Sunday, October 31, 2010

Bodega killer caught

From the NY Post:

Cops have nabbed the man suspected of killing a Queens bodega owner last week, sources told The Post.

Shawn Forde, 30, was charged early this morning with murdering Juan Torres last Saturday inside Torres’ store, Lucky Grocery & Deli on Merrick Boulevard, authorities said.

Torres, 54, died during the botched-robbery after he ran to save his brother, Felix, who was being held by the gunman.

Forde, a regular customer at the bodega, was picked out of a lineup by Felix, sources said.

Cuomo giving Hevesi a pass

From the AP:

New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo says he’s unsure if he will recommend jail time for former state Comptroller Alan Hevesi.

The disgraced Democrat pleaded guilty Oct. 7 to charges that he accepted free travel and campaign contributions from a financier seeking state pension fund investments.

Cuomo says his recommendation may depend partly on whether Hevesi fulfills a promise to cooperate with the probe.

NYC looking to possibly close 47 schools

From the NY Times:

The Department of Education said Thursday that up to 47 city schools could face closure for poor performance this year, a huge increase from previous years if all remain on the chopping block. In the eight years since Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg has used school closures as a cornerstone of his school reform strategy, a total of 91 schools have been shuttered and replaced with new schools.

City officials on Thursday cited a few reasons for the drastic uptick.

• Nineteen of the schools were slated for closure last year, but got temporary reprieves due to a lawsuit by the teachers’ union and the N.A.A.C.P. The city is now re-doing the process that led to their closing.
• The Obama administration has asked states to identify their lowest five percent of schools for closure or other serious interventions. Twelve more schools are in this category.
• The city is also following its own process to identify additional schools that have low achievement levels and that it thinks may be beyond saving. That’s 16 more schools.

Technically, all of these schools face a potential “phase-out,” in which the school stops accepting entering classes, losing one grade per year, until it ceases to exist. Simultaneously, new schools open and grow in the building. The end result is the closure of the failing school.

Unlike in previous years, these 47 schools are getting advance warning that they might be shuttered. City officials said they are holding a minimum of four meetings at each school to inform parents, administrators, teachers and community leaders about the city’s potential plans. The idea is to both explain what would happen in a phase-out, and to hear arguments about why some or all parts of the school should be saved.

DOB rejects hideous house

From the Brooklyn Paper:

Architects want to build the brownstone of the future in Red Hook, but the city is stuck in the past.

The Department of Buildings killed plans for a local businessman’s zero-energy building last week, citing zoning regulations.

“They could have just as easily ruled the other way,” said Jay Amato, who owns the Conover Street lot where he hoped to build the energy-efficient structure as a model for the future. “There was nothing in the regulations.”

Amato hired Garrison Architects to design the building, called Red Hook Green, more than a year ago.

But now it may not be built at all.

The problem is that the brownstone-sized lot is zoned for manufacturing — so Amato can’t simply build a house on it unless the city allowed him to invoke a zoning rule that allows for a small residence, called a caretaker’s residence, inside a manufacturing building.

Such residences can’t exceed 15 percent of the total square footage. Amato said the residential portion of his structure comprises only 12 percent.

Yet the city still denied the permit.

WHAT is it with the Grant Houses and animal abuse?

From Eyewitness News:

Police in Harlem arrested a man for animal cruelty after they viewed some disturbing surveillance video from inside a Harlem building's elevator.

The incident took place on Thursday, September 30th at 10:00 p.m.

A New York City Housing Authority Viper camera inside the Grant Houses at 1315 Amsterdam Avenue captured a man violently yanking the leash of a small white dog, causing it to choke.

The man is also seen kicking the dog and slamming it into a wall.

The incident began in the elevator and continued for several minutes in the lobby of the building.

On Saturday, October 2nd at 4:30 p.m., officers located the dog with its owner, and were able to track down the suspect, 29-year-old Carlos Baez, who was arrested.

Baez is said to be the boyfriend of the dog's owner.

The dog, a 3-year-old mixed breed named Dutch, was removed to the Center for Animal Care and Control on East 110 Street, with the consent of its owner.

There, the 10-pound dog underwent an extensive examination and was found to be in good condition with no injuries.

Dutch remains at the CACC on an evidence hold regarding the case.

Baez is charged with one count of Torturing and Injuring Animals, and also one count of Unlawful Possession of Marijuana.

Weiner & Crowley: Reform candidates

From the Times Ledger:

While the political climate in Washington, D.C., is one of the most polarized U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-Forest Hills) said he has experienced, he hopes to forge ahead with comprehensive immigration reform if elected to another term.

“It’s gotten harder and harder to find issues that don’t send people to their own corner, but I want to find them,” Weiner said during a sitdown interview with TimesLedger Newspapers last week. “We have to solve this immigration problem, and I’m hoping it’s something we can do in the next Congress, whether it’s a Republican or Democratic Congress. The president has said he’s committed to it and it’s an economic imperative for New York City and a law enforcement and anti-terrorism imperative for the country.”

Weiner, a Democrat being challenged for his seat representing the 9th Congressional District by Republican Bob Turner said national immigration reform should include tougher borders. He also advocated creating a process in which an undocumented immigrant who is here with a job and is learning or knows English could pay a fine in order to remain in the country and land on a path toward citizenship.

From the Times Ledger:

On the subject of health-care reform, Crowley said the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act passed earlier this year was “an issue that hasn’t seen the full light of day.” He discussed some of the benefits of the bill, such as the removal of lifetime caps, nixing the practice of barring children based on pre-existing conditions and allowing children up to the age of 26 to be covered under their parents’ plan.

When asked about why the bill was so long, Crowley said the provisions contained much more detail than simpler-to-explain options for health care.

“Yes, I do think it’s over-complicated, and that’s what lent it to being misinterpreted,” Crowley said.

He also said there had not been any changes on reforming immigration in Congress.

“We still know we have a problem,” Crowley said.

He said he believed the United States needs to have meaningful control of its borders, but also must reform its legal immigration system, saying the backlog for those wanting to move into the country stretches back for years.

When asked why illegal immigrants could not just be arrested since they were here illegally, Crowley said he did not believe that could be done without infringing on the constitutional rights of American citizens as well and said a roundup of illegal immigrants could violate the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which guards against arrests without probable cause, and the 14th Amendment, which covers citizenship and due process.

“We can’t just build walls,” Crowley said. “It’s not going to stop them entirely.”

College Point Blvd crap pile

"Hi there,

I am writing about the piece of crap at 37-19 College Point Blvd in Flushing.
I can't tell you the actual name of the business because they never updated their signage from the last piece of crap that was there. It's one of those porcelain vase stores. Anyway, I have lived on that very block for almost 30 years.
As you probably already know, parking is disastrous in that neighborhood. But the owners of this business feel they can use the street as they please for THEIR customers. The building was constructed over the driveway of an old business (a long family-run plumbing company that was run out of business like so many others in Flushing) and the curb was never reconstructed. So, the owner still calls it his driveway and late this past summer had my car towed.
When I confronted him, he denied calling to have it towed but it clearly said on my ticket "complaint by owner." Furthermore, they use the closed plumbing business next door as a dump. Literally throwing their garbage outside. I am in the midst of fighting the ticket, have contacted the city, Councilman Peter Koo and even at one point was interviewed by ABC News about the last business who did the same thing. And nothing has changed!
It's so unfair that if you are of a certain race in this neighborhood, you pretty much can do what you want without consequence. I have attached pictures to show the business and the garbage next door. These were taken a few weeks ago and there is actually more garbage there now." - anonymous

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Westway housing the homeless again

From the Queens Gazette:

City Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr. said the city Department of Homeless Services has informed him that the Westway Motel is “once again going to house overnight single males”.

“I called [Department of Homeless Services Commissioner Seth] Diamond and was told it’s only going to be until January, due to overflow population,” Vallone said. But when he attempted to get the temporary deadline in writing, the wording changed to “as soon as we can”. “This is not acceptable to me,” Vallone said at the October meeting of the United Community Civic Association (UCCA).

Previously, only homeless families with children were sheltered at the Westway, 71-11 Astoria Blvd. Homeless Services refers families with children, adult families, and single adults for overnight shelter. On October 21, there were 8,164 families with children, 1,305 adult families, and 8,339 single adults seeking shelter in New York City, according to the daily census posted on

“I’ve been getting [complaint] calls about panhandling and people on the streets,” UCCA President Rose Marie Poveromo said.

A representative for the Westway Motel said, “This is a sleepover facility. It is not a fulltime facility. They come in and they spend the night. They are bused in at night and they must leave by 10 a.m.”

The Westway Motel security director said people staying overnight had a 10 p.m. curfew. “People can walk to the corner store,” he said.

Deputy Inspector Stephen Cirabisi, commanding officer at the 114th Precinct, said, “My suggestion is if aggressive panhandling or blocking traffic is happening, you’ve got to call 311 so that we can document it.”

Vallone said, “Hopefully, we can mobilize and get [Commissioner Diamond] here to explain himself. We’re going to continue to fight this.”

Is this the best we can do?

From the NY Post:

Meet the crew running for City Council from Queens: a deadbeat dad who allegedly threw a punch at a rival; a lawyer accused of drawing a gun on a rival's wife; an imam who filed for seven bankruptcies; a former city worker with $70,000 in judgments; two candidates with past campaign-finance violations; and four who don't live in the district or moved in so recently they're still unpacking their carpetbags.

Seven are vying for the seat left vacant when Councilman Thomas White Jr. died in August. It is one of only two council contests this year and the only one contested.

Wake up, Weprin!

Letter to the Times Ledger:

The proliferation of two- and four-family home construction is the often-neglected “elephant in the room” when we are talking about the overcrowding of our schools in Bayside.

I have read the comments by City Councilman Mark Weprin (D-Oakland Gardens) in your June 3-9 article “Bayside leaders fear influx of new HS students,” in which he laments the migration of students from other communities into Bayside schools.

The current Hollis Hills/Auburndale/Oakland Gardens rezoning proposal will ensure that all future construction in most of Oakland Gardens will be single-family construction (R2-A). This was the result of years of long and hard civic involvement by the community of Oakland Gardens.

But after Weprin became installed as the new councilman for Oakland Gardens, he began advocating for the community to continue to be zoned for two-family homes. So, of course, I was surprised to hear him lament about the overcrowding of Bayside schools.

I have met with Weprin on two occasions, along with representatives of the civic association of Oakland Gardens, to ensure that the community continues its course to be downzoned so that most future construction will be single-family homes. Curiously, for reasons only he knows, he has decided to side with the developers.

Doubling and tripling the size of a community will require that the children living in these homes be educated. There are only so many seats in our schools. Where will they be educated? If single-family homes are allowed to double — and triple with illegal basement apartments — where will our current elementary school-aged children go when they reach high school age?

It is hard to reconcile that a representative for our community, who also happens to be the chairman of the Council Zoning Subcommittee and who can reject any rezoning proposal that will contribute to the overcrowding of our schools, is not advocating to downzone Bayside area communities to single-family but instead is readying to approve a zoning plan that will contribute to overcrowding.

We shall see if Weprin approves a zoning proposal which contributes to the overcrowding of Bayside schools when it reaches his desk.

Joseph T. McMahon
Oakland Gardens

Clamping down on Medicaid fraud

From the NY Post:

The number of suspected Medicaid-fraud cases handled by state investigators -- ranging from dirty dentists and druggists to millionaires illegally on the dole -- more than doubled last year, according to an explosive new report.

The state Office of Medicaid Inspector General referred 208 cases to Attorney General Andrew Cuomo's office for potential criminal prosecution of health-care providers -- a 136 percent increase from 2008.

Meanwhile, the number of suspected cases of Medicaid-patient fraud referred to local prosecutors also skyrocketed.

For example, the number of suspected forgeries tied to the diversion of prescription drugs jumped from 304 to 683.

Overall, the number of substantiated fraud cases involving Medicaid patients increased 50 percent, the report said. A total of 552 cases were referred to New York City investigators for potential prosecution, the report said.

Why the curbs are broken

"In August you added a post and my parents got a flyer someone had in the neighborhood that had your photos. They live in the neighborhood. Here is some more fuel to the fire. The curbs were bad but they were totally destroyed when they fixed the sewers....see photos. Taken 6/22/2004" - anonymous

Friday, October 29, 2010

Ackerman goes apeshit

Press release from Milano campaign:

(Queens, NY) – Rep. Gary Ackerman was present at a Candidates Night Debate at the Palace Diner in Queens, hosted by Queensborough Hill Civic Association along with his Republican opponent, Dr. James Milano and Liz Berney running on the Taxpayers Revolt Line. The original format of opening statements by the candidates followed by rebuttals and questions to the candidates to be read from pre-written cards from the audience was turned on its head as Ackerman became increasingly antagonistic and in a disgraceful show of contempt for his constituents, stormed out of the room before answering any questions.

The hour long event was often heated and passionate, punctuated by periodic interruptions from hecklers in the crowd of about 60 folks composed of both Milano and Ackerman supporters. The most chilling moment occurred when Ackerman interrupted Milano’s presentation and threatened to sue him for libel. This occurred during Milano’s statement, when he mentioned Ackerman’s well documented ethics violations in Congress. The alleged violation stems from Ackerman’s use of his political influence to help enrich a company he invested in. While promoting the technology of defense contractor, Xenonics in his congressional office, he made a no-money-down purchase of private stock in the firm and reaped windfall profits from the shady deal. In addition, subsequent use of his campaign re-election funds to pay personal legal fees to extricate himself from the ethics violations may be legitimate grounds for criminal charges in violation of federal election law.

Ackerman denied any wrongdoing saying that he knows the doctor undoubtedly has malpractice insurance to protect himself from lawsuits, but he had better watch out since he may not have libel insurance. In a sudden hush that swept the room, both opposition parties and supporters alike must have been thinking that Ackerman will do anything to hold on to power, to win no matter what, even threaten his opponent. The stunning arrogance of power that Ackerman displays is an unspoken warning to watch out for one’s personal well being if you dare to go against the powers that be. More people left the event convinced that Ackerman has been in office for so long that he feels the representative’s job is an entitlement.

Throughout the evening, Ackerman frequently interrupted his opponents while they were speaking and insulted and berated the crowd as the same Tea Partiers and Republicans who come from outside the district and go around making trouble for him. He continued to raise his voice in defense of his record as a rubber stamp for Speaker Pelosi’s reckless spending agenda. He showed his contempt for firefighters, police and teachers complaining about their fat pensions, and that his relatively small pension as Congressman should be greater than theirs. All the UFT volunteers working hard for his re-election should take note of his true colors.

As a contrast to Ackerman’s disgraceful behavior, Dr. Milano did not interrupt his opponent’s speech. He behaved in a proper manner, as a gentleman throughout the evening. At one point, he got up and urged the crowd to show more decorum and behave in a respectful manner toward whoever is speaking. Since the polls show that Ackerman is in a very close race with Milano, he should be justifiably nervous, but it is no excuse for a lack of decorum on the part of the Congressman.

Tonight Ackerman’s hissy fit reveals that he is unworthy of a leadership position in the United States House of Representatives. Heckling the audience, interrupting his opponents, threatening scare tactics, and storming out of the room, are more like adolescent behavior in the schoolyard. Regardless of the differences in political agenda and policy, it is the lack of statesman-like behavior on Ackerman’s part that reveals he is no longer worthy to serve the constituents of District 5 as their representative.

Photo from Queens Tribune

CB7 didn't realize there is a sewage plant in College Point

From the Queens Chronicle:

A scheduled update for Community Board 7 Monday night on the Tallman Island Water Pollution Control Plant in College Point ended up confusing members and leaving embarrassed Department of Environmental Protection officials without answers to all the questions.

Before the presentation even began, members asked what Tallman Island is and where it’s located. Many were unaware that it is a waste water treatment plant located on the northern tip of College Point, off Powells Cove Boulevard and 127th Street.

Legislation to extend smoking rules to hookah bars

From NY1:

A Brooklyn lawmaker is trying to extend the city’s indoor smoking ban to hookah bars.

City Councilman Vincent Gentile is expected to introduce a bill this week that would add all non-tobacco smoking products – including the legal herbal smoke – to the city's ban.

Gentile argues hookah smoke, containing tar and carbon monoxide, is just as dangerous as cigarette smoke.

Under the proposal, no new hookah bars would be allowed to open beginning in 2012.

Existing hookah bars would be required to register with the New York City Department of Health, and would not be allowed to expand or change locations.

Weiner running for 2 offices simultaneously?

From the Washington Times Water Cooler:

It is no secret that Congressman Anthony Weiner, New York Democrat, has had aspirations to become mayor of New York City one day. However, why hasn't the New York Congressman made any announcements of his intentions yet, when his 420 Lexington Avenue campaign office has a sign on the door showing he is running for both offices?

Here are 3 Weiner-Turner debate videos:

Cap and Trade

Candidate Qualifications

Juniper Civic meeting debate

Murder up 15% from last year

From the Daily News:

The city's murder rate has shot up nearly 15% this year, and residents in the worst-hit precincts are worried New York is headed back to darker days.

The NYPD recorded 437 murders as of Sunday, compared with 382 in the same period last year.

In East Harlem's 25th Precinct, murders rose 400%, with 10 slayings this year compared with two at this time last year.

Overall crime - covering murder, rape, robbery, felony assault, burglary, grand larceny and auto theft - has dipped about 1% citywide.

Still, incidents involving gunplay have spiked. Statistics show 1,225 shootings, compared with 1,178 at this point last year - a 4% bump.

NYPD chief spokesman Paul Browne said the department is concerned about the increase and has sent extra cops into the 25th and 77th precincts.

Arrests for murder and the number of criminal summonses issued are up significantly in both precincts, he said.

A source familiar with the situation in the 25th Precinct blamed gang violence. Gang arrests there have skyrocketed more than 200%.

It's good to be the king!

From NBC:

George Orwell put it well in his sardonic book, “Animal Farm.” He wrote:

“All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”

And now Mayor Michael Bloomberg has shown us that Orwell wasn’t far off the mark. In 2009, Bloomberg, through his superiority in power and money, strong-armed the City Council to pass a law overturning the ban on more than two terms as mayor. Now, the Mayor has reversed himself. He will vote for a two-term limit for everyone else — even as he continues in his third term.

He has affirmed that, in the political jungle of New York, he is the one animal more equal than others.

Professor Douglas Muzzio at Baruch College bristled. He told me: “The Mayor represents total expediency. He’s Louis the XVI. He has a monopoly on the truth and doing right.

“Term limits is a sordid saga—no one could be proud of it.”

Living on the edge of North Edgemere

Nathan Kensinger returned to Edgemere, this time on the north shore. Click photo for story.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Couple executed in Ridgewood

From the NY Post:

Two people were found dead in a car this morning in Ridgewood, authorities said.

Police responded to a 911 call at 10:08 a.m. to Willoughby Avenue and Woodward Avenue just opposite the Linden Hill Cemetery.

A man and a woman were found in a maroon ‘97 Chevy Lumina car with single gunshot wounds to the head, sources said. There are no arrests at this time and the investigation is ongoing.

Arrest made in bomb threat case

From Forest Hills Patch:

Police from the 112th Precinct made an arrest Wednesday morning in connection with a pair of bomb threats that occurred at two subway stations in Queens last month.

Police arrested 19-year-old Veniamin Yagudayev, of 63 Drive in Rego Park Wednesday morning.

Yagudayev was allegedly caught on surveillance cameras phoning in fake bomb threats at the Union Turnpike and Roosevelt Avenue subway stations.

Principal's war on sports?

From the NY Post:

Insisting her "edict" is to get kids graduated, Martin Van Buren HS Principal Marilyn Shevell has declared war on athletics, outraged students, parents and coaches charge.

Last week, Shevell stormed out of a PTA meeting in the Queens school's auditorium after announcing the girls and boys basketball teams could play no games at home this fall. Last year, she slashed home games to one for the girls and three for the boys.

Shevell also barred classmates and their par ents from attending last year's games to cheer for their "Vee Bees." And just in case any specta tors showed up, she had the bleachers bolted to the gym wall so they could not be used.

Parents and students packed last Monday's PTA meeting, where Shevell ousted a Post reporter.

"She was upset. The subject was sports, and the parents wanted home games," said Diana Payne, whose daughter plays basketball. "Ms. Shevell made a statement that her edict was to get the students graduated in four years."

When parents continued to question Shevell, she walked.

Parents say Shevell has used various "excuses" for the cutbacks -- including a broken gym divider, asbestos in the gym ceiling and fights at prior games.

But when questioned by The Post, city Department of Education officials said the wall had been fixed a month ago, there is no asbestos problem, and there have been no melees -- or even any home games -- this year.

Flea market vendors lose at Aqueduct

From The Real Deal:

It's easy to spot the winners in the long-awaited deal to put hundreds of video slot machines in a new racino at Aqueduct Racetrack in Queens. New York state gets a $380 million licensing fee and future tax revenue to bank on, while Malaysian gaming company Genting gets to put 4,500 video slot terminals just three miles from John F. Kennedy International Airport. Meanwhile, the local economy gets a big shot in the arm from a project expected to generate 1,300 construction and 800 permanent jobs.

To find the probable losers, look no further than the South Ozone Park racetrack's sprawling front parking lot. There, 1,000 vendors stage the city's largest flea market on Tuesdays and weekends from April through December. For those small business operators, mostly immigrants, the flea market is their first toehold on the path to prosperity. With the flea market facing possible closure, the vendors' prospects are uncertain, and they may find their lives upended.

Maybe government should get out of the housing business

From the NY Times:

Public housing is falling apart around the country, as federal money has been unable to keep up with the repair needs of buildings more than half a century old.

Over the last 15 years, 150,000 of the nation’s public housing units have been lost, officials said, as agencies have sold or torn down decrepit properties. An additional 5,700 units are pending removal from federal public housing programs.

In New York City, which has a three-year backlog of repair requests, the effects can be seen in places like Aixa Torres’s apartment on the Lower East Side.

The paint chips were the first to be dislodged, drifting like snowflakes from her kitchen ceiling. When water began dripping through the ceiling, forming a hole sometime this spring, she called her landlord, the city’s public housing authority.

A maintenance worker showed up to take a look, and repairs were scheduled.

A plasterer would come to fix the hole in May 2011. A painter would come to cover up the plasterer’s work in May 2012.

The drip has yet to be fixed.

The situation is no better in Newark, which has shuttered 600 units that it cannot afford to fix. The city was given federal approval to raze 1,004 more, but it cannot pay for the demolition.

In Washington, the District of Columbia Housing Authority has floated bonds, among other measures, to put $140 million into fixing up its developments, but it is still $200 million short of what the authority says it needs for repairs.

Woodside wall is woefully inadequate

From the Daily News:

A group of Woodside residents has been griping for years about the noise, garbage and exhaust fumes coming from the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway into their neighborhood.

But yesterday's groundbreaking for a new barrier wall that was supposed to bring relief was bittersweet.

The 12-foot-high concrete wall will run 250 feet along Laurel Hill Blvd., an off-ramp on the westbound side of the BQE. But residents said that the wall will only protect a small commercial strip of the road. The residential area farther away will still be vulnerable to the traffic jams that plague the service road during rush hours.

"This is a Band-Aid on a wound that has been festering for many years," acknowledged Rep. Joseph Crowley, who allocated $1.8 million in federal funding for the project. "This is just the beginning, not the end," he said of the sound and pollution barrier slated to be completed next spring.

A total of $2.05 million was allocated for the state Department of Transportation's construction of the wall, with Assemblywoman Margaret Markey kicking in $250,000 in state funds.

But the construction costs will be only $673,000. The $1.38 million left over will go toward modifications and cost over-runs if they arise, said Adam Levine, a DOT spokesman.

The leftover cash won't be enough for a sound barrier on the other side of the road where residents say it is needed most, Levine said, because there is already a large brick embankment there. Building a "structure on top of a structure" could cost millions more, he added.

$1.38M for modifications and cost overruns? Wow.

We interrupt this blog for a public service announcement

Click photo to read the sign and its stupidity.

Casa di Como: What's with the single door in the double wide door frame?

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

2 bad car accidents today

From the NY Post:

An elderly motorist plowed her Mercedes Benz into a Queens Kosher grocery today, mowing down a customer and giving everyone else in the store the scare of their lives.

From Eyewitness News:

A mother and her two kids were struck by a car as they crossed a street in Woodhaven, Queens.

The accident happened just before 6 p.m. as the three were walking across 101st Avenue.

The car was heading north on 81st Street, made a left turn, and hit them.

The mother and her 2-year-old son and 5-year-old daughter were all rushed to Jamaica Hospital.

The 5-year-old girl is in extremely critical condition.

The mother and her son are in stable condition.

There is no criminality suspected.

Board of Elections fires director

NEW YORK (AP) — The embattled New York City Board of Elections has fired its executive director a week before Election Day.

The board's commissioners voted to fire George Gonzalez at a meeting Tuesday. Board spokeswoman Valerie Vazquez says a deputy executive director and an administrative manager will handle his responsibilities until a replacement is selected.

Gonzalez oversaw a September primary plagued with problems surrounding new automated voting machines that resemble ATMs and replaced an old mechanical lever system.

Board members testified at a City Council hearing some polling sites opened late on primary day and thousands of poll workers weren't trained.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg called the board's performance a "royal screw-up."

Gonzalez said at the hearing officials were trying to figure out how to make the Nov. 2 election go more smoothly, including retraining coordinators who oversee polling sites.

Something smells rotten here

From the NY Post:

It's the grandaddy of all sweetheart deals.

First the city gave away land to a senior-citizens group linked to Assemblyman and Brooklyn Democratic boss Vito Lopez. Now the city pays sky-high rent to the Lopez-founded group for the same property.

"It's kooky -- the city is paying for something it doesn't have to," said a city official who looked into the matter.

The official said the rental agreement is part of mounting evidence that the city favors the politically connected Ridgewood Bushwick Senior Citizens Council, which is run by Lopez's campaign treasurer and his girlfriend.

For years, the city paid between $112,150 and $157,000 in rent -- on top of operating expenses -- to the Ridgewood group to run the Diana Jones Senior Center on Flushing Avenue.

But last year, Ridgewood reopened the senior center at the group's housing development on the old Rheingold Brewery site -- which the city had turned over to Ridgewood to develop with taxpayer money.

Since the move, the rent has more than doubled: Ridgewood started billing the city $408,000 a year in rent, according to data from the Department for the Aging.

The city negotiated the rent down to $360,000, still more than twice the rent the city paid for the old location, which was in a building the Ridgewood group didn't own and had to pay for.

Staten Island man wanted to join Taliban

From WPIX:

A New York City-born man was ordered to return from Hawaii where he was arrested on charges he tried to join the U.S. military at a Times Square recruiting station so he could he could be deployed to Iraq, desert and fight with anti-American insurgency forces.

Abdel Hameed Shehadeh, 21, was charged with making false statements in the midst of a New York-based terrorism investigation, authorities said Monday.

A U.S. Department of Justice news release said Shehadeh was arrested Friday in Honolulu. A judge there ordered him on Monday to return to Brooklyn to face charges. It was unclear when he would appear in a New York court.

A criminal complaint unsealed in federal court in Brooklyn said the FBI and the New York Police Department had been investigating Shehadeh "and several other individuals in connection with a plot to travel overseas and wage violent jihad against the United States and other coalition military forces."

The complaint alleged that Shehadeh, who was born in the United States and lived on Staten Island, caught the attention of U.S. authorities by buying a one-way ticket to Pakistan in June 2008. Once he arrived there, Pakistani officials wouldn't allow him into the country and he returned to New York.

A follow-up investigation found that Shehadeh had created Internet postings and video promoting jihad, the complaint said.

In October 2006, the complaint said, Shehadeh went to Times Square to try to join the Army. It said when a recruiter asked him if he'd traveled overseas, he lied and said he'd only been to Israel.

Later that month, Shehadeh tried to fly from Newark, N.J. to Jordan, where he again was not allowed entry. Once he returned to the United States on a flight to Detroit, counterterrorism investigators confronted him about the his radical Internet writings.

The complaint said under questioning, he admitted that one of his Web sites was "designed to mirror and reformat the teachings of radical U.S.-born Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki" and "that in the past, he agreed with and sympathized with al-Qaida's violent jihad against the West."

The complaint also alleged Shehadeh attempted to recruit another person to join him to train in Pakistan immediately after the two discussed a sermon by al-Awlaki.

Metrocard swipers are back

From the Daily News:

THE $2 subway fare isn't just a memory for some Queens straphangers.

Up to six men at a time, known as "swipers," offer riders discounted entry at the Sutphin Blvd.-Archer Ave.-JFK subway station turnstiles in Jamaica. The enterprising lawbreakers typically operate from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. during the weekday rush-hour commute.

Besides the $2 single ride, a discount of 25 cents, the swipers also offer unlimited one-day passes for $5, a decrease of 39%, and unlimited weekly cards for $20, a decrease of 26%...

But while the illicit business appears to be booming - one swiper bragged that he made $200 in one morning - some commuters said they've had enough.

"They break the [MetroCard] machines on purpose so that when you go in in the morning, only one machine works, and they're ready for you to use one of their MetroCards," said one disgruntled MTA customer who identified herself only as Erica, 31, of Jamaica.

Feeling harassed and inconvenienced, Erica often takes the Long Island Rail Road to her job in Manhattan to avoid the early-rising scammers, she said.

Erica has complained to transit police and to her local community board, but to no avail. "Nobody cares about it at all," she said. While the police do make sweeps of the station, dispersing and sometimes arresting the swipers, "they always come back," Erica said. "They're like roaches."

Have a problem? Call a TV station, not 311

From NY1:

South Ozone Park resident Francis Ramdeen has had to clean sewage-contaminated water out of his basement every day for the past few weeks. Ramdeen says the problem began two months ago after the city replaced the storm drain and catch basins in front of his home.

Frustrated and tired, the Ramdeens finally got the Department of Environment Protection to check out the problem a few of weeks ago. But the couple was told they were not responsible and a private contractor did it. They also suggested the couple get their drain cleaned.

When that didn't work, they called NY1 for help.

As soon as NY1 reached the house, other residents began to complain about a foul odor coming from the catch basins.

People also complained about how the work looked. They say the catch basins are a trip hazard since the curbs and part of the sidewalk are now covered with asphalt.

When contacted by NY1, a DEP spokesperson said the Department of Design and Construction is responsible for the work. However, a DDC spokesperson said the station's call was the first complaint the agency had received.

About an hour after the call was placed, a crew was on the scene to fix the sewer and the catch basins.

When the dirt settles, the crew will eventually lay concrete on the sidewalk as planned.

Jamaica hell houses boarded up

From the Queens Courier:

Two South Jamaica homes that were allegedly havens for prostitutes and drug dealers have been boarded up, thanks to the efforts of the 103rd Precinct, Department of Buildings (DOB) and FDNY.

Local residents and State Senator Shirley Huntley said that the problem has been going on for a while.

Of particular concern is the fact that P.S. 48 is just a few blocks away.

According to [Deputy Inspector Charles] McEvoy, the homes at 154-11 and 154-13 107th Avenue have been boarded up.

Both houses, he said, were in foreclosure and after an inspection with the DOB and FDNY, the squatters were evicted, two people were arrested and “all the doors and windows were sealed up” so there is no way of getting in.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Cops finally going after bicyclists

From the NY Times:

The New York Police Department plans to step up enforcement of bicycle safety in parts of the city that have seen a disproportionately higher rate of collisions involving bicyclists, city officials said Thursday.

The initiative, which would be aimed at common cycling infractions like running red lights or riding on the sidewalk, comes after numerous complaints about two-wheeled scofflaws and recent protests against new bicycle lanes added to streets in Brooklyn and downtown Manhattan.

“We’ve installed 250 miles of lane over the last four years and thousands of new bike racks,” Janette Sadik-Khan, the city’s transportation commissioner, said at a news conference. “We have been friendly to cyclists. Now it’s time for cyclists to be friendlier to the city.”

Why the city looks so damn dirty

From the Daily News:

The city has decided to demote 100 supervisors at the Department of Sanitation as as way to boost the number of sanitation workers available to pick up trash and plow snow...

Under the plan, released today by Deputy Mayor Stephen Goldsmith and Sanitation Commissioner John Doherty, an additional 100 supervisory positions will be eliminated through attrition. The city will hire 100 new sanitation workers to beef up its depleted ranks.

City officials said the move will save about $20 million a year.

Joseph Mannion of the Sanitation Officers Association said the union is considering legal action to stop the demotions.

Last week, the Daily News reported that the number of sanitation workers had dropped under 5,800 - the lowest number in years. Harry Nespoli, head of the Uniformed Sanitationmen’s Association, said he was concerned that the department would not have enough manpower to tackle a big snowstorm.

The city has hired just 200 sanitation workers in the past two years, while hundreds more have retired.

What Ridgewood needs is a drug counseling center

From the Queens Courier:

JNS Counseling Services, Inc. told residents of Community Board 5 (CB) that it plans to open a substance abuse counseling site in their area.

“Everything will be funded by [JNS Brooklyn medical director] Dr. [Susan] Levit and myself,” program director Ertuania Jorge said to residents on Wednesday evening, October 13. “All we need at this point is your support.”

JNS will propose its plan to open the center, located at 752 Onderdonk Avenue in Ridgewood, to the Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS). The site is currently occupied by a medical center that has been vacant for years.

“This is a community we want to serve because every other community has programs,” Jorge said. “There are currently programs in Forest Hills and Rego Park. In Queens, if you go to every single neighborhood they have a program. Ridgewood doesn’t have a program.”

Wow, what a crock of shit. Show me the drug treatment program in Middle Village or Douglaston.

Instructions don't match voting forms

From NBC:

Talk about turning voters upside down.

New York's new ballot has a head-spinning set of instructions on the back, which, if followed to the letter, could lead to an incorrect vote.

Here's how it happened -- or, as the kids say, went down.

State lawmakers approved the language, and it got certified by the U.S. Justice Department. That language reads: "To vote for a candidate whose name is printed on this ballot fill in the oval above or next to the name of the candidate." Except of course, that's impossible. All of the ovals appear underneath the candidate names.

"Basically the instruction is wrong," said Lawrence Norden of the Brennan Center for Justice, a government watchdog. "More people than usual are going to be looking at the instructions, and at the very least they're going to be confused."

But George Gonzalez, Executive Director for the New York City Board of Elections, said critics should take a deep breath. "This was the same ballot 400,000 people cast without a problem," he said, speaking about primary night.

Yet, there were myriad other issues during the September 14 primary -- from less-than-informed poll workers to machine malfunctions. But improper voting due to faulty instructions was not one of them, said Gonzalez.

Nice. Other new ballot shenanigans are being investigated.

Amtrak cutting older trees in order to plant new ones

From the Queens Chronicle:

Woodside residents are happy to see new greenery after Amtrak recently made good on its promise to replace trees it felled along tracks in the area last spring as part of a maintenance program.

The federal railroad company began planting new trees in the area about two weeks ago, starting on 50th Street and ending just beyond 28th Avenue.Another shipment of trees is due, and the company will continue planting where it left off, according to community members.

To accommodate the new trees and shrubs, Amtrak will be cutting a few remaining trees on 31st Avenue and 57th Street and on 28th Avenue and 56th Place.

Our federal stimulus money at work!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Seeking suspect in bomb threats

From the Queens Gazette:

On Tuesday, September 14, at approximately 5:45 p.m. a suspect called 911 and informed the dispatcher that there was a bomb inside of a bathroom on the mezzanine level of the Union Turnpike Subway Station at Queens Boulevard and Union Turnpike. A search of the area was conducted by police officers of the 110th Precinct with no suspicious devices being found.

At 6 p.m. another call was received by 911 from that there was a bomb inside of an “E” train at the Roosevelt Avenue Subway Station at Broadway and Roosevelt Avenue. Again, a search of the area was conducted, this time by the 112th precinct, with no discovery of any explosive devices.

The suspect is described as being a white male between the ages of 18 and 20 years old with height of 5 feet, 3 inches to 5 feet, 5 inches tall. He was last seen wearing a gray and white jacket with dark jeans.

Ridgewood bus driver finds abandoned toddler

NEW YORK (CBS 2) — A quick thinking bus driver jumped into action after making an alarming discovery while on the job.

As William Allan started his shift around 4 a.m. Wednesday morning along Putnam Avenue in Ridgewood, Queens, he spotted a 2-year-old boy, wandering on the sidewalk.

“I noticed out of the corner of my eye there’s a small child standing here, unclothed and shivering. Immediately I stopped the bus and I came around…he immediately saw me and put his arms up in the air and started crying,” Allan told CBS 2′s Cindy Hsu. “I immediately picked the child up and called 911.”

Allan took the little boy, who was dressed only in his underwear, into his warm bus and waited for police.

When police arrived, they started searching for the boy’s family. Just a few doors down, authorities found an open apartment door where the child’s 1-year-old brother was asleep in a crib with no adults home.

The next door neighbor said just a few months ago, he found the two boys alone on their front stoop.

Part of Astoria's 36th street to be demapped

From the Daily News:

The Astoria studio that is home to "Sesame Street" has cleared its first hurdle in its plan to turn a city block into an outdoor movie set.

Queens Community Board 1 approved on Tuesday a proposal by Kaufman Astoria Studios to de-map 36th St., from 34th Ave. to 35th Ave., and then lease the space from the city. The block sits beside the Kaufman complex.

But not everyone was pleased with the board's decision. Some locals said the closure would increase traffic congestion and vowed to oppose the plan.

"We're going to take the fight to the borough president's office," said Brian Beard, president of the Long Island City Alliance, a community group.

Beard said traffic problems will get worse, especially from Northern Blvd. to the Queensboro Bridge. It could also make dropping off kids at nearby schools difficult, he said.

Astoria resident Ron Vega, 52, said he also opposes the plan, noting there are already problems when the studio temporarily closes streets for filming. A permanent closure will make the situation even worse, he said.

"When I tell you from my heart that this is a bad idea, I hope you take it into consideration," Vega implored the board.

Studio President Hal Rosenbluth said the street closure will actually be good for the area and noted that emergency vehicles will be allowed to drive through the block.

Having an outdoor set, similar to ones in Los Angeles, will make the studio more competitive and able to land additional major productions, Rosenbluth said. And those films, TV shows and commercials can translate into local jobs and increased business for area merchants.

"It sustains the economic growth we've created," he said. "The neighborhood is going to be very happy in the end."

The proposal would allow the studio to lease the block from the city through 2049, said city Economic Development Corp. spokeswoman Julie Wood.

I thought they were leaving because the tax credits ran out.

Mosque still not coming clean on "incident"

This is a followup from a previously reported story. In a nutshell, the mosque said on WPIX TV that the reported incident of a guy entering the mosque and peeing on prayer rugs never happened, then accepted a donation for new prayer rugs from an out of state rabbinical student. I wrote to the Voice about it, and they followed up on the discrepancy. Here is the second follow up from the Village Voice:

After a visit to the mosque last week, we've learned that the $1,185 donation by Barenblat for a new prayer rug was received and that the new rug has been installed.

We also got in touch with Barenblat, who told the Voice she'd spoken with her contact at Al-Iman, who informed her that Rivera did urinate on the rug inside the entrance to the mosque. Barenblat's contact, who asked to go unnamed, said that while the entryway is not used for praying on a daily basis, it is used for praying on Fridays and holidays when the mosque is at full capacity inside.

"Even if the scope of the damage isn't as great as was initially reported -- meaning if Mr. Rivera urinated on the rug in the entryway which is only sometimes used for prayer instead of urinating on all of the prayer rugs -- I still think the gesture of making the donation was worthwhile," Barenblat said.

So it seems the matter boils down to whether the entryway is considered "inside" or "outside" the mosque. During our visit, we were shown the spot where Rivera urinated, on a rug in the right-hand corner of the entryway -- definitely on the inside side of the door. This, of course, conflicts with the police report that identifies Rivera as having peed outside.

I call bullshit on this attempt at damage control.

Walk along the water

Click photo for story.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Murder at Laurelton deli

From NBC:

A deli owner is dead after he was shot in the head during a robbery in New York City.The armed holdup happened shortly before 10 p.m. Saturday at a deli on Merrick Boulevard in Queens. Police responded to a 911 call and found 54-year-old Juan Torres unconscious with a gunshot wound to the head. He was pronounced dead at the scene. Police are seeking the gunman.

Better bike-pedestrian accident reporting

From CBS:

Pedestrians hit and injured by bicycle riders – it’s a statistic that no one kept. However, after CBS 2 exposed the gap in record-keeping, New York City is moving to fill in the blanks.

In a city where pedestrians and bike riders are clashing, some advocates say something is missing in the debate – reliable injury data.

As CBS 2 revealed in our “Bike Bedlam” reports, New York City hasn’t been collecting data on the number of pedestrians injured by bike riders.

...the state has agreed to use motor vehicle accident forms to finally document accidents between bike riders and pedestrians.

The data collection won’t begin until next April, and the numbers won’t be crunched for months after that, even as the city moves forward with plans to build miles of additional dedicated bike lanes.

While the city and state work to start collecting the injury data, bike safety advocates are working with hospitals to document the problem using emergency room reports.

I was under the impression that motor vehicle accident reports were already filled out by police in the event of a collision between a cyclist and a pedestrian. Is this not the case?

Monserrate and Shulman - 2 peas in a pod?

From the Neighborhood Retail Alliance:

The big news for us in the federal indictment against former state senator Monserrate, was the fact that the US attorney-along with the city's Department of Investigation-believes that politically diverting public money earmarked for not for profits is a criminal offense. As the NY Times reports: "Former State Senator Hiram Monserrate, who was expelled from office earlier this year and whose conduct was held up as an example of Albany’s dysfunction, was indicted on Tuesday on federal charges that accuse him of using workers at a Queens nonprofit group he financed to aid in his Senate campaign."

Ok, but what happens when the entire purpose of funding for a certain not for profit is for an illegal political use? This is the case of the allegations against Claire Shulman's Willets Point/Corona...LDC. In that situation the city ponied up over $500,000 for Claire to lobby and generate grass roots support for the mayor's Willets Point Development plan. It is an absolute illegality to lobby as a registered not for profit in NY State-not to mention a violation of federal IRS statutes as well.

But, we guess that Monserrate's sin was that he was doing this on his own behalf-and didn't raise quite as much money as Claire did: "In 2006 and 2007 when he was a city councilman, Mr. Monserrate, a Democrat, allocated approximately $300,000 in discretionary city funds to the group, the Latino Initiative for Better Resources and Empowerment Inc., or Libre, according to the indictment. Roughly a third of that money was used to pay employees of Libre, a tax-exempt social service agency, for time they spent on voter registration, petitioning and other campaign work."

So, tell us, is it worse for Monseratte to be self serving than it is for Claire-and the mayor as well-to divert public funds into promoting a development that will force scores of property owners and thousands of workers out of business? In our view, the law needs to be enforced fairly-and without fear or favor. The Monseratte situation appears to be the classic case of the beating of a dead horse. It takes a bit more moxie to go after Bloomberg and his toadies, now doesn't it?

And we love the comments from the US Attorney on all of this: "At the news conference, Preet Bharara, the United States attorney in Manhattan, noted that Mr. Monserrate was one of several elected officials charged with corruption over the past two years, and the third city councilman to be accused of misappropriating money intended for groups whose mission was to help the very communities they served. “No campaign should ever be funded by fraud,” Mr. Bharara said. “Worthy nonprofits have access to public money because they’re meant to be a resource to the community, not a piggy bank to politicians,” Mr. Bharara said."

But that is exactly what the WP LDC was for the mayor-a fraudulent piggy bank. And listen to the following remarks from the US Attorney: "Mr. Monserrate, he said, outsourced much of his 2006 campaign to a nonprofit group that he essentially controlled, using it as an “alter ego to his political operations.”

Piggy bank, alter ego-precisely what the mayor set up with his Shulman front group. Now let's see if justice is going to be even handed-and if the NYS AG's office is going to pursue the investigation even after the mayor's endorsement of his candidacy. If not, we have an active federal prosecutor who should be eager to jump in to break the piggy bank.

Photo by Steve Stirling on Flickr

Marriott makes pitch for stadium

From the Daily News:

The Marriott Hotel chain has emerged as a possible suitor for a storied Queens tennis stadium that long hosted the U.S. Open, the Daily News has learned.

Marriott is expected to submit its bid to redevelop West Side Stadium in Forest Hills before a Nov. 15 deadline set by the club that owns the venue.

Marriott has long craved a presence at the horseshoe-shaped venue once graced by such greats as Arthur Ashe and Billie Jean King, according to a source close to the club.

The chain proposed a $7 million plan in the late 1990s to erect an extended-stay hotel that would encompass the stadium and surrounding plots, the source said.

But the project died when club members protested the plans.

Marriott recently decided to approach the club again after its members struck down a proposal by developer Cord Meyer to place 70 condos and a swimming pool at the site.

Marriott spokeswoman Kathy Duffy said she was "not aware" of a new project. Club President Ken Parker did not return messages seeking comment.

Older cars more vulnerable to theft

From the Daily News:

When car thieves prowl the streets of Queens, they aren't just looking for shiny sports cars.

They are also targeting work vans and broken down sedans that sit in driveways, police officials said Tuesday.

"Forty percent of stolen cars citywide are older vehicles," said Assistant Chief James Secreto, commander of Patrol Borough Queens South.

"They are easier to steal," Secreto told Queens Borough President Helen Marshall and community board district managers yesterday during a meeting at Borough Hall. "They are heavier when they take them to the [scrap] yards to crush them and get top dollar."

Recent statistics show that vehicle thefts are up more than 14% in southern Queens precincts and 9% in northern Queens during the first nine months of this year compared with the same period last year.

Assistant Chief Diana Pizutti, commander of Patrol Borough Queens North who attended the meeting, conceded that grand larceny auto is "rearing its ugly head again."

In 1990, more than 50,000 grand larceny auto thefts were reported in the borough. Last year, the number was closer to 3,300.

You need a permit for a tent

From the Leader-Observer:

Putting up party tents without obtaining the required permits can get you in trouble with the law. Just ask the owner of a home near 117th Street and Linden Boulevard in South Ozone Park.

Last Friday evening, a multi-city agency task force, led by officers from the 106th Precinct, descended on a South Ozone Park residence that put up party tents without the necessary city permits, according to precinct Community Affairs Officer Ken Zorn. He said the police were responding to community complaints.

Zorn said the homeowner had put up a large tent encompassing the whole property, adding that the way the tents were erected, there was no way to exit the property if there was a fire because port-a-potties blocking the exit.

Zorn said that, under the law, if you are holding any type of event and putting up a tent in a fenced location with more than 75 people you need to obtain a temporary assembly permit. He added that the Department of Buildings (DOB) must inspect the tent to make sure that it is structurally sound, and that the Fire Department is also required to inspect the structure to ensure that it is safe.

Zorn said the owner of the house was issued two Environment Control Board violations by DOB; one for operation of a temporary place of assembly without a permit and the second for erecting tents on a property without the required permit.