smell of cancer in the air, continued

Isn't it great that the former industrial areas of LIC are being converted into a "vibrant" residential community? (Notice that "diverse" is a word that's never used to describe this nabe...) So what if it's toxic?

There seems to be some continuing issues with the toxic remediation of the remaining portion of the Queens West site at the Hunters Point waterfront. There’s been a growing number of complaints about petroleum-like odors emanating from the site and causing illness in the neighborhood.

If you smell something, say something.

Okay, how about this comment?

The petrol smell is pretty bad at times, the frequency of it occurring varies. Has anyone ever noticed the same smell in the area water supply? For some reason, now and then the water takes on a subtle but noticeable gas scent.

Or this?

I have been getting migraines ever since the remediation began. Sore throat as well.

Not good.

Certainly there can't be any more concurring sentiments...

the entire neighborhood has stunk like gasoline the last week or so. you can smell it as soon as you get off the vernon jackson stop and it worsens as you head toward the remediation sites. not a sulfur smell, its a definite gas / oil smell.

Well, at least there'll be a view you can enjoy before you'll have to start chemo treatment.

See earlier: The smell of cancer in the air

One rapist off the streets of SE Queens

From yesterday's NY Post:

A thug was arrested yesterday for raping and robbing a teenager in Ozone Park, police said.

Gentle Bonds, 20, approached the young woman as she was walking along 103rd Avenue near 123rd Street.

He forced the 18-year-old victim behind a building and raped her, police said.

Sources said Bonds' parents are correction officers.

Bonds was caught after police received a call on their tip hotline, and he was later identified in a photo lineup.

The victim was listed in stable condition at Queens General Hospital.

According to NY1, he is not suspected in the recent string of rapes in southeastern Queens.

Council class of 2010 may graduate early

One of the arguments most often waged these days against term limits is that two-thirds of the City Council’s 51 members will be new to that body after the 2009 election.

To be sure, there will be a great many new members — if the current term limit laws remain intact. But a handful of candidates might well get a nearly one-year head start on the class of 2009.

A number of council members — seven, in fact — are running for other offices this year. And if they are successful, their Council seats will become vacant at the end of this year. And by law, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg would be compelled to call a special election within 45 days of those vacancies.

As a result, there could be a number of new council members as early as February of next year.

City Council Turnover Could Come Well Before 2010

Ticket blitz makes a comeback

You can tell when the Mayor has given the NYPD orders to increase their revenue stream. From Brownstoner:

My husband was IMing and having a beer last night on our stoop after Biden's speech...NYPD roll up in a patrol car and busted him for an open container violation for 25 bucks...he was very polite and told the NYPD he was appreciative of their presence, but asked asked about the public/private space concept, and he explained that if I was behind a fence or gate I would be ok. Since we don't have a gate, the set-back from the sidewalk didn't matter.

Better not sit on any milk crates within sight of the boys in blue.

Collecting above and beyond the rent

NY Post
August 30, 2008

A Queens landlord assumed a tenant's identity, bought himself a BMW and racked up more than $20,000 in credit-card debt, the Queens District Attorney's Office charged yesterday.

Phivos Ioannou, 47, of Astoria, could get 15 years in prison if found guilty of grand larceny and identity theft.

Ioannou allegedly used the name and Social Security number of his tenant, Jorgji Glekas.

He took out a $32,000 car loan last year and had a Visa card issued to him in Glekas' name, the DA said.

"This is a disturbing case in that the defendant is alleged to have invaded his victim's privacy in the place she should feel safest - her home," said DA Richard Brown.

Ioannou's lawyer, Michael Anastazio, noted that the case was still under investigation and that his client "has denied all the allegations."

Hairpiece on high

Another round of applause for DOB and City Planning for this out of scale, eyesore of a structure. And the answer to your question is yes! It's another Scarano. Brownstoner has the details.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Is this "art" too ugly and damaging to continue?

Brownstoner reports that the Brooklyn Heights Association is calling for the Waterfalls under the Brooklyn Bridge to be shut off:

Salt-soaked spray from the falls has been damaging and possibly even killing trees caught in their mist; the spray has also damaged cars parked by the River Café. Those calling for the faucet to be turned off swear their objection isn't aesthetic, although the Brooklyn Paper noted that the falls, by the BQE, Brooklyn Bridge, Pier 35 in Manhattan and along the FDR, were supposed to be viewable from many Brooklyn spots. Instead, they say, they look "more like a giant Erector Set from the borough’s shores."

Here's more from the Daily News.

How to build big in Astoria

Astoria is one of the most populous community districts in the city with a vacancy rate among rental units under 3 percent, according to data from the Furman Center for Real Estate & Urban Policy. The number of new building permits and projects submitted for approval to the New York State Attorney General's office has increased significantly during the past three years.

More people are coming to Astoria to live. Development activity in Astoria is being spurred by demand and economics, and whether these units are condo or rental, both are priced cheaper than Manhattan. Taller buildings mean that a developer can take advantage of some zoning incentives for property designated as a community facility. In addition, contextual grievances can increase the as-of right floor to a building's height when looking at the height of other buildings in the near vicinity. This can help the developer build more, which in essence lowers the acquisition cost of the property.

There's a lot more gushing over new buildings where this came mention of the impact all this will have on electrical and sewer systems. Wasn't this ground zero of the blackout in 2006?

Springfield Gardens builder plays 'beat the clock'

In May, the community learned that the site at the corner of Springfield Boulevard and North Conduit Avenue was to be the home of a three-story motel, owned by Gandi Sailesh, reputed to own several more buildings like it in Brooklyn.

Springfield Gardens quickly rallied to hold meetings and protests against Sailesh, including taking the fight to his home on Long Island.

Now, according to Richards, it’s a race against the clock as the zoning in the area changes at the beginning of September from C-2 to C-1.

Under C-1 zoning, hotels and other similar structures would be forbidden. However, if the developer manages to get the foundation in place before the change, the structure would be grandfathered in under C-2 statutes.

Motel’s Opponents Fight Race Against Time, Zoning

Most recently, the site was the subject of a Department of Environmental Protection citation, a setback earlier this summer that slowed work on the site. The citation was for a plumbing system which would have been inadequate to handle the water needs of the building and could potentially have flooded the area with waste water had it been allowed to go through.

Currently, construction has begun again, in earnest.

Queens gets more turf fields

On August 21, members of the Montbellier family joined Assistant Commissioner Ed Lewis, Community Board 12 District Manager Yvonne Reddick, and local little leagues and soccer organizations to 'kick off' the opening of new turf fields at Montbellier Park in Queens.

New fields opened at Montbellier Park

Thanks to $2.6 million in funding from Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Council Member Sanders, Montbellier Park now features all-weather turf fields for soccer and baseball along with drinking fountains, new trees and a chain-link fence.

This park honors Albert Montbellier (1899-1963). Born in Manhattan, Montbellier was a dedicated civic worker devoted to his Queens neighborhood for more than 35 years. He was a leader in the fight against air pollution and aviation noise and served on the Borough President's Committee on Aviation Problems.

Fight against pollution, eh? Well then I'm sure he'd be all for carcinogenic turf fields being placed in a park with his name on it.

How the landmarked half lives

Hey, how many pieces of crap do you think could fit in this lot. (That is, if it wasn't landmarked and those wasteful trees were removed.)

The architects worked with care to evoke the proportions and the detailing of an authentic Tudor dwelling with limestone quoins around a heavy paneled entrance door, checkerboard stone patterning on red brick walls, leaded casement windows, slate roofing and, of course, half-timber on stucco.

The interior is replete with period details as well, from beamed ceilings to marble fireplace surrounds, but even by today’s standards the house has plenty of modern amenities including four full baths and two half baths, a maid’s room and bath complete with sauna and a separate pantry off the kitchen.

I bet landmarking has devalued this home considerably, though.

According to exclusive broker Brad Trebach of Trebach Realty, taxes are $10,700 per year and the asking price is $2,300,000.

See, I told you so.

Term limits would mean giving back the money

Under campaign finance rules, candidates running for citywide seats - mayor, controller and public advocate - can accept a maximum contribution of $4,950.

If those candidates opt for another term in the Council, they can only accept a limit of $2,750 - and must return the difference to the donor.

Change in term limits risk war chests

Quinn's campaign aide declined to comment on the possibility of a refund, and Katz's spokesman said, "We are not going to go into any hypothetical situations." At least one councilman said parting with the extra cash could be painful.

"Raising money is perhaps the most difficult part of being an elected official, which makes returning money something no one looks forward to," said Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Queens), who is running for Queens borough president.

The contribution limit for borough presidents is $3,850, meaning Vallone and other Council members who have collected money for a borough president's race would also have to return cash.

City treating Willets Point businesses more fairly

Both landowners and city officials point to intervention by state Sen. Malcolm Smith as the catalyst that has led to more meaningful negotiations. The Senate minority leader arranged an Aug. 6 meeting with Deputy Mayor Robert Lieber, Economic Development Corp. President Seth Pinsky and business owners that led to an easing of tensions between the two sides.

Negotiations improve at Willets Point

“Since Malcolm Smith was brought into the picture, it seems like the city’s making a good attempt to reach out to business owners,” said Thomas Mina, vice president of T. Mina Supply, Inc. a water and sewer supply company. “At least we don’t feel like they’re just going to steamroll over us anymore.”

Imagine that...the intervention of Malcolm Smith (plus a bunch of angry protests and negative press coverage of past and present office holders shouting "shame on you" to their constituents) was all it took for the City to start fair negotiations! Tee hee.

Trip to Hart Island

Here's a "staycation" (God, do I hate that word) that most people haven't tried unless they were destitute and dead. Great photos of a little known corner of the city, though, courtesy of Kingston Lounge.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Serf campaigns via commercials

Rarely do State Senate candidates broadcast their pitch for voters on television – let along during a widely watched event. But Mr. Maltese, who was elected in 1988, is one of the prime targets of Democrats hoping to regain control of the Senate. Indeed, of the handful of incumbent Republican state senators whom Democrats are singling out for defeat this year, Mr. Maltese is at the top of the list.

Maltese Runs TV Ads in Appeal to Democratic Voters

The ad, which ran on Time Warner Cable stations, portrayed Mr. Maltese as a champion of tax cuts during his years in Albany. By contrast, the ad said, Mr. Addabbo voted for an 18 percent increase in New York City property taxes several years ago.

It was not Mr. Maltese’s first campaign commercial this year. He has broadcast four others in recent months. But the placement of the ads – shortly before the high point of last night’s convention – was a sign that Mr. Maltese is once again after Democratic votes.

In fact, his ad made no mention of his party affiliation. But the 15th State Senate District has about 72,000 registered Democratic voters, compared with about 30,000 Republicans (There are about 6,000 others registered in the district). Winning Democrats and independent voters has been vital to Mr. Maltese’s political survival.

Who pilfered blast victims' belongings?

Cops are investigating whether looters swiped or trashed valuables from a Flushing apartment building last month after a horrific explosion forced tenants out, authorities said.

Residents of 147-25 Sanford Ave. contend family heirlooms went missing in the days after the July 25 blast, which left a dad and his 22-month-old daughter in critical condition and injured 15 other people.

Police are looking into three claims but haven't identified suspects, an NYPD source said. Meanwhile, FDNY spokesman Jim Long added there were no reports of New York's Bravest lifting items from the scene.

City Department of Investigation spokeswoman Diane Struzzi would only confirm the agency is "aware of the matter."

Only cops, firefighters, Con Ed workers and workers for two private cleaning firms - Service Master and A. Sarah - had access to the apartments following the explosion, said landlord David Pace.

Cops look into claims of looting after building blast

Closed Catholic school new to the drama

From the Forum West:

With the support of the surrounding community, Terranova acquired space in one of vacant buildings on the Holy Cross Catholic School campus on 61st Street - which closed in 2005 along with a number of other Queens parochial schools - and applied to become a non-profit organization.

“Ms. Rose’s 2B Named Drama School” as it is being called in the interim, was certified as a non-profit 501 (c) (3) organization with the goal of involving children in all aspects of performance art, including behind the scenes work and on-stage, to develop leadership, cooperation and teamwork skills.

The after school program for students ages 7 to 17 consists of 10-week trimesters, with weekly classes and courses including character development, the importance of costume and make-up, set design, lighting and sound, and the role of stage manager. Students will also have the chance to show off what they’ve learned to family and friends at two performances - one holiday show and one at the end of the year.

Ms. Rose’s 2B Named Drama School is at 56-01 61st Street in Maspeth. For details, call (718) 326-2467 or log on to Registration for fall courses ends the first week of September.


All I have to say is that you gotta read this entire article about a bike path in a park on Staten Island to understand how truly inept our Parks Department is and why we cannot trust them to do anything where nature is involved:

Bike path plan has some enthused, others rattled

The city Parks Department has commissioned a bike trail to be built through western LaTourette Park.

In a statement released last week, the Sweetbay Magnolia Conservancy alleges that creation of the roadway "has had numerous negative impacts on existing freshwater and tidal wetlands, at least two state-endangered and/or threatened plant species, and a steep slope in the area of a wooded ravine."

And it would appear that the state Department of Environmental Conservation agrees with those allegations, or at least some of them.

After following up on the Sweetbay complaint, the agency issued an administrative summons "to Ravine Contruction for violating the conditions of the Tidal Wetlands permit issued to the Department of Parks & Recreation," according to DEC spokesman Arturo Garcia-Costas.

"The violation involves clearing and grading beyond the scope of the permit," continued Garcia-Costas, who added that the "full nature and extent of the violation is under investigation."

Under the permit, a number of special conditions were put in place to minimize the impact on the wetlands and natural areas through which the bike trails are designed to run.

According to Garcia-Costas, any violation of these conditions represents an unacceptable situation that could damage these sensitive ecosystems.

But according to Sweetbay botanist Richard Lynch, some of that damage has already taken its toll.

"If this were in Central Park, it wouldn't look like this," Lynch said. "The permit allows them to work in a 20-foot-wide space, but in places it stretches out 30, 40, even 50 feet."

Lynch added that the company was also "bulldozing in sensitive areas" and had uncapped a small landfill, used in the 1940s and 1950s, leaving the debris scattered along the trail's edges.

There's MUCH, MUCH more. If you only click one link on the blog this week, let it be this one. See how your tax dollars are wasted destroying NYC's environment. Disgusting and pathetic.

Forest Hills storefronts have LOTS of vacancies

From Forest Hills 72 -

Over the weekend, I'll try to do a count of vacant storefronts. Off the top of my head:

Games Workshop
Hassan Beauty Supply
Austin Fish Market
Annie Sez
Shoe Bar
Inside NYC
Dmitry (half)
Tasti Delight
Renegade Salon
Piccolo Mondo
Viva Bimbi

These are signs that Forest Hills has fallen casualty to a bad economy.

Babydolls of Queens

One of the two new chocolate browncolored babydoll lambs that recently found a new home at the Queens Zoo in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park. The oldest known purebred sheep in the world, the babydoll, weighing in at only 40 pounds, is also known as the miniature Southdown sheep. The new fleecy pair brings the zoo's sheep count to 18, with the Queens herd also consisting of Jacob's four-horned sheep and Suffolk sheep. The babydoll is an example of a breed that used to be very popular before the industrialization of livestock production caused it to become rare.

Queens Zoo Welcomes Two Babydoll Lambs

Rockaway Line greenway just a pipe dream?

It's been dormant for 46 years, but the debate continues to rage over what to do with the old Long Island Railroad Rockaway Beach Branch Line.

"This is a nice, very, very pleasant bucolic woodland setting as is. You see almost 50 years of growth here. At the same time, you can see how it's been abused. You can see a lot of garbage, trash, abandoned objects strewn ab," said Jordan Sandke, former chairman of the Rockaway Branch Greenway Committee.

Greenway Committee Looks To Revive Abandoned Rail Line

The group wants to turn the 3.5-mile stretch of abandoned tracks into a greenway that could be used for biking or jogging. They're getting help from a number of groups including Parks and Trails New York, an initiative sponsored by the New York State Department of Health.

"This has been in the dark for too long. I think people once they realize that it's here and the opportunities it has, it's really going to be something that people celebrate," said Martin Daley of Park and Trails New York.

The old line ran from Forest Hills to Rockaway Beach, through Forest Park. Some still hold out hope the MTA will revive the line, cutting down on commuting times, especially from the Rockaways.

Here's their website: Rockaway Beach Branch Greenway Committee

State may close Parkway Hospital by Sept. 30th

The State Health Department is reviewing the latest proposal for revamping services at embattled Parkway Hospital in Forest Hills and hopes to make a decision on the plan early next month, a department spokeswoman said this week.

State mulls service cuts at Parkway

Meanwhile, a Sept. 30 deadline for closing the 251-bed facility remains in place, said spokeswoman Claire Posposil.

In a 2006 report, the Berger Commission - a special panel that evaluated the fiscal condition of health care facilities across the state - recommended that Parkway be closed. The hospital emerged from a three-year bankruptcy in late February.

"We still hope to remain an acute care facility but we presented a restructuring plan to the state in conjunction with the closing plan," said hospital spokesman Fred Stewart.

The plan under consideration would provide for fewer acute care beds. The hospital would divert "some of our space and resources to other types of health care," Stewart explained.

The possibilities include ambulatory surgery, rehabilitation and/or diagnostic services, said the spokesman.

Oh Lord! (part 2)

Wow, another tall unfinished building in Elmhurst.

Hey wait, I recognize this's 1 Claremont Terrace. What a shock! Another stop work order for work without a permit.

Just to recap: This site has been shut down since 2005 because they built a new building but had applied for an ALT1 permit.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Prudential Douglas Elliman redefines "waterfront"

From the NY Post:


Bedrooms: 2 Bathrooms: 2 Square feet: 1,238 Common charges: $636 -- This brand-new waterfront condo on Purves Street features Brazilian-wood plank floors, a private balcony off the master bedroom and radiant-heated floors and a cast-iron soaking tub in the master bath. But those all take a backseat to the "spectacular" city views from almost every room. Plus, the building has a common roof deck, gym and parking.

Agent: Jermain Miller, Prudential Douglas Elliman

Waterfront? Click here to see where this is. Sales must be slumping...

Kew Gardens quaking over overdevelopment

From Urbanite:

Despite its historic significance, Kew Gardens lacks landmark protection -- an issue that frustrates local residents and preservationists. Residents have on eye on Richmond Hill, Kew Gardens' sister neighborhood, and fear that the insensitive development there might soon encroach upon their turf. Requests for rulings before the Landmark Preservation Commission have gone unheeded, but civic leaders aren't ready to give up.

World Trade Center rebuilding fiasco

From the Real Deal:

The Wall Street Journal's architecture critic has written that the World Trade Center's redevelopment is the "greatest planning fiasco in the history of the world." In a scathing critique, the critic, Ada Louise Huxtable, says the project lacks a proper leader who can maintain its vision while dealing with its politics and practical problems. Huxtable says there are so many stakeholders that the site will just be a series of real estate deals rather than a symbol of rebirth.

That's what everything in this city ends up being.

Bell Blvd "wedding cake" raises eyebrows

By utilizing set-backs and sloped surfaces, Toscano managed to get plans approved for a 61-foot high building on a lot about 47 feet wide, with a total of 18,942 square feet on a 6,832 square foot lot.

If all this is a little too complicated for you and you cannot imagine a building with a basement parking lot for 22 cars, two floors of offices accommodating 60 people and six residences with a penthouse on the fifth floor, on a lot for a two family house, you’re not alone.

Bayside “skyscraper” stuns residents

Last call at McReilly's

A Queens bar beloved for its eclectic mix of blue-collar laborers, artists and young professionals will be serving its parting glass very shortly.

McReilly's, an Irish pub on Vernon Blvd. in Long Island City, will close before the end of the month - a casualty of rising rents in the increasingly popular neighborhood.

McReilly's closing after 20 years

Despite local support, O'Reilly said he is resigned to closing for good because reopening elsewhere would cost at least $850,000.

"We've had a good run, but maybe the customers will find another place," said O'Reilly. "We felt we were part of a larger family in the neighborhood."

A moment we've all been waiting for

Miss Heather brings us word that the ugliest building in Queens - the parking garage at Queens Plaza - is about to be demolished.

Hip, hip, hooray!

Window washing a dangerous business

Window Contractor Falls 12 Stories, Dies
Special to the Sun | August 27, 2008

A contractor fell 12 floors to his death in Greenwich Village yesterday, authorities said.

The 49-year-old man, whose identity was not available as of press time, was a window contractor, police said. He was performing work at 40 Fifth Ave., a residential building near the corner of Fifth Avenue and 11th Street, when he fell from the 12th floor around 4 p.m., according to a police department report.

A spokeswoman for the department said it was most likely an accident, but that the investigation into the contractor's death was ongoing.

Police responded to a call and pronounced the man dead on arrival at the scene, according to the report. A representative from the medical examiner's office said they had not yet reached a conclusion as to the cause of death.

The building is 15 stories tall and 79 years old, according to, a real estate information Web site. The Department of Buildings could not be reached for comment.

Two Window Washers Rescued in Times Square
By CONN CORRIGAN, Special to the Sun | August 27, 2008

Two window washers were trapped outside the 30th floor of a Times Square building for almost two hours yesterday morning, when the scaffolding basket they were in stalled.

The police said that at 8:34 a.m. yesterday, they received a 911 call from two men at 3 Times Square, at Seventh Avenue between West 42nd and 43rd streets, who said that they were unable to move the scaffolding basket they were in up or down.

The police sealed off the street on Seventh Avenue between 42nd and 43rd streets. Speaking at the scene, Officer Martin Brown, of the Police Department's Public Information office, said that the two men were rescued when the police removed an adjacent window, and brought the men into safety. Neither man was hurt.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Buildings, Kate Lindquist, said that department inspectors arrived at the scene and issued a violation to the window cleaning company, Collins Building Services, "for failing to provide adequate safety lines." A spokeswoman for that company told the New York Sun, "right now, we aren't answering any questions."

A building close by at 1 Times Square was where a pane of glass fell more than 40 floors onto scaffolding on August 16. No one was hurt in the incident.

Scary Scaranos popping up everywhere

In October of last year, we did a post about a new Scarano building in Elmhurst. Well, what you see in these photos is progress at the site as of a couple of weeks ago.
Curbed recently profiled a Scarano Building with a Scary Name & a Blog. Thankfully, there are no such plans for this one.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Youth Court runs out of funds

"How did you feel when you were at the precinct?" one teen asked.

"Scared and mad," the youngster replied, as he stared down at the table.

That was the scene last week at Far Rockaway Youth Court, which allows a group of trained teens to hear cases and mete out punishment for low-level offenses ranging from vandalism and truancy to fare evasion and assault.

But the popular program has become the latest casualty of city and federal budget cuts. If no new funding is found, the Far Rockaway Youth Court will shut its doors at the end of September.

Far Rockaway's Youth Court sentenced to close after September

The group has been unable to secure the $150,000 a year it costs to run the youth court.

The news is heartbreaking to the people who run the program and the kids who hear cases every Tuesday.

The teens receive eight weeks of extensive training and participate in workshops and community events. Instead of handing out "sentences," they decide on "sanctions" for the young offenders. Sanctions can include community service at a library or removing graffiti along with a letter of apology to someone hurt by their actions.

Sounds like a job for some of that borough president "discretionary" money, eh Helen?

Couple Charged With Selling Illegal Cigarettes

NEW YORK (NBC) -- A Queens couple is accused of selling illegal cigarettes at their store.

District Attorney Richard Brown said Tuesday that Masoom Uddin and his wife, Khaleda, have been charged with criminal possession of a forged instrument and violating the New York State tax law. They face 15 years in prison, if convicted.

Investigators learned of the scheme Aug. 12 after customs officials intercepted some 15 cartons of untaxed cigarettes from Karachi, Pakistan, addressed to the couple's Queens home.

The DA says another 700 cartons of untaxed cigarettes -- more than half of which contained forged tax stamps -- were found inside the couple's home and their video store.

More details here.

A call to the couple's lawyer was not immediately returned.

American Dream becomes nightmare

The Willets Point location, near several major highways, helped House of Spices grow into the country's largest manufacturer and distributor of Indian and Pakistani foods.

But now, 19 years later, the city is threatening to uproot House of Spices and roughly 260 other Willets Point businesses so the area can be redeveloped into a glitzy realm of residences, stores and a hotel.

Bitter aftertaste for Willets Point spice business from redevelopment

"It's just very ironic," Soni said, noting that the financial package the city offered House of Spices in 1989 required the company to grow its workforce.

"We successfully did that," he said, explaining that the company added 70 jobs.

Mayor Bloomberg's controversial plan to redevelop the 62-acre industrial zone - possibly using eminent domain - is the latest example of policies promoting residential and commercial uses at the expense of industrial uses.

Soni said the city's grand plan for Willets Point has jeopardized House of Spices' future in New York - and caused him to shelve $1 million in capital improvements to his operation.

"It sends the wrong signal to nonFortune 500 companies," he said, noting that morale is declining among his workers - and many have started looking for other jobs. "I don't see them supporting manufacturing in any way."

Soni said he wants to stay in the city. But while the city keeps him in limbo, he is looking at land in New Jersey, where manufacturing space costs between $6 and $8 per square foot, compared with between $20 to $25 per square foot in the five boroughs.

Ellen Young ready for her primary

Ms. Meng is trying to follow a time-honored tradition in New York politics by making elective office a family enterprise. Her father was the first Asian-American member of the Assembly. Mr. Meng served one term and declined to run for re-election, citing health reasons.

Accident Won’t Deter Queens Assemblywoman

This is his daughter’s second attempt to run for the Assembly. Her race two years ago was derailed when Ms. Young successfully challenged her residency. Since that time, Ms. Meng has acquired an apartment in the district and has emphasized her ties to the community center that she manages in the heart of the 22nd Assembly District.

Department of Investigation making progress

The DOI is the only entity of its kind in the country - a city watchdog agency solely designed to root out government graft.

Unique law enforcement agency tackles NYC corruption

A relatively small outfit compared to its larger crime-fighting brethren, the DOI's mission is daunting: Keeping 300,000 city employees at scores of agencies honest as well as city-elected officials, boards, commissions, the school system and the housing authority.

The oft-overlooked agency was created more than a century ago in the wake of the Boss Tweed and Tammany Hall scandals that robbed taxpayers of millions of dollars and became synonymous with political corruption.

[The commissioner] also decided not to regularly meet with the mayor; Hearn says she keeps Mayor Michael Bloomberg at a healthy arm's length and has a good relationship with him.

"The mayor is tremendously supportive of me and the DOI," Hearn said in one of two interviews. "He's not interested in sweeping things under the rug - ever."

Well then we can't wait to hear how the mayor was able to have one of his Deputy Mayors and one of his CAU commissioners work on his presidential campaign while on the city payroll and then shipped the latter off to the Parkside Group to carry out the plan. Also still curious how the city is allowed to use taxpayer money to hire this same politically connected group to work as a lobbyist on its behalf.

Please, Ms. Hearn, investigate.

Coverage of the Pasta Lovers protest

In mid-July, the agency issued a stop-work order, along with at least nine building code violations.

"The developers, we feel, have no interest in working with this community or even being a part of it and have no interest in assuring that Kew Gardens remains a great place to live," Dauphin told the protestors. "They only want a profit and to continue what has become the overdevelopment of Queens."

Crane accidents and concerns about damage by the construction to their 50-year-old structure is also on the minds of the residents of the 134-unit building, Fraenkel said.

Kew Gardens neighborhood protests 21 story planned hotel

The planned tower is allowed under present zoning, but that doesn't mean it's appropriate, said City Councilman Tony Avella (D-Bayside).

"The zoning for this particular site is wrong. The zoning should be changed to better reflect the character of the neighborhood and the traffic patterns that are here," Avella said.

"This neighborhood cannot handle that much more congestion, traffic, pollution."

Newtown Creek to be tested for Superfund eligibility

The federal Environmental Protection Agency has agreed to “develop a sampling plan” that could lead to Newtown Creek’s being named a federal Superfund site, a designation that could accelerate long-stalled cleanup efforts in the polluted, oil-slicked 3.5-mile estuary between Queens and Brooklyn.

E.P.A. Will Review Pollution at Newtown Creek

If the tests turn up a significant level of chemicals and other hazardous waste, the site could be eligible for millions of dollars in federal assistance. A Superfund designation would also allow the agency to go after the companies responsible for the contamination.

A Grand Alteration, updated

Oops! The scaffolding is not up to code at 82-02 Grand Avenue in Elmhurst, and the "not a new building" has been shut down again. It's too bad, too, because they have changed their original plan and are now supposedly constructing a community center on the 2nd floor. We're waiting with bated breath to see which community will use this center, because it is currently owned by a private developer from Great Neck (where else?).

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

It's safe to go back in the water

Shark tale shuts Rockaways beach
BY Simone Weichselbaum

Part of Rockaway Beach is expected to reopen today after an unconfirmed shark sighting, city officials said.

Parks officials quickly deemed parts of the beach off-limits Monday after fishermen reported a shark sighting off the shore.

Officials hustled swimmers out of the water between Beach Ninth and Beach 18th Sts. about 3 p.m. The beach remained closed for the rest of the day, said Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe.

Benepe said because authorities could not spot the shark - estimated at 10 feet long - the report was unconfirmed.

Still, police and lifeguards continued to keep an eye out for sharks all evening, Benepe said.

Bayside Cemetery: It's a jungle in there!

From the NY Times:

Five years ago, several hundred members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and six funeral directors arrived at Bayside Cemetery in Ozone Park, Queens, to take part in an ambitious project. For four days, the Mormon volunteers hacked at impossibly long skeins of ivy and thick patches of weed amid debris scattered across one of the state’s oldest Jewish cemeteries, which has been there since 1865 and is home to about 35,000 graves. The funeral directors continued to work on the grounds for months after.

But eventually the volunteers left, in part, some of them said, because they sensed a lack of interest from Congregation Shaare Zedek, the Upper West Side synagogue that owns a small part of the cemetery.

Now the weeds have returned. And whereas Emerson described a weed as “a plant whose virtues have not yet been discovered,” these weeds have inspired a class-action lawsuit.

More about the suit in the Daily News.

And there's a film in the works about this: Ashes to Ashes

In Judaism the cemetery is one of the most important symbols of the heritage and a lasting memorial to those that have come before us. It is the responsibility of every Jewish person to remember those that have past on and to provide a safe place for them to spend eternity. The Bayside Cemetery in Ozone Park, New York is proof that the Jewish community has neglected its responsibility.

This film is about how one of the oldest Jewish cemeteries, in the largest Jewish community in the world, has been forgotten and how it took a Mormon from Utah and an Italian funeral director from Queens to restore the beauty that once was.

Bloomberg loves boroughs' cheerleaders

The last caller into Michael Bloomberg’s weekly radio appearance with John Gambling this morning asked, more or less, if the city still needs five borough presidents.

Bloomberg defended the borough presidents, calling them effective "cheerleaders." He also said the offices bring a more local perspective to city politics that can be helpful to the mayor and citywide officials.

If it were up to him, the mayor said, "I say keep them.”

Bloomberg Says: Keep the Borough Presidents

We're wasting money to employ "cheerleaders"? Good heavens! That might not be water he's drinking...

City Planning protects the rich & hurts everyone else

Condominium high-rises sprout like weeds along the East River waterfront in Williamsburg. Longtime Harlem residents watch newcomers -- often young, affluent and white -- sink into the overstuffed couches of the new cafes and coffee shops along 125th Street, the main street of Black America. Owners of small businesses on the dirt and pothole-ridden streets of Willets Point worry they will lose their location, their customers and their livelihood.

Reshaping the City: Who's Being Heard -- and Why?

All of these changes represent the new New York, one that has shifted from industrial and manufacturing to finance and services. To accommodate that shift and the population growth that has occurred with it, the Bloomberg administration has rezoned one sixth of the total land in the five boroughs -- more than the last six administrations combined, Bloomberg said during his State of the City address earlier this year. Of the more than 84 rezonings, the City Council has not rejected a single one.

Such impressive numbers, though, conceal a growing unease in many parts of New York. Advocates in some neighborhoods fear the administration is fueling gentrification by giving developers a relatively free hand in working class neighborhoods, while simultaneously protecting more affluent areas from larger-scale development.

Many people in affected communities claim they haven't been a part of the process -- their voices are left out on the policy fringe, teetering on the edge of irrelevance. In response, some planners and politicians hope to boost the community's role in the land use process.

Brooklyn beating victim can't find justice


An elderly civil engineer allegedly beaten by a man for taking photos of a Brooklyn construction site is still waiting for his day in court - three years later.

"I'm discouraged and I'm disgusted," said Harold Weinberg, 70, the victim of the 2005 assault. "They're thinking maybe I'll drop dead in the meantime."

The dustup between the Orthodox victim and the Hasidic suspect took place while Weinberg was taking pictures in Borough Park, where neighbors complained that construction was damaging their property.

The accused attacker, construction manager Isidor Farkas, "came after me with fists flailing, scoring direct hit after direct hit," Weinberg said, adding that Farkas also stole his $500 camera.

Police sources said Farkas was caught with the camera, but papers filed by cops show that Weinberg didn't report stolen property - a discrepancy he characterized as a mistake. The Brooklyn DA later added a robbery charge.

Cops also lost the recording of a witness' 911 call, and Farkas' lawyers kept delaying.

Then the judge tossed out the robbery charge, ruling that prosecutors waited too long to add it. The case is on hold.

Developers contribute to boro prez charities


Big companies face strict limits on how much they can donate to politicians - but they can be as generous as they want to the politicians' pet charities.

Borough Presidents Scott Stringer of Manhattan and Marty Markowitz of Brooklyn both operate nonprofits that solicit cash from big companies.

Markowitz, a potential mayoral candidate, runs Best of Brooklyn, which took in $1.2 million in 2007 to fund some of his favorite causes, like sending kids to summer camp and finding teens jobs.

"BPs have no legislative role whatsoever, and The Post should applaud the fact that our office encourages public-private partnerships for the public good," Markowitz said.

Among the charity's donors are the Nets and Forest City Ratner - both owned by developer Bruce Ratner, who is building an arena project in Downtown Brooklyn that has benefited from Markowitz's cheerleading.

Both gave between $5,000 and $20,000, documents filed with the Conflicts of Interest Board show.

Stringer, who also harbors citywide office ambitions, made a splash last year with his "Go Green East Harlem" initiative to promote healthy eating.

The project, run by Stringer's Community Fund for Manhattan, was funded in part with a $15,000 gift from Forest City Ratner, $15,000 from Vornado Realty Trust and $10,000 from Commerce Bank.

"The solicitations are governed by rules promulgated by the New York City Conflicts of Interest Board," said Stringer spokesman Dick Riley.

Manufacturers rezoned out of existence

When Mayor Bloomberg took office in 2002, there were 12,542 acres in the city where manufacturers could set up shop.

If the latest round of proposed zoning changes goes through, the Bloomberg administration will have rezoned 20% of that factory-friendly land, according to a study by the Pratt Center for Community Development obtained exclusively by the Daily News.


"The Bloomberg administration had a strategic plan from the beginning - to rezone or redevelop manufacturing areas to promote, originally, office space," said Pratt Center Executive Director Brad Lander.

"But it's worked out to be almost entirely residential development," he said. "There's a real concern it's gone too far."

More than 20 Bloomberg rezonings have converted manufacturing land into residential or commercial uses, transforming neighborhoods like Red Hook, Long Island City and the South Bronx into trendy residential addresses.

City industries feel squeeze with rezoning attracting developers

My favorite -

Greenpoint-Williamsburg Plan, May 2005: "The 184-block rezoning wiped out 1 million square feet of manufacturing-only zones, and turned an industrial area with a 35-block shoreline perimeter to residential zoning for luxury towers. Inland, light industrial zones were drawn — the city’s attempt to help small business — but rents as much as tripled. Industrial job loss was estimated at 4,000 by a Rutgers University study. Promised public green space has yet to materialize."

And here's the Queens map.

Shades of Kitty Genovese 44 years later

Stabbing victim's cries for help ignored
Associated Press

New York City investigators wonder why neighbors waited more than a half hour before calling police after hearing the screams for help from a woman who was stabbed to death at a Queens apartment.

Police found Ebony Garcia, 21, lying in a pool of blood at about 2:10 a.m Saturday. She was stabbed about a dozen times and died two hours later at a local hospital.

Witnesses say neighbors ignored the woman's screams for more than 30 minutes before someone called the police. One neighbor said she ignored the cries because she thought the victim had been drinking.

Police want to question Garcia's boyfriend, Segundo Penafiel, 25, of Corona, against whom she had obtained a restraining order.

College Point millstone mystery

There are 2 millstones prominently displayed in front of a house in College Point, across the street from the fire-ravaged First Reformed Church.

Anyone know why they are there or where they are from? Could they have been discarded from one of our Queens windmills?

Monday, August 25, 2008

Richmond Hill rape and robbery

Police: Teen robbed and sexually assaulted
Eyewitness News

RICHMOND HILL, Queens (WABC) -- In Queens, police are investigating a robbery and attempted sexual assault overnight.

Police are looking for a man who attacked a woman early Monday morning, and wondering if it's related to previous incidents.

There are no arrests at this time. Police say the incident took place at 1:45 a.m. in the Richmond Hill section.

Police say an 18-year-old woman was walking down the street, when a man armed with a gun took her to the back of a building where she was robbed and sexually assaulted.

As police investigate, neighbors are concerned about themselves and their own children.

"I never walk alone at night...It's too dangerous to walk alone," said one neighbor.
The victim is in stable conditon recovering at Queens General Hospital.

STORY BY: Eyewitness News reporter Jamie Roth

SCOUTing out problems on our streets

Since Mayor Bloomberg unveiled the Street Conditions Observation Unit last summer, inspectors have logged 45,750 offenses - and at least 55% of them have been addressed, officials said.

Mayor's crew hunts for problems plaguing city streets

Some New Yorkers find the unfixed problems frustrating, but the city declares the program a success.

"We've found ways to improve the repair process," Deputy Mayor Ed Skyler said. "This stops problems from ping-ponging between two agencies."

Bloomberg created SCOUT after making a few calls to 311 when he stumbled on something that needed attention.

Rather than relying on angry residents to phone in complaints, he hired 15 inspectors to comb through about 300 city miles a day searching for problems. They log each grievance and location into a BlackBerry and send the information to the appropriate agency.