Sunday, November 30, 2008

How not to run a city website

Bought the cheap plan, eh Betsy?

City's ballpark suite may cost us big

Mayor Bloomberg's top aides engaged in a behind-the-scenes brawl to win a free luxury suite at the new Yankee Stadium that could wind up costing taxpayers, e-mails show.

Some of the mayor's top deputies spent months threatening and cajoling to get the free skybox. They even demanded free food and ultimately got most of what they wanted after they agreed to provide America's richest team 250 free stadium parking spaces in exchange.

The loss of revenue from those spaces could wind up coming back to haunt taxpayers if the garage owner - who pays rent to the city - can't pay what he owes.

City demanded free suite, food from Yankees, e-mails reveal

The team has refused to provide the city with free food in its new luxury box. In a July 24, 2006 e-mail to Doctoroff, Pinsky whined, "If others get food with their suites, so should we."

As of this week, it was not clear if the food fight had been resolved.

NYC: Run by a bunch of overpaid, selfish, spoiled crybabies.

More from the NY Times:

The parking spaces were given to the team for the private use of Yankees officials, players and others; the spaces were originally planned for public parking. The city also turned over the rights to three new billboards along the Major Deegan Expressway, and whatever revenue they generate, as part of the deal.

Commission to recommend East River bridge tolls

From NY1:

The New York Times reported Thursday that a state commission will recommend a new tax on corporate payrolls and tolls on the East River and Harlem River bridges, in an effort to raise $1.6 billion a year.

The commission, headed by former Metropolitan Transportation Authority Chairman Richard Ravitch is also expected to call for fare hikes, though they are said to be less than the steep hikes being proposed by the MTA.

The Times says the commission will only recommend minimal service cuts if any.

The MTA recently proposed raising revenues from fares and tolls by 23 percent, as well as eliminating some subway and bus lines and reducing service on others.

The MTA is facing a $1.2 billion shortfall next year because of the economic downturn.

The commission is expected to release its recommendations for Governor David Paterson on December 5th. Any proposals would need to be approved by the state Legislature.

Report: Commission To Recommend Tolls On East River Bridges

Bay Terrace says bye to Ben's

The president of Bayside’s popular Ben’s Kosher Delicatessen Restaurant said a deal to move the eatery to another spot in the Bay Terrace shopping center has collapsed following six months of acrimonious negotiations with Forest Hills−based landlord Cord Meyer.

Ben’s had requested two five−year options to remain at its current site at the Bay Terrace center, but could not afford an 86 percent rent increase imposed by Cord Meyer, said Scott Singer, president of Ben’s.

Cord Meyer had offered to build a new site for the deli in another part of the center, but the talks unraveled earlier this week after six months of discussions, Singer said.

Ben’s Deli, Bay Terrace to part ways

Police harass Willets Point organizer

Willets Point tenant business leader Arturo Olaya said he was held by police for several hours last Thursday after painting over City Councilman Hiram Monserrate’s (D-East Elmhurst) name on a truck previously used for his political campaign.

NY1 broadcast footage of Olaya painting over Monserrate’s name on the day of the City Council vote on Willets Point — one day after the councilman had agreed to support the project after negotiating a deal to boost the affordable housing component in the city’s plan.

Monserrate’s chief of staff, Julissa Ferreras, said Monserrate does not own the truck, although she would not say who did, and neither Monserrate nor the driver of the truck pressed charges over Olaya’s actions.

“Hiram never asked to have charges pressed,” she said. “The councilman definitely did not want to press charges or has [not] pressed charges. It was totally the precinct’s call. I guess if they see that a crime has been committed — and I think it was obviously the NY1 video — then they have to act.”

Ultimately, Olaya said no charges were filed against him and he was released after having his fingerprints and photograph taken. Olaya said after he asked for an attorney, the officers said they were holding him based on two previously unpaid tickets. Olaya said the officers never showed him the tickets, but eventually released him when they confirmed they had, in fact, been paid.

Police question Willets Point biz tenants’ leader

You can't even get the NYPD to respond half the time when you call them directly, but we're supposed to believe that they are sitting around watching NY1 and just decide to go pick someone up when no one wants to press charges. Yeah, okay.

Being neighborly in Forest Hills

Though the city Department of Buildings doled out $7,000 in fines and issued a stop−work order at the beginning of the month to stop operations at 110−46 63rd Road, Aleksey Construction workers ignored the mandate until earlier this week, according to individuals living in the neighborhood. The residents said they were concerned the ongoing work could cause falling debris to harm passers−by, next−door neighbors or private property.

According to DOB documents, Astoria business owner Vasilios Kourkoumelis applied in April to enlarge the rear of the one−family attached town house, owned by Vadim Fezamayev, and add a partial third floor. Additional work was to include general construction and plumbing.

The city granted work permits, but on Nov. 6 the DOB issued the stop work order because the demolition was unsafe, the documents said.

None of the approximate 10 neighborhood residents who spoke with the TimesLedger would give their full names — or their names at all — and some said they were concerned physical harm could come to them if they spoke out against the occupants of the house in question.

Construction in Forest Hills irks residents

Eminent domain for Brooklyn school?

A plan to build a public school in Bay Ridge has drawn the ire of several Fourth Ave. property owners whose land could be seized under eminent domain, officials said.

The move to clear land for the 480-seat school would mark the first time the School Construction Authority has had to resort to the controversial move of seizing private land for a government project.

"We're still in negotiations, but we also are prepared to initiate eminent domain proceedings so we don't lose time," said spokeswoman Margie Feinberg, who could not recall another instance of land seizure being used for a school project.

The possibility of eminent domain - which is typically used for projects that would benefit the public - has put plans for a grocery store and medical center on hold for the swath of Fourth Ave. between 88th and 89th Sts.

Jimmy Anagnostakos, who is part-owner of a shuttered car wash, said he has been in talks with Key Food about building a supermarket on the block. He said a food market was badly needed in the neighborhood.

Peter Pantelidis, who owns a parking lot on Fourth Ave., says he already sank $50,000 into architectural designs in a bid to build a medical center on the block.

Eminent domain cloud darkens Bay Ridge neighborhood

Have we overdeveloped so much that we can no longer find vacant property for things like schools?

The Wrecking Race

Hours before the sun came up on a cool October morning in 2006, people living near the Dakota Stables on the Upper West Side were suddenly awakened by the sound of a jackhammer.

Preservationists lost a battle to protect the Dakota, built in 1894 and shown here in 1944, after the owner secured a stripping permit.
Soon word spread that a demolition crew was hacking away at the brick cornices of the stables, an 1894 Romanesque Revival building, on Amsterdam Avenue at 77th Street, that once housed horses and carriages but had long served as a parking garage.

In just four days the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission was to hold a public hearing on pleas dating back 20 years to designate the low-rise building, with its round-arched windows and serpentine ornamentation, as a historic landmark.

But once the building’s distinctive features had been erased, the battle was lost. The commission went ahead with its hearing, but ultimately decided not to designate the structure because it had been irreparably changed. Today a 16-story luxury condominium designed by Robert A. M. Stern is rising on the site: the Related Companies is asking from $765,000 for a studio to $7 million or more for a five-bedroom unit in the building.

The strategy has become wearyingly familiar to preservationists. A property owner — in this case Sylgar Properties, which was under contract to sell the site to Related — is notified by the landmarks commission that its building or the neighborhood is being considered for landmark status. The owner then rushes to obtain a demolition or stripping permit from the city’s Department of Buildings so that notable qualities can be removed, rendering the structure unworthy of protection.

Preservationists See Bulldozers Charging Through a Loophole

Hey, NY Times, in your next article, you should explain why sites in the other 4 boroughs don't even get as far as "considered" by LPC. The Post's Julia Vitullo-Martin lists some to save today.

Springfield Gardens complex owner in a heap of trouble

A Glen Head millionaire who was a key figure in a Congressional corruption scandal has been accused in a lawsuit by a mortgage company of involvement in a scheme to steal more than $50 million through a network of companies in the city and on Long Island.

Thomas Kontogiannis, 60, who is serving an 8-year federal prison sentence for laundering bribes paid to former Rep. Randy Cunningham (R-Calif.), was sued last week by DLJ Mortgage Capital Inc. of Manhattan in Brooklyn federal court over what the firm claims was a massive scheme over several years.

Glen Head millionaire accused of stealing $50M

According to the lawsuit, the scam involved "at least 95 real estate sales and mortgage loan transactions sold to DLJ and other financial institutions." Also sued are Kontogiannis' wife, Georgia, and other relatives, as well as attorneys, title agents and various companies.

According to the lawsuit, the scheme involved the preparation of false loan applications on residential properties in Brooklyn and Queens, which they either owned or were planning to develop.

The applications were approved by one of Kontogiannis' mortgage funding firms, which then obtained the money from DLJ and the other institutions, according to court papers.

DLJ and the other lenders eventually discovered that the mortgages were never recorded, the complaint stated, adding that the scheme was only uncovered when monthly mortgage payments ended. A further investigation revealed that many of the properties were then sold by Kontogiannis and the other defendants, DLJ said in its complaint.

Even after pleading guilty in February 2007 in the Cunningham case, Kontogiannis "continued to engage in mortgage fraud," Burns said when he imposed the sentence last May. Along with prison, Burns fined Kontogiannis more than $1 million.

He is the owner of the Springfield Gardens apartment complex profiled here previously.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Blackwell door dedication

On Monday December 1, 2008 at 7 PM a very historic event will take place within our community at the Greater Astoria Historical Society. Opening that night is a new exhibit, "The Revolutionary War in Queens" featuring the original door from the Jacob Blackwell House.

The British confiscated the Blackwell House (formerly at the foot of 37th Avenue at the East River) during the Revolution. To signify its confiscation, the door was branded with an arrow that is still evident. The home was razed in 1901 and the door left our community for parts unknown. Since the 1950's, it has been stored in the Brooklyn Museum who earlier this year transferred it back to the our community.

Attending that evening will be descendant David Blackwell who will officially turn the key over the Greater Astoria Historical Society. The evening will also be the annual holiday party with special guest Natalia Paruz, the Sawlady.

The Greater Astoria Historical Society is located at 35-20 Broadway in Long Island City on the 4th floor. For additional information please contact 718-278-0700 or visit

Con Ed donates trees to Rego Park school

The students of P.S. 139 in Rego Park planted new trees at their school Tuesday, thanks to funding from Con Edison's new online payment program, E*bill. Every time a customer goes paperless the company donates $1 to planting trees in city neighborhoods.

Con Ed Helps Pay For Trees In Rego Park

Queens has new DOB commish

As a child growing up in Brooklyn, Ira Gluckman was fascinated with construction sites.

His Canarsie neighborhood was full of them.

"As soon as I learned the word 'architect,' I knew that was what I wanted to do," said Gluckman, 53, who was recently named Queens borough commissioner for the Department of Buildings.

Gluckman has spent the past few years as borough commissioner in Staten Island.

He's still figuring out the lay of the land in Queens, but he thinks his experiences as an architect and construction inspector will serve him well in the city's largest borough.

New Buildings Dept. borough boss constructed career

...the agency is expected to become even busier as residential towers rise in western Queens and multi-unit housing spreads throughout the borough.

Some Queens residents have complained that the building boom is changing the character of neighborhoods once known for suburban streets of one- and two-family homes.

CB1 grows a pair

In a significant test of new zoning regulations in Dutch Kills, Community Board 1 unanimously rejected the completion of a 14-story hotel.

The developer, Wilshire Hospitality LLC, was issued a stop work order by the Department of Buildings on October 7 when new Dutch Kills zoning went into effect on the basis that the foundation was not complete.

The proposed hotel, on an L-shaped through lot located at 29-23 40th Rd. and 30-02 40th Ave., is limited to a maximum height of 125 feet under the new zoning regulations. However, the building is planned to rise to a height of 142 feet, 8 inches, which was permitted before the new zoning regulation went into effect.

Board 1 Calls For Hotel Construction Halt

Gloria Maloney, a member of the board of directors of the Dutch Kills Civic Association, said, "The ink isn't even dry on the zoning changes and already people are trying to circumvent it. This is a neighborhood where people live for 70 and 80 years. Children live here."

Beckerman said Wilshire Hospitality stands to lose $3 million and would be forced to abandon the project and sell the premises if the application was denied.

Noting the closing date of Mar. 8, 2008 on the property, Stamatiades said, "Your [financial] hardship is self-created."

Signs of the times are costly

So we know replacing the signs for the Triboro Bridge will cost $4 million, but how about the subway and street signs for Citifield? How much will they cost and who's paying for them?

Police cracking down on Astoria graffiti

The New York City Police Department and community members are working together to try to keep Queens graffiti-free.

NYPD Teams Up With Community To Make Queens Graffiti-Free

Murdered pregnant woman's boyfriend charged

Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown announced that a Queens man has been charged with fatally stabbing his girlfriend – who was nine months’ pregnant – inside her South Ozone Park apartment last month. The victim was murdered on her due date.

District Attorney Brown said, “It is difficult to imagine a crime more heinous than that of a man brutally murdering a pregnant woman. What should have been a most joyous occasion for the victim and her family, the defendant is accused of turning into one of unbelievable sorrow – further compounded by the fact that he is alleged to have escorted the victim’s mother back to the murder scene and allowed her to make the grisly discovery.”

The District Attorney identified the defendant as Derrick W. Redd, 35, of 87-05 166th Street in Jamaica, Queens. Redd, who is presently awaiting arraignment in Queens Criminal Court, is charged with second-degree murder (intentional), fourth-degree criminal possession of a weapon and second-degree abortional act. If convicted, he faces up to 25 years to life in prison.

District Attorney Brown said that, according to the charges, on October 25, 2008, Redd murdered Niasha Delain, 25, inside her residence at 109-57 Lefferts Boulevard in South Ozone Park by fatally stabbing her multiple times in the neck, arms and torso – including six stab wounds to the fetus in utero.


Photo from Daily News

Smallpox Hospital being rehabbed

As per Beehive Hairdresser, the Smallpox Hospital at the southern tip of Roosevelt Island is being rehabilitated. Only in NYC do we demo perfectly good historical buildings but try to fix a pile of rubble.

Smallpox Hospital Rehab

Friday, November 28, 2008

Jamaica SRO a big no-no

A Jamaica community is up in arms over the arrival of new neighbors - about 100 recovering substance abusers.

"There's a lot of kids on this block. It's dangerous," said Crystal White, 24, who lives with her 5-year-old son across the street from the Top of the Hob's shelter for recovering male addicts.

Concerned locals noted that there are two day care centers within a block of the facility, which occupies four one-and two-family homes between 150-22 and 150-28 113th Ave.

And it wasn't until trucks filled with bunk beds appeared on their residential block several weeks ago that neighbors found out about the shelter, whose occupants moved in shortly afterward.

Jamaica residents call haven for ex-addicts a threat to kids

Looks like the property was vacated today. Amazing how quickly action is taken when a story is published about these things. Otherwise, your neighborhood's screwed.

Black Friday turns deadly

A worker died after being trampled and a woman miscarried when hundreds of shoppers smashed through the doors of a Long Island Wal-Mart Friday morning, witnesses said.

The unidentified worker, employed as an overnight stock clerk, tried to hold back the unruly crowds just after the Valley Stream store opened at 5 a.m.

Witnesses said the surging throngs of shoppers knocked the man down. He fell and was stepped on. As he gasped for air, shoppers ran over and around him.

Worker dies at Long Island Wal-Mart after being trampled in Black Friday stampede

Before police shut down the store, eager shoppers streamed past emergency crews as they worked furiously to save the store clerk's life.

"They were working on him, but you could see he was dead, said Halcyon Alexander, 29. "People were still coming through."

Only a few stopped.

"They're savages," said shopper Kimberly Cribbs, 27. "It's sad. It's terrible.

Apparently, this is a regular Black Friday occurrence at Walmart. Here's footage from 2005 showing something similar.

Is the IRS holding onto your money?

Nearly 280,000 Americans have a nice holiday surprise awaiting them, but if they don't act by the time the clock strikes midnight Friday night, they might be kissing about $163 million goodbye.

That's how much the Internal Revenue Service says it has remaining in returned economic stimulus payments, and it's looking for those people whose checks never reached them.

Last day to claim stimulus check

Check to see if you are owed money here.

Tierney the Terrible

Ruling on a lawsuit filed in March against the landmarks commission’s top officials by a preservationist coalition, the judge called the agency’s inaction “arbitrary and capricious” and ordered it to start making timely decisions on every designation request. To allow such proposals “to languish is to defeat the very purpose of the L.P.C. and invite the loss of irreplaceable landmarks,” the judge, Marilyn Shafer, wrote.

An Opaque and Lengthy Road to Landmark Status

The city says it will appeal. Still, the ruling was a significant victory for preservationists and politicians across the city who have long accused the commission of lacking the responsiveness and accountability that citizens expect from a watchdog of the city’s architectural history.

A six-month examination of the commission’s operations by The New York Times reveals an overtaxed agency that has taken years to act on some proposed designations, even as soaring development pressures put historic buildings at risk. Its decision-making is often opaque, and its record-keeping on landmark-designation requests is so spotty that staff members are uncertain how many it rejects in a given year.

Defenders and detractors alike agree that, with 16 researchers, the commission does not have the manpower to accede to that demand.

Yet in 2007 Mr. Tierney declined a budget increase of $750,000 approved by the City Council; instead the commission ended up getting an increase of just $50,000 for a total Council allocation of $300,000. (The current budget is $4.7 million.)

Preservationists say the larger issue is the manner in which Requests for Evaluation are handled at the agency. Currently they are funneled through the commission’s staff and Mr. Tierney, a former counsel to Mayor Edward I. Koch, who was appointed in 2003 despite having no background in architecture, planning or historic preservation. (Mr. Tierney, whose second three-year term ends in June 2010, earns an annual city salary of $177,698; the other commissioners are unpaid.)

Learn all about the BSA

Here's your opportunity to learn what the Board of Standards and Appeals does and how it works. The Historic Districts Council is presenting a lecture on the topic this Monday. Dec 1.

In New York City, one body has the power to grant exceptions to certain local building laws and regulations on a case-by-case basis: the Board of Standards and Appeals (BSA). Once granted, such special permissions, known as variances, provide building owners and developers with legal, alternative approaches to the city’s Zoning Resolution, Building and Fire Codes, and Multiple Dwelling and LaborLaws. The BSA also hears appeals made by property owners, community groups, elected officials and the like who believe that a given commissioner or agency head has issued a ruling that is illegal.

Comprised of five mayoral-appointed commissioners, the BSA is considered to be one of the most obscure but powerful bodies in city government. Yet many neighborhood advocates who have opposed or closely monitored construction projects in their neighborhoods have had to appeal to the BSA at one time or another. BSA Vice-Chair Christopher Collins will explain the basic steps of presenting to the Board, from how to navigate their procedures and requirements to how the most effective approach to formulating arguments.

The Coffee Talk begins at 8:30am and is held at the Neighborhood Preservation Center, 232 East 11th Street, between Second & Third Avenues in Manhattan. All Coffee Talk events are free of charge.

Reservations required. To RSVP, email or call (212) 614-9107.

Whore party in Ridgewood tomorrow

Here we go again. These cards are being handed out at area high schools.

Located at 618 Fairview Avenue in Ridgewood. See if you can find a permit to convert this knitting mill into a lounge. See also if you can find a health dept inspection for this place.

Liquor license is pending. Check out the MySpace page of the underage dweeb running the show and see if you get the feeling that they plan to serve alcohol.

If you receive or see similar postcards, please send them to Queens Crap. Ditto for the prostitution calling cards that are being handed out at subways.

UPDATE, 4:30PM: I have been contacted by the owner who says the party has been "cancelled by the FBI".

Frozen Cup lovers protest hotel

On a bone-chilling day, Bellerose residents had ice cream on their mind as they gathered to protest plans to replace a cherished neighborhood landmark with a hotel.

Youngsters held up a homemade sign on Saturday saying “Save our Frozen Cup,” the 58-year-old ice cream stand set to be demolished and replaced by a 45-room Days Inn hotel. Their parents and other adults, numbering around 70, braved the cold temperatures to protest the hotel, which they say is not needed or wanted in the neighborhood.

I scream, you scream; people want Frozen Cup

Elizabeth Mancini, a board member of the Queens Colony Civic Association, collected signatures on a petition to stop construction of the facility. She noted that there are two hotels nearby, between 257th and 249th streets on Jericho Turnpike.

The Frozen Cup, located at 249-05 Jericho Turnpike, closed at the end of the summer and was sold to Harshed Patel. Patel recently completed another hotel, a Quality Inn, that is located a few blocks away. Another hotel, just over the Nassau County border, is located a mile away.

“With two other hotels within seven blocks from this location, we feel there is no need for another facility,” Mancini said. “A hotel in this location would change the demographics of this neighborhood from residential to transient by bringing an influx of people into our suburban area and will bring down the valuation of our homes.”

Subprime mess going to cost us

One in 355 homes in Queens faced foreclosure during the third quarter of this year, and the continued spike in foreclosures throughout the state could begin affecting local government finances, according to a recently released report by New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli.

Housing crisis hurts property tax revenues

DiNapoli’s report entitled Meltdown: The Housing Crisis and Its Impact on New York State’s Local Governments, shows that property tax revenue, which is the primary source of tax revenue for local governments, could decrease by as much as $1.3 billion this year, and cause governments to raise taxes to offset the deficit.

In 2007, property taxes accounted for more than 44 percent of total revenue from local governments. If property values decline by roughly 5 percent this year and results in a loss of $1 billion to $1.3 billion in tax revenue, local governments would have to raise tax rates by 5.3 percent to raise the same amount of revenue as last year.

Vallone's tough decision

City Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr. conceded he did not make up his mind until the day before. "It was a very tough vote for me," he said.

When the City Council, by a count of 29 yeas to 22 nays, decided to approve an amendment to the term limits law last month, Vallone voted in favor.

"The bad news is, I won't be your next borough president. The good news is I will be able to run again," Vallone told Community Board 1 at the board's November meeting. He had been a candidate for borough president but will now seek re-election to the council.

Vallone Was Torn On Term Limits

Bad news for District 22, good news for the rest of Queens. And who really believes he thought long and hard about this? He represents Astoria and his last name is Vallone. What did he have to lose by voting "yes"?

Call for 116th Pct in southeastern Queens

Community leaders in some parts of southeast Queens say they want to see the 105th Precinct split in two.

Community Leaders Call For Changes At 105th Precinct

How dare you folks suggest that the increased population calls for more police. Next you'll be saying we shouldn't be closing firehouses...

Frank Lloyd Crap goes industrial

Here we have Frank Lloyd Crap's foray into industrial architecture.

He filed for a permit to erect a 2-story structure that's hollow below to allow for 7 cars and a contractor's office hovering above.

Let's check in with Frank to see what his thought process was for this design.

"Well, Crappy, the inspiration for this design was basically a large ugly shoe box with some holes cut in it suspended in the air over a pile of junk. Yep, at's what I was going for. I finished it off with a bunch of ugly cinderblocks to complete the look. But you don't know the full story.
I intended for it to be a new campaign office for Dennis Gallagher, because it wasn't exactly kosher that his campaign office and council office were just a narrow staircase apart. But alas, before I could present him with this gift, he got caught and his political career ended in disgrace. So, I sold it to a construction company for a quick buck and got right to work on Anthony Como's castle o' crap. And now he's out. Geez, maybe I'm bad luck or something. If everyone I design crap for gets tossed out of office, I should probaly design a nursery for Melinda Katz or a cozy cell for Bloomberg."

Thursday, November 27, 2008

The first Thanksgiving

From today's Daily News:

In the autumn of 1621, the pilgrims of the nascent Plymouth Colony in Massachusetts, along with scores of Native Americans, gathered to celebrate a successful harvest with a feast that was to be considered this nation's first Thanksgiving. In the words of the governor of the colony, William Bradford:

"They began now to gather in the small harvest they had, and to fit up their houses and dwellings against winter, being all well recovered in health and strength and had all things in good plenty. For as some were thus employed in affairs abroad, others were exercised in fishing, about cod and bass and other fish, of which they took good store, of which every family had their portion. All the summer there was no want; and now began to come in store of fowl, as winter approached, of which this place did abound when they came first (but afterward decreased by degrees). And besides waterfowl there was great store of wild turkeys, of which they took many, besides venison, etc. Besides, they had about a peck of meal a week to a person, or now since harvest, Indian corn to that proportion. Which made many afterwards write so largely of their plenty here to their friends in England, which were not feigned but true reports."

A nation blessed: America's day of thanks

Here was the start of the enduring sense, through war and peace, Depression and prosperity, that we in the land that became the United States of America have so much to be thankful for.

Pols say rename stadium for taxpayers

(AP) Two New York City Council members say that Citigroup should show its thanks for a federal bailout by sharing the naming rights to the new Mets ballpark in Queens.

The struggling bank is slated to pay $400 million over the next 20 years to name the stadium Citi Field.

The bank made the commitment years ago, when it was flush with cash.

But now that Citigroup is getting billions of dollars in federal aid, Staten Island Republicans Vincent Ignizio and James Oddo say the ballpark's name should be changed to Citi/Taxpayer Field.

Citigroup and Mets officials have been saying that they have no plan to alter the naming-rights deal.


Cartoon by Sean Delonas

Answer to cancer?

Mr. Vale, 40, grew up in Whitestone, Queens. He excelled on the handball court, in neighborhood pool halls, and on the drums in his church band. But his real forte was as an arm-wrestler. He captured city, state, national and world titles throughout the 1980s and ’90s.

He also beat cancer. Twice, doctors told him that he had fatal tumors. And twice, he survived. The second time, he refused radiation and chemotherapy in lieu of an alternative treatment consisting of eating apricot seeds. The seeds have laetrile, which some people consider an alternative cancer-fighting agent — and the government considers a fraud.

Federal Food and Drug Administration officials warn that not only are the seeds not a cancer cure, but that they may contain harmful amounts of cyanide. Agency officials accused Mr. Vale of profiting from desperate cancer victims, and in 2000 got a court injunction to stop him from selling the seeds as a cure. Mr. Vale changed his marketing and had relatives handle the seeds, but he was arrested and, in 2003, convicted of criminal contempt of the injunction and sentenced to five years at the Federal Correctional Institution at Fort Dix in New Jersey.

An Arm-Wrestler’s ‘Over-the-Top’ Journey

“I want to be No. 1 again, not for myself, but as part of my mission to show the world the power of apricot seeds,” he said recently at his house in Bellerose Manor, Queens.

Mr. Vale is up against an old foe again. He has a tumor in his kidney for which he is refusing standard medical treatment in lieu of the apricot seeds.

Meet little Miss Brooklyn

Atlantic Yards opponent Daniel Goldstein and his wife did what megadeveloper Bruce Ratner has failed to do: they brought life to the Atlantic Yards footprint.

On Nov. 9, little Sita Dorothy Goldstein was born to Goldstein and Shabnam Merchant — and unlike most things near the couple’s Pacific Street home, the six-pound, five-ounce baby is “adorable,” the proud papa said.

“Despite the unusual circumstances, we’re happy to be living our lives and being able to raise our child in Brooklyn where we planned to,” Goldstein said. “We’re just very happy to have started a new family.”

And baby makes three!

The kid will be a grandmother before anything gets built there.

Challenging the Council's Invisible Man

The 2009 race for City Hall is already underway in Richmond Hill, where a 23-year-old businessman is challenging incumbent Councilman Thomas White.

Lynn Nunes, who ran against White for a Democratic District Leader position earlier this year, said he is eager for a rematch.

"This district ranks in the bottom of education, crime and foreclosures," said Nunes, a recent Queens College graduate.

"I'm not promising the world, but we should be on every doorstep and trying to improve the community," he said.

White first held the seat from 1991 to 2001, when he was forced out by term limits. He returned to office after defeating controversial incumbent Allan Jennings in 2005.

Nunes noted White has one of the worst attendance records in the Council. It has earned him the moniker "the invisible man."

"There was enough dust on his desk to have an archeological dig," Doug Muzzio, a professor of public affairs at Baruch College, told the Daily News in 2005.

White, who voted for the controversial term-limit extension bill in October, did not respond to Queens News' requests for comment.

Young gun Lynn Nunes taking shot at Thomas White's Council spot

Wow, a real estate broker...just what the district needs!

Warning from the Feds

DOB launches Stop Work Order program

On November 25, 2008, Buildings Commissioner Robert LiMandri launched a new program that outlines Department policies for rescinding Stop Work Orders. This program is designed to streamline communication between the Department and the construction industry and better ensure construction sites are maintained in a safe manner. As part of this program, a DOB Stop Work Order Coordinator will serve as the point of contact for a job site’s project executive and help provide industry members with the requirements to lift the Stop Work Order. This program, which becomes effective December 15, 2008, applies to all buildings under construction and demolition participating in the Department’s Site Safety Program that receive full Stop Work Orders.

Mets already preparing for 2009 season

Heh, sorry, couldn't resist writing that headline. This photo was actually in last Friday's AM NY, and the story is about people who are such fans they order official MLB coffins for their final journey.

Because ripping you off while you're alive isn't enough for Major League Baseball...

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Update on College Point's Schleicher Mansion

To whom this may concern,

I just thought I would give you an up date on the situation concerning "The Grand View Hotel".

Mr. Tony Avella will meet with us [today] at his District office. HPD has finally been involved, and gave the slumlord landlord a deadline... I cannot believe we are still homeless, but I know I will see the light at the end of the tunnel soon!! We are fighters we love our Mansion!! We filed to have it N.Y.C. landmarked & although this has made us suffer, far from what we ever believed... it has also made us stronger!!! Our story will be out this Thursday, in the Queens papers. If all goes well, we should be home by Christmas.

Pray for Us,

Tenants at Schleicher Mansion
Happy Holidays To You!!

Katz explains her political whoreishness

Letter to constituents of the 29th Council District:

Thank you for contacting my office regarding the City Council vote on Int. 845A to allow elected officials to qualify for a third term. I am writing at this time to explain the reasons for my vote. I have long been against term limits and have said publicly in recent months that extending term limits as a way to create more stability in city government is good policy, especially under present-day circumstances. The issue should have been raised early enough to decide this by referendum, but at this late date, it was not an option.

I also listened carefully to the testimony given during the hearings at City Hall and I heard from many of my constituents. While I understand and appreciate the views of those who disagree with me, I exercised the judgment I felt was correct for the City at the time, which is what I was elected to do.

There are several reasons I believe that giving voters the option to vote for the present administration and City Council was the best choice.

First, from a practical point of view, a longer time in office affects Council Members' seniority and the ability to see capital improvements through to completion. For example, over the past seven years, I have worked hard to bring millions of dollars in Capital funds to our district to provide upgrades to our parks, schools, firehouses, police stations and roadways. By limiting elected officials to eight years, there is less of a chance that many projects become complete.

Second, State and Federal regulations would permit a special election for a referendum on term limits from occurring until March or April at the earliest, and would not take effect until early May. This is due to rules on amending the New York City Charter and Federal Voting Rights laws governed by the Justice Department. These predictions are the best case scenarios and following this path would hold the future of our City government in limbo at a time when it is in most need of stability.

Third, the New York City Council's job is to pass laws whether they change laws enacted by referendum or legislation. It is one of the reasons the Council was created in the first place - to legislate.

Finally, throughout my career in public service, I have been against term limits. In 1993 and 1996, as a member of the New York State Assembly, I wrote letters and made phone calls in opposition to the two referendums. My position then as well as now has been clear and has not changed.

Once again, thank you for contacting my office on this issue.


Melinda Katz
Council Member
29th District

No one is guaranteed re-election, unless you have been offered assurances that you will run unopposed. (I recall Katz attending many Republican fundraisers...) So the whole argument behind this letter is stupid, unless Mel believes that incumbency is fail-proof and that incumbents should be lifelong occupants of their seats, which I guess is indeed the popular belief amongst them. Let's remember that you benefitted yourself from term limits, lady, and had neither a primary opponent nor a general election opponent. And as for the snarky comment about it being the Council's job to "legislate": The Council was created to check and balance the mayor, not to be his rubber stamp, which is what this council has become under Bloomberg. I know the prospect of having to get a real job is frightening, but please don't insult our intelligence.

Word of advice for apartment seekers

Working as an architect in Brooklyn for the past year, I have come across a slew of resources for determining the legitimacy of that potential apartment — or if it is known, verifying whether there have been any prior complaints. One of these resources is OASIS, the Open Accessible Space Information System for New York City. OASIS is a mapping system supplied by the City of New York that contains information on every address in the five boroughs.

An OASIS in a Sea of Industry

On looking up 1717 Troutman, we are able to determine that its land use is set for zoning and manufacturing, that there are no residential units, and by linking to its Department of Buildings file, that it has a total of 76 complaints filed against it, 13 open Department of Building violations, and 52 open Environmental Control Board violations. Had I known about about these complaints prior to renting at 1717 Troutman, I doubt I would have signed on.

You mean this was illegal?

It was not so much a room as a plywood cocoon, floating above the living space and accessed through a hatch in the floor. At a height of less than 6 feet, I had to crouch in order to clear the ceiling, and the only natural light came in through a stained glass window that opened out into the living room.

Whoa. I can't believe it. Who would have thought?

Con Ed decides against Astoria land sale

Con Edison said late Monday it had dropped plans to sell a 21-acre parcel of land in Astoria, Queens to a developer who wanted to lease it to Federal Express, which would have used it as a distribution hub for its delivery trucks.

Con Ed Backs Out of Astoria Land Sale

Community groups and local politicians opposed the sale to Steel Equities, a developer from Long Island, because they said the extra truck traffic would exacerbate the already poor air quality in the neighborhood known as “Asthma Alley.”

A spokesman for Con Ed, Michael S. Clendenin, said the utility had not yet entered into a contract with Steel Equities and was not ordered by the Public Service Commission to back out of the proposed sale.

“We were still in negotiations on the sale price and everything,” Mr. Clendenin said. “We decided we wanted to re-evaluate our options.”

Be prepared to wait...a lot


The MTA's doomsday budget may take a huge toll not only on drivers' wallets but also on their time.

The agency is weighing a plan to close some cash lanes at the nine bridges and tunnels it operates.

And as if that won't create enough congestion, it may also begin stopping drivers without enough money on their E-ZPasses instead of letting them through and billing them later - saving $3.4 million in mailings.

The possible changes are part of the agency's plan to close a $1.3 billion budget gap unless city and state lawmakers step in with a crucial bailout package.

MTA officials expect to save $3.4 million by closing cash booths at times when fewer cars use the crossings. Still, it would likely slow traffic to a crawl as cars pile up behind the remaining tollbooths.

Also, if a driver is stuck behind an E-ZPass user with a negative balance, "the scanner will reveal this and a Bridge and Tunnel officer will need to intervene, causing delay to [the driver behind]," said MTA Bridge and Tunnel spokeswoman Joyce Mulvaney.

Charlie Rangels donor a loophole

Congressional records and interviews show that Mr. Rangel was instrumental in preserving a lucrative tax loophole that benefited an oil-drilling company last year, while at the same time its chief executive was pledging $1 million to the project, the Charles B. Rangel School of Public Service.

Mr. Rangel, the Donor and the Tax Break

The company, Nabors Industries, was one of four corporations based in the United States that were widely criticized in 2002 and 2003 for opening offices in the Caribbean to reduce their federal tax payments. Mr. Rangel was among dozens of representatives from both parties who bitterly opposed those offshore moves and, in 2004, pushed unsuccessfully for legislation to make the companies pay more tax.

But in 2007, when the United States Senate tried to crack down on the companies, Mr. Rangel, who had recently been sworn in as House Ways and Means chairman, fought to protect them. The tax shelter for the four companies was preserved, saving Nabors an estimated tens of millions of dollars annually and depriving the federal treasury of $1.1 billion in revenue over a decade, according to a Congressional analysis by the nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation.

But wait! There's more:

The Post reported Sunday that Rangel took a "homestead" tax break on a Washington, DC, house for years while also occupying multiple apartments in New York City, possibly running afoul of laws in both cities.

Vibrant and diverse in Broad Channel

This photo was taken in Queens, New York, USA in November, the year of our Lord 2008. You'll be hearing a lot in the news this week about people in our City who are starving. Despite this, not only are some New Yorkers killing livestock on a public beach, but then they are leaving the carcass for someone else to clean up. I hope Weiner actually does something about this and isn't just all talk and photo-op.

This is the photo that started the round of news coverage last week, but was not published anywhere. Time for us to face the harsh reality of what the people who live next door do in their spare time.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Atlas Park waiting for the masses

Reports that a Chili's Grill & Bar persistently leaks liquids into a Borders bookstore downstairs are backed up by scores of water-stained or missing ceiling panels.

Storeowners and employees who asked to remain anonymous griped that Hemmerdinger charges outlandishly high rents and issues steep penalties to shops that open later than scheduled.

Hemmerdinger said rents and penalties are consistent with those at other shopping centers.

"That's not the criteria I'd use to say whether we have a good relationship," he said.

Perhaps the truest indicator of Atlas Park's success is its customers, who frequent the theater and eateries but often bypass stores.

"It's good if you want to see a movie, but not to shop," said Tyrone Casey, 18, of Jamaica, as he roamed Atlas Park last week.

"They just need more stores," said his pal, Chaz Fraser, 28, who lives a block from the mall.

"Stores people go to," Casey quipped.

But coming soon are a Republic of Couture apparel boutique and a Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory, Hemmerdinger said.

Mall struggles to catch on: Owner says Atlas Park's growing pains are normal

Someone's a little out of touch when it comes to defining "stores people go to."

Tweeders preparing for Doorman's exit

Mr. Van Bramer is a Democratic state Committeeman who has worked for the Queens Public Library for more than a decade.

“It’s not at all too early to start campaigning,” said Mr. Van Bramer, who is also president of the West Queens Independent Democratic Club and a co-founder of Queens Pride House, a center for the borough’s gay population.

Deirdre A. Feerick, a lawyer for the City Council and a candidate for the Council seat, held a fund-raising breakfast on Sunday, asking for guests for a $10 contribution and a coat, which was to be donated for a shelter for homeless veterans in the district.

Among the other candidates in the race are David J. Rosasco, who is a member of Community Board 2 and president of Nichibei Translations, a Japanese translation business; and Brent M. O’Leary, a legal compliance office for Bloomberg L.P.

Candidates Gear Up for Queens Council Race

Number one opposes landmarking of the Elmhurst Library and number 2 opposed landmarking of Sunnyside Gardens, where number one lives. Number 4 is attached to Bloomberg. In other words: same crap, different names. The country votes for change but Queens asks for the same old shit.

Speaking of which, what is that boy up to lately?

City Councilman Eric Gioia wants Jumbotrons erected in Central Park for all those New Yorkers who can’t score a ticket or get to Washington D.C. to celebrate Barack Obama’s inauguration in January.

Gioia, speaking with me after Ray Kelly’s testimony, said if the city can’t pay for it, the cost could be borne by private funding.

Excellent! This really helps your constituency, Doorman. You deserve to be our advocate.

Queens grand larceny arrests

* A handprint helped cops track down a thief who swiped four tires from a parked car in Flushing.

The owner of the vehicle called cops after he found all four tires and rims had been stripped from his 2008 Honda Accord while it was parked on 65th Avenue near 156th Street, shortly after 11 p.m. on Sept. 22.

Police examined the car and found a right palm print on the front fender of the vehicle, sources said.

Cops used the print to identify Angel Martinez, 24, linking him to the crime.

He was arrested on Tuesday and charged with grand larceny, said a spokesperson for Queens DA Richard Brown.


* A man was carjacked while sitting in his luxury vehicle in Richmond Hill.

The victim, 31, told cops he was sitting behind the wheel of his 2002 Mercedes with a female acquaintance, 29, on 92nd Avenue near 112 Street, at 1 a.m. on Nov. 14, when a man walked up to the driver-side window, tapped on the glass with a gun and ordered the driver and his companion to get out, sources said.

The robber snatched two cellphones, an iPod, $20 and the driver's keys, then climbed behind the wheel and fled in the car, court papers revealed.

Cops arrested the alleged robber, Asa Sparkes, 22, on Nov. 18. He was charged with robbery and grand larceny.

Because hotels are what's lacking in LIC

The hotel development boom in Long Island City is not limited to Dutch Kills, though it certainly is concentrated in Queens Plaza. But never fear Vernon/Jackson, we are on the hoteliers’ radars as well. It looks like a couple of adjacent parcels on 50th & 49th Aves between Vernon & 5th St are going to be transformed into a hotel...

Vernon/Jackson to get a hotel; rezoning battles on in Dutch Kills

Things looking up for Frank

As of 4 p.m., Republican Frank Padavan lead over Democratic challenger Jim Gennaro has grown to 707 votes, according to a reader in Queens participating in the recount and supporting Padavan.

Padavan's Lead Up to 707 Votes

About 1,600 paper ballots remain to be counted, down from about 8,000. The remaining ballots are form the 26th, 27th, 29th and 33rd ADs, at least two of which are considered by the Republicans to be strong for Padavan.

Looking Good for Padavan

LIRR delays continue for a third day

For the third day in a row - and the fourth in less than a week - Long Island Rail Road commuters can expect significant delays Tuesday morning, and possibly beyond, as they continue to deal with the fallout from the worst LIRR accident in 15 years, officials said.

Morning commuters can expect systemwide delays of up to 15 minutes, and LIRR president Helena Williams said disruptions could last even further into the holiday week as crews continue to assess the damage caused by Sunday's Jamaica train derailment.

"We have significant repair work to do," Williams said Monday at LIRR's Jamaica headquarters. "We are asking, again, for our customers to have patience. We know that that's a lot to ask our customers, but they are a good New York, sturdy breed."

Many commuters inconvenienced this morning likely also dealt with major disruptions during yesterday's morning and evening rush hours. Some 19 eastbound trains were canceled during the evening peak hours and riders changing trains at Jamaica were met with agents sending them to street level, and then redirecting them to tracks that were still operational after Sunday's accident.

LIRR commuters will face another day of delays

A message from our former thronewarmer

"Everyday I wake and read about more government support for financial institutions that is supposed to benefit the overall economy and American consumers, yet none of my constituents are seeing any relief," Katz said in a press release.

"On the contrary, their access to credit is decreased in the form of reduced limits and their credit card rates are rising," the Queens lawmaker continued. "This is outrageous, considering the Federal bailout programs are distributing taxpayer dollars to the credit card companies and affording them access to cheap capital from the Federal Discount Window. We as taxpayers are being asked to re-capitalize these banks and then we’re getting charged for the privilege."

"I am cutting up my American Express card. Until the situation is rectified and rates are either frozen or lowered, American Express will no longer get my business, and I urge all New Yorkers to join me.”

"The Federal bailout money was never meant to boost profits. It was meant to free up the credit markets and provide access to capital. Yet American consumers have yet to see the benefits of any of this. Where is our increased access to capital, and where are our reduced credit card rates?”

Katz, who is currently the only woman in the running for the comptroller's office, also launched an on-line petition entitled "Where's My Tarp?" (that's short for Trouble Asset Relief Program), which features an open letter to (outgoing) Treasury Secretary Paulson.

Katz vs. AmEx

This has got to be one of the lamest stunts of the year.