Sunday, February 28, 2010

MS-13 member convicted for attack on Flushing teen

From the Times Ledger:

A Woodhaven teen who is a member of the ferocious MS-13 gang was convicted last week of gang assault and other charges in the 2007 attack on a 19-year-old outside of a Laundromat and deli in Flushing, Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said.

Three MS-13 gang members approached the 19-year-old, whose name was not released, outside of a Laundromat at 43-78 162nd St. and asked if he had any affiliation with a gang, Brown said.

The victim said he did not belong to a gang and did not believe in them and entered a corner deli.

When he left the deli, he was confronted by 11 men, including Jose Hiraeta, 19, of 89-17 86th St. in Woodhaven and co-defendant Jose Molina, 20, of 59-10 174th St. in Fresh Meadows, who threatened and attacked the victim with a bicycle chain, plastic milk crate and fists and kicks, the DA said.

The gang also stole two necklaces and the victim’s shoes before fleeing, Brown said.

The victim suffered laceration and bruising to his forehead, right ear, back and shoulders and his front tooth was knocked out, Brown said.

Hiraeta, who has two horns tattooed on his forehead, and Molina were arrested within three weeks after the victim was able to pick them out of photo arrays, the DA said.

MS-13 originated in El Salvador and has a large presence in the United States. Members of the gang were responsible for the murders of 15-year-old Pashad Gray Dec. 24, 2006, and Maurice Parker, 21, May 18, 2007.

Veteran corrections officer finally gets promoted

From the Daily News:

A city Correction officer passed over for a promotion while serving in the Army Reserves will get the position and back pay, according to a settlement announced Thursday.

Emilio Pennes will be appointed to the position of deputy warden and receive three years' back pay under the settlement reached with the city Department of Correction in Manhattan Federal Court.

Pennes, an assistant deputy warden, was called to active duty in February 2007 where he oversaw a unit in Florida that provided medical and psychological support to soldiers returning from Iraq.

Though he ranked at the top of the 13 candidates for deputy warden, he was passed over because he was unable to appear in person for a March 2007 job interview with correction officials, authorities said.

Pennes, 46, had offered to do the interview on different days, by teleconference or phone, but was denied.

A lawsuit filed by the United States on Pennes' behalf says he was denied his rights under a federal act designed to protect service members from having their civilian careers derailed while doing their military service.

Malba's traffic problem

From the Times Ledger:

When Robert Moses built the Cross Island Parkway in the 1930s, cars taking what is now called the Third Avenue exit were able to enter the quiet neighborhood by 7th Avenue, a 70-foot-wide road Moses built to handle the anticipated traffic in the area.

That changed as the years passed. First, 7th Avenue was blocked from exiting traffic and in 1997 a divider was extended to keep highway traffic off Sixth Avenue.

As such, many residents say 3rd, 4th and 5th avenues have turned into speedways, with parents afraid to let their children play in their yards along the tree-lined streets.

So the Malba Gardens Civic, a group with dozens of members in the immediate area, sent out a poll asking area residents what should be done to address the situation, after which they proposed the city convert 4th and 5th avenues between Whitestone Expressway and 147th Street to one-way.

Maura McCarthy, the city Department of Transportation’s Queens borough commissioner, attended the meeting to respond to the civic’s proposal. She said since an October 2009 meeting when she first heard the concerns, the DOT has done several studies.

The department found that 107 cars passed down 5th Avenue between 2 p.m. and 3 p.m. at an average of 27.9 miles per hour, with 31 percent of drivers speeding. But 3rd Avenue was more affected by traffic problems, the study showed, as 152 vehicles drove on the street between 4 p.m. and 5 p.m. on the day of the study, while only 13 drove on 4th Avenue in the same period. Between 2004 and 2008, six car crashes occurred on 3rd, zero on 4th and two on 5th.

McCarthy said the city would not automatically make changes to the streets based on those statistics and that proposals to install stop signs or traffic lights are untenable as the volumes do not reach required thresholds.

DOT: Good at wasting time with studies. Bad at improving traffic.

Gene - nice bag. Prada or Gucci?

Another hospital on its last leg

From the NY Times:

Thirty years ago, it was the great hope for the future of health care in Harlem, a new private hospital, opened at a time when public hospitals were seen as failing.

Harlem’s civic, political and religious leaders fought, often successfully, to get more money and more state subsidies to keep it going. But in a time of economic malaise, the hospital, North General, at Madison Avenue and 122nd Street, may finally be on its deathbed, industry officials say.

Like St. Vincent’s Hospital in Greenwich Village, North General is trying to restructure itself to avoid closing and has reached out to potential partners and the state for money to keep going, the officials said on Thursday.

LIC not a fan of subway fans

From the NY Times:

The fans have been there since long before the shuttered factories and vacant warehouses of Long Island City began giving way to schools, restaurants and homes. They sound like a giant rattle shaken at great speeds, they are unrelenting and they follow no set pattern, running for an hour one weekend and for an entire night the next.

At River View Gardens, a subsidized housing complex for the elderly that sits right next to the fans, Osvaldo Cordero, the superintendent, said that at one time this month when the fans were on for 24 hours straight, “I had people coming up to me crying because they couldn’t get any sleep.”

It's despicable that the elderly are being warehoused in a place located in a spot that makes their life hell.

For the rest of the complainers - caveat emptor.

Sorry, I'm just jealous...

Drunk driver that killed 2 gets 7 1/2 years

From the Times Ledger:

The drunk driver who mowed down a 16-year-old Middle Village teen and his friend in a stolen car a year ago has been sentenced to up to 15 years in prison for killing them, Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said.

Kenneth Guyear, 28, of Middle Village, pleaded guilty last month to vehicular manslaughter. Queens Supreme Court Justice Dorothy Chin-Brandt sentenced him Tuesday to between 7 1/2 and 15 years behind bars, the maximum sentence allowed.

“The defendant’s decision to get behind the wheel of a car after drinking alcohol ended with the deaths of two young people and with him going to prison for a substantial period of time,” Brown said in a statement. “Perhaps his time behind bars will allow him to reflect on what all motorists should know: Do not drink and drive. Ever.”

Sorry, but 7 1/2 years is not enough for taking 2 lives.

Illegal alien extorted landlord

From the Real Deal:

Two would-be Greenwich Village restaurateurs were sentenced to up to 15 years in prison yesterday for a violent scheme to intimate their landlord into forgiving their rent payments. The two men, Ekkehart Schwarz, 71, and Vassilei Giamagas, 36, were convicted of pressuring the manager of their building to forgive $267,000 in back rent on a lounge called Restaulounge-bar De’Vill, which they had planned to open in 2008 at 68 West Third Street. They were said to have threatened him with a fake gun and sodomy, hired a thug to force him to hand over $25,000, and to have stalked him by hiding a GPS in his car. Giamagas is an illegal Greek immigrant and faces deportation and a minimum of 11 years in prison. Schwarz is a German architect who also faces deportation and a minimum of eight years. Schwarz is a former Department of Transportation employee.

From the Daily News:

The duo's henchman, Kakhaber Gogoladze (pictured), 38, is expected to be sentenced next week. All three men face deportation.

Brooklyn's wall of crap

From Brownstoner:

We thought we'd circle back to a project that we haven't looked at since 2007. The six-story, 60,000-square-foot building is now built and it ain't much to look at, that's for sure.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Interesting use of cocktail umbrellas...

Taken at the northwest corner of 164th Street & Crocheron Ave. by a reader.

I can only offer this G-rated one from DeKalb and Seneca Avenues in Ridgewood:
Hey, let's get these 2 together!

Check out Miss Heather's collection, too.

Lead paint found in Throgs Neck Bridge Park


Last evening I sponsored a well attended important community meeting at Holy Trinity in Whitestone to unveil the findings of a comprehensive environmental toxin analysis surrounding the Throgs Neck Bridge. The analysis conducted by environmental scientist Dr. James Cervino clearly and unequivocally uncovered significant lead paint contamination in the soil samples, which poses serious health risks, and large lead paint chips in piles of debris located under the bridge in ball fields, soccer fields and walking paths enjoyed by children and families of our community.

Additionally, lead paint was discovered north and south and near the ramps of the Throgs Neck Bridge. The data clearly demonstrates that quick action must be taken to resolve this situation. As a result of these findings, I have begun the process of demanding that the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) remediate the area. I will also be reaching out to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYS DEC) to work with the MTA and the community in removing any all toxins uncovered by the analysis conducted by Dr. James Cervino.

A similar situation existed a few years ago due to paint scrapping and construction projects at the Whitestone Bridge. The MTA worked to solve the problem and remediated the environment surrounding the bridge. I hope they show the same concern and commitment this time when it comes to cleaning the areas surrounding the Throgs Neck Bridge.

In the coming weeks, I will continue to work with Councilman Dan Halloran, Dr. James Cervino and community leaders to ensure that the MTA fixes this problem quickly so that children and families throughout Northeast Queens can safely enjoy the parklands surrounding the Throgs Neck Bridge.

Sales tax collection down

From Crains:

Last year's county sales tax collections in New York were the worst in more than 17 years, according to a report released Monday by New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli.

While Westchester County saw the largest sales tax collection decline, of 10.3%, tax collection in New York City, which includes five counties, still fell a whopping 5.9% in 2009, compared with the year earlier. Overall, gross county sales tax collections were $6.2 billion statewide, a 6% decline from that collected in 2008.

“This is yet another sign that the Great Recession is having a continuing impact on our communities across New York,” said Mr. DiNapoli in a statement. “These numbers are sobering.”

Why campaign finance reform is a joke

From Eyewitness News:

It's an inside look at how the money game is played in Albany.

Eyewitness News investigators spent weeks looking at campaign contributions to state lawmakers and found a loop-hole large enough to funnel millions of bucks through.

There's been a lot of talk among politicians at the capitol about campaign finance reform.

But it really is just talk. The money from big businesses seeking access to power still flows freely, thanks to self-serving lawmakers and their loopholes.

FDNY inspector accused of faking Queens boiler checks

Jonathan Lemire

An FDNY Fire Prevention inspector was arrested yesterday for falsely claiming he inspected the boilers of 17 Queens homes, officials said.

Robert Stewart, 40, was charged with 38 counts of falsifying records after investigators determined that he simply sat in his car and filled out inspection certificates for the buildings on 154th and 162nd Sts. in Whitestone.

Stewart, who lives in Queens, was suspended without pay, FDNY officials said.

The FDNY will reinspect the boilers in question, officials said.

Rockaway ferry service is kaput

From the NY Times:

Commuter ferry boats. Everybody likes them, but nobody wants to pay for them.

That oft-learned lesson is about to be repeated in the Rockaways. Daily ferry service between Riis Landing at Breezy Point in Queens and Pier 11 near Wall Street is scheduled to end in mid-March, less than two years after it was launched with fanfare from elected officials and a $1.8 million subsidy from the City Council.

The boat ride has been a great deal for the riders, who pay just $6 each way for the one-hour voyage. But even on the sunniest summer days, the average number of passenger trips was only about 280, said David Lombino, a spokesman for the city’s Economic Development Corporation, which hired New York Water Taxi to operate the service.

With so few passengers, the city’s subsidy amounted to more than $25 per ticket, Mr. Lombino said. The money simply ran out too fast, he said.

Parking sucks in Sunnyside

From the Daily News:

With a municipal parking lot smack in the middle of Sunnyside's main shopping district, finding a spot to run a quick errand or grab a bite to eat would seem to be simple enough.

Think again.

Like other areas Queens News is highlighting for its "Queens Parking Crunch" series, Sunnyside's shopping district is yet another area plagued with parking rules that locals say hurt the community.

The municipal lot, located beneath the elevated No. 7 train tracks, is inundated with commuters, leaving no room for shoppers and restaurant patrons, locals said. And finding a metered spot along Queens Blvd. is also a headache, especially because the thoroughfare becomes a no-standing zone during rush hour.

City makes convenient repairs

From the NY Times:

The residents of the Bedford-Stuyvesant Rehabs, a group of three buildings, said they had complained for years about poor conditions to their landlord, the New York City Housing Authority. They had scheduled a press conference on Thursday to air their grievances and urge the agency to make fixes.

Then, the night before, a curious thing happened: A squad of 8 to 12 repairmen from the housing authority descended on their buildings, the tenants said, patching holes and painting walls.

Paterson aide took football tickets from developer

From the NY Post:

Gov. Paterson's top personal aide, David Johnson, took in a Giant-Cowboy game during a two-day sojourn to Dallas in September -- the junket courtesy of a wealthy New York City developer, The Post has learned.

Affordable-housing builder Jonathan Coren paid for Johnson's coach-class plane tickets to and from Texas, his two-night hotel stay on Sept. 19 and 20, and tickets to the game at Cowboys Stadium on Sept. 20.

The Governor's Office said Johnson reimbursed Coren, but when asked for details, the explanations were as wobbly as a Tony Romo pass.

First, a spokesman told The Post that Johnson wrote a check for the $1,085 in expenses and that the office would provide a copy of the check as proof.

But when The Post asked for copies of both the front and the back of the check -- to show when it was dated and when it was cashed by Coren -- the office changed its story.

"He reimbursed with cash and reimbursed all expenses, including airfare, hotel and the[game] tickets," said Paterson spokeswoman Marissa Shorenstein.

Flushing corner clinic on hold...for now

"On the corner of 45th Avenue and 169th Street in Flushing there was a rather nice house.
Now it has become this:
The Station Road Civic Association got wind that the developer (name is evasive at the moment) was planning on building a 3 to 4 story medical/office facility. On the corner of 168th Steet and 45th avenue (one block to the left of picture) stands P.S. 107. Anyone that knows the area is aware that it is completely residential. The Station Road Civic Association was able to get enough support from the neighborhood and make so much noise that the plot is now for sale as is. Probably at a rather steep loss for the developer (think that means tax write off)." - anonymous

Actually, the DOB just reviewed the application on 2/11/10 and they'll probably get approval in the future. Better keep your eye on this one... Note "zoning approval pending".

Friday, February 26, 2010

Howard Beach church robbed

From the Village Voice:

Around six o'clock this morning, police say thieves broke into St. Helen's Church in Howard Beach, then into the sacristy, and stole a chalice. Here's a picture; if anyone tries to sell it to you, you'll know it wasn't obtained by honest means.

Charlie says he's not going anywhere

From the NY Post:

New York Democratic Rep. Charles Rangel said Friday he won’t step down as chairman of the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee despite being admonished for violating rules by letting corporations pay for his Caribbean trips.

Rangel asserted that that the ethics report “exonerates” him because it says there is no evidence that he knew the trips were sponsored by corporations. The report said his staff knew who paid for the trips.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., sidestepped a question on the New York Democrat’s fate while noting that Rangel remains under investigation on various other alleged ethics lapses. “We’ll just see what happens next,” Pelosi, D-Calif., told reporters.

Rangel said he truly doesn’t understand why the committee admonished him.

Asked by reporters if he planned to stay on as committee chairman in light of the ethics report, Rangel responded: “Why don’t you ask me am I’m going to stay chairman of the committee in light of the fact that we’re expecting heavy snow in New York?” He said that would be just as relevant.

Still looming is a much larger ethics investigation that focuses in part on Rangel’s use of official stationery to raise money for a college center in his name and also his belated financial disclosure of hundreds of thousands of dollars in previously unreported assets.

Paterson will not run or step down

From the Daily News:

A beleaguered Gov. Paterson has pulled the plug on his election bid, a source close to the governor said Friday.

He will announce the decision later Friday.

Paterson been under fire for contacting a woman who accused one of his top aides of domestic violence.

The source said the governor has agreed not to seek election, but he will not resign - opting to serve out the remainder of his term.

The decision clears the way for Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, who is the favorite of many Democrats, to seek the nomination unimpeded.

TDC puts on dog-and-pony show in Flushing


I’ve attended many a dog-&-pony show before, but look at what came out of the chute at the Flushing BID rodeo held at Flushing’s Sheraton East hotel: our bovine ex-BEEP Claire Shulman. From her appearance in these photos, she looks like she was pulled out of mothballs or some critical meeting with her Willets Point LDC cohorts.

Shulman attended, along with some of the other usual suspects, to support Wellington Chen and his pals over at TDC as they presented to the public their over-development plan for Municipal Parking Lot #1 in downtown Flushing, Flushing Commons. Could this appearance have been a condition for Shulman receiving her “Wellington Welfare?”

Is she not earning about a quarter of a million dollars a year lobbying for the Willets Point land grab project? Is she not often pictured with Wellington Chen, who’s closely allied to development companies TDC, F&T, Fultonex, etc? Hmmm, I’d like some of that welfare, too, when I’m put out to pasture. She clearly learned her lessons at the knee of mentor Donald Manes, and they pay well, too. In their continuing effort to destroy the quality of life in New York City, the Bloomberg administration is now selling off this public parking lot to TDC, a private developer.

TDC’s proposed private project is massive, dense, tall, oppressive, and quite dated in design. It will include upscale shopping, upscale condos, upscale offices but no movie theater for you masses to attend, even though it was previously required and promised.

Michael Meyer of TDC, also representing the Rockefeller Group, made the presentation. He seemed pretty cocky to start with, speaking to a business audience (plus reporters, of course). This reporter suspects he expected a sympathetic audience. Far from it! Concerns were raised about parking, Mom-&-Pop businesses being put out of business by the construction & eventual competition in Flushing Commons, truck delivery traffic, safety, etc.

The following evening-- Wednesday, Feb. 24-- CB7 held a committee meeting on the parking aspect of the project with the developers, with Meyers presenting again. The original deal required capping the low muni parking rates in perpetuity, but that seems to have gone by the board, along with the requirement for adequate parking spaces. Long term parking will be going to Willets Point. And don’t ask about parking during actual construction-- how many blocks do you want to walk from your car to stores or subway? Hey, the exercise is good for you!
I have a shorter version from another QC fan:

"The presenter for TDC/Rockefeller lost his cool at both presentations and treated the audience like mentally-impaired cows."

Well, we can see that there was at least one in attendance.

Subway station overhauls announced

From the Daily News:

NYC Transit is spending $700 million on a blitz to fix up subway stations, officials said Monday.

In a new program stretching over the next five years, 150 stations will get upgrades: new lighting, fresh coats of paint and sturdier platform edges, officials said.

Transit officials aim to improve more stations with limited funds by being more selective about what repairs to make, said Fred Smith, acting vice president of capital plan management.

About two dozen stations are slated for "renewal," or major overhauls, costing an average of $15 million, officials said.

An additional 130 stations will get more limited upgrades, focusing on fixing their most defective components, railings and leaking ceilings.

One of the first stations slated for a multimillion-dollar renewal is the A train stop at 104th St. and Liberty Ave. in eastern Queens.

Other affected stations are Seneca, Central and Forest Aves. and Fresh Pond Road on the M line; Pennsylvania, Van Siclen, Saratoga and Rockaway Aves. on the 3, and Hunters Point Ave. on the 7.

Pols want Dave to go

From 1010WINS:

Calls for Gov. David Paterson to abandon his election bid mounted Thursday as the state attorney general announced he would investigate whether the administration or state police committed a crime in talking to a woman who had filed a domestic violence report against a top aide to the governor.

Paterson's top criminal justice Cabinet member resigned Thursday over the burgeoning scandal, saying conduct by the state police was "distressing" for an administration that has devoted itself to reducing domestic violence.

Elected officials and other candidates for office clamored for Paterson to end his campaign, formally launched just five days ago, as the turmoil mushroomed around longtime adviser David Johnson. A police report detailed in The New York Times discusses a confrontation between Johnson and a woman over her Halloween costume.

The New York Times reported Wednesday on court papers showing a phone call between state police and the woman. Paterson's office acknowledges he talked to the woman but says she placed the call, and a spokesman for the governor denied anyone tried to keep the woman from pursuing a domestic violence case.

The state police said in a news release that they won't comment on any aspect of the case during the investigation by the office of Andrew Cuomo, the popular attorney general whom many would like to see run as the Democratic candidate for governor instead of Paterson.

The Paterson administration asked Cuomo's office to investigate the matter, and the attorney general's office said it would look into whether crimes or other wrongdoing were committed. The state police said Cuomo asked the agency not to open its own internal probe.

Short or Grande?

From the Daily News:

Customers at a popular Forest Hills Starbucks have been getting a little bit more than they paid for.

A scraggly man has been exposing himself to customers and their children for the last few weeks inside the coffee joint, patrons and employees said.

What made the indignity more irksome was that rank-and-file baristas were told they're not allowed to kick the bum out - a task reserved for managers, according to employees.

A company official and managers at the shop, which is attached to a Barnes & Noble at 70-00 Austin St., later disputed that claim.

Employees, who declined to give their names, said the alleged flasher has been coming to that Starbucks several times a week and scaring away customers.

The unkempt man became belligerent when approached by a Queens News reporter Wednesday. He sat at a table near an elderly woman, who inched away from him and eventually left. He then started spreading out photographs and jotting down notes.

Eroded beaches symbolic of our entire city

From the Daily News:

A lack of funding could put a damper on replenishing the worst-hit beaches of the Rockaways, federal officials said last week after unveiling plans to dredge a nearby inlet for sand.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers plans to begin dredging the East Rockaway Inlet in the next few weeks.

But the agency may not have enough money to fill in the beaches that suffered the worst sand loss in recent storms.

It also hasn't been able to complete what was to be a four-year study on local beach erosion that began in 2003.

The target is now 2013 at the earliest, due to a lack of funding, officials said at a public hearing Feb. 16.

Don't know about you, but I am sick of reading stories about how we don't have money for this, don't have money for that. Put a damn moratorium on megadevelopment projects meant to enrich developers at our expense and use that money to fix what we already have and build things that benefit the people already living here.

We opened many, many parks during the Great Depression and put people to work by upgrading infrastructure. We are told that our mayor is one of the most innovative problem solvers to ever grace the halls of 260 Broadway and that our president is bringing hope and change. Yet the bozos running our government today can't learn from history and only come up with garbage recovery plans that aren't helping anyone but their friends. Instead we're closing parks for the first time in our history. It's almost enough to make you miss Robert Moses.

Weiner: You're a congressman. How about calling up Chuck and getting some federal stimulus money for this instead of organizing meetings and throwing hissy fits on the floor of the House?

Photo from Webshots

Peter Vallone: Overdevelopment crusader

From the Daily News:

...zoning may not be approved in time to prevent the construction of a 10-story building in the middle of Norwood Gardens, a leafy enclave of smaller homes along 36th St.

"This is a beautiful block with unique architecture and a special ambience, which this new zoning will protect," said City Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. "Unfortunately, some people are trying to rush projects in before it happens."

Neighborhood residents said the developer has filed plans to build an apartment building that could reach 10 stories and include eight to 10 units.

Neighbors are also concerned about the area's utilities and services being stretched even thinner than they are now.

Under current zoning law, the area has an R6 designation, which allows buildings of different heights, depending on the lot size and other variables.

The Norwood Gardens area will receive one of the strictest zoning designations, Vallone said, in order to keep the current low-rise flavor.

Vallone said he has personally reached out to several property owners and tried to dissuade them from constructing oversized buildings in the area.

"Some have been receptive," he said. "Others, not so much."

Though the construction currently taking place is legal, Vallone said the rally was an important way to send a message.

"Hopefully, anyone else thinking of destroying the character of the neighborhood will understand they will have to deal with their neighbors," he said.

This guy apparently doesn't think much of his constituents' intelligence.

Push to preserve more affordable housing

From the NY Times:

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg has changed the blueprint of his affordable housing plan to preserve more such homes but build fewer of them, a shift that nonetheless will still cost the city $1 billion more than originally anticipated.

The revamped New Housing Marketplace Plan, as the initiative is called, will now cost $8.5 billion to create or preserve 165,000 affordable homes by 2014, city officials said. Most of the extra funds will come from the city’s Housing Development Corporation, which issues bonds for the housing.

The city plans to ensure that an additional 32,000 units stay affordable for the next 30 years or so, protecting vulnerable lower-income New Yorkers from the next housing boom. In 2005, the city said it would build 92,000 units and preserve 73,000 by 2014. Now, it expects to build 60,000 and preserve 105,000.

The city’s definition of preserving affordable apartments means that its housing agencies refinance and renovate buildings in return for keeping rents locked in for long periods, usually decades, as opposed to letting the units rent or sell at market rates.

Most of the affordable units that the city plans to concentrate on will be occupied by New Yorkers who earn less than 80 percent of the area’s median income. Affordability means that 30 percent or less of their wages would go to rent. Rafael E. Cestero, the city’s housing commissioner, said that mortgages of many of the affordable rental buildings built in the 1980s were coming due, giving the city a chance to issue new ones with long-term affordability as a condition.

Realtor connecting people with illegal apartments

From NY1:

After the flood, the couple had their apartment tested for mold by the city. The tests came back positive, but the landlord soon had even more disturbing news.

"We got an e-mail from our landlord saying, 'I've just been informed that the apartment is illegal, and you need to vacate as soon as possible,'" says Rudetsky.

Shocked, Wesley and Rudetsky went back to CitiHabitats, the realtor that found them the apartment.

"They were outraged. They said that they would help us, that it would be top priority for them, and unfortunately the very first apartment that they presented to us was another illegal apartment," says Wesley.

The pair then took up their own search for a new place. They say they cannot believe the irresponsibility of their former landlord and CitiHabitats.

"Once I found out why the apartment was illegal, I was angry because it’s so obvious that it’s an illegal apartment. Once you see a bedroom without a window, that’s illegal," says Wesley.

Wesley and Rudetsky also say they should get back the $2,100 they gave to CitiHabitats and $2,520 they gave to the landlord as a co-broker. After CitiHabitats returned nothing and the former landlord did not even return the security deposit, the couple took the matter to Small Claims Court.

NY1 contacted CitiHabitats and the president would only say, "It is a landlord-tenant issue. We offered our services when we were appraised of the problem."

The station then contacted the landlord, who claimed he was originally not aware that it was illegal to put two bedrooms downstairs, and when he was told it was he asked the tenants to move out.

Call AG Cuomo and get their real estate license yanked.

Trestle crumbling on Woodhaven Blvd

"This LIRR trestle above the Woodhaven Blvd-Eliot Avenue intersection needs an upgrade. The trestle carries the LIRR Main Line over one of our borough's busiest roads." - anonymous

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Sorry, Charlie!

WASHINGTON (AP/1010 WINS) -- The Associated Press has learned that the House ethics committee has concluded that Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charles Rangel knowingly accepted Caribbean trips in violation of House rules that forbid hidden financing by corporations.

A congressional source familiar with the findings but not authorized to be quoted by name said at least four of members of the Congressional Black Caucus on the trips in 2007 and 2008 have been exonerated.

Rangel is one of the most influential members of Congress because the committee he chairs writes laws setting tax rates and oversees Medicare and Social Security benefits. The decision is certain to raise questions whether he can continue that role in an election year in which Congress must deal with several expiring tax laws.

Turning the heat up on the Trib

From the Queens Chronicle:

Sex trafficking is a thriving enterprise in Queens, aided by the proximity of the two airports and the large immigrant population.

Informing the public about the illegal business and stopping it is the aim of an upcoming conference sponsored by the Center for the Women of New York and the Queens Chapter of the United Nations Association-USA. It will be held on Tuesday, March 2 at 7:15 p.m. at Queens Borough Hall, Room 213 in Kew Gardens.

According to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center, a nonprofit group in Washington, DC that provides a 24-hour hotline, sex trafficking is a “modern-day form of slavery in which a commercial sex act is induced from the victim by force, fraud or coercion.”

Ann Jawin, founder and chairwoman of CWNY, who is the moderator, said the program is aimed at ending the advertising in some Queens community newspapers of services “that are clearly a front for prostitution. I have looked at these ads and they are horrid,” Jawin said.

She plans to make the request to the weeklies in writing and if they don’t respond, “I will ask stores where the papers are distributed not to carry them,” Jawin said. “This is our first small step to end sex trafficking.”

Mark Weidler, publisher of the Queens Chronicle, was the first to sign the pledge, although this newspaper does not carry ads that promote sex trafficking.

“I am proud to sign the pledge and take part in this effort,” Weidler said. “Sex trafficking truly is a form of slavery. No respectable newspaper should be involved in promoting such activity.”

But not every publisher agrees, as many readers are reminded every week. The ads typically offer massage or escort services, sometimes with language that makes it clear sex is also an option.

Jawin noted the campaign is voluntary, “but maybe the community will put pressure on the papers that don’t cooperate. Other newspapers are not taking these ads; they are sacrificing income.”

She acknowledged the ads have existed for many years but she has never seen them to such a large extent as now.

Congratulations, Crappers. This movement is, in part, because of you.

Zazi's high school buddies indicted

From CBS:

Two high school classmates of admitted terrorist plotter Najibullah Zazi pleaded not guilty Thursday in a foiled plot to bomb New York City subways in the days after the eighth anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks.

Zarein Ahmedzay and Adis Medunjanin, both 25, were indicted on charges of conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction, conspiracy to commit murder in a foreign country and providing material support to the al-Qaida terrorist network.

Medunjanin and Ahmedzay - who authorities say traveled to Pakistan with Zazi in 2008 - had already faced charges in the alleged plot to set off homemade bombs on Manhattan subway lines. Police said earlier this week that Zazi and two other bombers planned to attack rush-hour commuters to kill as many people as possible.

Both men had faced other charges in the case before Thursday.

Medunjanin has pleaded not guilty to charges he conspired to kill U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan. His lawyer, Robert C. Gottlieb, said earlier this week he didn't know if Zazi told prosecutors anything about his client but Zazi's decision to plead guilty "obviously affects the overall prosecution."

Ahmedzay has pleaded not guilty to charges that he lied to the FBI during the probe about places he visited during the 2008 trip.

Zazi's uncle, father and a Queens imam face lesser charges in the case.

Paterson pulling the plug on public hospitals

From the NY Times:

The city’s public hospital system, the largest in the nation, is facing a fiscal crisis because New York State is threatening to cut its financing for the care of poor patients at a time when the number of uninsured patients has soared, city officials said Sunday.

The cuts, included in Gov. David A. Paterson’s executive budget proposal, could drain from the public hospitals up to $370 million, much of it in federal financing, and shift the money to programs in voluntary, or private, hospitals, the city officials said.

The officials said the cutbacks were the latest in a series of steps by the state to close a huge deficit by pulling back on longstanding budget commitments.

State budget officials said, however, that much of the proposed cutback was the result of federal stimulus money running out. They added that the governor’s proposal also called for the State Legislature to enact cuts to private hospitals, and that some of that money would go back to the public hospitals.

Yet the dispute between the state and the city goes deeper, with both sides at odds on how much would be cut and how, and even on where some of the money comes from.

Alan D. Aviles, the president of the city’s Health and Hospitals Corporation, which runs the 11-hospital public system, said the proposed cuts would severely weaken the system, putting it on a downward spiral similar to that faced by the city’s Roman Catholic hospital system. New York’s last Catholic hospital, St. Vincent’s in Manhattan, is now near bankruptcy and struggling to avoid shutting down.

“If you look at the Catholic system and St. Vincent’s, the instability in that system didn’t happen overnight,” Mr. Aviles said Sunday in a telephone interview. “Four or five years down the road here, we have to be looking at a replay of what happened to the Catholic medical system.”

The current budget struggle not only pits the state against the city, it also pits the public hospital system, the main safety net for the poor, against the city’s private, nonprofit hospitals, many of which are also struggling under the burden of a large number of poor patients.

MTA: layoffs, service cutbacks
Schools: closing
Hospitals: closing

Thank God we still have huge development schemes like Willets Point and Atlantic Yards or else the government wouldn't find anything they think is worth putting our money into.

Little Neck Parkway in the snow

Click photo for story.

Wasn't Bloomberg creating 400,000 jobs?

From the NY Post:

No recovery here.

While economists say the Great Recession has ended and numbers out of Washington say the economy is growing at a robust pace, the local jobs picture remains bleak -- with just 21,500 city jobs in the state Labor Department's Jobs Bank for the 425,000 unemployed to fight over.

That works out to 20 people vying for every position.

The Big Apple's unemployment rate jumped to 10.6 percent in December, or 425,000 people, the latest figures available, from 10 percent the previous month and 7 percent a year earlier. In the past 12 months, 145,000 city residents have lost their jobs.

From Restless:

I have come up with a few ideas for a "Bloomberg Job Corps" that would put more of us to work right away.

Number One, there are now so many painted bike and other lanes around NYC that we could put thousands of people to work repainting them.

And since we wouldn't be able to pay the painters enough to afford rent, we could set up Depression-style tent camps along the lanes they maintain -- or just designate a "tent lane" in between the bike lanes, bus lanes, and dotted "Bozo lanes".

And when the crews have every line & lane painted thick and fresh as frosting, we could extend bike lanes into the subway, into airport terminals, and up escalators!

Affordable housing units falling apart at the seams

From the NY Post:

This Bronx apartment building, where city housing violations have increased from 82 to nearly 600 in 16 months, is among thousands of rental properties from Los Angeles to Harlem showing a creeping decay as housing values collapse and funds for repairs dry up.

As landlords find themselves owing more than their properties are worth, some have simply walked away, leaving garbage to pile up. Others have disappeared into bankruptcy, with unpaid utility bills. Some have tried to reduce their losses by neglecting basic maintenance.

"There are 100,000 apartments teetering on the edge" in New York City alone, said Harold Shultz, senior fellow at the Citizens Housing and Planning Council. "And depending upon the way various winds blow, they could fall over."

Earlier this month, a Congressional report warned that the deterioration of these properties could drag down the value of the surrounding neighborhoods. In New York, where these troubled investments centered on gentrifying areas of the Bronx and Harlem, advocates worry the problems could deliver lasting blows to neighborhoods that have long struggled.

Of New York City's 1 million rent-stabilized apartments, more than one-tenth are facing severe financial distress, says Rafael Cestero, commissioner of the city Department of Housing Preservation and Development. Of those, more than one-quarter have deteriorated visibly since the beginning of the downturn.

EDC demolishes Coney Island history

From the Courier-Life:

The struggle to save Coney Island’s storied past while paving the way for its glorious future has come down to brick and tile.

It’s all members of the Coney Island History Project were expecting to extract from the demolished Feltman’s Building this week.

“It’s really a shame,” said Charles Denson, executive director of the Coney Island History Project. “I think it could have been repurposed. It’s a solid building, but it just doesn’t fit into their plans.”

The city is busily clearing the former site of the Astroland Amusement Park at 1000 Surf Avenue in advance of the new “Luna Park” amusement park set to debut on Memorial Day.

The Feltman building, located on same site, is thought to be the only tangible remnant of Charles Feltman’s vast Coney Island empire of restaurants, thrill rides, and attractions.

Feltman, who immigrated to the U.S. from Germany in 1856, is credited with inventing the hot dog. Many believe that Nathan Handwerker, founder of Nathan’s Famous, once worked inside the same Feltman building tagged for demolition.

Of course, the building didn't look like the above photo before it's demolition. It looked like this. But still... now it looks like this:

Update from Curbed

Honest graft in the Bronx

From the NY Post:

Bronx Councilwoman Maria del Carmen Arroyo, who has been identified as a target of an ongoing Department of Investigation corruption probe, collected $8,000 in campaign donations from executives at Eastmond Corp., the same firm that federal prosecutors say paid Seabrook $50,000 to win a Yankee Stadium contract, according to campaign finance records.

Even though the company was virtually blacklisted after the Mayor's Office of Contracts Services issued two "cautionary" advisories about its questionable activities, Arroyo publicly has gone to bat for it.

Arroyo -- who funneled more than $80,000 to her nephew's nonprofit group only to see him indicted last year for embezzlement -- helped get a corner of Leggett Avenue in The Bronx renamed after Eastmond's founder, Arlington Leon Eastmond, in 2008.

Campaign records show that his son, Arlington Leon Eastmond Jr., the current president of the boiler company, donated the maximum amount of $2,750 to Arroyo's campaign last year. Two people listed as affiliates of the firm also donated: Tyren Eastmond, manager of the company, gave her $2,750 and Robert Reyes, listed on the company's Web site as a former manager, gave her $2,500.

The eyesore ambulance

Apparently, we are not only selling off ambulances, but we are selling them to out-of-state drivers who park them here. This was at Catalpa and Fresh Pond Road in Ridgewood. Might I suggest a paint job?