Monday, May 31, 2010

Pool deck collapses into Jamaica Bay

From NBC 4:

What began as a fun Memorial Day celebration ended with a near tragedy in Mill Basin, after a deck collapsed into Jamaica Bay.

[15-year old Claudine] Amsalem said the family had just set up a 15-by-4 foot above-ground pool yesterday on the deck of their new home at 2358 National Drive. The family had been swimming in the pool all morning and afternoon and several people had gotten out of the pool to get ready for dinner. Ten to fifteen minutes later, the deck collapsed.

Thankfully, 4 year old Henny Needelman was wearing floaties on her arms in the pool. When the deck and pool collapsed into Jamaica Bay, family members say Henny floated in the water until her father and cousin could help pull them up to safety.

9 year old Eleanor Amsalem was the most seriously injured.

One neighbor said she was taken into the ambulance with cuts and scrapes, bleeding from the head. A third girl, between 16 and 17 years old was the least injured. All three were sent to Kings County Hospital by ambulance.

Neighbors who wish to remain anonymous told News 4 that the decks which are supported only by piles and beams were never designed to hold a lot of weight. A 15-by-4 foot pool, once filled, can weigh as much as 13-thousand pounds and much more when people actually climb into it.

"I'm just glad that all my sisters and my cousin were pulled out safely," said Claudine. "This could have been much, much worse."

An inspector from the New York City Buildings Department responded to the collapse and cited the landlord with a violation.

The meaning of Memorial Day

From NBC 4:

Memorial Day was created as a day to remember the soldiers, sailors and marines who died in this nation’s wars.

But it’s evolved over the years into a holiday featuring barbecues and department stores sales. And it marks the "unofficial" start of summer.

It seems ironic that we call it Memorial Day -- a day to remember the sacrifice of our military men and women. And yet remembering this line of heroes who go back truly to the Revolutionary War seems of less importance than it used to be.

The holiday was originally known as Decoration Day. It was proclaimed by General John A. Logan of the Grand Army of the Republic in May of 1868. He said the purpose was “for strewing flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village and hamlet churchyard in the land.”

New York was the first state to recognize the new holiday. And the day inspired generations of poets to pay tributes to the dead.

For some of us Memorial Day may not be memorable, yet the tiny flags posted on the graves of loved ones in countless cemeteries around the nation show the devotion many people have to their fallen loved ones.

Remembering is still important, for families and for the nation. The holiday is sacred---and it should involve us all.

Rego Park violinist wants her instrument back

From Eyewitness News:

An aspiring concert violinist is pleading for the return of her stolen violin. Harmonnia Junus, 22, says she feels lost without her violin.

"Playing violin has been an escape for me," she said. "I've been through a lot and it's always been there for me."

Junus is an aspiring concert violinist and says someone stole her hand-crafted violin, bows and other supplies worth $50,000.

More than anything else, she just wants it back.

"Hopefully someone will find the instrument and return it to me," Junus said.

She says the car was parked in a parking garage adjacent to the Rego Park Mall on Queens Boulevard.

There are security cameras in the garage, so she's hoping the crime was caught on camera, or that someone saw something that might help police track down the person who stole the instrument.

In the meantime, she's pleading for its return, because, in her mind, it's priceless.

It was a gift from her mother who died two years ago.

Turtle traps found in Prospect Park lake

From The Brooklyn Paper:

Turtles better hide in their shells — it appears someone is poaching the precious creatures from the lake in Prospect Park!

Two regular parkgoers, Anne-Katrin Titze and Ed Bahlman, discovered the shocking trap in the water last Tuesday while cleaning the area around the nest of one of their beloved swans.

The trap, which is slightly bigger than a shoebox, had a long line tethered to it, which was secured under a fallen tree.

Bahlman and Titze even said they found another trap the day before.

But park officials were hesitant to declare the traps a clear sign of poaching.

“I can’t say [if that is] a turtle trap or what kind of trap it is or what animals someone was trying to trap with it,” said Eugene Patron, a spokesman for the Prospect Park Alliance, who was shown a photograph of the apparent trap. But regardless, he added, “Trapping or capturing of wildlife is absolutely prohibited.”

It is hard to imagine what other purpose the trap could have served. The basket is not meant to capture fish, and the area where it was found is preferred among turtles, which bask on the many fallen trees on the edge of the lake.

The Daily News reported the following:

Forget the Gowanus Canal: Prospect Park's lake needs a federal cleanup - stat.

The Brooklyn lake is brimming with garbage like charcoal briquets tossed after cookouts, plastic bags and discarded fishing lines - including one that strangled a baby swan last week.

"Some parts of it are just terrible," said frequent visitor Oleg Priymak, 54, a Windsor Terrace videographer. "I've never seen anyone going around to patrol it."

Hidden among the reeds on shore are remnants of camps made by homeless people. Food wrappers, toilet paper and human waste lurk underfoot.

"This is the reality lakeside tour," said Ed Bahlman, 60, a retired engineer from Windsor Terrace. "This is what the park doesn't want you to see."

A walk around the 60-acre lake also turned up picnic trash, old clothing, beer bottles and a trap, possibly for turtles.

A million trees = a million headaches?

From the Queens Gazette:

Queens home and business owners are seeking answers to questions regarding maintenance of trees planted recently under Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s “Million Tree” incentive.

If the city plants a tree or trees by digging up a sidewalk, the property owner is responsible for “simple maintenance” for one year after planting.

Simple Maintenance includes soil or mulch replacement, cleaning of tree bed and/or watering, when necessary.

Anyone with an older street tree on their property (one year old and up), can call 311 for all required maintenance, including pruning, root cutting, soil or mulch replacement and other “repairs” as necessary.

If the street tree has roots that are growing out of the sidewalk and breaking the cement, call 311 to ask for a Forestry crew to cut back the roots.

In many cases, workers will break open the sidewalk around the tree to create a larger “tree cut” that will allow the roots to grow without causing sidewalk damage, a Parks Department spokesperson said. If the work results in damage to the sidewalk, the property owner is responsible to repair the damage, the spokesperson said.

The property owner may insist that the city repair the damage, if he or she can prove that the damage was caused by city tree maintenance crews. Proof should include before and after photos, along with photos and documentation showing how the damage occurred.

If the sidewalk is not repaired in a timely fashion, the property owner may be subject to a fine issued by the Department of Buildings.

Department of Parks officials said the agency currently has no funds for the removal of tree stumps from city sidewalks.

Officials said workers would come out on request to cut down dead or dangerous trees but the cash-strapped agency will not remove the tree stump from the sidewalk after the tree is cut down.

Ridgewood pervert busted

From the Times Newsweekly:

A Brooklyn man who allegedly exposed himself to young girls from inside his car along Ridgewood streets last Tuesday afternoon, May 11, has been cuffed by police, it was announced.

The suspect was identified by police as 40-year-old Juan Mendez of Forbell Street in Brooklyn.

Reportedly, the perpetrator—behind the wheel of a tan four-door sedan—pulled up near an 11-year-old girl walking in front of a location on Fresh Pond Road near Bleecker Street at around 7:45 a.m.

Police said the girl observed Mendez allegedly fondling his penis before fleeing from the scene.

Law enforcement sources stated that the perpetrator was spotted flashing himself to another young girl at around 2:30 p.m. in the area of Madison Street and Woodbine Avenue near I.S. 93.

According to authorities, Mendez—driving a black pick-up truck—pulled up next to a 13-year old girl at the location. Reportedly, the youngster spotted the man allegedly fondling his genitalia.

The incidents were later reported to members of the 104th Precinct and the 104th Precinct Detective Squad, which had been conducting an ongoing investigation into a series of flashing incidents near public schools around Ridgewood earlier this year.

Based on information obtained by detectives, Mendez was taken into custody the following Wednesday, May 12, and was charged with two counts of public lewdness, harassment and endangering the welfare of a child.

Betting on a bivalve

From the Gotham Gazette:

The largest urban wildlife preserve in the United States sits adjacent to Kennedy Airport, near the high-rise apartments of Starrett City and the Rockaway housing projects. Home to the peregrine falcon, the loggerhead sea turtle, the short-eared owl, the area -- Jamaica Bay -- at the intersection of Queens, Brooklyn and Long Island, serves as a stopover for 20 percent of American bird species on their annual migration along the East Coast.

For years, though, this estuary, a shallow marsh where fresh and saltwater meet, has been vanishing into the toxic waters of the New York City harbor, losing an estimated 33 acres annually to deterioration, nitrogen buildup and rising sea levels. Spanning some 16,000 acres about a century ago, the salt march islands have shrunk to a mere 800 acres. Thought not nearly as dramatic as the environmental catastrophe now confronting the Louisiana coast, the threat to Jamaica Bay could completely destroy the marsh by 2024, decimating the home for an abundance of rare and endangered plants and animals.

Now, the federal state and city governments, prodded by citizen's groups, have stepped up their efforts to preserve the area. This year, government and private groups collaborated to update the Jamaica Bay Watershed Protection Plan to try to avert disaster in the urban refuge. Whether government will keep its commitment and whether its actions can reverse the decades of deterioration remains to be seen.

Oyster gardening is still in the beginnings stages of a two-year experiment that will determine whether they will benefit the bay's condition. The next several years will be critical to see if the oysters can once again thrive in the estuary as part of a recovering environment and if the marshes can once again shelter and nourish an authentic mix of native New Yorkers.

Stop work order issued for mystery restaurant

From the Times Ledger:

Construction at First Edition’s former site, at 41-08 Bell Blvd. next to the Long Island Rail Road station, has been underway on a two-floor restaurant and bar, a spokeswoman for the city Department of Buildings said. But she could not specify what type of eatery would replace the bar and grill.

The general contractor for the building is Flushing’s Joong Ang Construction. But a woman who answered the phone at the office said she did not know what type of establishment would be built at the Bell Boulevard locale.

A stop-work order was issued May 17 at the location after scaffolding being used outside the site violated building codes, a DOB spokeswoman said. But the developer merely needed to remedy the situation before resuming construction, she said.

The project entails removing a wall within the building and replacing plumbing fixtures. The renovation was approved March 18, but a permit has not yet been issued to approve plumbing changes at the site.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Coney Island amusement park reborn

From the Daily News:

Many New Yorkers welcomed Memorial Day weekend Saturday screaming on the rides at Coney Island's new Luna Park or kicking back on area beaches.

Frank DeSoto, of Queens, said the sight of Luna Park at night from his seat on the Wonder Wheel gave him chills, "all lit up, noisy and new."

"I remember when you'd look down to this spot and it was a ghostown," the 45-year-old said. "Now it's packed with lines all over."

Danny Montoya, 56, also of Queens, said he was lured by the nostalgic value of the place.

"My dad and grandfather used to tell me about Luna Park and the old rides," he said. "I think this is just as good, just as beautiful."

Construction foreman fell to his death

From the Daily News:

A hardhart fell to his death Thursday from the fifth story of a building under construction in Brooklyn, officials said.

The death of construction foreman Luis Zaruma, 36, of Williamsburg stunned his family, who recalled the dedicated worker offering a cheerful "good morning" as he left for the job site at 7 a.m. Thursday.

"He was a hardworking man and a loving husband, a family man, a good friend," said his devastated wife, Sandra Rivera, 47, who met Zaruma shortly after he emigrated from his native Ecuador a decade ago.

Zaruma, who worked for Roth Metal Works, according to his family, fell from the fifth story of a residential building under construction on Bedford Ave. in Clinton Hill around 3:40p.m. yesterday, according to the NYPD and the Buildings Department.

Officials said the cause of the accident was under investigation, but a Buildings Department spokesman said Zaruma "was not wearing a safety harness."

Majority of NYPD summonses are tossed by court

Voting on term limits....again

From the NY Times:

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg will not be on the ballot in 2010, but the issue that many New Yorkers lambasted him over in the 2009 election very likely will be: term limits.

“We need as a commission to be heard this November,” Matthew Goldstein, the chairman of the New York City Charter Revision Commission, said on Monday night, during a hearing at Brooklyn Borough Hall.

Asked afterward to elaborate, Mr. Goldstein, who is the chancellor of the City University of New York, said, “I haven’t heard any commissioner opine that we ought to pass in November about term limits.”

The statement was hardly a surprise. After all, when Mr. Bloomberg decided in the fall of 2008 to upend the city’s term limits law (which had been approved twice by voters) to give him and other city officials a chance at a third term, he promised that a charter commission would revisit the issue. And when Mr. Bloomberg appointed the 15-member panel in March, Mr. Goldstein said that term limits would be one of many issues on the table.

Still, Mr. Goldstein’s comments represented the most definitive statement yet that term limits would be on the ballot this year — as opposed to next year or even in 2012, as some people have suggested. Mr. Goldstein also indicated that the commission was far from a consensus about what the term limits ballot question would be:

For example, should voters be asked to return to the old system of limiting city officials to two terms? Should voters be asked to make three four-year terms the standard? Should voters be asked to consider a multi-tiered system of term limits, like two terms for the mayor, and three for the City Council members and other officials? Or should any plebiscites be legally protected, so that future City Councils that wanted to emulate the actions of the “Bloomberg 29″ (as the Council members who voted to extend term limits in 2008 were derided by critics) would be barred from doing so?

Controversial awning must come down

From the Queens Chronicle:

A suggestive awning outside a Flushing bar on Union Turnpike was illegally put up and needs to be removed, according to the Department of Buildings.

Area elected officials say they are horrified by the drawing on the awning for Cheap Shots Sports Bar and Lounge at 149-05 Union Turnpike. The image is a silhouette of a woman —naked aside from knee-high boots — lying on her back in a suggestive position.The way her arm drapes down makes her appear to be passed out.

The DOB, which oversees awnings, does not regulate the content of signs, according to spokeswoman Carly Sullivan. However, following complaints, the agency investigated and issued three violations for the awning.

The sign is too big, projects out too far and the owners — KC Union Turnpike Management Corp. — never sought a permit to erect it, according to Sullivan. “The only way to remedy the situation to to remove the sign,” she said.

The owners must appear at a hearing on June 24 and if they don’t show up, face fines up to $25,000.

Councilman Mark Weprin (D-Oakland Gardens) first noticed the offending image while driving on Union Turnpike.“I am outraged as a decent human being over this awning,” Weprin said. “It’s like an ad for date rape and I found it shocking.”

The Times Ledger reports that the offensive part of the sign was covered up, but that still doesn't make the sign legal.

It's kind of weird that the fine for an illegal sign is higher than the fine for violating a stop work order... but that's the screwed up priorities of this city.

Recycle your butts!

From the NY Post:

Stomped-out cigarette butts -- the blight of many a Big Apple sidewalk -- would be collected and recycled as part of a statewide environmental program included in a bill proposed by a Queens assemblyman.

Democrat Michael G. DenDekker, who drafted the bill last week, wants to slap a one-cent deposit on every cigarette sold in the state, similar to the deposit on cans and bottles. He hopes it will stop people from littering, or inspire others to pick up the butts.

"Great" design idea for Cemusa bus shelters

"A lot of glass to break, with a glass roof too...which provides no shade from the blistering sun.

This one is located at 39th Ave. and Union St. in downtown Flushing.

The previous bus shelter designs were better and stronger too.

Then why did NYC insist on replacing them?

Did some official owe a friend at "Cemusa" a favor...perhaps in return for a hefty campaign contribution?" - The Flushing Phantom

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Ever have a Vietnamese taco?

"Hello! My name is Misa Chien, and I am the co-owner of Nom Nom Truck. We are currently traveling across the country alongside the Food Network with our food truck, and NYC is our final stop! We are filming the largest Food Network show of the year, and we would love for you to spread the word!

Nom Nom Truck is a female-owned business, and our co-owner and chef Jen cooks up delicious Vietnamese fusion dishes such as our Lemongrass Chicken taco (just featured in Saveur Magazine for the best tacos in LA!), our Carne Asada Vietnamese sandwich, and our Honey Grilled Pork Banh Mi (just featured in Sunset Magazine!). We are also happy to say that we were just voted best restaurants in LA by Travel and Leisure Magazine!

Our goal is to create delicious and fresh food that will make NYC say NOM! (Nom means when you eat something and it's so delicious you have to make a noise - nom nom!)

We will be serving in the Astoria area of Queens this afternoon (~2 PM)."

And this wasn't part of the letter, but they are in a competition and need to make $500 in Queens in order to move onto the next round. They don't know exactly where they will be yet, but "near the beer garden" is a sure thing.

(Don't worry, this is the only pro-taco truck post you will ever see here.)

Former Met to open restaurant in Douglaston

From NY Magazine:

Yanks fans have Mickey Mantle’s off of Central Park, and now Mets fans will have Strawberry’s Sports Grill in … Douglaston, Queens! A Craigslist ad seeks a GM for “Darryl Strawberry’s new restaurant,” which will be called Strawberry’s Sports Grill.

Near Port Washington line of the LIRR? Perfect stop after Mets games...Very smart.

Shooting at Forest Hills restaurant


82-year old man's assaulter turns himself in

From Eyewitness News:

The incident happened back on Friday February 12, 2010 at 10:15 p.m.

Sonnino Paliotta of Forest Hills said he hired the suspect, 49-year-old Jamie Olivera, to do some construction work in his bathroom. He needed the walls taken down for retiling. When that work was done, Paliotta said Garcia suggested that he do the tiling work.

Paliotta agreed and paid him $500 up front for a $2500 job. Several weeks went by and when Garcia was unable to start the work because he couldn't get a machine that he needed, he refunded the money and the two went their separate ways.

A couple of months later, Garcia came back and told Paliotta that his father died in Chicago and he needed to borrow $200. Paliotta said he trusted Garcia and gave him the money. He was promised that it would be refunded that next week.

When Garcia returned, Paliotta said he claimed that his father left him $12 million and he would refund him the money when he got it in May. He offered to do something for the victim in the meantime.

Paliotta asked that Garcia give his niece's husband a job because he hadn't worked in a while. He was also the same person who originally introduced the two men. Garcia agreed, and as they were walking to the door, Paliotta said Garcia flipped out and hit him in the head with a hammer.

Paliotta was struck twice more during the assault. He was transported to Elmhurst Hospital, where he received 26 stitches to his head.

From the NY Post:

Cops busted a thug wanted for brutally beating an elderly Forest Hills man with a hammer, authorities said last night.

The suspect finally turned himself in after friends and relatives persuaded him to surrender.

CB2 questions LIC high school design

From the Queens Gazette:

The school building itself drew some commentary and inquiry. Robert Wilkanowski, an architect and Community Board 2 member, said the colored illustration seemed to be a night scene but argued that the school’s dark walls would look industrially dismal even by day. Another man was more impressed, admiring the deck and the building’s size, but then expressed concerns that school expansion would lead to add-on floors that would ruin the building’s fine lines. He was assured that the original building would remain that way. The uses and the surface of the 4,000- square-foot deck were argued, leaving the impression that there is much more to be discussed about it.

Some attendees brought up hazardous situations that should be considered. Why, one asked, was a school site selected so close to railroad tracks? If the school is to be built in such proximity to the terminus of the Long Island Rail Road, it is imperative that students be thoroughly blocked from any access to the tracks, he insisted. He was told that kids get through holes in the fences next to the tracks anyway, which couldn’t have made the situation seem any better to him. Hearing that below-grade parking facilities are verboten in Hunters Point South because of the high water table, another man was concerned about possible seepage of pollutants into the school building and was assured his anxiety was groundless. One person asked if metal detectors would be set up at the entrances during construction and got the cheerless reply from Persheff that they would be installed “only after an incident”. A woman worried about sexual predators being lured not only by the prospect of a middle and high school but also a new K-8 school on 46th Avenue. Her concern moved her to ask if that 30-story tower beside the five-story school would be attached to it. She was told that persons on a sexual predators list would be checked should they try to establish residence in HPS or the other area residences.

At least the bullshit answers are consistent from community to community.

Photo from LIQCity

That smell is not incense...

From the Brooklyn Paper:

Congregants at All Saints Church at Flushing and Throop avenues are having their compassion tested nightly, as the exterior of their historic house of worship is swarmed by homeless men who leave makeshift beds, blankets, syringes and even human waste in their wake.

Head usher Andy Rodriguez said that homeless people have always been a presence outside the church in the evening, but as of late, their behavior has become much worse.

“They pee and defecate right at the entrance to the church!” said Rodriguez. “Everything has to be hosed down in the morning.”

Though the aftermath may be disgusting, the people using the church as sleeping quarters are desperate for safe haven — whether there are better options available or not.

Juan de Jesus, a 70-year-old man from Puerto Rico, often sleeps on the concrete beside the Throop Avenue entrance. De Jesus seemed completely unaware of homeless services that are available to him and said he had no friends or family on which to rely.

In a nearby stairwell, a sleeping man appeared to have soiled himself.

Once De Jesus and others departed the towering, 116-year-old church, a strong odor lingered at the entrance to an adjacent building used as offices and a prayer room. In another nook beside the main entrance, a pile of filth sat in a corner beside a bottle of vodka.

In the back of the church, custodian Jose Luis Garcia had gathered about a dozen big boxes that he had collected on Monday morning.

“I’ve found boxes, blankets, sometimes even syringes — right on the [front] steps,” said Garcia.

Both Garcia and Rodriguez said that some of the homeless people even had committed the ultimate act of desecration: having sex in a cardboard shack right outside the church.

“It’s getting out of hand,” added Rodriguez.

CB1 approves Northern Blvd dorm

From the Queens Gazette:

The way is clear for a 19-story dormitory at 30-30 Northern Blvd.

Community Board 1 voted to approve a variance to permit a Use Group 3 dormitory with as of right convenience retail and mini-storage and accessory parking with conditions at its May 18 meeting.

The facility is to be a dormitory only. That was a major concern last month when the project was proposed by Edward J. Minskoff Equities, a commercial developer and the owner of the property. Minskoff chief financial officer Ben McGrath agreed to prohibit the use of clubs, bars or liquor stores by tenants in the retail spaces as well.

McGrath, in response to a letter from Community Board 1, said M1-5 zoning doesn’t permit use as a student dormito- ry and that a variance would be for 10 years, after which it must be renewed by the board.

John Carusone, chairperson of the zoning committee, specified other conditions: preference for dormitory space to students living within Community Boards 1 and 2 in Western Queens, as well as preference to residents in those same boards for jobs during construction and after.

Carusone also said the board required landscaping and beautification outside the dormitory building and security by car around the building. The dormitory will have 635 rooms with 1,640 beds and 100 parking spaces.

In a second action, the board unanimously turned down a car sharing zoning text amendment submitted by the Department of City Planning.

Aldi's going to Rego Park shopping center

From Crains:

Discount supermarket chain, Aldi, plans to open its first New York City store at the Rego Park II shopping center at 61-35 Junction Blvd. in Queens.

Aldi Inc. operates more than 1,000 stores in 31 states in the U.S., primarily from Kansas to the East Coast.

Last September, Crain's reported that Aldi was building a store in Queens, but the company declined to disclose the exact location. Now it is gearing up to hire staff, though the store is not expected to open until early 2011.

I believe this is where Walmart had once looked at opening. But it was shot down by self-serving pols for its anti union stance. Well guess what kiddies?

Interestingly, there doesn't seem to be as much resistance to Walmart as there once was. Probably has something to do with the unemployment rate.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Parks reopened at the expense of the environment

From NY1:

Dozens of shuttered state parks should reopen, just in time for the Memorial Day weekend.

Early this morning, the State Assembly passed a bill that would provide $11 million for park operations this year.

This afternoon, the State Senate voted this afternoon to approve the measure.

The agreement reached with Governor David Paterson yesterday takes about $80 million from the state's Environmental Protection Fund. Of that money, $6 million will go toward reopening the parks and the remaining $74 million will go toward closing the state's $9.2 billion budget deficit.

The Paterson administration had closed 41 parks and 14 historic sites, including Bayswater Point Park in Queens to try to save money.

Critics say taking money from the Environmental Protection Fund will lead to drastic cuts for the Bronx Zoo and Botanical Garden, but the Assembly speaker says those institutions will not be affected.

"These are important for tourism, for recreation, all the things that make New York great,” said Bill Ulfelder of the Nature Conservancy. “To reduce this spending is devastating. The EPF has been treated like a punching bag through the budget process."

The money shuffle may solve the problem for now, but there are no guarantees New Yorkers won't be locked out of their park again next year.

Brooklyn Bridge Park becomes vibrant and diverse

From the Brooklyn Paper:

A Santeria-style shocker has washed up on the shores of DUMBO — a bag full of dead birds, fish, food and even some cash!

Pro photographer Steve Harris spotted the macabre mess during an otherwise pleasant stroll last Sunday in the park at the foot of Main Street, just east of Empire–Fulton Ferry State Park.

Inside a soaking blue sack were decapitated turkeys, a smaller bird, dead fish, beans, corn, root vegetables, plantains, and six $1 bills.

“I was so horrified,” said Harris. “I’m a photographer — normally I would go get my tripod and come back and shoot it. But this time I was so taken aback, I took a few pictures with my iPhone and fled.”

Harris believes that the latest incident may be linked to our ongoing coverage of the injured Cayuga duck in Prospect Park, the latest in a months-long saga of mysterious happenings in the natural area that includes dumped chicken heads and intestines along the lakefront.

BSA going his way

Slim chance for builder

An idea for the skinniest building on the Upper West Side is causing the biggest ruckus.

A long-stymied plan to build a 20-foot-wide, 17-story "sliver building" on West 86th Street was given the green light last month by the city Board of Standards and Appeals -- but elected officials and city agencies are fighting to kill a structure they say is too out of character with the neighborhood.

Developer Robert Ricciardelli purchased a 100-year-old brownstone between Riverside Drive and West End Avenue for $2.25 million in 2001.

Now he wants to tear it down and construct a modern, brick-and-glass condominium.

Last year, the city Buildings Department objected to the height of the structure, contending that the new building could not be taller than neighboring row houses. The Department of Housing also objects to the tower.

A pain in the ash

From the Daily News:

The feds are placing 9,800 traps across the state this month to catch a small but nasty beetle that could kick New York's ash.

The emerald ash borer first surfaced in the state last June - wiping out 39 ash trees in upstate Cattaraugus County. It hasn't been seen in the state since, but the feds aren't taking any chances.

They are putting purple box traps in ash trees - the pest's prey - in 42 counties, but none in the city, said U.S. Department of Agriculture spokeswoman Sharon Lucik.

So far, city trees are more vulnerable to the Asian long-horned beetle, which comes in through shipping.

About 4% of city trees are ash, and there are no plans to add more.

"We do not plant ash trees anymore because of the impending threat of the emerald ash borer," said Tim Wenskus of the forestry division of the city Parks Department.

Emerald ash borers first surfaced in Michigan in 2002 and have since spread to 14 states, where they have killed tens of millions of trees.

"It's pretty much on the way to eliminating ash trees in Michigan and Ohio. We are suspicious that it may be coming into New York City environments," Carlson said.

He's relying on dozens of park workers to search city trees for any cases in the five boroughs.

"The probability of a large infestation is very low because the people who work for New York City parks know what they are looking for," he said.

Here's how to identify an ash tree.

No more prisoners at Elmhurst Hospital

From the Queens Tribune:

The Astoria Child Heath Clinic, at 12-36 31st Ave. in Long Island City, served 1,167 patients in the last fiscal year. This is one of six clinics citywide to be shut down, including four in Brooklyn and one in the Bronx.

With all the changes happening citywide with HHC, perhaps the best news for Queens is that inmates from Rikers Island who need urgent medical care will no longer be transported to Elmhurst Hospital. Currently, inmates get split between Elmhurst Hospital and Bellevue Hospital. Under the new plan, all inmates would now travel to a separate facility. HHC will use the space freed up at Elmhurst and Bellevue to add to its revenue-generating capacity.

Conflict-of-interest for Bloomberg

From the Daily News:

In 2008, Bloomberg took City Council Speaker Christine Quinn to a conference in Belfast on his jet, while then-Controller William Thompson and then-Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum had to fly coach.

City disclosure forms ask the question differently, though - and Quinn didn't list her trip.

Two longtime Bloomberg staffers (and occasional Air Bloomberg passengers) said they were stunned to hear the mayor gave a top agency head a lift to Florida for a vacation, not for work. After all, what's the difference between a boss giving his underling a lift on his jet and the boss giving his underling a couple of airline tickets?

The Conflicts of Interest Board declined to comment. In one of its advisories for city employees, though, the board offers this guidance: "If the gifts from the superior to a subordinate start to get fairly regular and extravagant, people may begin to wonder what kind of silence the superior is attempting to buy."

Bloomberg is a big fan of putting out information, except when it applies to his own operations, saying just last week: "Disclosure is the thing that keeps us free and keeps government honest."

$15.7M for "bike superhighway"

From the NY Times:

Now, after two and a half years and $15.7 million worth of construction, the promenade has been restored to the straight and narrow, giving the West Side of Manhattan a continuous bike path from the Battery to Riverbank State Park at 137th Street. With some inland detours, the path continues to Dyckman Street north of the George Washington Bridge.

To build the bike path extension, which is suspended over the water like a concrete bridge or boardwalk, workers had to sink 102 pilings into bedrock, 78 of them in the water, Mr. Benepe said. “It was incredible, the marine engineering needed,” he said. “That’s why this was an expensive and time-consuming project.”

Of the $15.7 million cost, $15 million was allocated by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg from city funds, $400,000 was allocated by City Councilwoman Gale A. Brewer, who represents the Upper West Side, and $300,000 came from a federal transportation grant administered by the state.

“We were lucky to have a healthy economy, at least the first two terms, so a lot of money was put in to build this kind of infrastructure,” Mr. Benepe said.

That's funny, the entire time Bloomberg was turning down park projects in Queens and the excuse was that the City had to conserve money for the future. What he meant to say was that he would rather spend the money in Manhattan.

Nancy Cataldi's house being altered

From the Daily News:

Even a historic preservationist's home is not immune to the ravages of time and an impulse for the new.

Two years after Queens historian Nancy Cataldi died, the Victorian home that she lovingly restored has been drastically altered - its signature porch and stained glass windows removed.

The prominent Richmond Hill house was rotting so extensively due to an infestation by carpenter ants that the new owners said they had to replace key elements.

Locals sympathize with the incoming residents. But they also blame the city Landmarks Preservation Commission for not protecting Cataldi's home long ago as part of a historic district.

"We're losing too much," said Carl Ballenas, who co-authored a Richmond Hill history book with Cataldi in 2002. "We would have had this solved 10 years ago if we had a historic district."

A Landmarks Preservation Commission spokeswoman responded that even landmarked structures are routinely changed with the agency's approval.

Oh puh-leeze!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Why we need troops on the border

From Fox News:

The Department of Homeland Security is alerting Texas authorities to be on the lookout for a suspected member of the Somalia-based Al Shabaab terrorist group who might be attempting to travel to the U.S. through Mexico, a security expert who has seen the memo tells

The warning follows an indictment unsealed this month in Texas federal court that accuses a Somali man in Texas of running a “large-scale smuggling enterprise” responsible for bringing hundreds of Somalis from Brazil through South America and eventually across the Mexican border. Many of the illegal immigrants, who court records say were given fake IDs, are alleged to have ties to other now-defunct Somalian terror organizations that have merged with active organizations like Al Shabaab, al-Barakat and Al-Ittihad Al-Islami.

In 2008, the U.S. government designated Al Shabaab a terrorist organization. Al Shabaab has said its priority is to impose Sharia, or Islamic law, on Somalia; the group has aligned itself with Al Qaeda and has made statements about its intent to harm the United States.

In recent years, American Somalis have been recruited by Al Shabaab to travel to Somalia, where they are often radicalized by more extremist or operational anti-American terror groups, which Al Shabaab supports. The recruiters coming through the Mexican border are the ones who could be the most dangerous, according to law enforcement officials.

Security experts tell that the influx of hundreds of Somalis over the U.S. border who allegedly have ties to suspected terror cells is evidence of a porous and unsecured border being exploited by groups intent on wrecking deadly havoc on American soil.

Here's more from CNN.

Former Council President indicted

From the NY Times:

Andrew J. Stein, a former City Council president, assemblyman and Manhattan borough president who left politics in 1994, has been arrested along with a Manhattan financial adviser who has celebrity clients. Court documents said the financial adviser, Kenneth I. Starr, was charged with a multimillion-dollar fraud scheme.

Mr. Stein was charged with making false statements to the Internal Revenue Service. Court documents say he used about $1.6 million from a company created through Mr. Starr to cover “extravagant personal expenses,” including hundreds of thousands of dollars in credit card bills.

When I saw the headline stating that an ex-borough president had been indicted, I was really hoping it was Claire.

Oh well...


You're kidding!

From the Wall Street Journal:

At Jamaica Hospital Medical Center, the emergency room has expanded into a former café and conference area as hospital officials cope with double their patient capacity.

At New York Hospital Queens, patients in March waited an average of 17 hours to be placed in beds, sometimes being held in hallways, waiting rooms or sunrooms.

"If you want to think you're in a war-torn third-world country, just go to the ER at New York Hospital Queens on a Friday afternoon," said Dr. Paul Aaronson, president of the Queens County Medical Society.

As the closure of St. Vincent's Hospital in Manhattan sparks fear about the impact on the remaining hospitals, hospital employees and advocates in Queens say they continue to struggle with the effects of three hospital closures—two last year, and one the previous fall. The overcrowding problem, they say, is exacerbated by a growing elderly and immigrant population, and state cuts in hospital funding.

"Queens going in was significantly underbedded," said Kenneth E. Raske, president of Greater New York Hospital Association. "They have the lowest bed-to-population ratio of any of the boroughs."

With a potential state budget cuts on the way, Mr. Raske said it is imperative that the 10 remaining hospitals remain financially stable. "It could precipitate a public-health crisis if one of them were to go down," he said.

Fence ok for Central Park is "too dangerous" for Ridgewood Reservoir

Ridgewood Reservoir fence

Central Park fence

From Save Ridgewood Reservoir:

In a January 6th Daily News article, Kevin Quinn, director of Queens capital projects for the Parks Department, was quoted as saying that the historic fences at the reservoir needed to be removed because, the "spacing of the pickets no longer meets code as a guardrail." As far as I've been able to determine, the city's code requires that the spacing on railings be not more than 6".

There are two style of fences at the Ridgewood Reservoir. The first is a circa 1850s Hecla Ironworks fence that surrounds the central basin. In 2003, the department of parks had a replica of that fence created for the Central Park reservoir. The cost for the reproduction was $2 million. Here is a parks department 2003 press release about that installation. Welding Works, the company that built the fence received an industry award for the project.

The parks department was more than happy to spend $2 million to create a copy of the Ridgewood Reservoir fencing for Central Park. The same agency now wants to tear down the original, historic ones in Ridgewood for something that doesn't even try to look like a period piece. Why do you suppose they would do that?

"Burning orb of death" at Union Square Park

From A Walk in the Park:

For months, children have been playing a dangerous game at the new $2 million playground in Union Square Park: How to avoid getting scalded on a seven-foot-high metal dome.

The play equipment reaches scorching temperatures in the sun. Heat waves can be seen rising from the top.

The metal orbs were quickly covered at Brooklyn Bridge Park, but the city has refused to even post a warning at Union Square. On Friday afternoon, however, a Parks Department employee was forced to close off the blazing orb, placing traffic cones and flimsy caution tape around it. A shade structure is supposed to go up sometime according to the Parks Department, but warmer weather will arrive first.

I'm glad we paid a hoidy-toidy architect to design this wonderful amenity.

Parks says contaminated Brooklyn park is now safe

From the Courier-Life:

Moving quickly after state environmental workers discovered cancer-causing chemicals near the popular park, the city tested the soil — and declared the grounds safe on Wednesday.

Department of Health workers dug down two inches at 18 spots in and around the two soccer fields closest to the alleged source of the contamination — a defunct plastic additive manufacturing plant at Court and Halleck streets.

None of the samples revealed PCBs, or polychlorinated biphenyls, the once-ubiquitous compounds that were banned in the 1970s after they were discovered to cause cancer.

The operator of the plant, the now-bankrupt Chemtura Corporation, is being sued by the state to continue its abandoned clean-up of PCBs, which were discovered seven feet underground and in groundwater near the park, court papers show.

Despite the city testing, residents were not sold on the safety of the park, which is packed with soccer players and food vendor customers every weekend.

Police won't arrest sex offender

From NBC 4:

The Victorias recorded a phone conversation between Ricardo and the assistant district attorney who prosecuted the man’s case. In the conversation, the prosecutor tells the Victorias that unless the New York City Police department makes an arrest, there is nothing the district attorney’s office can do.

A spokesman for the Queens District Attorney said they advised the Victoria family to follow proper procedure and file a police report. The Victorias say they went to their local precinct and tried to report the Sex Offender Registry violation but were redirected back to the district attorney’s office. They think prosecutors missed an opportunity to take a sexual predator off the streets.

Cop didn't report it, perp didn't do it.

Did Astoria get downzoned or upzoned?

From the NY Observer:

The City Council on Tuesday afternoon adopted the Bloomberg administration's planned 238-block rezoning of Astoria, one that mostly restricts new out-of-scale development in the low-rise neighborhood.

The rezoning, which covers Councilman Peter Vallone Jr.'s district, was relatively uncontroversial (rezonings that restrict developments rarely are). Of course, as the Furman Center at NYU has pointed out, rezonings such as this restrict the amount of new housing that can be built citywide, exacerbating the housing shortage.

From The Real Deal:

Mayor Michael Bloomberg and City Planning Commissioner Amanda Burden are celebrating the City Council's approval of a rezoning plan for Astoria, Queens. The plan, which covers approximately 240 blocks in the neighborhood, will allow for an increase in residential and commercial density in some areas, which supporters say will increase the number of opportunities to build affordable housing. The area is boarded by 20th Avenue and Broadway, and Vernon Boulevard and the East River. The previous zoning was outdated and did not allow for adequate development, Bloomberg said. "The rezoning of Astoria... [provides] opportunities for mixed-income housing and new job growth," Bloomberg said.

Queensbridge Houses Hosts Another Murder

Normandeau Newswire

Normandeau Newswire – Queensbridge Houses is the largest public housing complex in North America. The area around Queensbridge Houses is gentrifying with fourteen luxury hotels springing up. Just a gunshot away from Queensbridge Houses, wine sells for $9.00 a glass.

Hundreds of artists studios have sprung up in the Queensbridge Houses area with a two-day open studios event the weekend of May 22-23.

One might find it hard to find anything more exciting.

How about a murder for excitement?

The early morning hours of Saturday May 22, 2010 brought another murder to Queensbridge Houses just blocks away from another recent murder at Queensbridge Houses where three people were shot.

What is unusual about the May 22 murder is that the police do not seem to be releasing any details.

All that is known is based on hearsay. Apparently two people were arguing at 40-16 12 Street. A third person intervened. That third person was shot and killed. An all too familiar memorial is now on on the sidewalk at the site of the 40-16 12 Street murder.

Hopefully the NYCPD, either the 114 Precinct or the PSA9 Housing Police Bureau will enlighten the tenants.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Efrain Gonzalez gets 7 years in prison

From the NY Post:

Crooked ex-pol Efrain Gonzalez Jr. was slapped with a seven-year prison term yesterday by a judge who slammed him for failing to show any remorse for the "venal acts" of looting two charities in a corruption scheme.

Manhattan federal Judge William Pauley III rejected defense arguments that the former Democratic Bronx state senator deserved the same sort of leniency shown one-time Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno, a Republican who got just two years for peddling his influence through a consulting firm.

"You deprived your constituents of the scarce resources that could be allocated to help those in need," said the judge, who also ordered Gonzalez to forfeit nearly $738,000 netted by his five-year scam.

The portly 62-year-old -- who blew the cash on luxuries, including an upstate vacation home -- rolled his eyes after being told to stand up and accept his punishment.

The disgraced ex-lawmaker said only, "Your Honor, I want to take this opportunity to apologize to my family, my friends and my communities. Thank you."

Afterward, Gonzalez -- who in February blamed his former attorney for making him plead guilty -- refused to speak to reporters in English, but insisted in Spanish that he wanted a trial to prove his innocence.

"We Hispanics, we have to unite. It's not fair what they're doing to us. I feel like an illegal immigrant," he said, according to a Spanish-speaking observer.

Staten Island park pier collapses!

From the SI Advance:

"major" collapse of the Cromwell Center in Tompkinsville is being reported, and numerous emergency officials are on the scene.

There are no injuries reported and nobody is believed to be trapped inside the building, according to emergency officials who conducted initial searches.

Click here for a map of the location.

A pylon at the front of the building on Pier 6 has collapsed, according to an account from the scene, and the front right corner of the building is in the water.

According to an employee at a nearby business, the collapsed was foreshadowed by an ominous noise.

"We could hear the cracking and pieces started falling off," the witness said. "Within 10 minutes, the whole front section went down."

Gay activists cause ruckus at Addabbo party

I found this video funny. Not because LGBT activists infiltrated Joe Addabbo's birthday fundraiser to raise hell about his "no" vote on gay marriage, but because

1) They were surprised that he voted no in an overwhelmingly conservative Catholic district
2) They would rather have a Republican in there than Addabbo, who might be persuaded to change his mind down the road
3) They actually think they had something to do with the dumping of Hiram Monserrate
4) They wanted to embarrass Addabbo in front of his father, a former congressman, who they were hoping would be there. (He died in 1986...)

Video found on NBC

LPC may step in to prevent mosque

From the NY Post:

A controversial plan to build a $100 million mosque and community center just two blocks north of Ground Zero could be undone by history.

The 152-year-old building at 45 Park Place that would be torn down for the mosque is under the protection of the Landmarks Preservation Commission, which has had a pending application on its books since 1989 to grant it landmark status.

A Landmarks spokeswoman said that the application had been on hold for more than two decades but that a hearing would be scheduled and a vote would follow on the designation.

The landmarking issue is a potentially big obstacle for a project that both the city and the mosque's backers had said could be built "as of right," with no interference from city land use laws.

If the commission approves landmark designation, it would be highly unlikely that the building could be torn down to make way for Cordoba House, a proposed 13-story mosque and community center.

And until a vote is taken, the building has temporary landmark protection.

Mayor Bloomberg yesterday continued to support the project, despite the latest wrinkle.

Klein takes axe to school budget

From WNYC:

Back in March, when the city was still trying to get a handle on its education budget, City Councilman Robert Jackson noted that there were two different scenarios for the coming fiscal year: "bad" and "horrid."

Today, the education committee chairman said, there's only one: "horrid."

Jackson repeated that word at least nine times during the education committee's hearing on proposed budget cuts. He said the loss of $500 million in state aid would mean laying off 4,400 teachers, letting another 2,000 go through attrition, and eliminating almost 600 other support staffers and cafeteria workers. Which was why he wanted to know how Chancellor Joel Klein could justify hiring two more deputy chancellors who are each paid almost $200,000 a year, and giving raises to several more. He noted that there are now eight deputy chancellors.

Klein testified that one of those deputies is actually a new Chief Operating Officer and said the job is needed now more than ever because he's cut $38 million from central offices. The chancellor said another deputy is dealing with new schools and enrollment, and said the rest were given promotions. As for the raises, he called them "small adjustments" and said their salaries had been "out of line."

The chancellor insisted he had done all he could to protect classrooms from budget cuts. Several council members expressed great skepticism about his department's contracts with outside vendors at a time when it's projecting teacher layoffs. But Klein said the city retained a $5 million contract with The New Teacher Project to hire new teachers because there aren't enough with special education licenses to meet demand. And he said most of the city's other contracts are for special education services and busing that's legally mandated.

Spit = assault to MTA

MYFOXNY.COM - Driving a bus in New York City can be a tough job. Apparently, 1,500 MTA bus drivers were assaulted in 2009 -- 51 of them got spit on.

It is disgusting for sure, considered an assault. But is it so bad a driver should get 2 years paid time off? Thanks to an MTA policy and the transit union contract, they can.

Some riders that Fox 5 spoke to may think it's nuts, but 51 bus drivers spit on in 2009 claim they were so distraught afterward that they took an average of 64 days off to recover.

One driver told Fox 5 that she was spat upon, and that it was terrible. She took off months.

"Very traumatic, upsetting, unexpected, humiliating, embarrassing," Oneshia Portlette says. Her attacker's saliva got in her mouth and eye.

The Transport Workers Union president said their members' contract allows for them to take up to two years of paid time off after being assaulted, whether they are punched, stem, or spit on.

Some MTA board members say it is an abuse of MTA money. They say that assault is too broadly defined.

Pols afraid to open up

From the Daily News:

In a stunning show of hypocrisy, two-thirds of the New York City lawmakers who voted to disclose how much they earn moonlighting now refuse to make the numbers public.

Dozens of Assembly and state Senate members who publicly approved revealing their outside income 14 weeks ago suddenly decided not to put their money where their votes were.

Asked by the Daily News to reveal their outside income, 63 of the 90 sitting members of the city delegation declined - including top legislative leaders. Only 27 city lawmakers agreed; 16 flat-out refused, and the rest ignored The News' request.

That means the public still does not know how much Senate President Malcolm Smith (D-Queens) makes with his title insurance company, Great Abstract Title Co., or how much Senate Democratic Conference Leader John Sampson (D-Brooklyn), Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan) and other lawyer-legislators make from their legal practices.

When the best case scenario doesn't happen

From the NY Observer:

On May 17, Governor Paterson and several other officials and community leaders assembled on Manhattan's West Side for a ribbon cutting at Hudson River Park, the 5-mile-long strip of green space, converted piers and bike lanes along the Hudson River. They were on hand to christen the new (and growing) park's latest section, a 9-acre run that has a new skate park and gardens near West 24th Street.

It is, indeed, the season of parks: Earlier this spring, the long-planned Brooklyn Bridge Park opened its first section, a large pier; and the year-old High Line elevated park that runs through Chelsea is laying materials for its second phase, to open next year.

There's just one little nagging detail with these expanding parks: There's not enough money to fund their upkeep, and, for the most part, no one quite knows where it will come from.

All three parks were held up as gems of an economic development agenda in New York, as, theoretically, they were to be self-sustaining or close to it, with the private sector to pay for the ongoing operations. Yet the situation is one of classic overreach, as the administrations of Mayor Bloomberg and three governors put their faith in the panacea concept of the public-private partnership, pledging a win-win for all involved. The logic ran like this: New parks would be built; creative planning would open the floodgates to money from the private sector to fund maintenance year after year; and public balance sheets would be spared. The reality is far less heartwarming. The city and state are now grasping to find ways to make the parks work in the long term and are finding no answers that pass muster with the local communities and elected officials whose sign-off is needed. With this question mark hanging overhead, the fact that the groundbreakings continue-money continues to go into expansion-looks to be something of a reckless move, as officials are betting that some unspecified solution will indeed materialize at some future date.