Saturday, July 31, 2010

Thugs murder man defending brother

From the NY Post:

A Queens man was stabbed in the heart last night while trying to rescue his little brother from a group of knife wielding thugs on a J train platform.

Dario Paiva, 27, raced to his brother Khristian’s side after the younger man was beset by four attackers near the 85th Street-Forest Parkway station, only to meet his doom.

The Woodhaven man was fatally stabbed around 11:30 p.m. after confronting his brother’s attackers on the subway platform. He was pronounced dead on arrival at Jamaica Hospital. No arrests have been made.

Sparks Deli makes the grade

From the NY Post:

A deli in Queens gets New York City’s first A for food safety.

The city rolled out its new system of awarding letter grades to restaurants Wednesday. Health Commissioner Thomas Farley presented an A to Spark’s Deli in Long Island City.

Deli owner Jose Araujo says he’s proud to see the A in his window.

The city awards grades based on cleanliness and whether food is kept at the right temperature. Restaurants that don’t earn an A the first time will be given a chance to bring their grade up before they must display a B or a C.

Farley says most restaurants maintain good conditions, but lapses in food safety can cause preventable illnesses.

Surprised that Borden Ave bridge project hasn't killed them completely.

Meanwhile, ethnic restaurateurs are concerned that they will fail inspection.

Darryl ready to open restaurant

From the Daily News:

Darryl Strawberry struck out on "Celebrity Apprentice," but he's hoping to hit one out of the park with a Queens restaurant that opens next week.

Strawberry's Sports Grill starts serving customers on Thursday, and the former Mets and Yankees slugger plans to take a very active role.

"I might surprise people sometimes - come out and be the waiter," he said yesterday while leading the Daily News on an exclusive tour of the eatery.

Settling into a booth, Strawberry said he hoped fans of both local teams will frequent the restaurant on 235th St. in Douglaston.

But the Straw Man, who will be inducted into the Mets Hall of Fame this weekend, singled out his link to the Amazin's, where he played from 1983 to 1990.

"Queens is home and I have a lot of history here," said Strawberry, the Mets' all-time leader with 252 home runs, 662 runs and 733 RBI.

"This is my way of being able to give back to my fans."

Amtrak arrests one of their contestants

From the NY Times:

One afternoon, Duane P. Kerzic was arrested by the Amtrak police while taking pictures of a train pulling into Pennsylvania Station. At first, the police asked him to delete the images from his camera, but he refused. He ended up handcuffed to the wall of a holding cell while an officer wrote a ticket for trespassing.

Mr. Kerzic, a semiprofessional photographer, proceeded to describe his detention on his Web site and included images of the summons. He also hired a lawyer to sue.

In due course, Stephen Colbert of “The Colbert Report” arrived to sound the gong. He turned the Kerzic story into a segment called “Nailed ’Em.” It mocked Amtrak without mercy.

“Finally,” Mr. Colbert reported, “Kerzic cracked and revealed the reason he was taking his terrifying photos.”

Mr. Kerzic appeared on the screen.

“The reason I was taking photos of trains is that every year Amtrak has a contest; it’s called ‘Picture Our Train,’ ” he explained.

Soon after the show was broadcast, a strange thing happened. The section of Mr. Kerzic’s Web site that dealt with Amtrak all but vanished. His lawsuit was settled, and as a condition of the deal, he had to remove his writings about the episode. Now his page on Amtrak — at — contains two words: “No Comment!”

Mr. Kerzic and his lawyer, Gerald Cohen, both said they couldn’t talk about what had become of the Web pages describing the arrest and his commentary about it. Carlos Miller, a photographer and blogger who followed the case, reported that Mr. Kerzic received a “five-figure” settlement.

But how could Amtrak — the national railroad, whose preferred stock is owned by the American public and whose chief executive and board of directors are appointed by the president and confirmed by Congress — require that a Web site criticizing the railroad be shut down as a condition of settling a lawsuit for wrongful arrest?

What qualifications does Amtrak have to function as a censor?

Selling the heroin Americans won't sell

From NBC:

Bronx District Attorney Robert T. Johnson announced the seizure of more than $1.5 million in cash and an undisclosed amount of heroin today. The money and illegal drugs were taken during the execution of 15 search warrants in the Fordham area of the Bronx.

The warrants also lead to the arrests of 31 alleged members with authorities expecting more as the investigation continues. Authorities say a vast majority of those arrested are either Latin King gang members or gang associates.

Johnson noted that the joint investigation was conducted over 9-months and included 28 court ordered wiretaps, video surveillance, undercover heroin “buys” and observation by NYPD detectives.

Detectives purchased 4 kilograms of heroin sold under various brands including the namesake, La Perla, Tuna, Salsa, and Sabroso throughout their investigation. They also recovered four guns and confiscated twelve vehicles.

Court documents note that the ring was active over a period of five years from July 23, 2005 through July 22, 2010.

$10M for tennis center?

From the Queens Gazette:

The days of the West Side Tennis Club Stadium at Forest Hills may be numbered. Members of the club are considering selling the historic venue to a housing developer for a sum of $8 to $10 million. The 14-acre property is surrounded by some of the most prestigious real estate in the borough and could be torn down to make way for future high-end residential housing.

All 825 members of the club are invited to an informational meeting on August 10 and those with voting rights are expected to vote on the fate of the century-old structure on August 19. The West Side Tennis Club Board of Directors requires a total vote of two-thirds in favor in order to move ahead with the project.

Club President Kenneth J. Parker declined to comment.

So far, only the acre of land covered by the stadium parcel has been chosen for possible development and it is unclear if a buyer has already been selected. The area has always been a prime location for development with the Long Island Rail Road station and Austin Street shopping area featuring numerous shops and restaurants nearby.

Hizzoner the fundraiser

From the NY Times:

This summer, a bevy of aspiring elected officials have received the coveted invitation to be feted at private wines-and-dines at the mayor’s Upper East Side town house.

In recent weeks, the parade of politicians has included Mark S. Kirk, an Illinois Republican running for Senate; Daniel M. Donovan Jr., a Republican candidate for state attorney general; and Michael E. McMahon, a Democratic congressman from New York.

The candidates, who typically leave with a promised $2,300 check from the mayor (the federal limit) and pledges from other invited guests, represent a range of ideologies, but many share the mayor’s views on issues like gun control and charter schools, and have reputations for bucking the party line.

In using his power as a political fund-raiser, Mr. Bloomberg is attempting to kick-start his third-term agenda by accelerating change in Albany and Washington.

He's not thinking much of Charles Rangel these days, though.

Pistilli complaints stretch across the borough

From the Daily News:

Tenants at several Queens and Brooklyn properties owned or affiliated with the Pistilli family complained of shoddy construction and, in some cases, vermin. Residents also said it was difficult to get issues resolved swiftly.

But Joseph Pistilli, co-owner of the Pistilli Realty Group, which owns or manages the properties, disputed the charges, saying his company "never" disregards tenant problems.

Tenants beg to differ.

Joseph Pistilli conceded there are water issues at the former Eagle Electric Building at 19-19 24th Ave. But the leak has been identified, and will be fixed by the fall, he said.

"I'm not going to tell you that some of those complaints are not legitimate," he said. But, he added, "We are not slum landlords."

His companies own or manage about 10 properties in Queens, Brooklyn and Manhattan, he said. He added that he was unaware of many of the complaints.

"If people have these problems, they should be calling our office," he said. "They can ask for me directly, and I will make sure that their problem is dealt with immediately."

That wasn't the case for Daniel Cardoza, 24, who lives at 41-06 Case St., in Elmhurst. He said it took the company two months to fix his bathroom ceiling leak.

Jesse Diaz, 25, whose cousin lives at 58-35 Granger St., in Corona, also complained of leaks.

"The conditions of some of the apartments are disgusting," Diaz said.

Photo courtesy of Miss Heather

Friday, July 30, 2010

Weiner and Ackerman vs. King...oh my!

Council approves Flushing Commons

From the NY Times:

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg won a victory for his development agenda on Thursday when the City Council approved a plan to build hundreds of apartments and thousands of square feet of office and retail space in the heart of Flushing, Queens, one of the city’s most densely populated neighborhoods.

The decision — in a 44-to-2 vote, with 5 abstentions — came on the same day that the Council approved a $1.5 billion plan for a residential development at the site of the former Domino Sugar refinery in Brooklyn. The dual approvals give new life to Mr. Bloomberg’s agenda, which suffered a stinging blow in February when the Council rejected a plan for a mall at the old Kingsbridge Armory in the Bronx.

The Queens project, called Flushing Commons, faced hardly any questions from council members, in large part because the councilman who represents the area supported the plan.

The only council members who voted against the project were Brad Lander of Brooklyn and Gale A. Brewer of Manhattan, who wanted more than 140 housing units to be set aside for low-income families.

Mr. Koo and Mr. Bloomberg met Thursday night for a celebratory dinner at Ah Ree Soo, a Korean restaurant on Flushing’s Main Street. The gathering underscores the importance of the project, which the mayor characterized as “a major milestone in our efforts to position Flushing for long-term economic growth.”

Still, questions remain about the impact that Flushing Commons and a similar development proposed for Willets Point would have on the No. 7 subway line, which is stretched to near capacity during peak hours. There are no plans for improvements on the Queens end of the line, and there likely will be none for a while.

Oh how precious...Koo and Bloomie munching on kim chee to show their love for Koreans.

And what about the dead bodies?

Rangel slapped with 13 charges

From the NY Post:

The House ethics panel threw the book at Rep. Charles Rangel yesterday, charging him with 13 violations, in an action that rocked the Capitol and set up a possible corruption trial in the midst of the election season.

The devastating charges, detailed in a 40-page report, are an embarrassing last act to the Harlem Democrat's 40-year career as a congressional powerhouse and dean of the New York delegation.

The ethics committee found after an exhaustive two-year investigation that Rangel had a "pattern of indifference or disregard for the laws, rules and regulations of the United States and the House of Representatives."

The seriousness of the charges threatened to turn Rangel into a political liability for Democrats. They were leveled after fellow party members turned up the pressure on him to make a deal so the issue might go away.

In fact, Rangel's lawyers reached a plea deal with lawyers for the committee, people familiar with the talks said, but Republicans on the panel said it was too late.

If no agreement is worked out, Rangel would face a House trial starting next month, with a range of punishments ranging from censure to expulsion.

You can keep your peanuts and crack jacks...

From NBC:

A new study of health violations at the nation's 107 sports venues find some gross oversights, and New York establishments are among the worst offenders.

Nearly one-third of all stadiums and arenas have been cited for at least one "major" health violation, the ESPN study found.

ESPN tallied up each arena's percentages of "critical violations," or cases in which vendors sold food that "might pose a serious risk for foodborne illnesses."

Offenses in New York range from food not kept a the proper temperature --like warm chicken -- to "mouse excreta" and dead fruit flies.

Madison Square Garden ranked the worst, where 61 percent of MSG vendors were cited this year for unsanitary conditions. Inspectors also observed large amounts of mouse droppings throughout establishments, the study found.

Yankee Stadium and Citi Field rated only slightly better, with 48 percent of vendors cited in The Bronx and 45 in Flushing Meadows.

Nassau Coliseum was the only New York-area establishment that didn't have any violations, according to the survey.

MSG and Yankee officials alike said the violations were remedied immediately following the inspections.

Mary Immaculate to become cancer center?

From Crains:

Backers of a hugely expensive proposed proton beam cancer treatment facility in Jamaica, Queens, are pinning their hopes of winning the necessary state approvals on ties to several powerful local politicians.

Currently the New York State Department of Health is reviewing three competing proposals for a proton beam facility in the area, including two in New York City.

Proton beam technology allows radiation to be emitted in precisely focused cancer-killing doses, but the cost of building and equipping such a facility is more than $200 million. The cost is so prohibitive that currently there are only eight such centers in the U.S.

The leading contender is a consortium of several of the city's leading hospitals: Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, Beth Israel Medical Center, NYU Langone Medical Center, Mount Sinai Hospital, Montefiore Medical Center and New York-Presbyterian. They are pitching a $227 million facility proposed for West 57th Street in Manhattan. The hospitals will provide some equity, with additional financing arranged by their partner 21st Century Oncology, a national developer and operator of about 100 radiation therapy centers.

A second contender is Vassar Brothers Medical Center, which hopes to join with New York-Presbyterian to open a $201 million proton-beam center upstate in Fishkill, N.Y.

A $273 million center proposed for the former site of Mary Immaculate Hospital in Queens is the most controversial of the three, in part because of its heavy reliance on political muscle to carry the day. Officially known as The Proton Therapy Cancer Center of New York, or TPTCC NY, its backers are negotiating with the North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System and SUNY Downstate Medical Center about a clinical affiliation with the proposed center.

But against overwhelming competition from its Manhattan rival, the consortium of New York's most prestigious medical centers, the Queens project ranks as the distinct underdog in the race for approval.

To improve its odds, TPTCC NY has enlisted the aid of three politicians. For openers, TPTCC NY is behind a Senate bill (S8419), sponsored by Sen. Majority Leader John Sampson of Brooklyn, that would make the state approve more than one of the three projects. Referred to the Senate rules committee on June 30, the bill reads “the operation of more than one demonstration site in a large city will better allow the Department of Health to test the efficacy, safety and cost-effectiveness of proton beam therapy. Furthermore, estimated demand for such services exceeds maximum capacity for a single site.”

The Queens project has other politicians on its side. Sen. Charles Schumer and Rep. Ed Towns are supporting a controversial plan to help it raise capital. Its backers filed a request with the Department of Homeland Security to raise $250 million using the federal EB 5 foreign investment program. Under the proposal, 500 foreign investors will each put up $500,000, and as a result, if all conditions are met, will get permanent U.S. residency in return.

Last month, Mr. Schumer wrote a letter to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services in support of this proposal "to raise $250 million of foreign investment to construct a much-needed groundbreaking cancer treatment facility in New York City that will create an estimated 2,800 jobs and save countless American lives."

LNG off Rockaway on hold due to Gulf oil leak

From the Daily News:

The Gulf oil spill is giving pause to energy companies with grand designs for the Atlantic coast.

A controversial plan to build a liquefied natural gas terminal on a man-made island 15 miles off the Rockaway Peninsula has been withdrawn due to the backlash from the BP oil spill in the Gulf, among other factors, company officials said.

The Atlantic Sea Island Group's decision to pull the plug on the plan is "temporary" and it plans to "reactivate operations in six months," a company official told the Daily News Tuesday.

The U.S. Coast Guard and the U.S. Department of Transportation's Maritime Administration on Friday accepted the withdrawal of the application to build the artificial island off the Atlantic coast.

In its June 29 letter to those agencies, the company also pointed to the retirement of CEO Howard Bovers and the "prevailing uncertainty" of the global economy as contributing factors to their request. Bovers retired on June 23 for health reasons, according to the letter.

Atlantic Sea Island Group planned to use the terminal to deliver up to 2 billion cubic feet of liquefied natural gas, or LNG, per day through an underwater pipeline connected to the mainland in Nassau County, planners said.

EDC forced to pony up their cash

From the NY Times:

Bowing to pressure from auditors, the organization that oversees economic development in New York City has agreed to hand over more than $20 million in rental payments each year to the city.

The group, the Economic Development Corporation, had previously resisted giving up the money, which it earns by leasing space in Times Square. But after Comptroller John C. Liu released a stinging audit of the corporation’s financial methods in April, officials re-examined the practice.

In explaining the reversal, the corporation said it was responding to Mr. Liu’s report — one of the first major salvos of his tenure as comptroller — as well as the dire economic circumstances facing the city.

David Lombino, a spokesman for the corporation, said the group had determined it would be “optimal” to cede the money so the city could “balance its budget and continue to provide valuable services to its people.”

Under Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, the Economic Development Corporation has emerged as one of the city’s most powerful agencies. It is a nonprofit group that contracts with the city to manage a variety of projects in places like Coney Island and Willets Point, Queens. It earns most of its money by selling and renting property for the city. Its president is appointed by the mayor.

According to budget documents, the corporation will contribute $20.3 million in rental payments from the Times Square project to the city this fiscal year, $27.7 million in 2012, $32.5 million in 2013, and $39.9 million in 2014.

Mr. Liu, who took office in January, welcomed the decision, saying it was a victory for his office. He said the money should be subject to public scrutiny as part of the general budget.

“This is good news for our taxpayers,” he said. “The bottom line is that we just can’t afford for any city agency or entity to be holding onto these funds.”

Fishing in Jamaica Bay

I like how the reporter and newscasters act like this is something that no one knew about and haven't been doing for centuries...

Democrats wanted, dead or alive

From City Hall News:

Twelve-term Assembly Member Barbara Clark is counting on her old friends Gloria Black and Warrington Canston, two state committee members from Clark’s district in Southeast Queens, to help her win another term in office this year. And she did not let the fact that both Black and Canston are apparently dead deter her from putting their names at the top of her petitions.

Clark’s opponent, Clyde Vanel, a 36-year-old lawyer and former candidate for City Council in 2009, filed a challenge to Clark’s petitions with the Queens Board of Elections last Thursday. He said Clark’s indifference toward the petition-gathering process speaks to a wider sense of apathy in the community he hopes to provoke with his candidacy.

“That’s just ridiculous,” Vanel said. “Barbara’s county committee people, a majority of them don’t even know that they’re on county committee. We’re fighting against something that has historically kept a majority of the community uninvolved and outside the process.”

“Is a dead person a Democrat?” he asked. “I don’t know.”

But Clark could end up skating by without much damage to her re-election efforts. According to the Board of Elections, while it may seem odd to include the deceased on a candidate’s petitions, the signatures that are collected are technically counted as separate for each person on them. Therefore, while the fact that they are deceased makes Black and Canston ineligible for the ballot, as long as Clark herself is living (which she is), there is no legal problem.

Reviewing Ridgewood

Hello Crapper,

I want to share this video with you. Some of the terminology is,
obviously, inspired by your website. I hope I've correctly identified
the crap in Ridgewood. If you like it, please share on your blog. If
my link doesn't work, it's the only video on the first page of my blog.

J. J.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Eric Schneiderman's hit-and-run set to music

Upper West Side State Senator Eric Schneiderman is running for New York Attorney General but hit a bump in the road. A hit and run -- says he didn't feel it. Others beg to differ. Starring the victim, the witness, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, & Police Commish Ray Kelly. With a song by 80s band Girlschool!

Silly question, I know

We've got word from Matches Malone again. Click on above building report.

See here for history of this baby.

So...when is this place going to get shut down for good?

New firehouse in Broad Channel despite Sadik-Khan

From the Queens Chronicle:

After years of jumping through beaureaucratic hoops, the Broad Channel Volunteer Fire Department appears to be on track to get a new firehouse.

A bill sponsored by Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer (D-Ozone Park) and state Senator Shirley Huntley (D-Jamaica) that would allow the state Department of Transportation to be in charge of the project passed both houses of the Legislature this month. The project had been under the city DOT’s purview, but the city had said it wouldn’t pursue the project, deeming it unnecessary.

“With this bill giving the state control of the project, we think this is finally going to happen,” said Pheffer.

This is just the latest news in the long and convoluted history of the project.

In 2005, Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-Queens and Brooklyn) and then-Sen. Hilary Clinton (D-New York) placed $2 million in the next year’s Omnibus Transportation Bill to fund a new firehouse for the department.

However, the city DOT had to approve the spending, which it never did. The agency is mandated by Federal Highway Administration rules to have complete control of such a project from start to finish.

The city told the vollies it didn’t think the project was necessary, that the fire department underestimated the cost of its project and the city didn’t have the $3.9 million in matching funds it claimed the plan required.

But with the legislation that puts the state Dormitory Authority in charge, Pheffer believes the vollies’ long quest for a new headquarters may be nearing an end.

Globalism hurting American workers

From The Business Insider:

The 22 statistics detailed here prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that the middle class is being systematically wiped out of existence in America.

The rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer at a staggering rate. Once upon a time, the United States had the largest and most prosperous middle class in the history of the world, but now that is changing at a blinding pace.

So why are we witnessing such fundamental changes? Well, the globalism and "free trade" that our politicians and business leaders insisted would be so good for us have had some rather nasty side effects. It turns out that they didn't tell us that the "global economy" would mean that middle class American workers would eventually have to directly compete for jobs with people on the other side of the world where there is no minimum wage and very few regulations. The big global corporations have greatly benefited by exploiting third world labor pools over the last several decades, but middle class American workers have increasingly found things to be very tough.

Click the link to read the scary stats...

QCC's position on revising the city charter

Lost in the Ozone has posted the Queens Civic Congress' Statement of Principles for Charter Revision. You can read through the lengthy document if you choose to. I don't think it goes far enough, however, with respect to strengthening the roles of Borough President and Community Boards in the ULURP process or changing the way community board members are appointed. And they're for expanding the BSA? It needs to be eliminated, IMHO.

Marty living large overseas

From the NY Times:

Marty Markowitz, the Brooklyn borough president, reported not one, but two, international trips last year, one of many revelations contained in financial disclosure forms that the city’s Conflicts of Interest Board released on Tuesday.

Over four days in March 2009, Mr. Markowitz’s form for 2009 disclosed, he was a guest of the “Kingdom of Netherlands,” a trip that had been arranged by the consul general at a cost ranging between $5,000 and $39,999. The trip’s official purpose, according to the form, was to represent the City of New York at “NY 400: Made in Holland 1609,’’ described as “the Netherlands official celebration of their 400 year relationship with New York.”

He also accepted a five-day trip to Turkey in November as a guest of the Federation of Turkish American Associations. That trip was also said to have cost $5,000 to $39,999, between airfare and lodging. It was described as being a “working trip to develop sister-city status with Izmir, Turkey — socio-economic relations, secure new ways of working, develop multi-purpose collaborations and strengthen relations.”

The prior year, his disclosure forms showed him taking a “working trip” to Israel as a guest of the state’s Ministry of Tourism. The intent of that trip, he wrote, was “to honor Brooklyn’s connection to Israel and reaffirm our support of its goals, as well as to promote tourism between Israel and Brooklyn – encouraging Israelis to visit Brooklyn just as we encourage Brooklyn travelers of every background to consider experiencing the beauty and rich history of Israel.”

A spokesman for Mr. Markowitz said the trip to the Netherlands had many sponsors and celebrated long-standing “ties between New York (and by extension Brooklyn) and the Netherlands.” He said the trip to Turkey came about when the borough president was invited to speak at the ninth annual “World Congress of Councils Conference.”

Photo from the Politicker

Open space report reveals a dearth of green space

From NY4P Open Space Index:

The map illustrates the range of access to parks across the city. Areas colored by the darkest shade of red --in Staten Island and the northern neighborhoods of the Bronx-- have excellent open space provision (more than 2.5 acres per 1000 residents). However, central Brooklyn and Queens, depicted in light pink, are expected to receive large numbers of immigrants over the next two decades and will suffer from inadequate access to open space. Planning for new parks in these neighborhoods now will help the City to accommodate its new residents in the years to come.

I like the gerrymandered report. This isn't showing it by zip code or community board district. Instead it's broken down by tweeding standards set forth by Amanda Burden. Also begs the question why Green Shores and trust for Public Land are teaming up to present a series of listening sessions about new park access along the Ditmars waterfront when, according to this "official" map, there appears to be plenty of parkland in that area already. Why not concentrate efforts elsewhere?

Office building as billboard

Not too long ago, someone wrote to me, "Check out the gigantic 2 story advertisements for Heineken Beer in Spanish on windows of an empty building on Northern Boulevard at the corner of 72 street in Jackson Heights!" I never got over there to take in the spectacle, but the Queens Tribune did.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Affordable housing promises were meant to be broken

From The Real Deal:

With the City Council set to vote Thursday on the Domino Sugar Factory condominium development's plans, insiders say that fewer than expected affordable housing units may make the cut, according to the New York Post. The vote, which would grant a zoning change to allow for the $1.5 billion Williamsburg development, is expected to be approved by the council. Still, the zoning change proposal includes no provisions guaranteeing that 30 percent of the 2,200 apartments will be affordable, as developer CPC Resources had previously promised. This constitutes a major risk, affordable housing advocates say, allowing CPC a loophole to back out of its affordable housing pledge. The project is expected to break ground next year, with various phases of construction set to extend over the next 10 years.

Two CT firefighters die in illegally converted house

From the Connecticut Post:

The two firefighters were killed in what was supposed to be a routine house fire. Fellow firefighters have speculated that they may have run out of oxygen while checking for fire remnants on the third floor.

Smoke inhalation has been ruled the cause of death for the 49-year-old Baik. The state medical examiner's office also determined he had coronary artery disease that contributed to his death. A preliminary autopsy on the 40-year-old Velasquez was inconclusive, so more tests will be conducted.

The third-floor apartment where they lost their lives was not a certified living space and had likely not been inspected by fire officials in many years, because no permits were ever issued to convert the structure to a three-family house.

Records at both the city's Building Department and Tax Assessor's Office show the three-story structure at 39-41 Elmwood Ave. was built as a two-family house in 1909.

Bayside house still in bad shape

From the Queens Chronicle:

It was the house that time and Eric Miller forgot.

Care of the now vacant one-family property at 215-43 40th Ave. became Miller’s responsibility when its sole occupant, his mother Louise, lost all interest in the routine maintenance of the home she had purchased more than four decades earlier. While the reclusive Mrs. Miller mourned the loss of her husband Eugene, a firefighter killed while on duty in 1968, her son occasionally mowed the front lawn, littered with sand and plywood, but failed to prune the trees crowding the lot’s southwestern corner.

Now that the octogenarian resident has been relocated to a nursing facility, the building stands empty and decrepit. All doors and windows on the ground floor were cemented over in January, when the Department of Buildings found the structure open and unguarded. Shattered windows on the second floor have admitted raccoons, squirrels and birds as new occupants. Since the Queens Chronicle reported on its neglect in late March, the building’s status has remained unchanged, except for the spray painting of a bright green symbol on its concrete fa├žade to indicate its vacancy in case of a fire.

Halloran foe tickets woman changing tire

From CBS 2:

The traffic agent accused of terrorizing Queens residents is the source of more outrage.

CBS 2 first told you about Agent Daniel Chu, who was ordered to undergo sensitivity training for badgering drivers. Now, there's a new complaint that has some calling for his job.

There are some things you just can't change, and too-big-for-his-britches Traffic Agent Daniel Chu appears to be one of them.

"I'm very angry. I'm very annoyed that someone like that works for the city, that our tax dollars pay for someone like that to be employed," Tammy Fox, of New Rochelle, said.

Tammy Fox is Agent Chu's latest victim. She was in the dirt near Elmhurst Hospital, trying to fix her flat tire, when Agent Chu sauntered up. Instead of offering help, like most New Yorkers would, he slapped her with a ticket.

"I said to him, 'are you kidding me? You're very insensitive. I'm going to visit my friend in the hospital who had cancer, and I'm trying to fix my flat tire, and you're standing here writing me a ticket?'" Fox said.

Tammy hit the nail on the head when she used the word insensitive. The very day she got the ticket, CBS 2 told you that NYPD brass docked Chu's pay and ordered him into sensitivity training for a raft of run-ins with the public and Queens Councilman Daniel Halloran.

"Apparently, the sensitivity training didn't work," Councilman Halloran said.

Trash tax in the works?

From CBS 2:

There was a move Thursday to spin garbage into gold.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg said he's thinking about plugging his budget gap by charging New York City residents a fee for trash removal.

City residents produce 11,000 tons of trash every day. Collecting it is covered by taxes.

But there is a proposal to separate garbage collection from general taxes, and charge people for what they throw away, based on how much it is.

Plenty of New Yorkers are turning up their nose at the idea.

"I'm very much against it," one resident said.

"I think we pay a lot of taxes already," another added.

Mayor Bloomberg said while a trash fee is far from "in the bag," he refused to rule it out as the city struggles with a financial crisis.

"Everything will be on the table," Bloomberg said.

Who's paying for the cleanup?

From Crains:

Plans for a 20,000-square-foot library in Long Island City, Queens, along the East River, are moving ahead in a timely fashion, despite a possible lawsuit involving who should pay for the clean-up of the site.

The state's Queens West Development Corp. said it plans to sue Honeywell International to pay for the $5 million to $10 million clean-up of toxic waste on the three-quarter acre plot at Center Boulevard between 48th Avenue and 47th Drive. The state claims that a Honeywell predecessor firm used the site to make and store roofing materials, and says it will sue because yearlong negotiations with the company have broken down.

"The lawsuit will not impact the timeline for the library. It involves who ultimately will pay for the clean up," said Paul Januszewski, president of Queens West Development Corp., adding that clean up is expected to be completed by next summer. "At this point we are fronting the money and we are on schedule."

"Honeywell takes remediation of sites, for which we are responsible, very seriously," said a Honeywell spokeswoman. "Based on the information available to us, we do not believe our predecessor company ever owned the Queens site or the business, which was closed by 1915. We have cooperated fully and found no evidence."

Earlier this month, Steven Holl Architects was selected to design the new library. The city Department of Design and Construction will build the new facility. A groundbreaking date has not been set. The library has been 12 years in the making, said Donald Dodelson, president of Friends of the Queens Library and Cultural Center at Hunters Point.

Photo from OurLIC.

Kids put English signs in Flushing stores

From the Queens Chronicle:

In Flushing this summer, it’s the children who are leading the way when it comes to increasing the number of English-language signage in downtown stores.

For years, non-Asian shoppers in Flushing have complained about the lack of English signs with names and prices of fruits and vegetables and other commodities sold on the bustling thoroughfares around Main Street. The city’s Department of Consumer Affairs has made forays into the community, issuing citations for the no-English signs, but the practice has continued and there are just too many stores to keep up with, according to the agency.

Enter Lois Lee, director of the Chinese American Planning Council School Aged Day Care Center at PS 20. With a large contingent of youngsters from elementary school age through high school, she has organized a five-week community service project to fix the signs.

Keeping English off signs merchandise, “discriminates against those who can’t read Chinese, like me,” Lee said. “I can speak in Chinese but I never learned the letters.”

Last week, groups of summer campers from Lee’s program visited merchants along Main Street explaining that they would make bilingual signs if the store owners agreed to post them. According to Lee, some said they would be happy to while others gave a decided no.

There was a wide variety of shops canvassed, including restaurants, fruit stores, herbal shops and pharmacies.

Youngsters spent the rest of the week painstakingly making 200 signs with Chinese symbols and the English translation. On Friday, they revisited the sites and helped erect the new signs.

Lisa, the store manager at New A & N Food Market at 41-79 Main St., was happy to help the campers match the new signs with the fruit. Youngsters held up their placards for peaches, dragon fruit, plums, melons and more.

Many of the kids said the project was fun and they learned that it was a city law that all signs must include English. They will return to the stores in five weeks to see how their initiative worked out.

Lee promised this week to do a similar undertaking with Korean merchants along Union Street. She was still looking for adult helpers who spoke Korean to help write the signs.

(P.S. Toby can't figure out what kind of fruit she is.)

DNA used to track down car stealer

From the Times Ledger:

A 29-year-old Astoria man was the first person charged in Queens as part of a federal DNA matching program after he is alleged to have stolen a Jeep in front of a home in April, the Queens district attorney said.

Gary Yerganian, of 30-71 34th St. in Astoria, was arraigned July 14 before Queens Criminal Court Judge Toko Serita on charges of grand larceny, criminal possession of stolen property and unauthorized use of a vehicle, Queens DA Richard Brown said.

The city Police Department began collecting DNA samples from stolen cars in Queens and Brooklyn March 1 as part of a federally funded program aimed at combating auto theft.

Yerganian was the first person charged in Queens under the pilot program.

The defendant, who was held on $100,000 bail, could face up to seven years in prison if convicted, the DA said.

Manhattanites are literally full of shit

From the NY Observer:

"In a house, maybe in the suburbs, one bathroom on the top floor is sufficient for all bedrooms," broker Purita Young said Sunday. "But not in the city."

She stood in the living room of a condo at 62 West 62nd Street, clutching a small water bottle and pointing out the apartment's amenities. At $1.8 million and 1,380 square feet, it contains two bedrooms and three full bathrooms.

Ms. Young wanted to talk about the apartment's windowed kitchen. When pressed about the disproportionate number of bathrooms, she said it was industry standard. "Three bathrooms because it's three bedrooms." But the bedrooms number only two.

She explained that the apartment used to contain three bedrooms, but the current owners tore down a wall to expand their living room. The future occupant, she assumed, would convert back to three. Even so, the number of bathrooms seems unusually high.

"Not in this area," Ms. Young said, pausing before revising that statement. "That's what makes this building a little bit in the upper class."

At five open houses Sunday, all of which had more bathrooms than bedrooms, the story was consistent: One can never have too many loos.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Bloomberg wants retired fireman off 9/11 memorial

NEW YORK (AP/1010 WINS) -- New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg says the city will contest a court order to list a retired fire captain alongside his former colleagues on the Sept. 11 memorial.

Bloomberg said Tuesday the city "will fight this in court." He says the Fire Department of New York made a reasonable choice to list only active-duty firefighters in an FDNY section on the memorial.

Retired Capt. James Corrigan was working in a private fire safety job for the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001. That's how officials planned to list him on the memorial when it opens next year.

His family says Corrigan acted as a firefighter that day while helping colleagues and deserves the same recognition on the memorial. A Queens judge agreed with the family on Monday.

Charter Commission pulling a fast one

From City Pragmatist:

They didn’t say it in so many words, but the 2010 Charter Revision Commission members are heading in the direction of giving the mayor even more power than Mike Bloomberg has today — at the expense of the City Council and government transparency.

How: by creating a new “reporting commission,” putatively to get rid of unnecessary advisory bodies and trim the number of reports the mayor has to submit each year. Some of those reports are not used. But the charter revision commission would give the new reporting commission the power to review (and reject?) any future City Council decision to “extend or enhance” a report the mayor already provides.

Because a majority of the members of the reporting commission would be appointed by — you guessed it — the mayor, he would be able to frustrate the Council if it wants to ask for additional information from his agencies: a loss for the Council and transparency, and a gain for him.

After almost four months of working together to shape the city charter’s future, the 15 charter commission members undoubtedly have developed a strong sense of team identity and mutual respect. They also probably understand that the most important external critic of their performance is the mayor who appointed them — and whose remaining incumbency and personal wealth could give him the power to shape their professional futures.

Flushing workers protest against restaurant owner

From the Times Ledger:

A Flushing businessman with about a dozen restaurants, karaoke bars, nail salons and other businesses throughout New York City came under heavy fire during a protest Tuesday afternoon in front of his Chao Zhou Restaurant in the heart of downtown Flushing.

The protest, which drew several dozen people together on the street next to the eatery at 40-52 Main St., was aimed at exposing what former workers and representatives of the Justice Will Be Served Campaign labor advocacy group said are the unlawful labor practices used at Tse Yue Wang’s string of businesses.

Workers at Chao Zhou declined to comment and could not provide contact information for Wang Tuesday afternoon. Wang’s lawyer, Joe Labuda, did not return a request for comment.

A group of workers and former workers of Wang’s recently filed a lawsuit in Manhattan federal court against Wang, a number of his shops and several of his employee supervisors.

The complaint alleges Wang paid workers less than minimum wage, that he failed to provide overtime pay and that when workers at several of his businesses — including Tomo Sushi and Sake Bar in Morningside Heights in Manhattan — attempted to organize for their rights, he shuttered the shops and fired all the employees.

Now he has applied for bankruptcy protection as a way to avoid his responsibilities, the suit alleges.

One-woman crime spree

From the Times Ledger:

A 41-year-old Manhattan woman was charged last Thursday with stealing a Woodside man’s car last week and then robbing five Queens banks, the Queens district attorney’s office said.

According to the criminal complaints from the Queens district attorney, On July 12 between 11:20 a.m. and 11:22 a.m., a 56-year-old Asian man left his 2010 Chrysler idling in front of his residence on Woodside Avenue as he stopped by to drop something off. After he left the car, Jacqueline Healy of East 119th Street in Manhattan got into the vehicle and drove away, according to the criminal complaint filed with the DA’s office.

A little more than an hour later, between 12:28 p.m. and 12:32 p.m., Healy allegedly entered the Capital One Bank at 74-11 Metropolitan Ave. in Middle Village and gave the teller a note demanding money, court documents said. The teller gave Healy an undisclosed amount of U.S. currency, the DA said.

The next day, July 13, Healy allegedly went to the Citi Bank at 107-01 71st Ave. in Forest Hills between 10:10 a.m. and 10:12 a.m. and gave the teller another note demanding money, court documents said, but the teller walked away from the teller window and Healy ran out of the bank before she received money.”

Nevertheless, Healy allegedly next entered the HSBC branch the same day at 104-70 Queens Blvd. in Flushing between 10:18 a.m. and 10:20 a.m., according to the criminal complaint, where she was given an undisclosed some of money after passing a teller a note. Next Healy is charged with entering the Cross County Federal Savings Bank at 79-21 Metropolitan Ave. in Middle Village between 10:30 a.m. and 10:35 a.m. and repeating the routine, which produced another some of money from a threatened teller, the DA said.

On July 14, Healy went to the Bank of America branch at 90-35 Sutphin Blvd. in Jamaica between 9:45 a.m. and 10 a.m., passed a note to the teller demanding money and received some funds, court documents said.

According to the DA’s office, Healy was arrested a few minutes later when her car was spotted in front of a motel in Jamaica.

EDC knows all there is to know about the lying game...

From the Daily News:

As the controversial Flushing Commons development inches closer to a vote in the City Council, shopkeepers and elected officials alike are waiting for the city to reveal the details of a business assistance program that could make or break local retailers.

The available information is in the city's Environmental Impact Statement, required for any large land-use project. It states Flushing Commons will not directly displace businesses nor will many be pushed out by competition with Flushing Commons' stores.

A group of skeptical locals - the Flushing Coalition for Responsible Development - recently commissioned its own study to fact check the city's Environmental Impact Statement.

"We wanted to do an economic study so we could determine what made sense for a business assistance program," said coalition member Jim Gerson.

The main discrepancy between the two analyses is that the city counted 970 storefronts within a 1/2-mile radius of the project and the other, prepared by Hunter College, tallied 2,100 businesses.

"If you use the 2,100 figure, that $2 million would amount to only $26 a month for each business over the construction period," said Brian Paul, a fellow at the Hunter College Center for Community Planning and Development.

EDC officials discounted the Hunter College study.

"Our EIS was conducted by experienced consultants over the course of several years and followed a rigorous and approved methodology," said David Lombino, an agency spokesman.

The Hunter College report "was written by a group of graduate students in a matter of weeks, and significantly misrepresents aspects of the EIS," he said.

Oh yeah?

"The City's Economic Development Corporation as represented by Mr. Lombino apparently has not consulted the Hunter College report which they dismiss. The title page notes that it was prepared not by a bunch of students but by myself (Professor of Urban Planning at Hunter College) and Hunter College Fellow Brian Paul, who did most of the work under my direction. The fact that EDC consultants spent years and couldn't even get the number of local businesses right raises the question about who the amateurs are. Those of us familiar with the work of EDC's consultant, AKRF, are not surprised at the size of their mistakes and the equally inflated size of their bills to the taxpayers. The fact that we could turn up such a basic error in such a short time with limited resources should be disturbing. The number of businesses affects so much of the rest of AKRF's conclusions in the EIS and thus calls into question the entire study."

- Tom Angotti, Director, Hunter College Center for Community Planning

Told you EDC lies pathologically.

BSA helps Huang

From the Queens Chronicle:

The city announced last week it is letting convicted felon Thomas Huang complete four houses under construction for eight years on 223rd Street in Bayside despite 10 open building code violations on the properties, unresolved for the last three years.

Pat Martin, a homeowner who lives adjacent to the building site, said she was disappointed the Board of Standards and Appeals is allowing Huang, and his son, Henry, to get the building permits back. “We lost, but we won’t give up,” Martin said. “It was so narrow an application that the BSA granted it. We think they are wrong.”

Martin has a civil suit pending against Huang for damaging her property several years ago. Workmen excavated too close to her lot, causing a retaining wall to collapse. She lost 3 feet of land and fence, lighting and her irrigation system.

Huang’s petition asked the city to revert to previous zoning at the site so he can complete the project. He based it on his vested rights, saying the eight-year project has become a hardship because he is losing money.

But Community Board 11 and 223rd Street neighbors say the hardship was caused by Huang, who flaunted the law by permitting shoddy workmanship, using unlicensed contractors, working without a permit, improperly installing drainage pipes and more.

Carly Sullivan, spokeswoman for the Department of Buildings, said Huang owes $17,560 in violations on the houses.

Sullivan explained that the violations were allowed to be corrected even though there was a stop-work order on the project. However, she reported Wednesday that following an audit, there were found some problems with his applications that need to be addressed before the stop-work order is lifted.

Immigrant murdered at Flushing gas station

From Eyewitness News:

It was a final farewell that came entirely too fast. Friends never imagined they'd be sending Nadeem Khan home this way, this soon.

He left Pakistan just a few months ago, enthusiastically looking forward to building a better life here in the states.

The men who shattered the 39 year old's dream killed Nadeem early Sunday morning at a Mobile Station on Roosevelt Avenue.

Surveillance video shows the first suspect walking into the small shop.

Friends believe Nadeem probably thought he was a customer.

But on the video it appears there's a struggle. By this point, the second suspect is also inside and the deadly shooting has been set in motion.

Then as calmly as they arrived, they leave. One suspect is talking on a cell phone, sources telling Eyewitness News that the men took off with cash.

The animal rescuers

Monday, July 26, 2010

That Miss Heather is a sharp one!

From Miss Heather:

So last month I shared the good news about our fair neighborhood (and others) receiving several million dollars of “mitigation” funds and implored you to take the Newtown Creek Survey so as to give your two cents on how you want this money to be spent. Well, now we are on step #2: this upcoming Wendesday, July 28, at 6:30 p.m. at the Visitor’s Center of our very own Shit Tits the City Parks Foundation will be hosting a brainstorming session (replete with refreshments!). Here’s the 411 per their e-vite:

"At the meeting on July 28th, you will hear about four specific projects that have already been suggested to the Department of Environmental Conservation by the groups that successfully advocated for this $7 million of funding. You will also hear about a recent brainstorming session held among Brooklyn groups about community preferences for open space projects. In addition, you will hear about the results of the surveying that City Parks Foundation is now conducting in Brooklyn and in Queens."

I have to confess I am more than a little confused here. Why did they put forth a survey if four projects* (*which I have been told are:

* Expansion of Barge Park
* Creation of park space at MTA lot
* Rehabilitation of Monsignor McGolrick Park
* Acquisition of waterfront property for extension of the nature walk)

have already been brought to the table? In what way (if any) were these surveys used to inform the “brainstorming sessions” that were conducted by the aforementioned “Brooklyn groups” regarding open space projects? Truth be told it leaves a rather bad taste in my mouth— but I suppose I’ll have to go to the meeting and find out.

Yeah, if you recall, I had the survey in the sidebar for people from Hunters Point, Blissville and Maspeth to fill out because it was my understanding that those neighborhoods would be included in the process. Well, it looks like that was all a waste of time, because 4 Brooklyn projects that no one but a select few had input on are likely to be the ones funded. And they are projects that the city was already committed to fund anyway. What a gyp! I also doubt these CityParks Foundation fliers found in Greenpoint were posted anywhere in Queens.

Deputy Mayor has no problem closing firehouses

Dispatch from Queens Crap Roving Reporter #3:

"Stephen Goldsmith wants to close more firehouses and lay off more firefighters. At a July 20, 2010 breakfast meeting, the new Deputy Mayor of New York City had to answer for his opinions about more FDNY cost-cutting.

Mr. Goldsmith said he believed that the city had to renegotiate collective bargaining agreements and challenge court orders that regulate the public safety in order to cut costs.

Mr. Goldsmith was appointed on April 30, 2010, to become deputy mayor by Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Under three consecutive terms of the Bloomberg administration, the city has closed firehouses all over the city. But as many as have already been shut down, it still isn't enough for the mayor or his new deputy mayor. They want to see more firemen leave the service, and they want to find ways to cut retirement benefits to our city's heroes."

My favorite dumb line:

This boob does realize that 2 companies in the same house serve different functions, right?

Here's how this was reported in Crain's.

Big payday for Flushing vet

From the Queens Courier:

A Vietnam War veteran from Flushing cleaned up a cool $1,000,398 from the New York State Lottery recently.

On Wednesday, June 16, Bobby McLeod had a $472 “Take 5” lottery winner in his pocket when he went into the Flushing News Island newsstand on Main Street and Roosevelt Avenue.

McLeod’s New York Lottery Black – Series 2 ticket was a $1 million winner. He’s been playing Lottery games for 25 years – because he likes "the thrill that comes with knowing this could be the big one."

He decided to share the big thrill by surprising his girlfriend of 30 years – meeting her at her subway stop later that day. “She looked at me standing there and got all panicked thinking something was wrong because I've never done that before,” recalled McLeod. "I told her I had some news that couldn’t wait.”

$2M toilet coming to Elmhurst Park

From the Daily News:

Mayor Bloomberg says his new point man for running the city has found at least $500 million worth of waste and inefficiency - from unused office space to uncollected debts.

"Long term, I don't even think this scratches the surface of what we can do," Bloomberg said.

Deputy Mayor for Operations Stephen Goldsmith said the city will shrink its office space and vehicle fleets, centralize how it buys parts and manages computers and take other less-than-glamorous - but necessary - steps to save $500 million a year by 2014.

"The quality of customer service can go up at the same time we save taxpayer dollars," said Goldsmith, who said the city is paying for 10,000 desks with no employees at them.

Hizzoner is also targeting consolidation of human resources and information technology to save some additional coin.

"You can't do everything overnight," Bloomberg said. "We have saved a lot, but there's an awful lot more."

Yeah, like this...

$2M toilet