Sunday, January 31, 2010

Poletti power plant closes tonight

From Fox 5:

Queens Power Plant to Close Sunday

One of New York City's dirtiest power plants is closing this weekend. New York State Power Authority officials confirmed Friday that The Charles Poletti Power Project in Astoria, Queens, will close at 11:59 p.m. Sunday.

The Astoria plant was named one of the city's worst polluters in a 2002 report by the Environmental Protection Agency. The generating station was built in the mid-1970's and could burn either oil or natural gas.

Queens City Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. calls the closing a breath of fresh air. Vallone and an environmental group won a 2002 lawsuit against the power authority, which led to the plant closing this weekend.

A replacement plant was built in 2005 to provide electricity to city agencies, subways and metro-area commuter trains.

Guilty Plea in Shea Stadium Memorabilia Theft

From 1010WINS:

NEW YORK (AP) -- A Brooklyn man who worked as a security guard during the demolition of Shea Stadium has pleaded guilty to stealing Mets memorabilia.

Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said Gerald Tacopino pleaded guilty to petit larceny on Wednesday.

Tacopino was fined $500 and sentenced to a conditional discharge, provided he pays $842.50 in restitution. He also was ordered to stay away from the new Mets stadium, Citi Field, for one year.

The district attorney said various stadium items were recovered from Tacopino's apartment in December 2008. They included Mets security jackets and shirts and seat bottoms and backs.

The 44-year-old man was hired to prevent looting of items that were being removed from Shea Stadium to be sold as memorabilia.

You mean someone stole property from the Wilpons for a change instead of the other way around?

It really would be a shame to destroy this

From Lost in the Ozone:

The reservoir has seen a bit of wear and tear over the years. Fences, stonework, dirt pathways, and even the remnants of an old automobile have long been overtaken by decades of untamed trees and plants. The result is a natural habitat and ecosystem for a variety of plant and animal life, such as fungi, Italian Wall lizards and turtles. According to Steve Fiedler, parks committee chairperson for Community Board 5 of Queens, the reservoir is also an east coast flyby for migrating birds and has over 100 species, 15 of which are on the endangered list.

The educational value is of interest to communities throughout the New York City boroughs. Darryl Towns, Assembly-member for the 54th Assembly District of Brooklyn, is open to the passive improvements that will make the reservoir more accessible to the public. He sees the reservoir as a “nature sanctuary” that can give residents and students a chance to see what New York City was like before it was all asphalt and concrete. He believes that opening the reservoir to the public would be a great opportunity to “understand how ecology or natural ecology can exist within an urban setting.”

Comrie takes over land use committee chair

From The Real Deal:

On the eve of his first meeting as chair of the City Council's Land Use Committee, southeast Queens Council member Leroy Comrie spoke with The Real Deal about how he will judge success, whether he has laid out specific goals and which upcoming land use projects could be the most controversial. Comrie was voted in as chairman last Thursday and is scheduled to call his first committee meeting to order today at 10 a.m. with three rezonings and 11 landmarkings to consider.

Is there anything that you as land use chair can do to spur development?

I think development will happen in its own course and time. Development will happen when they have the ability to create the financing, and the property vision. The council can try outside the committee to create legislation, [but] there is nothing that we can do other than be a bully pulpit.

Well you could take giant campaign contributions from developers in return for pushing their agendas through, like your predecessor did. Thankfully Melinda Katz is gone. Don't be a Melinda, Leroy!

Developer messes up, then whines to BSA

From the Times Ledger:

The smoldering struggle between Dutch Kills residents and a hotel builder flared anew Tuesday as the factions clashed over a variance request that could set the stage for further development in the neighborhood.

The Dutch Kills Civic Association and the Dutch Kills Community Advocacy Unit asked the city Board of Standards and Appeals to forbid real estate developer Steven Bahar from going ahead with the hotel under construction at 39-35 27th St. in the section of Long Island City.

The City Council rezoned the neighborhood in 2008, reducing the maximum height manufacturers — and hoteliers — are allowed to build.

Although Bahar’s $3.8 million plan was one of 14 hotels that was approved by the city Department of Buildings, he was unable to lay the foundation before the rezone took effect.

Marvin Mitzner, an attorney representing Bahar, said his client had used his life savings for the project but suffered grievous financial losses because of stop-work orders from the DOB for unsafe working conditions and other grounds as well as from other adverse conditions and circumstances.

Attorney Steven Moffei, representing the Dutch Kills residents, said the problems Bahar complained about “were of his own making.”

Protecting his assets

Winners and Losers in Bloomberg’s Budget Plan

The biggest loser in the mayor’s 2011 budget: the city’s libraries.

When Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg proposed his financial plan for the next year on Thursday, he called for 834 job cuts. More than a third of those — 299 — would be library employees.

Cultural institutions would lose 186 workers; the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene would lay off 141; the Department of Finance would fire 65; and the Department of Housing Preservation and Development would cut four positions.

Who is shielded from the budget ax? Police officers, firefighters, sanitation workers and correction officers (whose employees are generally the highest paid in the city).

Oh, and the mayor’s office. It would not lose any of its nearly 500 workers. In fact, it has added a few jobs in the last few weeks, to make room for former staff members of Mr. Bloomberg’s re-election campaign.

So far, Comptroller Johnny, our fiscal watchdog, has been mum on this abuse. However, he is stating that we're gonna get socked with yet more taxes.

Photo from the Daily News

All about the sad state of education

From the Indypendent:

The drama that unfolded at the PEP meeting was the product of years of simmering frustration in communities across the city. When Bloomberg plucked Klein, a lawyer, out the corporate world in 2002 to oversee over a school system that educates 1.1 million children in more than 1,500 schools, he promised a new era of mayoral accountability.

Instead, critics say the two men have exercised their power in an arbitrary and reckless manner — reorganizing the system’s administrative structures to be more remote from parents, spending millions on high-priced consultants and no-bid contracts, pushing high-stakes testing regimes that lack a sound pedagogical basis and closing scores of neighborhood schools.

From the Daily News:

Mayor Bloomberg has ignited a firestorm among parents and teachers with his latest move to shut down 19 more low-performing schools - including many of the city's biggest high schools.

The hundreds who filled Brooklyn Technical High School Tuesday night to protest a vote on the closings by the mayor's Panel for Educational Policy sent a clear signal: The tide of public sentiment has turned against Bloomberg's dictatorial school reforms.

Schools Chancellor Joel Klein, those parents say, stacked their schools in recent years with huge numbers of special needs kids - especially English language learners and special education students.

Here's NYC schools by the numbers and Bloomberg’s 12-Step Method to Close Down Public Schools.

From the Daily News:

Fewer than six months after the vast majority of elementary and middle schools received A's on school report cards, the city announced plans Friday to overhaul the grading system.

First off, officials said, they'll be grading on a curve: only 25% of schools can get A's the next time around.

Last fall, 84% of elementary and middle schools got the top grade after state test scores skyrocketed.

State officials have vowed to make the tests tougher, although the city did not blame the tests for the skewed report card results.

In fact, they said at the time, they didn't see a problem at all.

"There's nothing wrong with anything," Schools Chancellor Joel Klein said in September.

Bad chemistry outside lounge

Man shot, two hurt in wild melee outside Queens club Chemistry Lounge
By Kate Nocera

A wild melee near a Queens lounge early Friday left one man shot, two slashed and a fourth in custody, police said.

Police said the shooting victim was a 38-year-old bouncer who tried to break up a fight outside Chemistry Lounge, a nightclub on Liberty Ave. in South Ozone Park.

Investigators said the gunman may have fired from a car and hit the bouncer by accident.

Manager Mike Singh said the victim did not work for the club and claimed the fight started in a nearby CVS parking lot and sent bystanders running to the club for safety.

Cops made one arrest - Alberto Cabrera, 18 - who was nabbed at a nearby train station after the 1:50 a.m. incident. None of the injuries was life-threatening.

Shame. It looks like such a high class place, too. Click through the club's photo gallery. I promise, it will be the best comedy experience of your week.

Hard to clamp down on illegal hotels

From the Indypendent:

There is currently no law against illegal hotels in New York City, and the city is often limited to fining hotels for violating fire, occupancy and zoning codes in an effort to keeping these establishments in check. Building owners caught operating illegal hotels in buildings zoned for residential use are only fined $800, what Yarrow Willman-Cole, a tenant organizer with the Goddard Riverside SRO Project, calls a “cost of operation.”

“It’s a legal gray area and enforcement is happening specifically where there are safety concerns, but there are other issues that can be considered [in trying to shut illegal hotels down], such as zoning, permitted use in the certificate of occupancy and the fire code,” William-Cole said.

Hotel 99 is just one part of a complex web of illegal hotels throughout the city. According to the West Side Neighborhood Alliance, a nonprofit group that seeks to provide safe and affordable housing, as of 2009 there were 270 illegal hotels across Manhattan, Queens and Brooklyn.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Result of last night's full moon?

From the Daily News:

A career criminal took an NYPD highway patrol vehicle with a loaded shotgun inside for a joy ride early Saturday - after an absent-minded cop left it running by a Bronx coffee shop, sources said.

Anibal Lugo, 48, hopped in the idle Jeep Tahoe and took it for a spin while the cop went for breakfast at the Lydig Coffee Shop in Morris Park about 7 a.m.

"This is the embarrassing part - he goes into a coffee shop and leaves the vehicle running," said a police source. "The perp jumps into the car and takes off."

Lugo, who sources said was a local resident with mental problems, drove the marked vehicle over the Whitestone Bridge and the whole way to the LaGuardia Airport parking lot.

That's where a Port Authority cop spotted the vehicle, secured it, and arrested Lugo inside the U.S. Airways Terminal.

"They found the guy in the terminal, walking around with the cop's cuffs, clipboard and some other stuff," said the source. "He kind of presented himself. He was acting a little erratic."

FDNY: "Probable arson & illegal conversion"

From Eyewitness News:

The fire commissioner hinted that that this may become a murder investigation because of where the fire began.

"It's very likely that this was an incendiary fire, because of all the conditions that we found, the position of the fire at the front door, we don't have fires start at the front door of a building," explained Cassano.

Meanwhile, they say the living conditions inside the building were a recipe for disaster.

There were no smoke detectors, the roof eventually collapsed, and about 20 residents were crammed in just 2 apartments.

Bensonhurst fire kills 5; baby is critical

From Eyewitness News:

A massive fire in a three-story Brooklyn apartment building has killed five people, and left a baby in critical condition.

The fire went to three alarms and the building was fully engulfed in flames.

When the fire was first brought under control, that is when fire officials found three people dead inside the building. Eyewitness News is told two more bodies were later found, bringing the death toll to five.

The fire broke out at around 2:30 this morning at 2033 86th Street in Bensonhurst.

The building has a restaurant on the ground floor and two apartments on the second and third floor.

Fire officials say when they arrived, they were met with a very heavy volume of flames.

One firefighter reportedly fell through the stairs while trying to get upstairs to the apartments.

Two adults were taken to Lutheran Hospital in fair condition.

There were complaints made about an illegal SRO and defective wiring previously, but DOB documented that they were both unfounded.

White House reconsidering venue for terror trials

From Eyewitness News:

The White House appears to be changing course on two major decisions regarding September 11th.

First, sources say the Obama administration has asked the Justice Department to consider other places to try the 9/11 terror suspects after a wave of opposition to holding the trial in lower Manhattan.

The Daily News reported that the action came hours after Mayor Bloomberg called Attorney General Eric Holder to say he would "prefer that they did it elsewhere."

Officials have told Eyewitness News and ABC News that the White House has asked the Justice Department to make contingency plans for criminal trial venues for the accused 9/11 terrorist defendants in case Congress and/or New York prevent the trials from taking place in Manhattan.

Officials said the apparent action by the White House does not mean the trials will be moved from federal court in Lower Manhattan, but they're now at least looking at other venues.

The Mayor of Newburgh, NY has offered to take the burden off the City. And Rep. Pete King of Long Island has introduced a bill to stop the terror trials from happening here.

Queens #1 in illiterates with low paying jobs

From the Times Ledger:

Queens has more adults working at low-wage jobs than any other borough in what an urban research agency called an illustration that “an alarming number” of city residents lack the education and skills to get better-paying jobs.

Queens also has the city’s largest percentage of illiterate adult residents.

The Center for an Urban Future, a public policy think tank based in Manhattan, said if things do not change, it could mean industries will no longer find enough workers with necessary education for the jobs they offer and will avoid the city.

The report found:

• Queens has more than 351,000 people age 18 and over working at low-wage jobs — meaning $11.15 an hour or $24,000 a year. Brooklyn had 291,000, the Bronx 168,000, Manhattan 140,882 and Staten Island 38,098. The city total is close to 1 million.

• More than 1.5 million adults in the five boroughs, who account for over 25 percent of all adult New Yorkers, do not have adequate literacy skills. In every borough except Staten Island, at least one quarter ofadults are functionally illiterate, meaning they are unable to perform such tasks as reading medical instructions, filling out a form or adding up the amounts on a bank deposit slip.

• Queens tops the city with illiterate adult residents, who make up 46 percent of people 18 or older, followed by 41 percent in the Bronx, 37 percent in Brooklyn, 25 percent in Manhattan and 14 percent in Staten Island.

The future is not bright, the Center for an Urban Future, said, since as of 2006-07 just under half of all elementary and middle school students in the city read below state and city standards. Nearly 1.2 million city residents age 25 and older, or more than 21 percent, lack a high school diploma or the equivalent.

Hispanics and other non-white residents are expected to drive much of the city population growth, but these groups have much lower rates of educational attainment. Among eighth-graders, only 52 percent of Hispanics and 45 percent of black students score at or above the basic level in math compared with 77 percent for white students.

Yes, but we're vibrant and diverse. That's gotta count for something!

Espada pays workers less than minimum wage

From CBS 2:

Embattled Bronx Sen. Pedro Espada is again under investigation. This time he's accused of luring impoverished members of his community to work as janitors at his health clinics, and paying them way below minimum wage.

Espada went to an upstate duck farm recently to take up the cause of migrant workers and demand they get fair pay and good treatment.

"What you're doing here is absolutely criminal," Espada said.

Pity that he apparently doesn't feel the same way about people working as janitors at Soundview Health Clinics, which Espada owns.

CBS 2 HD has learned that a company he controls that provides custodial services at Soundview was apparently running a sham internship program where workers received no training and were paid dramatically below minimum wage.

CBS 2 HD: "How much were you paid?"

Carlos Gonzalez: "I was paid $150."

That's $150 for two weeks work -- 80 hours at $1.87 an hour. The state minimum wage is $7.25.

Pharmacies robbed for controlled substances

Police: Masked Men are Responsible for 11 NYC Pharmacy Robberies

NEW YORK (1010 WINS) -- New York City police are looking for two masked men suspected of robbing at least eleven pharmacies in Brooklyn, Queens and Manhattan.

Among the establishments burglarized was the Fair Deal Pharmacy in Elmhurst, Queens. The store's manager says the men were looking for controlled substances including Percocet, Vicodin, and Oxycontin when they entered the premises last November.

Fair Deal's manager said the incident happened so quickly he only remembers the culprits' eyes, adding all pharmacies can do to keep safe is “be cautious.”

Anyone with information regarding the case is asked to call the NYPD Crime Stoppers Hotline at 1-800-577-TIPS, visit or texting 274637 (CRIMES) and entering TIP577.

An end to popup homeless shelters?

From the Daily News:

Bedford-Stuyvesant residents and merchants are fuming over a new residence for alcohol and drug abusers that suddenly opened earlier this month without any community notification.

Neighbors said that on Jan. 1, about 20 men arrived at the two-family home in a beat-up white truck and moved in with used mattresses and bed frames. Since then, the men have been seen discarding used beer and liquor from the home, according to neighbors.

"Why would you bring a shelter on a block that has a history of drug issues that we're trying to kill?" said Community Board 3 chair Henry Butler.

Butler has organized a meeting tonight with representatives from various city agencies to determine whether the building - which has been slapped with a temporary stop work order for building without a permit - is even safe to house the tenants.

Same situation up in the Bronx...From the Daily News:

A Manhattan judge tossed out a suit by a group of Bronx merchants that would have forced the city to conduct a comprehensive study of a neighborhood before opening a homeless shelter there.

The Westchester Merchants Association argued that the city Department of Homeless Services should conduct a "fair share" analysis of an area to see whether it already was saturated with social services organizations before a homeless shelter could open.

State Supreme Court Justice Geoffrey Wright tossed the lawsuit Friday.

But the merchants did score a victory two weeks ago, when the department adopted new policies mandating that a homeless shelter provider must first contact the local community board before setting up shop. At the time, one Westchester Square merchant called the change in guidelines "a partial victory."

The department has opened several shelters and "cluster sites" in the Bronx in the past six months, causing friction with borough residents and businesses. District managers for local community boards complained that they often learned of shelter openings after the fact, and sometimes through secondhand channels.

"The effect of this decision is going to affect communities throughout the city," said John Bonizio, president of the Westchester Square Merchants Association. "They don't consult with the community boards. They find a spot and put it in."

Local elected leaders and merchants contended the shelter was opened "in the dead of night," without any community notification.

So what? This is what we'll face instead - From Riverdale Press:

A month after Urban Pathways first proposed a supportive housing facility on Cannon Place, residents are still faced with more questions than answers.

The proposed development is for a 90-unit building on a rocky, sloping vacant lot on Cannon Place, a neighborhood that traces its history back more than 100 years, with streets so narrow parking is only allowed on one side. The facility would be comprised of 40 percent low-income housing and 60 percent housing for formerly homeless individuals with histories of substance abuse or mental illness, or both.

Despite the huge public outcry, with more than 100 people at each of two Community Board 8 Land Use Committee meetings, the project could still proceed without board approval, said Frederick Shack, executive director of Urban Pathways.

Urban Pathways currently has three other projects in various stages of development, including two others in the Bronx, in Community Boards 3 and 5. In two of those projects, the group’s proposal was rejected by the local board, but they chose to continue regardless.

Hey, Regina: Toddlers do that

Tot-scald bust

A Queens mother burned her 3-year-old son in scalding water because the toddler soiled himself, authorities said yesterday.

Regina Owens, 30, of Rockaway Park, flipped out after Barkim Owens soiled his pull-ups, cursing him, stripping him naked and holding him in the tub of burning-hot water while he screamed in agony, Queens DA Richard Brown said.

The child suffered second-degree burns to his legs buttocks and genitals, the DA said. Owens was awaiting arraignment last night and faces up to 25 years in prison if convicted.

Now they want to close hospitals in Manhattan

From the NY Post:

A rival, powerhouse medical group has proposed taking over and shuttering the 160-year-old St. Vincent's Medical Center in Greenwich Village, which would spell the end of the city's only remaining Catholic hospital, The Post has learned.

Continuum Health Partners -- which operates Beth Israel, St. Luke's and Roosevelt hospitals in Manhattan -- has submitted a plan to assume control of the financially struggling, 727-bed St. Vincent's, sources said.

The new corporate operator would "close all acute care" units -- such as inpatient beds and surgical services -- within 60 to 90 days, according to a source involved in the discussions.

The proposal has real muscle behind it.

Two holders of a combined $300 million St. Vincent's debt -- GE Capital and TD Bank -- support the Continuum takeover with the tacit approval of the state, sources said.

State Health Commissioner Richard Daines previously served as CEO of Continuum's St. Luke's Hospital. Under the plan, St. Vincent's would be converted from a hospital to a community health center with Continuum in charge, sources said.

Patients eventually would be rerouted to other city hospitals for surgical and in-patient care.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Paterson picks a winner

From Crains:

Aqueduct Entertainment Group has been selected to develop the racino at Aqueduct Racetrack in Queens, announced Gov. David Paterson late Friday afternoon. But there are some caveats.

The decision ends a drawn out bidding process that began six months ago and has been closed to the public. AEG edged out a team led by SL Green, Manhattan's largest commercial landlord, which at one time was seen as Mr. Paterson's favorite. Three other bidders, Delaware North's Aqueduct Gaming, R. Donahue Peebles/MGM Mirage and Penn National Gaming, also came up empty handed. One other bidder, casino mogul Steve Wynn, last year dropped out of the contest to revive the rundown racetrack in Ozone Park.

“After an extensive review of the five remaining bids to operate the video lottery terminals at Aqueduct racetrack, I have chosen and the leaders (of the state Assembly and Senate) have agreed the organization that best fulfills our selection criteria,” Mr. Paterson said, in a press statement. “All of the groups have valid proposals, but AEG presented a comprehensive bid that enjoys community support and also offers strong marketing appeal.”

According to a statement, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, one of the three decision makers on Aqueduct, agreed with Mr. Paterson's choice. However, AEG's selection is subject to conditions, which includes increasing their upfront licensing fee from $200 million to $300 million. He also noted that the winning bidder and its associates must possess a crime-free record to obtain a state gaming license.

Cuomo campaign loaded with developer cash

From the NY Times:

As Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo readies his candidacy for governor, one industry is helping him amass a huge fund-raising advantage: real estate.

The real estate industry, which Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo helps oversee, has been his top giver, even as it has hit hard times.

New records show that even as the industry has confronted its worst crisis in decades, developers, construction executives and real estate lobbyists have given millions of dollars to Mr. Cuomo, providing one in every five dollars over the past six months.

The money has come as Mr. Cuomo’s office has been flooded with complaints about construction in new developments, especially from buyers who are trying to break their sales contracts, claiming that builders are not living up to their promises.

An analysis by The New York Times shows that the real estate industry was the top giver to Mr. Cuomo over the past three years as he amassed $18 million, leaving him with a five-to-one advantage over Gov. David A. Paterson, a fellow Democrat. The donors include some of the biggest names in the business, many of whom are grappling with intense pressures in the current slowdown.

...prominent givers included Lloyd Goldman, an owner of the World Trade Center site; Bruce C. Ratner, the Atlantic Yards developer...

Is that why Cuomo won't indict Ratner for bribery?

Or maybe the Feds have it in the works? (Or maybe not.)

Motorists ticketed after signs changed without warning

From Fox 5:

Some residents of a neighborhood in the Bronx and other motorists couldn't believe what happened to their cars overnight on a street in Kingsbridge.

The city apparently changed the parking sign early Wednesday, and then soon after traffic agents descended on the block and ticketed every parked car.

The sign used to say no parking on Tuesday and Thursday morning for street cleaning. A crew installed a new sign showing no parking Wednesday morning.

Some car owners that Fox 5 news spoke to can't believe the city would install a sign one morning without warning and then ticket all the cars.

The Department of Transportation issued this statement:

"New signs were installed today to replace signs incorrectly installed by a contractor on the east side of Corlear Avenue between W. 236th and W. 238th Streets. Those who believe they were improperly ticketed can request dismissal by calling 311 for a sign verification form."

Bloomie bribed Independence Party

From the Village Voice:

For the second year in a row, Mayor Bloomberg has quietly pumped more than $1 million into the state's Independence Party -- without disclosing it as part of his own campaign spending.

Campaign finance records show that Bloomberg wrote two checks for $600,000 apiece last fall to the Independence Party's Housekeeping account, as reported by the Daily Politics' Elizabeth Benjamin. Both checks were deposited just a few days before the general election. The bulk of the money - a whopping $750,000 - was routed by the party to an Albany campaign outfit called Special Election Operations LLC.

The checks are all personal donations by Bloomberg - not from his own campaign. This allows the billionaire mayor to take advantage of the sky's-the-limit rules that apply to contributions to so-called housekeeping accounts. For a guy who spends a lot of time complaining about the free-wheeling ways of Albany pols, the mayor sure knows his way around the political ropes.

Not a day at the beach for Rockaway man

From the Daily News:

It's the second wave for a Belle Harbor man who sued the city for building sand dunes on a four-block stretch of the Rockaways.

James Agoglia, 40, is appealing a judge's decision to toss his lawsuit, which claims the dunes restrict access to the beach and don't prevent erosion, as originally intended.

"We didn't want dunes there in the first place," said Agoglia, who lives on Beach 141st St., about 350 feet from the dunes. "All it did was shrink the beach for people who use the beach." The Parks Department constructed the dunes in 1997 between Beach 138th St. and Beach 142nd St., as an "experiment in erosion control, designed to keep sand on the beach and out of your street and yards and homes," said then-Parks Commissioner Henry Stern.

But Agoglia said the experiment has been a failure and has benefitted only the six homes directly in front of the dunes.

"The sole purpose of those dunes was to give privacy to those homeowners," Agoglia said.

Agoglia and five fellow plaintiffs sued the Parks Department and the state Department of Environmental Conservation in Queens Supreme Court in 2006.

Justice Janice Taylor tossed out the case in March 2009. In her ruling, Taylor wrote that the plaintiffs failed to show "that they have suffered a different harm than the harm allegedly suffered by the public at large."

Amen, brother!

Dear Editor (Queens Chronicle):

I have read several accounts of both illegal and legal aliens abusing the system by applying for and receiving the government’s benefits (blue) card which allows them to receive free food. Some stated that the people using the cards were only speaking Spanish, were in their 20s or 30s and young enough to be working and paying for their own food. One said the people using the benefits cards were not always the people whose pictures were on the cards. Others claimed other examples of misrepresentation.

I never believed this to be the case and was offended by such letters. However, recently I have noticed the same things.

One young person left the supermarket with her $200 worth of groceries, which she received for free, and got into a 2009 SUV. Another finished with her purchase of $165 worth of food, for which she paid zero, and then passed the card to the man who was standing behind her which he used to get his groceries ($126) for free. The cashier never questioned him even though it was not his photo on front of the card. Disgraceful. Where is the justice here?

I am deeply saddened that I am paying taxes and my taxes are also going to support these people who are abusing the system. They do nothing to contribute to society, but continue to take all the free benefits they can get, which is causing all of us who are legal to pay for these benefits with our tax dollars, which continuously rise each year. I am quite sure that none of those who are illegal aliens are paying taxes, etc. and are not contributing to the U.S. economy.

Something needs to be done about these people milking this society dry. The U.S. government needs to overhaul this benefits program and give the free benefits, formerly call food stamps, to U.S. citizens and senior citizens who legally deserve them.

I came to the U.S. 15 years ago; became a citizen and am proud to call the U.S. my country now. But if you walk on Roosevelt Avenue in Jackson Heights, you hardly, if ever, see a U.S. flag. All you see are flags of Mexico, Columbia, etc. It is indeed a shame what is happening here. Everyone should contact their congressman and senators and demand that they do something about this free benefits program and the abuse that is going on and increasing day by day. No wonder so many people are trying to sneak into the U.S. illegally.

Hector Hernandez
Jackson Heights

Arbitrators rule against Silverstein

From the NY Times:

An arbitration panel has ruled against the developer Larry Silverstein on a series of critical issues involving the construction of three office towers at ground zero, including his request for free rent and, potentially, billions of dollars in damages from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which owns the 16-acre site.

The panel, which is seeking to break a 14-month deadlock between the developer and the Port Authority, issued its decision Tuesday evening, giving both sides 45 days to come up with a new schedule for erecting the three buildings or risk having the arbitrators impose their own solution. The dispute, which has embroiled Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and the governors of New York and New Jersey, has threatened to undermine the progress of other projects at the World Trade Center site.

The panel, at Mr. Silverstein’s request, did eliminate the “cross default” provision of the development agreement that would have put him in default on all three towers if he failed to meet the construction schedules for any one building.

End of the road for the Q79

From the NY Post:

They're in the no man's land of MTA budget cuts.

But riders of the little-used Q79 bus route in Floral Park, Queens, and the S60 route in Grymes Hill, on Staten Island, said they'll suffer -- facing long treks or the addition of 30 minutes in transfer time -- if the MTA, as planned, eliminates their lines.

Student Nicholas Mancuso said he'd have to "take another bus the wrong way and take it all the way back around to get home" from school if the Q79 is cut.

MTA officials said they targeted the two routes because they have the lowest ridership levels in the system. The S60 carries 210 people per day, and the Q79 about 650.

The move would bring about $1.1 million in savings to a $400 million budget gap.

Forest Hills priest under investigation for kiddie porn

From NY1:

A Queens priest is under federal investigation for allegedly violating child pornography laws.

Monsignor Michael Dempsey of Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Church in Forest Hills, seen above, was placed on administrative leave after the Brooklyn Diocese learned of the investigation.

That means Dempsey cannot present himself as a priest, present sacraments, or wear his robe.

In a statement, Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio said, "The steps we have taken are essential to maintaining our commitment to the bishops’ Charter and Norms. It is a responsibility we take seriously."

Dempsey has been the executive director of pastoral communications at the church since 1978.

Things that go 'bump' in the night

From the Daily News:

After 49th St. was repaved in December, the city Department of Transportation did not re-paint white warning strips on the speed bumps, between 28th and 25th Aves., locals said. And since then, hapless drivers have had bone-jarring encounters with the bumps, especially late at night.

"My house is rumbling," said John Warren, 45, a father of three who lives on 49th St. near the speed bumps.

It's especially unnerving when trucks pass through, taking an illegal shortcut to the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, locals said.

City Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria) said his office notified the Transportation Department about the unpainted bumps on Dec. 8, but has yet to hear a reply.

"It's like a motorist being ambushed by a camouflaged death trap on the street," Vallone said.

Before the bumps were installed in 2005, the street used to be a "raceway" for speeding vehicles, residents said.

But the speed bumps haven't slowed everyone down.

"People [speed] purposefully because they want to see how airborne they can get," Warren said.

Making a McMansion out of a rowhouse, part 2

What are the chances that two separate families would equally have such bad taste? The owners of 1345 and 1349 Shore Parkway in Brooklyn have different names. Maybe they drilled a hole in the firewall and it's a commune.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Obama to first responders: DROP DEAD (but not til 2012)

From the Daily News:

The Obama administration stunned New York's delegation Thursday, dropping the bombshell news that it does not support funding the 9/11 health bill.

The state's two senators and 14 House members met with Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius just hours before President Obama implored in his speech to the nation for Congress to come together and deliver a government that delivers on its promises to the American people.

So the legislators were floored to learn the Democratic administration does not want to deliver for the tens of thousands of people who sacrificed after 9/11, and the untold numbers now getting sick.

The 9/11 bill would spend about $11 billion over 30 years to care for the growing numbers of people getting sick from their service at Ground Zero, and to compensate families for their losses.

The legislators were shocked the idea was falling lower on the administration priority list than other parts of the war on terror and financial bailouts.

Does Joe Crowley still want Obama's autograph?

UPDATE from the Daily News:

The White House suddenly boosted funding for ailing 9/11 responders yesterday - pumping more government money into the treatment program than ever before.

Team Obama ponied up the cash only after outraging New York lawmakers with the news the administration won't back a permanent plan to help the dying Ground Zero responders.

The White House confirmed it will more than double the budget for treating ill responders to $150 million in 2011.

The abrupt reversal came after the Daily News revealed New York lawmakers were shocked Wednesday when Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said the administration does not support an $11 billion permanent treatment plan.

10 Queens high schools on list for possible closure

From the Times Ledger:

Consistently low graduation rates at Grover Cleveland High School in Ridgewood and Long Island City High School and Newtown High School in Elmhurst have placed all three institutions on the list for state and federal funding that would either completely make over the schools or close them entirely.

The state-issued list of 57 schools with graduation rates below 60 percent or consistently low scores on state English and math exams was released last Thursday. It includes 10 schools in Queens.

The others are Queens Vocational Technical High School in Long Island City, Flushing High School, August Martin High School in Jamaica, Beach Channel High School, Richmond Hill High School, John Adams High School in South Ozone Park and Jamaica High School.

Newtown’s four-year graduation rate for the 2008-09 school year was 52.6 percent, according to city Department of Education statistics. LIC High’s was 56.1 percent.

Grover Cleveland HS’s was 54 percent. None of the schools had state test scores low enough to make the list alone.

The city is now waiting for the state to set a deadline for deciding how to address the problem schools. Their options include redesigning the schools, converting them to charter schools, leaving the current school structure in place while state funds are devoted to improving student statistics or closing the schools outright.

Seriously... 10 out of the 57 crappiest high schools in the state are in Queens? What does that tell us? How many in the rest of the city? According to the Daily News, it's 34.

Murder suspect was to be deported

From Gothamist:

Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said: "For whatever reason, he felt slighted ... And he went back and began this series of harassment, basically threats." Wu filed for nine orders or protection against the undocumented immigrant — the most recent filed last Friday. Chen was jailed in 2006 for punching and choking Wu, and sent to Texas where he faced deportation proceedings. However, he was let out under supervised release last week and returned to New York.


Photo from the NY Times

Crazed killer ripped out woman's heart & lungs

From the NY Post:

A psychotic neighbor with a festering rejection complex was arrested for brutally butchering — and stealing organs from — a Flushing woman who owned an employment agency and declined to find him a job, cops said.

Police said the vicious killing was the culmination of a campaign of harassment and assault that maniac Huang Chen, 47, waged against victim Qian Wu since 2006. She took out nine orders of protection during that span.

In a gruesome twist straight out of a slasher film, Chen allegedly ripped Wu's lungs and heart from her body, and the organs still have not been recovered, police said.

Yesterday, Chen allegedly followed Wu, 46, into her apartment on 40th Road near Main Street and allegedly stabbed her numerous times in the torso before fleeing, cops said.

A woman in Wu's building called 911 at approximately 7:35 p.m., when she saw blood seeping out of the apartment door, cops said.

The Astoria Scum River Bridge

From Gothamist:

A leaky pipe might not be much compared to, say, whatever caused the Bronx Swamp to take shape—but for locals in Astoria their watery mess is both gross and hazardous. It allegedly makes 33rd Street, beneath the Hell Gate Bridge viaduct approach, a festering cesspool of standing water or (when it's cold) a festering cesspool popsicle! This thing has a nickname: the Astoria Scum River... and now that river has a bridge.

From Astoria Scum River Bridge:

Astoria Scum River, as it's called, stretches the entire width of the sidewalk, and as winter approaches, the river ices over and becomes particularly hazardous to cross.

Astoria Scum River Bridge was constructed to offer Astorians an opportunity to safetly cross this hazard. The unauthorized bridge is a gift to the pedestrians of Astoria in the absence of successful municipal efforts to ameliorate the problem.

I like this MUCH better than his lame chairs-in-the-subway project. This one has bite! And it got the intended result.

Toby wants Hiram out

From the Queens Courier:

Expel Senator Monserrate

When I was appointed to the Select Committee to investigate the facts surrounding Senator Hiram Monserrate’s conduct the night of December 19, 2008, I promised to keep an open mind. After countless hours of reading testimony, watching presentations and videotapes, and attending meetings, I am convinced that the inquiry was thorough, transparent, fair and bipartisan.

After a careful review of the information presented to the Committee, I came to the conclusion that his behavior merited severe sanctions. I repeatedly watched the surveillance video of his building which showed him dragging Ms. Giraldo through the halls. The assault on Ms. Giraldo was clearly one of domestic violence. We must enforce our “zero tolerance” policy concerning domestic violence.

Senator Monserrate failed to cooperate with the Committee. His supporters gave conflicting, inconsistent versions of events. In what seemed to be more concern about his political future than his victim’s well being, he chose to drive her to a distant hospital, Long Island Jewish, instead of Elmhurst – a five minute walk. He failed to accept any semblance of responsibility for his actions and the harm he caused.

I believe Senator Monserrate has violated the public’s trust and damaged the integrity of the Senate. While I am willing to listen to any information Senator Monserrate provides, he has failed to respond substantively to the content of our report. In fact, his only response was the threat of a lawsuit. Accordingly, I am prepared to vote for his expulsion from the Senate.

Toby Ann Stavisky represents the 16th Senate District in Queens.

Eyesore house bringing down Richmond Hill

From the Queens Courier:

Wendy Bowne, President of the Richmond Hill Block Association (RHBA), said that she, as well as other local residents, has been asking for action at 87-41 110th Street – a graffiti-strewn home with multiple Department of Buildings (DOB) violations – for months.

The two-story shingle home, with two bedrooms and one bath on each floor, sits on a 25’ x 100’ lot, according to Achievers, the real estate agency that is trying to sell it. The asking price is $299,000, though the home is not in a livable condition.

Between April 2004 and January 2006, according to the DOB, five violations were issued to respondent Inshanall Bibi Farid, including “Work without a Permit.”

Andy Ally of Achievers explained that they are attempting to do a “short sale,” meaning the lender is accepting less than the total amount due.

As recently as last week, Bank of America, the servicer of the home’s mortgage, received an offer of “short sale,” according to Rick Simon, spokesperson for Bank of America Home Loans. He said that, despite what many think, the home is not, in fact, in foreclosure.

Como comeback?

From City Hall:

Anthony Como is still waiting to hear on the job he says was promised to him to be a commissioner for the New York City Housing Authority. But if that does not work, State Sen. Joe Addabbo could have something to worry about.

“I think my wife would kill me [if I passed on the NYCHA job]” Como said. “I’m upset. I’m hoping it comes through sooner rather than later. As long as I can stay in government, that’s what I’m looking for. Whether it’s the city level somewhere in the administration, or on the state level in the State Senate, I don’t know.”

Como said he was offered the $172,311-a-year commissionership last spring by Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s campaign around the same time Bloomberg sought support for his mayoral campaign from a recalcitrant Queens Republican Party.

Como said the last time he was in contact with the Bloomberg administration about the NYCHA job was in late November or early December, and was told the Department of Investigation inquiry was still ongoing into several zoning violations Como committed while renovating his Middle Village home in 2007.

One local GOP operative said that Como appeared unlikely to get the position at this point. The operative said tensions between the Bloomberg campaign and the Queens Republican Party, which on several occasions bashed the mayor after giving Bloomberg their Wilson-Pakula endorsement, were a factor in Como likely not getting the position.

Other possible candidates include Gabriel Tapalaga, president of the Middle Village Republican Club and 2008 Assembly candidate Anthony Nunziato, a district leader who is part of the Haggerty faction. [Tom] Ognibene said he is not interested in running.

Astoria ready for rezone

From NY1:

The city's Planning Commission is reviewing a 240 block rezoning proposal in Astoria following a series of complaints over the neighborhood's development.

I can't imagine what they would be complaining about. This looks gorgeous.

We're getting soaked by Ratner

From the Huffington Post:

This whole Atlantic Yards boondoggle thing is still getting more amazing. Turns out, when Ratner bullied people into selling out by using the threat of eminent domain--totally standard and understandable--he also knew he could pay top dollar because he was using our own money to help ease his pain. My pain is formidable.

Just yesterday the ESDC, the state agency nominally running the show on behalf of private developer Forest City Ratner, finally allowed reporters to scan the "master closing documents" signed in private two days before Christmas, over a month ago.

Intrepid journalist Norman Oder describes his findings (the only other journalist there was Daily News reporter Erin Durkin). As usual, he does a thorough, detailed, and helpful job. Oder:

"Among the voluminous documents that were part of the Atlantic Yards master closing, first made available today, is one that confirms that, despite previous reports, New York City gave Forest City Ratner $31 million for arena land purchases on top of the $100 million it originally provided.

In other words, $131 million of Forest City Ratner's land purchases in the AY arena footprint, made under the threat of eminent domain, came from public funds

And even if that represents a reallocation of city subsidies, rather than an additional subsidy--the evidence is murky--it opens up the possibility for additional city infrastructure subsidies at some point."

He also found that there are no low-income units in the plan.

Large collection of PS 99 photos online

From A Picture History of Kew Gardens:

The story of any community is mostly about its people, not its streets and buildings. The P.S. 99 class photographs taken over the years are one of the best records we have of the people who have grown up here over the past decades. There are links below to 310 class photos. More will be added.

LIC shitbox gets even shittier...

Courtesy of Restless:

...from the off-the-shelf Frankenstein look of its budget design, the building is going to turn a profit long before the Lackadaisically-built Haus, and its owner will be able to move so far away -- like a buccaneer whaler who sails away and leaves the stinking carcass on some stranger's beach -- that they never have to see it again.

I'm so jealous. I wish I could live in such a modern, well-designed building...right next to the glorious Pulaski Bridge.

You may recall this as Miss Heather's "art sucko" masterpiece.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

BloomKlein gets its way

From the NY Times:

More than 300 speakers addressed the board, the Panel for Educational Policy, beginning at 6 p.m. Tuesday at Brooklyn Technical High School in Fort Greene. By the time the panel began voting at 2:40 a.m. they had heard a litany of complaints from hundreds of parents, students, teachers and administrators and just a handful of speakers who said they supported closing the schools.

But as expected, the panel overwhelmingly approved the closures recommended by the Education Department. The votes to close down the schools fell along political lines, with the appointees of the Manhattan, Queens, Bronx and Brooklyn borough presidents voting against the closings while each of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s appointees approved them without question. Nearly every school shutdown was approved with an 8 to 4 vote, while the audience shouted “shame on you” and “disgrace.”

The panel has been widely criticized as a rubber-stamp to the Bloomberg administration and has largely held an obscure role in education policy. But under new laws governing the mayor’s control of the school system, the panel was required to make the final approval of closures of low performing schools, a centerpiece of the mayor and Chancellor Joel I. Klein’s effort to overhaul the school system.

Woman stabbed to death in Flushing

From the NY Post:

A dispute over a mahjong game in a Flushing apartment last night led to the fatal stabbing of a 46-year-old woman, police sources said.

The victim was found with wounds to her stomach in the second-floor hallway of the building on 40th Road near Main Street at around 7:35 p.m.

"I heard yelling. She sounded like she was fighting with a man, then nothing," said a neighbor, Shin Yao.

The suspected attacker, a 47-year-old man, fled.

From the NY Times:

The victim, whose name was not immediately released, was stabbed just before 7:30 p.m. on the second floor of 135-32 40th Road, on a block with electronics shops, hair salons and restaurants. She was inside an establishment that neighbors described as a foot-massage parlor, above a Chinese restaurant.

It was unclear if the woman worked in the establishment or lived in the building, which has apartments on the second and third floors. The police said she was stabbed several times after a dispute. No one had been arrested as of Tuesday night.

UPDATE: The suspects are the victims neighbors, and apparently she was not playing MahJongg

Bloomberg makes dire predictions

From the Daily News:

Mayor Bloomberg warned lawmakers in Albany Monday that Gov. Paterson's proposed $134 billion budget for 2010-2011 would cost the city 18,500 jobs.

That breaks down to 10,000 city employees and 8,500 teachers.

"We would, for example, have to lay off 3,150 police officers - reducing the NYPD's operational strength to 1985 levels," Bloomberg said in prepared testimony. "Some 1,050 firefighters would be laid off, and the firehouses where they work would be closed."

"We'd also have to lay off close to 900 City correction officers," he added.

More cuts, as threatened by Bloomberg:

Street cleaning and litter basket collection service slashed in half, curbside pick-up reduced by a third, some 500 parks personnel (close to 19 percent of the staff) would face firing - "the equivalent of closing all pools, beaches, and recreation centers, citywide. "

Also on the chopping block would be city funding for 500 soup kitchens and 15 senior centers.

"Such budget cuts would inevitably damage the quality of life in the city that drives the economy of the entire state. It's in your power to prevent many of those dire consequences - simply by giving the people of New York City a fair deal," the mayor says.

If the Legislature restores the $328 million in revenue sharing Paterson has proposed cutting from the city (94 percent of the $349 million statewide reduction), it would "spare" some 3,400 uniformed employees and nearly 2,500 civilian employees, Bloomberg maintains.

From the NY Times:

Even as he warns that the city may have to lay off thousands of workers, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg has found city jobs for 15 members of his re-election campaign, many of whom are earning six-figure salaries, records and interviews show.

The hirings suggest that while Mr. Bloomberg is calling for a leaner government that reflects the economic downturn, he is finding money in the budget for those who engineered his unexpectedly close re-election.

In addition, seven city employees who left their jobs to work on the campaign have returned, in many cases at higher salaries. Together, the appointments cost taxpayers more than $2 million in government wages.

The Voice calls Queens Crap one of "Gotham's Best"

From the Village Voice:

[The Populist]
Queens Crap
Proprietor: "Queens Crapper"

The proprietor of Queens Crap wouldn't send us a picture, saying, "That kind of defeats the purpose of having an anonymous blog, doesn't it?" If you read the blog, you'll understand why the author wants to keep a low profile.

QC slashes hard at borough (and city) politicians, some of whom earn the name "Tweeder," a reference to the rapacious ward-heelers of Tammany Hall days. QC sometimes runs—along with selected, damning news bites—brief commentary, like this message to Mike Bloomberg: "Term limits were good enough to remove Giuliani after 9/11 (what got your ass in office in the first place), and it's good enough to get rid of you now." Mostly, these days, QC is content to run satirical headlines ("JFK Clusterfuck Coming") or pictures, like Congressman Gary Ackerman with his hand in a cookie jar. The blog's commenters are lively, and sometimes borderline racist, obscene, or unkind (one on former Beep Claire Shulman: "Shulman is a backstabbing pig who puts on kneepads for the Mayor"). Vox populi!

And that's just what you see on the site. Though mum about it, the Queens Crapper is a public-spirited citizen who goes to the meetings and has learned how to work the system. "The website is only about half of what the Queens Crapper does," QC tells us. "I get private e-mails asking for advice about how to tackle certain issues, and I respond privately."

That was a surprise to us—from the tone of the blog, we said, it seemed like QC doesn't expect things to change at all. "Oh, that's where you're wrong," QC says. "I do expect things to change. I think the era of complacency is about to come to an abrupt end, and I hope to document it." In fact, the blogger adds, "there are many talented unsung mid-level city employees that go out of their way to help their fellow citizens on a daily basis and are not just there to collect a paycheck. I would give them kudos on my site, but it might get them fired."

Why not run for office? "Because attending meetings all day is boring, and this is so much more enjoyable." —edroso