Tuesday, November 30, 2010

EDC in damage control mode

From WPIX:

Some business owners in Willets Point were facing eviction Tuesday morning. But now the city says it will be working out an agreement.

Redevelopment of the area known as the Iron Triangle next to Citi Field has been a source of controversy for years. The city has purchased some property and is negotiating with others. A few owners with businesses on what it is now city property were sent eviction notices last month by the NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD).

When PIX 11's Greg Mocker heard about the possible evictions, he headed to the area.

The Economic Development Corporation, which is in charge of the project, initially told Mocker: "When the City acquired properties at Willets Point for redevelopment, it transferred the leases to HPD to manage until redevelopment begins. The City has set aside $3 million in relocation assistance for tenant businesses that will be available once relocation is necessary. Out of a total of more than 100 leases managed by the City at the Willets Point site this issue pertains to 2 former commercial property owners who negotiated sales with the City for their property, and then executed lease-back agreements with the City that allowed them to remain on the property as a tenant paying rent to the City for the length of their new lease. The tenants who received the 30-day notices have leases that have expired and have not contacted the City to renegotiate a new lease. HPD is serving notice that as previously agreed upon, they must vacate the property by that date."

After additional calls from Mocker, other New York Media and NYC Council Member Julissa Ferreras, the city issued said it intends to work out an agreement.


Schoolyard may become Travers Park extension

From the Daily News:

The city is looking into purchasing the yard of a Jackson Heights private school that just happens to sit across the street from Travers Park.

But officials are worried the city won't be able to come up with the $5.25 million needed to secure the Garden School's 20,000-square-foot property before a developer snatches up the prime real estate.

Dromm secured $4 million in Council funds to buy the property. Queens Borough President Helen Marshall is ready to kick in an additional $1 million.

The price of the property is still under negotiation, said Mark Daly, a spokesman for the Department of Citywide Administrative Services. Even once that's settled, it could take up to two more years to go through the steps to acquire the property, he said.

But the Garden School is in financial straits, said Marshall's spokesman Dan Andrews, and is looking to unload the land as soon as possible.

One proposal that might sweeten the pot is a playground-sharing deal the city is looking into, a Parks Department official said. This would allow the school to use the land during the day and then open it up to the public once classes are over.

But if all else fails, city officials said they haven't ruled out eminent domain.

Neighbors band together to halt dumpers

From the Times Newsweekly:

Residents along a Maspeth block worked together to help bust an illegal dumper who was spotted attempting to drop off debris on a vacant lot last Wednesday night, Nov. 10.

Homeowners on Mazeau Street contacted the Sanitation Department and police at about 6:30 p.m. last Wednesday after observing one man and his assistant, who were offloading styrofoam and wooden pallets from a truck onto a site located off the intersection of Mazeau Street and 57th Drive.

According to local residents and activists, the location has allegedly been used by its owner to illegally dump construction debris and other material for many years. Reportedly, in some cases, neighbors observed workers burying trash in holes dug on the site.

After the two men arrived at the Mazeau Street property and attempted to offload debris, neighbors banded together and stood in the driveway leading to the lot to prevent the vehicles from leaving the scene, said civic activist Christina Wilkinson.

“We wouldn’t let one truck through,” said Maspeth resident Linda Daquaro, who recounted the scene on Mazeau Street last Wednesday.

The Sanitation Department was contacted a short time later, and members of its police unit responded to the scene. Matt Lipani, a spokesperson for the DSNY, told the Times Newsweekly that the driver of the truck involved—identified as Youzhang Lin of Eldridge Street in Manhattan—was issued a summons for dumping 12 to 15 cubic yards of debris.

Sanitation police officers also seized the truck, which is registered to Lan N. Son Trading Inc. of Brooklyn.

Lin faces a maximum fine of $2,000 for the offense, which may be challenged in Environmental Control Board court, Lipani added.

Supermarket to inhabit Ridgewood Theatre

From the Daily News:

A landmarked Queens movie theater that opened during World War I and became the longest continuously operated theater in the nation will be transformed into an Associated supermarket, the Daily News has learned.

The Ridgewood Theatre - shuttered since 2008 - will turn from film to food next year, changing its use for the first time since the Myrtle Ave. mainstay opened in 1916, sources said.

"Oy!" exclaimed Orlando Lopes of the Theatre Historical Society of America. "A part of history is lost, and that is really terribly sad."

The movie house earned city landmark status this year, protecting its ornate facade from alterations or demolition. Insiders insist its stage and grand staircase are beyond repair.

Still, the sale raises questions about the site's future.

Associated can't change the exterior without city approval, but it can wreck the largely intact lobby and other interior attributes of the two-story venue.

Harry Laufer, president of the Long Island-based chain, estimated the store will open in "maybe six months." But he said he did not know the renovation plans of franchisee Tony Guzman.

Guzman's attorney did not return calls seeking comment.

Clueless Carolyn

Watch as an activist confronts Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney about City Council Speaker Quinn's failure to save St. Vincent's Hospital.

Nothing shady ever goes on here

Ah, Queens. Where else can you log on and find out where to get a rub and tug without worrying that the cops will find out? People discuss it here right out in the open! (Not just a straight thing, either.) Well, judging by that screenshot someone is concerned about getting caught but let's face it, the chances are slim.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Astoria afire!

MYFOXNY.COM - There were reports of a fire Monday afternoon in a section of Queens along the East River.

Steven Randolph snapped a photo and submitted it to MyFoxNY.com through the MyFoxNY iPhone app.

He said that the fire appeared to be in Astoria on 30th Ave.

The FDNY confirmed that a 1 story factory building was on fire and the fire had gone to two alarms.

No other details were immediately available.

EDC lied about Willets Point relocations

From Willets Point Watchdog:

Contrary to promises made by the New York City Economic Development Corporation ("EDC") and the stated intent of elected officials, the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development ("HPD") has issued written notices requiring all persons to vacate certain City-owned Willets Point properties where tenant businesses are operating. HPD has done this, despite the tenant businesses receiving none of the promised relocation assistance from EDC.

One such notice, obtained by Willets Point Watchdog and reproduced below, states: "You and all other persons occupying said premises must remove yourselves from the premises on or before November 30, 2010 ... Failure to do so will result in the landlord [HPD] commencing summary proceedings under the statute to remove you from the premises" (emphasis added).
HPD Notice Highlight

The notice is unambiguous: Get out by November 30, 2010, or HPD will take steps to "remove you". The notice absolutely forecloses any possibility that a tenant will be permitted to continue operating a business on the property after November 30, 2010.

Attorney Harold P. Weinberg and HPD Administrative Staff Analyst Aida Estepan both signed the notice.

Can Weinberg and Estepan possibly be unaware that:

* The New York City Council approved the proposed Willets Point development during 2008, with the understanding that EDC would attempt to relocate as many of the approximately 240 tenant businesses as possible?

And that:

* EDC has not yet even begun to do so?

According to a source who is familiar with the pending eviction proceedings, even after being told that it is inappropriate for HPD to evict any Willets Point tenant business because no relocation assistance has yet materialized from EDC – let alone that there is no immediate need for the property in question to be vacant – attorney Weinberg has refused to rescind the notice, instead telling the business owner that he will see him in court, as the notice threatens.

To defend itself against HPD's inappropriate action, apparently the business will have to retain professional legal counsel – placing a large financial burden on a small business at the same time that HPD has destabilized that business by threatening its future. Although burdening and threatening Willets Point tenant businesses is precisely the opposite of what EDC promised, no elected official has been willing to confront HPD concerning the inappropriateness of its notices, which require all persons to vacate certain premises.

Translation: They all lied! Check this out:

Brad Lander is now a City Council person. Let's see if he steps up and does something. But I wouldn't hold my breath. After all, he's a tweeder now!

NYPD busts gang 3 blocks from precinct

From the Times Newsweekly:

Twenty teenagers were recently collared by officers from the 104th Precinct who put a stop to an alleged gang initiation inside Joseph Mafera Park in Ridgewood, it was reported.

Law enforcement sources said the suspects—ranging between 13 and 19 years of age—were taken into custody by members of the 104th Precinct Conditions Unit for illegally gathering inside the park located at the corner of 65th Street and 68th Avenue at 7:25 p.m. on the night of Saturday, Nov. 6.

Upon further investigation, police sources stated, the individuals appeared to be taking part in a Latin King initiation ceremony.

The 20 teenagers—all residents of Brooklyn and Queens—were formally charged with unlawful assembly. One of the 14-year-old suspects was additionally booked on criminal possession of a weapon charges.

See post from August 26.

Black market cigarettes costing us a bundle

From the NY Post:

The underground tobacco market is spreading like a fast-growing cancer in the wake of tax hikes that make New York cigarettes the most expensive in the nation -- and it's costing the state tens of millions a month in lost tax revenue, a Post analysis has found.

Illegal cigarettes are pouring into neighborhood bodegas by the truckload from neighboring Indian reservations, lower-tax states in the South and even as far away as China, authorities say.

Government data show that New York state is being smoked out of as much as $20 million a month from all these illegal cigarette purchases -- an estimated 7.3 million packs a month sold off the state tax radar.

Alternate side regulations lifted along Bell Blvd

From Bayside Patch:

Bell Blvd. has not had a street cleaning in years, but signs prohibiting parking for sweeping from 8 to 9 a.m. on most weekdays were left up until this past weekend, leaving drivers vulnerable to tickets.

"Bell Boulevard has not had street cleaning in years due to the fact the area has maintained a high scorecard rating (above 90 per cent) which tracks the cleanliness level of both streets and sidewalks," said Department of Sanitation spokeswoman Kathy Dawkins.

"In order to remove the signs, Sanitation sent inspectors to the local [area] and made a recommendation for the Department of Transportation to remove the signs," said Dawkins. She did not indicate when the communication between the two agencies took place.

The DOT did not respond to an inquiry to provide a timeframe of when Sanitation suggested taking the signs down, as of press time.

"Thousands of my constituents have been ticketed by the City for a service they aren't even getting," said Councilman Dan Halloran, R-Whitestone, adding, "Here, drivers were paying $100 tickets for street cleaning that hasn't happened in years."

Halloran had blasted the DOT at a Nov. 16 City Council hearing for its refusal to remove the signs. The Bayside Village Business Improvement District also met with the DOT earlier this month to extend parking hours on Bell Blvd, which, according to the BID, they have in some locations.

"Excessive ticketing along Bell is killing these local businesses, which are our primary job creators," said Halloran. "And this is ticketing for a non-existent city 'service.' I'm glad the Department of Transportation came to its senses. I just can't believe it took this long."

Subway pigs should stop feeding rats

From NY1:

Contractors and in-house teams bait track areas. Cleaners remove more than 90 tons of garbage a day. And riders leave tons where it belongs. But a lot ends up on the tracks as a feast.

"Do they see the problem getting better worse or better? They'll tell you it's getting worse," Perkins said.

One ongoing problem is that garbage bound for the trash train waits on platforms or in transfer rooms. The MTA has sealed openings to block rats. But Perkins would like the rooms to be baited routinely. The agency is studying it. He also thinks he has a broader answer.

"We recommend to them what we know is taking place in other places, like Washington, DC, other countries, where food is outlawed on the public transportation system," Perkins said.

It's a tough call where food vendors supply rental income. But Perkins is taking his case to the platform.

"Should we stop eating on the subways and the buses?" asked Perkins.

Developer moves forward with toxic condo project

From the Brooklyn Paper:

A group of Williamsburg residents are incensed that work on a new 15-story housing tower on the corner of Broadway and Kent Avenue will begin construction even though a six-year-old toxic spill underneath the site has not been fully cleaned up.

“There are dozens of stalled projects in Williamsburg, more than in any part of the city, so what’s the urgency of putting this building up?” asked Williamsburg resident Bill Storandt. “Why can’t they just clean up the site as the law requires?”

The project, financed by L+M Development Partners and Goldman Sachs, would consist of 160 units, 80 percent of which will be priced at below-market rates, revitalizing a stalled site where plans to construct a $70-million luxury hotel fizzled in 2007.

But the site contains a toxic oil spill and other contaminants — its legacy as a former gas station a decade ago — and state officials confirmed that it currently does not meet environmental standards.

A spokesman for the owner acknowledged the existing oil spill reported to the state and that the owner plans to address the spill “in connection with current construction activities” and in accordance with the state’s requirements.

But Wren said that the developer has not submitted a required work plan detailing its clean-up efforts — which must be sent in before construction begins on the site.

And neighbors remain nervous that the developer’s plan to include a supermarket on the ground floor of the building will put food products close to the pollution.
Gates Cooperative

“They’re going to put a food in the first floor where there was contamination and probably store food in the basement?” said Mendoza. “That’s a concern for us.”

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Chain restaurant will transform Jamaica?

From the Daily News:

...there is anticipation surrounding the opening of the Applebee's this month.

"There's no place to eat other than fast food in Jamaica," said Manshel, predicting Applebee's "will draw more people to the downtown and make it a fun place to be."

Brigit Pinnell, executive director of the Jamaica Center Business Improvement District, said the new office workers in the community will help local merchants.

"They're going to shop in our district," she said. "They're going to eat in our district."

Sounds like wishful thinking to me. The movie theater that opened years ago was supposed to accomplish that. Maybe instead of focusing on providing tax breaks to businesses to get them to move or open there, you should make the place safe and clean and the businesses will come on their own.

Sadik-Khan strikes again!

From CBS 2:

It’s pushback — with a capital “p” — for a dangerous traffic island in Borough Park.

In what has to be a series of firsts, the community board voted it down and a Department of Sanitation boss dared to say it could cause injuries and deaths.

Ladder 114 recently had trouble rushing to a fire because of a new cement traffic island installed in Borough Park. A backup caused by the traffic island forced an ambulance to pull into oncoming traffic to swerve around the barricade.

That driver was lucky. He made it to Maimonides Hospital two blocks away. But another EMT driver wasn’t. He told Kramer he was stopped dead at the intersection while racing to a patient who had stopped breathing.

Different state, same old story

From the NY Times:

As the train crosses the Hackensack River, to the left lies what was supposed to be the EnCap project. Once frequent headline news, to judge by the game-day passengers, it has largely vanished from public memory.

This was to be one of the largest developments in the state’s history, entrusted by state and local governments to developers who had little track record and shaky financing. EnCap Holdings was supposed to turn 800 derelict acres, including several old dumps, into a resort and thousands of homes.

None of it happened. Instead, the developers made a series of missteps, ran out of money and, in 2008, filed for bankruptcy. All that remain are lawsuits, investigations and questions about where the money went and who will do the needed cleanup. State and local bodies sank hundreds of millions of dollars into the project; much has been repaid, but officials say some of it never will be.

Xanadu, now just called The Meadowlands, is the largest retail and entertainment complex in the country. After more than $2 billion spent, it is years behind schedule, and the owners say they need $875 million to complete it. It sits on state-owned land; the state has paid for transportation improvements to reach it; and Gov. Chris Christie wants the state to invest money to help finish it.

Sounds kind of like this:

Keep in mind here that Willets Point envisions 5,500 condos but, much as New London, in overly optimistic fashion, envisioned a mixed use development anchored by Pfizer, there are few guarantees that-after billions are spent-there will be a market for these residential units. And there is a real chance that, just like New London, the City of New York will be left holding the billion dollar bag for the cost of a white elephant that trampled on the property rights of little guy land owners.

This kind of cautionary tale is underscored by an article on the floundering Xanadu project in New Jersey in today's NY Times: "It wasn’t a pretty view on the 13-minute train ride Sunday from Secaucus to New Meadowlands Stadium — old landfills, mud flats, the garish bulk of the stalled Xanadu project. But it might as well have been paved with money. The 2.3-mile train line to the Meadowlands, opened last year, offers a unique tour of inflated and deflated dreams, poor decision-making and, most of all, enormous spending — a fair amount of it from taxpayers, and a fair amount that will never be recouped — in the inimitable New Jersey style."

All of this should give NYC officials pause, especially since the Willets Point scheme is being moved forward in a climate of sever fiscal austerity. So, while New Yorkers are being asked to do with less, Mike Bloomberg wants to spend billions on his own legacy project. In our view, the local council member and her colleagues should be calling for a moratorium on any Willets Point related expenses because not a single firehouse should be closed while EDC and the mayor continue to spend money like drunken stockbrokers on a speculative real estate venture.

Forgotten-NY in Hollis Hills

CLick photo for story.

Pimp fugitive caught in VA

From the NY Post:

A 13-year-old runaway was locked in a ramshackle Jamaica apartment without running water and was pimped out by a Queens man for 10 nightmarish days, officials said yesterday.

Anthony Vargas, 21, was indicted yesterday on a slew of charges for the imprisonment and sex-trafficking. He's being held without bail, and faces 25 years to life in prison.

During a 10-day period, Vargas allegedly had sex with his hostage, and took her to several parts of Queens to pimp her out. When they returned to the dungeon, he allegedly kept her in a small room that she couldn't escape.

Detectives at the NYPD Missing Persons Squad received a tip about the girl on April 12, saying she was sighted at 106-49 Ruscoe St.

The detectives pried open a locked door that led them to the small prison, prosecutors said.

Vargas fled New York and was apprehended in Newport News, Va., two weeks ago.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

It's Small Business Saturday!

And if anyone out there truly cares about small business, it's Mike Bloomberg.

9/11 artifacts at JFK

From Fox 5:

The Wall Street Journal reporter Ralph Gardner Jr. was given access to the artifacts stored at JFK Airport's Hangar 17.

From bicycles to mangled steel, a wide variety of objects damaged in the 9/11 terror attacks are being kept in the hangar before they're moved to the National September 11 Memorial and Museum.

Good Day New York spoke with Gardner on Tuesday about what he saw.

For a look at the artifacts at JFK Airport Hangar 17, CLICK HERE.

Meanwhile, there's concern over the design of the new WTC.

Should electrical wires go underground?

From the Daily News:

Elected officials are calling on Con Edison to bury outdoor power lines in Middle Village underground to prevent electric outages and potentially dangerous accidents during strong storms.

City Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village) and Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-Queens/Brooklyn) spoke out about the issue Monday - two months after a tornado swept through the neighborhood and knocked down trees and power lines.

Queens has more miles of overhead power lines than any other borough, Con Ed officials said. There are no outdoor electrical wires in Manhattan.

Crowley said she has been requesting that the wires be moved underground since she took office two years ago.

But the $715 million price tag is just too high, Con Ed officials said. Each residential customer would also be required to pay $7,500 for the conversion, said Con Ed spokesman Allan Drury. Commercial customers would have to fork over $20,000 each.

The below ground-level system also would take up to three to four times longer to repair if a problem arose, he added.

"Possible" deportation?

From SI Live:

A Pakistani native charged earlier this year with a string of vehicular break-ins in the borough may have earned himself a one-way ticket home after being sentenced today to 18 months behind bars.

South Beach resident Kaiser Rafiq, 37, pleaded guilty two weeks ago in state Supreme Court, St. George, to misdemeanor counts of stolen-property possession and petit larceny.

Rafiq was arrested in February and accused of three heists.

The first occurred Nov. 11 of last year when he allegedly stole a purse from a car parked on Mason Avenue in Midland Beach. Afterward, he allegedly bought merchandise at three stores with a credit card from the purse.

Three months later on Feb. 7, authorities allege, Rafiq entered an unlocked vehicle on Capodanno Boulevard while the driver was making a delivery. He stole a Nextel Scanner.

The defendant continued his larcenous ways the next day, police said. He broke the lock of a UPS truck parked on Capodanno Boulevard and stole 13 packages.

On arresting Rafiq, cops found an altered check in his wallet, said authorities.

Rafiq was hit with a raft of felony and misdemeanor charges, a number of which were later dismissed.

He was sentenced to consecutive nine-month sentences for his two convictions, said a spokesman for District Attorney Daniel Donovan.

He faces possible deportation as a result of the convictions, said a source.

Public records show Rafiq was sentenced in 2003 to three to six years in prison for an attempted drug sale conviction.

Giant school to tower over homes

From the Brooklyn Paper:

City officials did an end run around existing zoning to allow the construction of a large Bay Ridge school on the site of the demolished Green Church.

Deputy Mayor Dennis Walcott quietly granted school construction officials a zoning waiver — without public review — in a maneuver that the city frequently employs when it wants to build a public facility that could not be built under the current zoning.

The waiver gave the green light to the 680-seat elementary school at the corner of Fourth and Ovington avenues — which will tower over five attached townhouses abutting it.

And that’s not kosher with the locals.

The override allows the School Construction Authority, which requested the waiver in March, to build to a height of 62 feet along 72nd Street, where existing zoning permits only 32 feet. The waiver also allows the city to build to a height of 75 feet along Fourth Avenue, where a 60-foot-high building is permitted.

The city’s ability to override its own zoning without public review is “unfair,” contended preservationist Victoria Hofmo.

“I’m really concerned about the people on 72nd Street,” Hofmo said, stressing, “I think it’s really wrong. I had no idea that the school was going to block people’s backyards.”

For some reason, Parks doesn't want headstones at burial ground

From the Daily News:

THE CITY has dropped plans to place four headstones at a 19th-century Flushing cemetery that was long forgotten and became a park - angering advocates fighting to respect its buried dead.

The Parks Department scaled back its visions for the Olde Towne of Flushing Burial Ground - formerly known as Martin's Field - to a single obelisk inscribed with the four names, officials said.

Critics insist the grassy plot at 46th Ave. and 164th St. will lack the appearance of a cemetery without headstones, which were eliminated after the city built a playground on the site in 1936.

They say the obelisk will not go far enough to dignify the spot where hundreds of African-Americans, Native Americans and poor whites were interred between 1840 and 1898.

"We have this ancestral need to correct history," said Robbie Garrison, who co-chairs a conservancy dedicated to honoring the site. "It's notorious to just cover up black dead people and keep going."

During a meeting between civic leaders and the city last week, department officials said they are excluding the headstones out of fear that they will be rejected by a city commission that reviews public projects, sources said.

What an absolute crock of shit. We all know city agencies work hand-in-hand.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Ackerman vs. GOP on Dream Act

From Douglaston Patch:

"The DREAM Act is a humanitarian bill that helps kids who are our neighbors that are being punished for a decision they did not make," Ackerman said. "All children – documented or undocumented – deserve the same basic educational opportunities that this bill provides."

The act would allow children who were brought to the United States before their 16th birthday and have lived in the country for at least five years to earn permanent legal status.

The bill would require that youths had no criminal record. It would assist them in gaining citizenship through college attendance or joining the military.

Ackerman said the legislation would help as many as 934,000 students who are presently in elementary or secondary school.

"We must fight to pass this legislation now before the current Congress ends because next year we won't have the votes," he said. "We owe these children that much."

Ackerman's letter, which he sent out last week to members of Congress, currently has more than 40 co-signers.

In the letter, the congressman writes that undocumented children have been "held hostage by a national immigration debate that has been both hostile and overtly partisan."

From Fox 5:

As President Obama and his Democratic allies push to pass legislation this year that would allow certain illegal immigrants to become legal US residents, Republicans are pushing back with details about the DREAM Act that have gone largely unnoticed, FOXNews.com reported Saturday.

The legislation would permit young people to become US residents after spending two years in college or the military. It would apply to immigrants who were under 16 when they arrived in the US, have been in the country at least five years and have a diploma from a US high school or the equivalent.

But Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) released a "DREAM Alert" revealing that at least one version of the legislation would allow qualified illegal immigrants up to the age of 35 to gain resident status, prevent the Department of Homeland Security from removing any illegal immigrant who has a pending application -- regardless of age or criminal record -- and offers amnesty to qualified illegal immigrants with misdemeanor convictions, even DUIs.

The alert says that not only would the legislation put an estimated 2.1 million illegal immigrants on a path to citizenship, it would also give them access to in-state tuition rates at public universities, federal student loans, and federal work-study programs.

Illegal immigrants who gain citizenship under this legislation will have the legal right to petition for the entry of their family members, including their adult brothers and sisters and the parents who illegally brought or sent them to the US.

Trying to end Maurice Avenue drag racing

From Eyewitness News:

Residents of Maurice Avenue in Queens say they fear for their safety.

Cars are regularly racing down the street in the Woodside and Maspeth sections, neighbors say, and they are sometimes doing 100 miles per hour trying to beat each other from one light to other.

Residents worry the drivers, the spectators or the people who live here will lose their life if something doesn't get done soon.

When a locally zoned school isn't local

From the Queens Tribune:

Not even a full semester has passed, and Forest Hills’ Metropolitan Avenue Campus has garnered a touch of negative attention.

Neighborhood leaders are concerned over enrollment numbers at the $158 million education facility’s high school, which they say do not meet promises that at least half of the kids would be from Forest Hills.

The locally-zoned school’s first 250-freshmen class was originally slated to be split evenly between kids from Districts 24 and 28. But according to Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz (D-Forest Hills), a lack of outreach and apprehension has left the school’s first class with a glut of Glendale students, while Forest Hills kids make up less than half of the overall student body.

“I was disappointed in the amount of kids that came from Forest Hills,” Koslowitz said. “It was supposed to be 125-125. It wasn’t like that at all.”

The Dept. of Education did not respond to requests for comment and Koslowitz said they refuse to provide exact figures about the class’s makeup.

The school’s freshman class is also significantly higher than the originally planned 250. After murmurs about empty seats in the school’s newly-constructed building, the DOE bumped up enrollment, eventually expanding it for local kids and, according to some, kids across the entire borough. According to Koslowitz, the additional students increased the school’s pioneer class to close to 400 – a figure the DOE was not available to confirm.

Koslowitz said a large chunk of potential Forest Hills students were instead slotted for other local schools due to an application snafu. Kids and parents were given the option of ranking their preferred high schools, and Koslowitz believes many students and parents opted to put the Metro Campus second.

You mean DOE and SCA lied in order to get this built? How utterly shocking!

Mosque owners seek handout

From CBS 2:

The debate over the proposed mosque and community center at Ground Zero was heating up once more Tuesday. Those opposed to the project are furious after learning the developers of Park 51 have applied for grant money, CBS 2′s Kathryn Brown reports.

“I was shocked,” said 9/11 first responder Tim Brown. “I think it’s the middle finger to the families.”

Brown said the latest move by the developers was worse than a slap in the face. Developers sought $5 million in 9/11 development grant money.

The center will include a mosque, a gym and a daycare.

On their website, developers touted the need for grant money to help fund “desperately-needed programs like domestic violence support groups, Arabic lessons and immigration services.”

The buck will stop with the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, which is in charge of the money. They’ve set aside $17 million for the cultural enhancement of the area around ground zero and, so far, they’ve received nearly 300 applications from a variety of nonprofits.

Thirteen visits Ridgewood Reservoir

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Why did the turkeys cross the road?

Council Member calls for changes to TSA procedure

From the NY Post:

Have you ever had a dream where you were standing in front of a group of strangers in your underwear? The next time you fly, you’re likely to be left in less than that. Last month, the Transportation Security Administration began installing full body scanners at our local airports. These scanners virtually peel away your clothing and leave you stark naked to an employee who may, or may not, have had a background check.

Many New Yorkers have told me that they are willing to check their dignity at airport doors in the interest of safety. But, did you know that the safest airport in the world — Ben Gurion International in Tel Aviv, Israel — refuses to purchase these scanners because they don’t work? In the words of the former chief security officer of the Israel Airport Authority, Rafi Sela, he could “overcome the body scanners with enough explosives to take down a Boeing 747.” This is not surprising. These machines can detect guns, knives and box cutters, but they cannot pick up materials, like plastics, liquids and powders, most frequently used in attempted post-9/11 airplane bombings.

So, how did these ineffectual strip search machines, which will leave your Grandma longing for olden days when a glimpse of stocking was shocking, end up at JFK International and La Guardia airports? The answer: TSA incompetence and very powerful lobbyists.

Isn't that how we get most everything these days?

Guess who's not coming to dinner?

From the Daily News:

Most New Yorkers wouldn't want Mayor Bloomberg over for Thanksgiving, a new Quinnipiac University poll finds. Just 42% of 1,287 city voters surveyed said they'd invite him, while 56% wouldn't.

The results hold across every ethic and racial group surveyed, except Republican voters, who split 49% to 49% on the question. At his best, 48% of white voters, 48% of Manhattanites and 46% of men surveyed would invite him. At his worst, just 35% of black voters, 36% of Staten Islanders and 38% of women would.

New Yorkers seem to like how Bloomberg runs the city, despite the social snub: The mayor's job approval rating is 13 points higher, at 55%.

Happy Thanksgiving from Queens Crap!

Thanksgiving at Kaufman-Astoria Studios.

Thanksgiving cartoon from Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn


From the NY Post:

It was just looking for a new squeeze.

Emergency Service cop Michael D'Alessandro carefully holds up a monstrous snake found in a Queens park yesterday.

The boa constrictor was spotted on a bridge in Springfield Park near 46th Avenue and Springfield Boulevard.

"I've seen strange creatures around here, but that's scary," said parkgoer Lawrence Emerson, 37.

Emergency Service officers were called in to remove the scaly giant at around 12:30 p.m. Stuffed in a Parks Department laundry bag, it was handed over to a local veterinarian.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Bribers busted


ROSE GILL HEARN, Commissioner of the New York City Department of Investigation (“DOI”), announced the arrests of two homeowners, a building owner, and a home improvement contractor in three separate cases on charges of paying cash bribes – between $100 and $1,000 – to avoid construction violations issued by the City Department of Buildings (“DOB”). DOI began each of the investigations after it was notified by DOB Inspectors that they were offered cash bribes. The arrests occurred within the last six weeks, with the most recent arrests today. The offices of Queens County District Attorney Richard A. Brown and Kings County District Attorney Charles J. Hynes are prosecuting the cases.

DOI Commissioner Rose Gill Hearn said, “The City has zero tolerance for individuals who try to corrupt City employees to dodge construction violations. Everyone should know City Buildings Inspectors report bribe offers to DOI and that the price of that crime is arrest and prosecution. I commend the Building Inspectors who stepped up to report illegal conduct and for their assistance in DOI’s ongoing effort to expose and halt corrupt practices.”

The following are synopses of the incidents:

• Today, DOI arrested VIVEKANAND DHANPATLALL, 53, a Queens contractor, and RAJKARAN VISHUDANAND, 62, father of the property owner, both of Richmond Hill, Queens, who have been charged with Bribery in the Third Degree, a class D felony, punishable upon conviction by up to seven years in prison. The office of Queens County District Attorney Richard A. Brown is prosecuting the case.

According to the criminal complaint, on October 20, 2010, a DOB Inspector observed construction taking place at a Queens residence on 109th Avenue without the proper permits and told the defendants that they would need to obtain the proper permits or cease construction. In response, the defendants gave the inspector $1,000 in cash to be allowed to continue the work and to receive no violations.

• On October 14, 2010, DOI arrested LEON NEKTALOV, 50, of Flushing, Queens, charged with Bribery in the Third Degree, a class D felony. Assistant District Attorney Corey Shoock of the Kings County District Attorney’s Office is assigned to the prosecution of the case.

According to the criminal complaint, in August 2010, ongoing construction work was observed at a residential building on Brighton 5th Street in Brooklyn despite an active stop work order. On September 1, 2010, a DOI undercover investigator posing as a DOB inspector told the defendant that he would be issued a violation for ignoring a stop work order and for the presence of unsafe scaffolding. The defendant threw $160 on the ground and handed an additional $40 to the “inspector” stating that he wanted to avoid a summons.

• On October 5, 2010, DOI arrested JOYCE LALL, 63, of Jamaica, Queens, charged with Bribery in the Third Degree, a class D felony. Assistant District Attorney Michelle Cort of the Queens County District Attorney’s Office is assigned to prosecution of the case.

According to the criminal complaint, in August 2010, the defendant offered $100 to a DOI undercover investigator posing as a DOB inspector to avoid a violation against her residential property on 130th Street in Queens.

DOB has re-inspected each of the three residential properties.

They was robbed!

From the Forum:

In the eyes of the John Adams High School Spartans football players, their record is 8-2. According to the Public Schools Athletic League (PSAL), their record is 5- 5.

The Spartans were forced to forfeit their first four games because of an ineligible player. Junior Antoine Arnold transferred from Bayside High School and played football there during the 2009 season. The PSAL rules state that Arnold must sit out 12 months before being allowed to play.

The mistake, which school officials have called a “clerical error,” has cost the players an opportunity to play in the playoffs. The Spartans defeated division-leading Beach Channel High School two weeks ago. The players are devastated that this error won’t give them the chance to compete for the championship.

By the time the team found out about the ruling, it was too late to mount a legal challenge to reverse the decision and allow the team to play.

Once-deported illegal aliens sent packing again

From the NY Times:

In a four-day immigration dragnet stretching from the suburbs north of New York City to eastern Long Island, federal law-enforcement officers arrested 54 illegal immigrants with criminal records who had previously been deported but had secretly re-entered the country, officials said Friday.

The tally was the largest number of once-deported immigrants ever ensnared in a single operation by immigration agents, said a spokesman in the New York office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, an arm of the Department of Homeland Security.

The roundup, which began on Monday and ended late Thursday, reflected a strategy shift by the Obama administration, which says it is focusing its enforcement efforts on catching and deporting immigrants who had been convicted of crimes or posed a national security threat. The announcement of that shift came after advocates for immigrants complained that government agents were more often sweeping up illegal immigrants with no criminal histories.

Immigration authorities announced last month that they had deported a record number of immigrants over the previous 12 months; more than 195,700 of the deportees, or about half of the total, were convicted criminals. By comparison, during the last fiscal year of the Bush administration, which ended in September 2008, about 32 percent of all deported immigrants were criminals.

John Morton, director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said the operation this week “underscores ICE’s commitment to strategic, sensible immigration enforcement that enhances public safety.”

“ICE will continue to target, arrest and remove those who come to this country to pursue a life of crime rather than the American dream,” he went on.

Federal agents made arrests in the Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan and Queens; in Nassau and Suffolk Counties on Long Island; and in Orange and Westchester Counties north of New York City, officials said. The suspects, most of whom were arrested at their homes, included citizens of the Bahamas, Belize, Chile, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Panama and St. Kitts.

Bloomberg says to bend over

From the NY Post:

Another round of severe budget cuts is just around the corner, Mayor Bloomberg warned yesterday, less than 24 hours after announcing plans to ax 6,200 city employees.

Bloomberg said the $1.6 billion in savings he extracted from city agencies, largely through layoffs, still leaves a $2.4 billion deficit for the next fiscal year. The blueprint for filling that fiscal hole is due in January, when the preliminary budget for 2012 has to be presented.

"So, somehow, in January, we've got to come up with $2 billion more in tax revenues, fee revenues, that sort of thing, or cuts, or what's more likely is some combination," he said on his weekly WOR radio show.

Fire & illegal conversion in SI historic district

From SI Live:

A three-story house in New Brighton went up in flames late last night, and the blaze went to three alarms at 12:20 a.m.

No one was injured, according to the FDNY.

The fire at 42 Westervelt Ave. erupted at 11:24 p.m.; the FDNY was on the scene within four minutes.

The fire went to a second alarm at 11:32 p.m.

A total of 25 units responded to the blaze.

Fire press could not say if anyone was home at the time of the fire.

One witness saw smoke and flames from the eaves of the second floor.

The house, in which it is believed seven families live, is included in the St. George-New Brighton Historic District.

Really? It's only approved for 5.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Subway signal inspections faked

From the NY Post:

It’s a disaster waiting to happen.

NYC Transit supervisors falsified thousands of vital signal inspections across the subway system for years, leaving straphangers at risk for deadly collisions like the one that killed nine people in Washington, D.C., The Post has learned.

Across every line in every borough, a cabal of managers in the signal department forced maintainers to fib on the inspections by threatening them with punishment like loss of overtime, according to a sweeping investigation by the MTA Inspector General.

At least one high-level chief, Tracy Bowdwin — the MTA’s highest earning signal department supervisor at $165,000-a-year — was demoted in the fallout, and managers are still being questioned, transit sources said.

The callous practice was in response to ramped up pressure from the MTA to meet federal standards that call for railway switches and signals to be inspected monthly, sources said.

"Instead of five signals to inspect, they would give you 15. There’s no way 15 could done, but they would say, ‘You had to do it,’¤" one signal maintainer said of the overzealous bosses. "It’s like, you think your car is fine after going to the mechanic, but they never looked at it."

Signal maintainers would routinely enter false inspection into their logbooks, which managers used to write reports. In some cases, managers would write a bogus report even if a worker refused to enter the fudged data in their books.

Workers who didn’t comply lost overtime privileges or got sent to the dirtiest, most leak-infested tunnels, sources said.

Buyers lining up for tennis stadium

From Forest Hills Patch:

Between seven and 10 potential suitors have lined up to take a crack at the Forest Hills stadium, either to save and restore it or turn it into something new, the West Side Tennis Club president said in an interview. Just what is most likely to happen at the site, however, is still anyone's guess.

Ken Parker, president of the West Side Tennis Club, said that while the process is still in its somewhat early stages, there is definitely continued interest from buyers in the club's tennis stadium.

"We're going to see who's really qualified to make a proposal and then we'll go over and see what those proposals are once we get them," Parker said.

Parker made it clear that the club's board didn't have any plans on turning the stadium into a charity case, saying that they wouldn't spend any time discussing fundraising efforts to restore the aging structure.

"We're not interested in getting involved in a fundraiser for them to raise capital," Parker said. "They have to be in a position to come across with some viable ideas and the financing behind it."

City to turn crap into fuel

View more news videos at: http://www.nbcnewyork.com/video.

From NBC:

We flush it and it's out of our lives. But does anyone give a you-know-what about our waste going to waste?

"We do," says Commissioner Cas Holloway of the City's Department of Environmental Protection. "And what we're trying to do is take what is pure waste and turn it into a valuable resource."

The water from every toilet that flushes in the Rockaway section of Queens ends up at the Rockaway wastewater treatment plant. But instead of just being treated and dumped in the nearest waterway, Mayor Michael Bloomberg has bigger plans for that waste.

It's part of a pilot program that converts human wastewater into fuel.

"Now we literally have the ability to make gasoline-grade fuel out of waste water," Holloway said. "It's an environmental benefit, and it would reduce energy costs for the agency."

The experiment exposes wastewater to sunlight, causing photosynthesis. The algae that grows is shipped to a lab to be converted to biofuel.

If the technology works and proves cost efficient the city estimates it could power 2,800 cars a day on just 10 percent of the city's waste stream.

Community working with developer to maintain character

From Little Neck Patch:

Changes are coming to the 1.3-acre former headquarters of Leviton Manufacturing Co. on Little Neck Parkway.

Early next month, community leaders will meet with representatives of developer Steel Equities to discuss the future of the site.

Based in Bethpage, N.Y., Steel Equities purchased the property for $18 million on Sept. 27, according to city Department of Finance records.

Leviton had moved much of its operation to a 143,000-square-foot facility owned by Steel Equities in Melville, N.Y. in June 2009.

Among those at next month's meeting at Queens Borough President Helen Marshall's office will be Community Board 11 chairman Jerry Ianecce, who says he will try to get assurances that the low-density character of the neighborhood will be maintained.

"What we don't want in the Little Neck-Douglaston area is another Station Road," Iannece said, referring to an industrial zone in Auburndale — currently a mix of auto repair shops and light manufacturing.

Another item of concern for residents like Judy Cohen of the North Hills Estates Civic Association was the future of old-growth trees on the current campus, which stretches along Little Neck Parkway between 59th Avenue and 61st Avenue.

Tires stolen from car near Mr. Public Safety's house

From El Blog de Joy:

The jerk-offs not only had to steal this Nissan Maxima’s wheels, but they also bent the car’s door panel using a plastic milk crate as a make-shift platform. Classy.

And the cherry on top? The crime was committed only a few feet away from Councilman Peter F. Vallone’s house — a symbolic reminder that all his chatter about crime increasing in the 114th Precinct is most definitely not over-blown.

Apparently, for the first time in his life, Peter Vallone is speechless about crime in Astoria, because he has yet to provide a statement about this to Gothamist's Jen Carlson, who asked for one days ago.

UPDATE: There is now a statement from Vallone at the Gothamist link about needing more cops. Agreed.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Scobee Diner to close Thanksgiving weekend

From Little Neck Patch:

Scobee Diner, a Little Neck landmark for more than 40 years, will close its doors at the end of the month.

According to Armando Morales, manager of Scobee Diner for 22 years, the diner's owners chose not to renew their lease.

"It's a sad thought to drive by here and see the lights off," Morales said.

The owners decided to close after receiving notice that their landlord had doubled their rent, a source with knowledge of the negotiations said.

Though closings of restaurants and small shops have been commonplace in the midst of a prolonged economic downturn, many longtime Little Neck residents were still stunned by news of Scobee's closure.

The 24-hour diner will turn its lights off and close its doors on Nov. 28, Morales said.

You STILL aren't done voting!

From the Queens Chronicle:

In 2008, the state Department of Environmental Conservation settled with the city for $10 million after the city failed to meet its deadlines in upgrading the Newtown Creek wastewater treatment plant. In December, New Yorkers will have a say in what is done with the money.

Twenty-two projects have been proposed and the City Parks Foundation will be holding voting sessions on Dec. 1, from 3 to 8 p.m. at the Queens Library’s Court Square branch, located at 25-01 Jackson Ave. and on Dec. 2, from 3 to 8 p.m. at PS 34 in Brooklyn, at 131 Norman Ave. Anyone can vote, but according to Newtown Historical Society President Christina Wilkinson, the votes from Queens and Brooklyn residents will weigh more.

Proposed projects range from the construction of a bike-racing track at an as-yet undecided location, to the creation of a park at the former St. Savior’s Church and parsonage site at 57-40 58 St. in Maspeth.

Two other proposals — the purchase of materials for the Queens Library and Cultural Center planned for Hunter’s Point, and the creation of a community facility and park with an athletic field along the waterfront on 47th Avenue in Dutch Kills, are the only other Queens-specific suggestions.

Queens will only see some of this money if you folks get out there and vote. So you are urged to do that.

Cross Harbor Tunnel: Here we go again...

From the Forum:

Truck traffic is a constant and serious concern in Maspeth where living adjacent to the Brooklyn Queens Expressway and the Long Island Expressway creates a torrent of trucks travelling through the neighborhood. For the last decade, community activists have fought to relieve truck and traffic congestion in Maspeth, and they have serious reservations about the recently revived Cross Harbor Freight Program being considered by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

In 2004 the community fought and won a battle against a plan that called for a harbor tunnel connecting New Jersey and Brooklyn, which would have required a 143-acre intermodal station in Maspeth. The tunnel wasn’t necessary, the opponents of the plan said, and the intermodal station would inundate Maspeth with pollution from trains and in- creased truck traffic. Mayor Michael Bloomberg denounced the plan and it was eventually killed.

Now the Port Authority and the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal High Administration (USDOT) is reopening ideas to improve the movement of goods around New York Harbor—specifically how goods move east of the Hudson River to the west and vice versa.

For the Port Authority the no action alternative is unacceptable. Maintaining the status quo would lead to almost a 33 percent increase in traffic and associated costs in New York City, according to Laura Shabe, Port Authority manager of the Cross Harbor Freight Program.

Using the existing freight rail system, which is “underutilized and already built,” is one hard solution Shabe is studying to ease the traffic flow.

These alternatives, however, are unacceptable to Maspeth residents. The general consensus from letters sent to the Port Authority by civic groups and politicians as well as the residents at the COMET meeting was that while attempting to decrease truck traffic is an admirable goal, any plans that don’t seriously investigate the impact it could have on communities would be unacceptable.

From the Queens Chronicle:

“I don’t support any plan that would put an intermodal terminal in Maspeth,” City Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village) said. “We already have a tremendous amount of truck traffic.”

Many longtime Maspeth residents delivered impassioned remarks, vocalizing their frustration with any plan that would involve more rail and truck presence in the community.

“How much does the city want to dump on Maspeth?” asked Linda D’Aquaro, whose son is asthmatic. “If you have alternative sites, why don’t you take it there? We’re already suffering.”

Manny Caruana highlighted what he and others believed is the need for the agencies involved in the project to take a particularly closer look at all maritime options.

“The impact on the surrounding community is going to be horrendous, because we’re going to be inundated with smaller trucks,” he said. “Transport it by water — you don’t need ten billion studies.”

Hey, it's another unnecessary boondoggle pushed for by Bloomberg and the EDC! You know what that means. Actually, this one is wasting time and money because Jerrold Nadler accepted tens of thousands of dollars from lobbyists for the railroad industry and because it benefits the communities he represents in Manhattan. Maybe the talking heads who are so concerned about the effects of increasing truck traffic - which their own study says will increase even more WITH the tunnel - can explain how we're going to pay for this when we have no money for any other rail project in the foreseeable future.

Seville Diner to become all-you-can-eat sushi place

From Douglaston Patch:

The site of a former Douglaston diner is being renovated and transformed into an Asian buffet and sushi restaurant, Community Board 11's district manager said.

The P&B's Seville diner site, located at 231-10 Northern Blvd. in Douglaston, opened in the mid-1970s and was a popular neighborhood eatery until it closed a few years ago.

The city's Board of Standards and Appeals granted a variance to Ching Kuo Chiang, the property's owner, in August that allowed him to renovate the diner's building.

A new buffet and sushi restaurant known as Mizumi is being constructed at the site, but the opening date is yet to be announced, Community Board 11 District Manager Susan Seinfeld said.