Sunday, July 31, 2011

Stadium deals screwed taxpayers big time

From the Daily News:

Everyone knows private money-making operations have exploded in our parks under Bloomberg. Fancy new restaurants, food kiosks, green grocers, bike rental and private sporting concessions - you name it.

So how could total income from all this business activity be falling?

Well, it turns out that Shea and the old Yankee Stadium - both of which sat on park land, and were owned by the city - were the Parks Department's biggest revenue generators.

Under the old Yankee Stadium deal, the city was assured a percentage of gate receipts, a percentage of food sales, even a percentage of the team's cable revenue.

Because of that, the old stadium produced as much as $15 million a year for Parks - even after deducting costs for stadium upkeep.

Likewise, the Shea Stadium deal generated as much as $9 million annually for the city.

As recently as 2008, the two ballparks represented nearly half of the $51 million in concessions revenue generated by the entire Parks system.

On top of that, the city was taking in an additional $6 million annually from parking fees at Shea and the old Yankee Stadium.

Once the new ballparks opened, all that revenue disappeared - even the parking money.

Today, the Mets keep all their parking revenue. Meanwhile, the Yankee Stadium garages, run by an independent firm, are nearly bankrupt and may never produce the $3 million annually they agreed to provide the city.

This loss of $30 million each and every year is a hidden cost to taxpayers from the new ballparks.

In other words, the Mets and Yankees save millions and the rest of us make it up with huge fee hikes.

Willets Point project a bust?

From the Times Ledger: a survey of the Flushing area reveals that a series of large-scale development projects totaling several billion dollars has been approved to be built over the next several years.

But even the best-laid plans often end in the dustbin of history. Those high-profile projects are facing significant obstacles and may be scaled back significantly or never even break ground.

That prospect does not portend well for the future of New York City’s real estate and construction industries, the magnates of which are waiting to see if the Flushing boom turns out to be a bust before throwing big money at development proposals across the five boroughs. That increased focus on the neighborhood has cast Flushing as something of a bellwether for the city’s residential housing industry.

With the economy still depressed, several other major projects, including the city’s $3 billion proposal to overhaul Willets Point, have yet to emerge from the planning stages.

Several sources close to the Willets plan, which Bloomberg announced in May 2007, say the project faces massive uncertainty.

At least one builder plans to ask the Bloomberg administration to push the deadline for development proposals back several months. And three sources said few companies plan to submit proposals because the project is too unwieldy, inflexible and expensive to justify the risk during this time of financial uncertainty.

One man's trash is another man's treasure

From BushwickBK:

We all know that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure, but it’s less well known that the other man is named Nick DiMola and lives in Ridgewood.

Nick runs DiMola Bros., a rubbish removal and interior demolition company based on Summerfield Street just past Wyckoff Avenue. "We’re a garbage company, so we collect garbage," he explains as he invites us into the warehouse and office that he has gradually turned into a museum of New York City’s unwanted relics. His website puts it differently: "My job is to get rid of trash, but sometimes it’s not that easy for me."

The walls of the garage are covered in porcelain signs for Esso, Rheingold, and Borax, along with a neon hotel sign and a cell door from a women’s prison. Space that’s not needed for the business’s trucks is given over to clusters of antique furniture, unnerving medical equipment and vending machines – the oldest a laundry soap dispenser from the 1940s.

Inside his office the wonders compound, walls and ceilings lined with art, advertising and photographs, shelves and cabinets holding much more (see the slide show at right for an idea). Nick jumps from one curiosity to the next with the pride of a collector, yet one protected from obsessive completism by a career in serendipity. "What do you collect?" he asks, and whatever the answer, he’s got something to show you.

Where our tax money really goes

From the Daily News:

The city will spend nearly $1 million in taxpayer money on a contest meant to encourage business in lower Manhattan - but two-thirds of the cash will likely go to consultants.

The city's Industrial Development Agency board Tuesday approved spending $950,000 on the Lower Manhattan Business Expansion Competition to award businesses that locate or expand in lower Manhattan prizes ranging from $20,000 to $650,000.

Three board members - representatives from the Manhattan and Bronx borough presidents and the city controller - angrily objected because the amount expected to go to consultants wasn't spelled out.

The Economic Development Corp. will oversee the project, but will hire a private consultant to run it.

EDC President Seth Pinsky wouldn't say how much the consultants would be paid because, he said, the agency is still taking bids.

A source familiar with the proposal said the EDC planned to spend about two-thirds - around $600,000 - on the consultant.

What's the big secret?

From NBC:

In NYPD's 52nd Precinct, some blocks are plagued by crime and others are among the city's safest.

That is one reason editors of the Norwood News, a biweekly Bronx newspaper, want to publish neighborhood-specific crime statistics. Managing Editor Alex Kratz says numbers for the entire precinct are too broad to be meaningful.

"People don't care really about what's happening on the other side of the precinct," Kratz said. "People want to know what's going on, on their block."

In 2008, the Norwood News successfully published exactly that kind of ultra-local data. For each of the 15 sectors that make up the 52nd Precinct, readers could learn how many robberies, auto thefts, assaults and rapes had plagued their neighborhoods in the previous six months.

Then, according to the paper's editor-in-chief, Jordan Moss, the NYPD abruptly stopped providing the information. The newspaper filed a Freedom of Information request to get the data, but that was more than 400 days ago, and there are still no statistics.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Will campaign for office - any office

From the Daily News:

When it comes to their political futures, elected officials in Queens are keeping their options open.

Several Queens politicos and wanna-bes have filed in the "undeclared" category with the New York City Campaign Finance Board for the 2013 elections.

That includes Democratic City Council members Jimmy Van Bramer, Elizabeth Crowley and Daniel Dromm, who are not term-limited from seeking four more years in their current seats.

In addition, Councilmen Leroy Comrie and Peter Vallone Jr., two Democrats eyeing a bid for the borough president's spot, are not locking themselves into that category for their campaign filings.

Political insiders said candidates might be waiting until the various special elections are over before hitting up donors.

City's water system old and decrepit

From the Daily News:

New York's 7,000 miles of water mains, tunnels and aqueducts - some dating back to the 1870s - deliver 1 billion gallons of drinking water every day.

They also break down a lot. There were 444 water main breaks in the last fiscal year and 360 breaks the year before.

"The good news is it's a very redundant system so even when there's a break of this size, you can keep supplying water to customers," Department of Environmental Protection spokesman Farrell Sklerov said.

The city spends millions of dollars a year maintaining the underground system.

Why the massive building when the infrastructure is so fragile? Shouldn't we invest in upgrades first?

Kelly for mayor?

From NY1:

While he has never publicly expressed an interest in running, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly is a top choice to be the next mayor.

According to a new Quinnipiac University Poll, he has the support of 23 percent of city voters in an early look at the 2013 mayoral race.

City Council Speaker Christine Quinn comes in second with 18 percent, followed by Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz and City Comptroller John Liu.

If Kelly was not in the race, 23-percent of voters say they would back Quinn.

The poll was conducted from July 19th to the 25th with a margin of error of plus or minus 2.8 percentage points.

Steinway Mansion for sale again

From the Queens Chronicle:

The house known as the Steinway Mansion is back on the market after a two-week hiatus, with a listing price of $3.495 million. Sotheby’s International Realty has taken over Prudential Douglas Elliman’s effort to sell the landmarked home, though historical experts in Queens and people associated with Steinway & Sons, the storied piano company, continue to hope the house might one day be available for public use.

Just whose turn it will be is exactly what Queens historians are worried about. Because the building is landmarked it can’t be torn down, but various historical societies have lobbied the city to buy the house so it can become something more than a privately owned anachronism.

The house is within walking distance of Steinway & Sons, the site where what many consider to be the world’s finest pianos have been made in much the same way since the 1870s. But financial concerns — the company’s gross profits in 2010 were a fraction of the house’s listing price — have prevented the company from buying the property.

“We fully support efforts to turn the mansion into a historic venue that would be accessible to the public,” Anthony Gilroy, a representative for the company, wrote in an email. “However, with the budgetary realities that we face, our commitment must remain that of ‘supporter’ rather than ‘financier.’”

Machine bullies candidate off ballot

From City Hall News:

How high are the odds stacked against independent candidates in special elections? Ask Justin Wax Jacobs, a college student who wanted to run for the Queens Assembly seat vacated by Nettie Mayersohn. He first asked a local district leader if he could interview for the Democratic nomination - but says his offer was flatly rejected. He then somehow gathered 1,600 signatures in six days to run as an independent. Yet even though he posed no real threat to Mayersohn's chief of staff Michael Simanowitz, Queens Democratic election lawyer Frank Bolz was on hand at a Board of Elections hearing Tuesday to make sure Jacobs was thrown off the ballot over a technicality.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Jungle by the bus stop

City praised for flooding response?

From Crains:

Facing the threat of water-related disruptions from climate change, the Bloomberg administration has prepared better than other city governments around the country, according to a report released Tuesday.

The report by the Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental nonprofit, examines 12 cities around the U.S. It found that the cities will face rising seas levels, increased flooding and more frequent and intense storms.

The report also predicted increases in annual precipitation, saltwater intrusion in drinking water, erosion, and strains on the water supply.

But the report found that New York was one of the best prepared cities in the group. Praising the efforts of the city's Department of Environmental Protection's climate change task force, as well as the Department of City Planning's Vision 2020 waterfront plan, the Natural Resources Defense Council found that New York was among the most proactive.

I guess NRDC hasn't been around after a heavy rain.

Bloomberg: Going senile or just an asshole?

From the Daily News:

Mayor Bloomberg practiced his version of verbal jujitsu Wednesday, mangling a greeting to Muslim leaders at a Ramadan gathering with "shalom alaikum."

Hizzoner was shooting for "salaam alaikum" - the traditional Arabic "peace to you" greeting.

"He just got a little confused," one witness said.

From the NY Post:

Mayor Bloomberg yesterday defended the federal decision not to cover cancer-stricken 9/11 first responders under the $2.7 billion Zadroga Act, even as the city's top cop blasted the ruling.

"You don't mess with science," Bloomberg said testily when asked by reporters about the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health's ruling Tuesday that there isn't a clear link between World Trade Center dust and cancer.

"And the standards that science requires are very different than the standards that politics require," Bloomberg went on.

Firm looks to fix Atlas Park

From the Daily News:

A high-profile firm that recently bought the Atlas Park mall wants to turn around the struggling Glendale complex "as quickly as possible" with new stores, a top executive told the Daily News.

Macerich company bigwig Timothy Steffan said the firm, which also runs the Queens Center Mall, is in talks to lure new shops to the embattled center.

Macerich wants to secure "a collection of merchants that fit the merchandising needs of the community, that create a sense of place," he added.

Steffan would not reveal which stores Macerich is targeting. The mall's patrons have long pressed for a Gap or Banana Republic.

In what may be an early step towards reconfiguring Atlas Park, Macerich met with City Planning officials last week. Steffan said the powwow was mostly about "getting to know each other."

Crowley said Macerich wants to apply for a special permit that would allow it to lease above-ground space of 10,000 square feet or more to a single retailer.

A City Planning spokeswoman said Macerich has not yet filed any application relating to Atlas Park.

Bayside Diner to reopen next week

From the Times Ledger:

About a year after it closed, the Bayside Diner is set to open its doors again to the neighborhood’s casual-fare connoisseurs.

Antonia Katsishtis, whose family has spent the last several months revamping the eatery, at 207-07 Northern Blvd., said the diner will open next week.

The diner closed its doors last August, and earlier this year owners Spiro and Elias Katsishtis purchased a lease on the building.

Katsishtis said the diner will return with the classic comfort-food menu items customers expect like eggs and omelettes, burgers, salads and steaks with a few modern additions to keep the place current. Low-calorie burgers served with cottage cheese will be offered as a healthy alternative to heavier items, and Katsishtis said the diner will have a small hibachi stir-fry.

In the beginning, the hours will be from 6 a.m. to midnight, breakfast will be served all day and the hours may be extended on the weekends if the place is busy.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Channel 11 visits Bellerose hell house

NYPD searching for 2 sex assault perps

From NBC:

Police are looking for a man wanted in connection with the attempted sexual assault of a woman who was followed from a Queens subway station.

The incident took place at 3:50 a.m. on July 14th.

The victim was walking away from the Queens subway station when she was grabbed by the suspect, thrown to the ground, forcibly touched, but able to escape, police said. Police declined to say where the attack took place, citing the victim's privacy.

The suspect fled on foot. He is described as being Hispanic, in his 20s and approximately 5'3" and 145 lbs.

He also has a small scar on the right side of his lip and was wearing a black Yankee baseball cap, a black and grey hooded sweatshirt, black jeans and black sneakers.

Anyone with information is asked to call Crime Stoppers at (800) 577-TIPS (8477).

From CBS:

Police are asking for the public’s help to track down a sex assault suspect in Queens.

Authorities said the suspect followed a 35-year-old woman near 89th Street and Jamaica Avenue on Tuesday morning before he grabbed her from behind and placed her in a choke hold.

Police said that the suspect then dragged the woman into an alley, punched her repeatedly and sexually assaulted her. The incident happened around 6 a.m. Tuesday in the Woodhaven section.

The suspect is described by police as being a Hispanic or Guyanese male in his mid 20′s, approximately 5’9” tall with a medium build and short black spiky hair.

One Astoria woman fought back and got her attacker caught:

Police brutality in Jackson Heights?

From CNN iReport:

Hundreds of Uruguayans took to the streets in celebration of thier championship victory in Copa America at 5:00pm Eastern Time. What was supposed to be chants of pride and joy quickly turned into a scene of police brutality. Fifteen minutes into the celebration, an army of police from the 115th precinct bombarded the area to clear the streets using unneccessary force injuring inncocent people. The footage captures one man being repeatedly kicked and beaten with battons and nightsticks by several police officers while other officers held him face down. More officers realized people taking footage and tried to shield view of onlookers as well as knocking cameras and phones out of peoples hands. The chaos the police created forced people to run into local shops for safety. One bakery called the "Grand Uruguaya" has survaillence videos that captured a large group of police officers, who entered without any provocation and began flipping tables, kicking chairs and hitting people with nightsticks; ultimately ripping a Uruguayan flag adding insult to injury. Police brutality and abuse of authority is becoming a huge concern for us all.

Developers not paying their fair share

From the NY Post:

While most of the city's "professional" developers like Silverstein, Vornado, RFR and Extell are paying property taxes on their stalled development sites, wannabe newcomers and those with shallow pockets have not only stopped construction but stopped paying city tax levies.

During the last few days we sampled about 40 of the city's 129 stalled Manhattan construction sites and found more than half owe taxes -- totaling over $10 million.
Some sites are on the city's recently released 10-day tax lien sale list while others are not. The lien list covered 15,260 parcels owing $397,942,197 -- some which has been paid off, but most are still due.

Many of the Buildings Department's stalled development site list owners no longer have working phone numbers or addresses and could not be reached.

It is no wonder neither the city nor their lenders can collect a dime. The amount of overdue property taxes is also a problem for the lenders and brokers who are selling the notes, and for the buyers who hope to move along construction, one such broker advised.

New raccoon legislation

From the Daily News:

A trio of legislators frustrated with the city's response to increasing complaints about raccoons is hoping a change in law will do the trick.

State Sen. Tony Avella submitted a bill Monday that would force the city to pick up raccoons at the request of the public. It mirrors a city bill introduced last year by City Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley.

And Assemblyman Andrew Hevesi successfully pushed through a bill recently that helps clarify the way raccoons are classified, making it easier to transport them under state law.

The city now only picks up raccoons that are considered dangerous, sick or hurt.

The bills submitted by Avella and Crowley also provide for humane relocation whenever possible. Because of rabies fears and logistics, many trapped raccoons are euthanized instead of released.

Wildlife experts have encouraged city residents to seal trash cans and crawlspaces so that raccoons find other places to call home.

Hey, here's an idea:

How about sending DSNY after the slobs that leave food out which attracts the raccoons? That way we can do something that actually may help to solve the problem and make money for the city. These creatures were here before us, they generally peacefully co-exist with us and trapping and relocating them is expensive and will just shift the problem elsewhere. People throwing chicken bones in their front yards, leaving out cans of cat food, etc...they are the real problem.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Postal service may shutter 5 Queens offices

From NBC:

The United States Postal Service announced Tuesday that it is considering shutting down about 3,700 post offices around the country -- and 34 offices in New York City are on that list.

You can see the list here.

The Bronx tops the list of possible closures, with 17. Manhattan has six, Brooklyn and Queens both have five and Staten Island has one.

The 5 in Queens are: Arverne, Rockaway Beach, Holliswood, Astoria (Grand) and Rosedale.

That MetroCard will cost you!

From NBC:

All that yellow plastic you see scattered around the floor of your favorite subway station may look cheap and disposable.

But the MTA says it costs the agency $20 million a year to print and clean up those cards. So the MTA is now planning a $1 surcharge on MetroCards to help offset the cost.

The MTA insists regular riders will hang on to the cards they have, and refill them, instead of buying new cards and paying the fee.

That would lead to less waste, cleaner stations, and less overtime spent on the janitors who have to pick up the discarded cards.

3rd time's a charm?

From Bayside Patch:

Community Board 11 Chairman Jerry Iannece said he is considering a bid for David Weprin’s Albany seat should the assemblyman defeat Republican Bob Turner in this fall’s special election to replace former U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner.

Iannece, a Bayside Democrat who previously ran for City Council in 2001 and 2009, said he has been approached by Queens Democratic leaders about making a run for the assembly seat.

Have no fear, Sanitation's here!

From the Daily News:

The city is beefing up the ranks of its Sanitation Department by hiring 300 new sanitation workers over the next few months.

This is good news for Sanitation union officials, who have repeatedly complained about a dwindling workforce, as well as for candidates whose names have been sitting on a slow-moving civil service list.

It could also be a strong signal from the city - still smarting from last winter's botched snow cleanup - that it is anxious to head off any future problems.

That's great. When are we getting more cops?

Dog rescued in Jamaica Bay

From the NY Times:

New York City got a reprieve from the monstrous heat on Monday, but it was apparently still not cool enough for an 8-month German shepherd named Charlie.

The dog dove into Jamaica Bay off Manhattan Beach, Brooklyn, for a dip about 7:35 p.m. Monday, but strong current quickly carried him away, the police said.

Charlie was eventually picked up by the police, who were on the harbor doing a routine patrol by boat.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Rambling in Rosedale

Click photo for story

Koch endorses Turner for Congress

From Forest Hills Patch:

It’s an old trope that politics makes for strange bedfellows, and right now there are none stranger than former mayor Ed Koch, a Democrat, and Republican candidate for Congress Bob Turner.

Koch endorsed Turner in a press conference that could only be described as somewhat surreal Monday morning.

With both men standing behind a podium and smiling, Koch proceeded to tell a room full of reporters that his endorsement of Turner was designed to send a message to the Obama Administration with regard to its stance on Israel.

“I am here this morning to suggest that the contested race in the Ninth Congressional District be turned into a referendum allowing the voters of this district, the largest Jewish district in the country, to register a protest against the positions of President Obama and the Republican leadership,” Koch said in a written statement.

Koch then listed a litany of reasons why he disagreed with Republicans in Washington.

Markowitz travel was conflict of interest

From the NY Times:

When Brooklyn’s borough president, Marty Markowitz, took trips to Turkey and the Netherlands on official city business several years ago, he also accepted free travel expenses for his wife, Jamie Markowitz.

The city’s Conflicts of Interest Board deemed it an ethical violation and fined him $20,000, according to the findings released on Monday.

The travel covered two trips to Turkey, one in 2007 and another in 2009, and a trip to the Netherlands in 2009, which the board estimated were worth at least $11,000, though not substantially more in free travel expenses for Mrs. Markowitz. “By accepting travel expenses for his wife for each trip,” the board said in its findings, Mr. Markowitz “used his position as a public servant for private or personal advantage. Simply put, his wife was able to travel with him abroad — for free.”

This is the second ethics fine Mr. Markowitz has racked up this year. In February, the board docked him $2,000 for using his chief of staff as his lawyer at a 2009 real estate closing.

Whitestone eyesore in prime time

DOT killing small businesses in Ozone Park

From the Daily News:

A city plan to boost safety for pedestrians on a busy commercial street in Ozone Park is turning into a slow death sentence for nearby stores, merchants said.

The Department of Transportation made Liberty Ave. one-way eastbound between 93rd St. and Cross Bay Blvd. in November as part of a project to alleviate congestion.

The agency put bollards on Liberty Ave., forcing motorists to turn right onto Cross Bay Blvd. Now, the once-bustling block between 93rd St. and Cross Bay Blvd. is deserted, locals said.

"This is a dead block now," said Fabian Niaupari, owner of Terra Nova Bakery on Liberty Ave. "I had to let go of three employees a month after the change and things keep getting worse."

Niaupari, who bought the bakery four years ago, said drivers used to stop for breakfast and continue on to Rockaway Blvd. "Now they have to go around and drive four blocks to get there. Nobody wants to do that," he said.

Mukesh Patel, owner of Ram Stationary, a greeting card store, said his business is down 50% since the change.

"If the DOT wanted to make things better, they should have adjusted the traffic lights in the intersection," he said.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Abolish member items!

From the Daily News:

When city government puts contracts or grants out to bid, New Yorkers have every right to expect that all qualified applicants will have the same chance of winning an award.

That's how things work - except in the City Council.

There, Speaker Christine Quinn and her members only pretend that everyone who applies for so-called member item funding - for Little Leagues, senior centers and other local programs - has an equal shot at success.

In fact, as far as the Council is concerned, some New Yorkers are much more equal than others.

Those who live in districts represented by Quinn's allies bring home far more money than do members who have broken ranks with the speaker. And the needs of any particular community are irrelevant as the speaker divides a $50 million annual pie. has been said time and again, the solution is to abolish member items entirely.

Another Queens hospital to close

From Crains:

New York City is about to lose another financially troubled hospital. Sources say Peninsula Hospital Center, one of two hospitals serving Far Rockaway, Queens, is set to close 90 days after state officials confirm a closure plan for the 200-bed hospital. Some 1,000 workers would lose their jobs if the plan goes forward.

Spokesmen from the state Department of Health and MediSys were not immediately available for comment.

Hospitals in Brooklyn and Queens are among the most financially strained in the city, largely because they serve poorer communities and rely heavily on Medicaid for revenue.

Peninsula Hospital in Queens May Close:

Bloomberg's mediocre legacy

From the Village Voice:

After a charmed first decade in politics, Mayor Mike Bloomberg is mired in his first sustained losing streak.

His third term has been shaky, marked by the Snowpocalypse, the snowballing CityTime scandal, the backlash to Cathie Black and "government by cocktail party," and the rejection by Governor Andrew Cuomo of his plan to change how public-school teachers are hired and fired. With just a couple more years left in office, Bloomberg is starting to look every one of his 70 years.

Soon, he'll be just another billionaire.

The mayor's legacy is remarkably uncertain—largely because he's done his best to keep New Yorkers in the dark about what it is he's really set out to do in office.

In part, this is because the mayor has been far more effective at selling his Bloomberg brand than in getting things done. But it's also because what he has done—remaking and marketing New York as a "luxury city" and Manhattan as a big-business monoculture—he prefers to discuss with business groups rather than the voting public.

Withholding information while preaching transparency is a Bloomberg trademark. He aggressively keeps his private life private—meaning not just his weekends outside the city at "undisclosed" locations, but also his spending, his charitable giving, and his privately held business.

The column is 5 pages long and makes for some great poolside reading! Check this part out:

Middle-class incomes in New York have been stagnant for a decade, while prices have soared, with purchasing power dropping dramatically. Never mind Manhattan—Queens taken as its own city would be the fifth most expensive one in America. While unemployment in the city has dropped below 9 percent, through June the city had replaced only about half of the 146,000 jobs lost during the recession—and the new jobs have mostly been in low-paying retail, hospitality, and food services positions, according to the Drum Major Institute for Public Policy. Poorly paid health care and social-service jobs, often subsidized by the city, make up 17.4 percent of all private-sector jobs as of 2007, a nearly one-third increase since 1990. Only 3 percent of the private-sector jobs in New York are in relatively high-paying manufacturing positions as of 2007, a figure that's in the low double digits in Los Angeles, Chicago, and Houston. And the jobs expected to appear over the next decade are also clustered at the bottom of the pay scale.

Illegals who re-enter after deportation protected by state law

From the NY Times:

A dispute has erupted over the federal government’s decision to prosecute at least a half dozen illegal immigrants in New York whose status was discovered after a state agency mistakenly provided sealed arrest records to immigration authorities last year.

The state agency, the Division of Criminal Justice Services, later told the authorities that the sealed information was disclosed in error and should not be used “for any purpose,” court documents show.

But federal prosecutors in Manhattan, citing legal precedent, contend that New York’s law permitting the sealing of state cases does not bar the federal government from using such records in investigations. The immigrants, all of whom were previously deported after being convicted of crimes, would be deported again if convicted of illegally re-entering the United States, defense lawyers say.

The cases involved immigrants from Colombia, Mexico, Honduras, Jamaica, Belize and the Bahamas. Each was previously deported from the United States, as far back as the 1990s, after being convicted of crimes that involved, for example, drug or weapons offenses.

In the ensuing years, the men returned to the United States illegally, prosecutors said, and were arrested in New York, in some cases for minor transit violations. Those cases were apparently dropped or otherwise not pursued by the authorities, and under New York law, the records were sealed.

Why are these records sealed if they already were deported once before and illegally re-entered? This state is freaking insane!

Banks keeping foreclosures in poor condition

From the Daily News:

Some of the nation's biggest banks have let thousands of abandoned New York City homes seized in foreclosure fall into dangerous disrepair, the Daily News has found.

Since the housing market collapsed in 2008, banks have repossessed thousands of homes in neighborhoods across the five boroughs.

Records show the city has cited hundreds of these properties for dangerous conditions such as unstable walls, vermin infestation and illegal apartments.

In case after case, big banks - including Deutsche Bank, U.S. Bank and Fannie Mae, the quasi-governmental agency that buys mortgages - have ignored city inspectors, shrugged off hearings and declined to pay fines, records show.

Queens, where the foreclosure tidal wave has rolled through entire neighborhoods, has the most bank-owned houses: 1,157 with 969 open violations, the survey found.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Still hot out there!

Electric cars not popular

From the NY Post:

A year after Mayor Bloomberg introduced a program offering 100 free home charging stations to buyers of the superhigh-mileage vehicles, not a single one has been installed in a New York home.

Scott Miller, of Coulomb Technologies, which launched the program, said that demand has been high from public garages and parking lots but that private individuals have been put off by the lack of garage space or the cost of electrical work, which can run from $1,000 to $4,000.

The company, buoyed by $15 million in federal stimulus funding, is spending $37 million to put in 4,600 public and home charging stations in select cities across the country.

Bye, bye Borders!

From the Times Ledger:

One of the keystone businesses at The Shops at Atlas Park has filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy.

Borders, which occupies a prominent space at the shops, at 80-00 Cooper Ave., announced Monday it will begin the process of liquidation.

The collapse of the book-selling giant will eliminate roughly 11,000 jobs at roughly 400 stores and will be the final chapter for the store in Queens, even though the Atlas Park site avoided a similar fate earlier this year.

In February, Borders filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and closed 200 stores around the country, but The Shops at Atlas Park was spared.

Sears won't retire gracefully

From the Queens Courier:

Former 25th District Councilmember Helen Sears was recently appointed Deputy City Clerk and will likely oversee a massive influx of same-sex marriages on July 24, the day the governor-approved bill goes into effect.

“This was a no brainer,” said City Clerk Michael McSweeny. “She’s very qualified for the position and has decades of service for the people of Queens.”

She began her political career when she was elected to serve as the Queens County Budget Negotiator, and later in the City Council in 2001 where she served two terms. Her new office will be in Borough Hall in Kew Gardens.

According to their website, City Clerk is one of the oldest offices in New York City government" fitting since Helen Sears is one of the oldest people in New York City government. 82-year old Sears was defeated by Daniel Dromm in 2009. Seems like the Queens Machine is making Borough Hall a retirement home for "Senior Tweeders".

Another double-dipper?

Quinn is real estate industry's pick for mayor

From the Capital:

Certainly Quinn sounds a lot better to the real-estate world than some of the other would-be successors to Michael Bloomberg, like, say, Comptroller John Liu and Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, co-sponsors of a retail rent control bill that’s anathema in the real-estate community.

One real-estate professional who was at the event, voicing an opinion that is not atypical in the industry, said Liu is "nothing more than a union puppet," and that de Blasio was "not as bad as Liu, but he comes from the same place."

The funny thing is that Quinn, whom the real-estate industry has gravitated toward since the last mayoral election, comes from that same place, too.

She started out in what was the far left of New York City politics, working as a housing activist, and then as the chief of staff for the country’s first openly HIV-positive elected official. She went on to lead an organization that advocates for victims of anti-gay violence. Occasionally, she got sent to jail for civil disobedience.

All that is ancient history now. The business community seems to have appraised Quinn, and the rest of the likely 2013 field, and to have come to a collective decision that she is the least of many evils.

No good deed goes unpunished

From the NY Times:

Some months ago, [Mr. Narine] identified his first big cause: to help unify the young members of the Indian and Indo-Caribbean diaspora in southern Queens and develop a political voice for the population. He created a plan to hold a series of events at which young Sikhs and Hindus, the two dominant religions, could “get to know each other, network.”

For the inaugural event, he decided to screen “Sita Sings the Blues,” a 2008 animated feature film that tells a story derived from Ramayana, an ancient Sanskrit epic. The film has provoked outrage among some Hindus who believe its portrayal of the Ramayana and Hinduism is offensive. But Mr. Narine, who considers himself a devout Hindu, did not think much of this. He just liked the film.

Then on Sunday, Mr. Narine began receiving e-mails and phone calls from angry Hindus criticizing his choice of film. Dozens became scores; scores became hundreds. They were coming from across the country and around the world. By Wednesday, Mr. Narine had heard from more than a thousand opponents. Most were unkind, some were even threatening. Words unprintable on this Web site were abundant.

Mr. Narine has accepted the blame for inadvertently inviting the protest: He sent the invitations to people he had thought were community leaders and allies. They had forwarded the e-mails to the Hindu groups that waged the campaign against him.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Yeah, it's hot outside!

City lied to community to get rezoning passed

From the Brooklyn Paper:

Williamsburg’s largest waterfront park has stalled — perhaps permanently — because the city doesn’t have the cash to buy the land.

City officials dropped a bombshell on community leaders last Thursday, revealing that they had no money and no timetable to buy several private properties off Kent Avenue and N. 11th Street surrounding the 28-acre Bushwick Inlet site.

Infuriated community leaders accused Mayor Bloomberg of revoking the city’s long-standing agreement to build parks at the edge of the East River in exchange for rezoning most of the waterfront for luxury high-rises in 2005.

Nastier mosquitos around now

From the Wall Street Journal:

The Asian tiger mosquito, named for its distinctive black-and-white striped body, is a relatively new species to the U.S. that is more vicious, harder to kill and, unlike most native mosquitoes, bites during the daytime. It also prefers large cities over rural or marshy areas—thus earning the nickname among entomologists as "the urban mosquito."

"Part of the reason it is called 'tiger' is also because it is very aggressive," says Dina Fonseca, an associate professor of entomology at Rutgers University. "You can try and swat it all you want, but once it's on you, it doesn't let go. Even if it goes away, it will be back for a bite."

Dr. Fonseca is leading a U.S. Department of Agriculture effort to develop a cost-effective method to control the Asian tiger mosquito (Aedes albopictus) population. The university is currently focusing on using larvacides, which render larvae incapable of growing into adults.

Since urban areas tend to be warmer—often by 5 to 10 degrees—than rural areas, cities are seeing tiger mosquitoes earlier and sticking around longer, often into October.

Merchants want parking restrictions eased along Queens Blvd

From the Daily News:

Sunnyside merchants are urging the city to change parking rules on Queens Blvd. so that it becomes a shopping destination instead of a thoroughfare for out-of-borough drivers.

Officials and business owners are asking the city to eliminate the current no-parking rule between 7 a.m. and 10 a.m.

They also want the municipal parking lots under the 7-train tracks to be reduced from 12-hour spots to four-hour spots to discourage commuters from hogging spaces.

The current no-parking rules are in place to facilitate rush-hour traffic, an agency spokeswoman said.

But the restriction kills morning business, merchants said, especially from 39th to 49th Sts. where they are proposing the changes.

Illegal Chinese moonshine being sold in Flushing

From the NY Times:

In the city’s Chinese enclaves, there is a booming black market for homemade rice wine, representing one of the more curious outbreaks of bootlegging in the city since Prohibition. The growth reflects a stark change in the longstanding pattern of immigration from China.

In recent years, as immigration from the coastal province of Fujian has surged, the Fujianese population has come to dominate the Chinatowns of Lower Manhattan and Sunset Park, Brooklyn, and has increased rapidly in other Chinese enclaves like the one in Flushing, Queens.

These newcomers have brought with them a robust tradition of making — and hawking — homemade rice wine. In these Fujianese neighborhoods, right under the noses of the authorities, restaurateurs brew rice wine in their kitchens and sell it proudly to customers. Vendors openly sell it on street corners, and quart-size containers of it are stacked in plain view in grocery store refrigerators, alongside other delicacies like jellyfish and duck eggs.

The sale of homemade rice wine — which is typically between 10 and 18 percent alcohol, about the same as wine from grapes — violates a host of local, state and federal laws that govern the commercial production and sale of alcohol, but the authorities have apparently not cracked down on it.

Whitestone Farms eyesore gets worse

Some time ago we sent a second set of photos to this blog about the old Whitestone Farms property on the corner of 154th street and 11th avenue. Since that time Councilman Halloran was able to get the front gate painted in effect removing the graffiti. His office was also able to pressure the landlord to board up the building with plywood in order to prevent the drug users that had taken up residence within the property.

Unfortunately the landlord is still not taking care of his property. The brown gate is once again covered in graffiti, the plywood used to board up the broken glass is also graffitied, the garbage strewn across the entire parking lot, the awning in front is ripped and falling apart, and the top half of the building along the 11th avenue side is filled with graffiti.

To top it off, the sidewalk in front of the property is crumbling and a hazard to walk on. Especially for the Children that go to the park directly behind the site, as well as the children that attend PS 193. You can also see broken glass and rusted metallic signs against the chain link fence (arms length) that separates the Basketball Court from the property.

There is a sign on the front of the buildings Chain Link Fence advertising it for Lease, there is a phone number on it, I urge all Whitestone Residents to call that number and demand they clean the site up!

We also ask that all Elected Officials, and Civic Leaders, do whatever is in their power to have this EYESORE cleaned up.

Alfredo Centola
Malba Gardens Civic Association

Friday, July 22, 2011

Bloomberg raising money on backs of small businesses

From the NY Post:

New York City is unleashing its latest financial hell on cash-strapped business owners, desperately stepping up fines and announcing a flurry of new fees to raise funds.

In order not to hike taxes with its latest budget, the Bloomberg administration budget office is projected to raise almost $900 million in fees and fines, with most of that coming from recession-weary city businesses struggling to bounce back from three years of pain.

Congestion pricing, round 3

From City Hall:

With Gov. Andrew Cuomo refusing to show his hand on how to pay the MTA’s long-term costs, transit advocates hope he may one day come around to supporting a revised version of a controversial idea – congestion pricing.

Planners have been quietly working on a new version of the idea since last year, believing it has an inevitable place in the future of New York City’s regional transportation policy even though it has never won political support in Albany.

It comes as a coalition of transportation policy analysts mark the 100th anniversary today of the removal of tolls from Manhattan’s four East River bridges, which they say would otherwise have generated an extra $31 billion by now.

Not everyone thinks this is a great idea.

Free land and money for tech campus

From the NY Times:

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg raised his offer on Tuesday to universities interested in setting up a school of engineering and applied sciences in New York City: along with practically free use of a swath of land, the city will contribute as much as $100 million.

Mr. Bloomberg publicly presented an invitation to universities to bid on the chance to create a campus, either on one of three city-owned properties or elsewhere in the city. Issuing the request for proposals is the latest step officials have taken to try to make New York more competitive with Silicon Valley as a hub for technology-based businesses.

City officials say the school could prompt as much as $6 billion in economic activity by creating 30,000 temporary and permanent jobs and, more important, by fostering innovations that could become big businesses. They argue that the city’s financial contribution, which would come from its capital budget over several years, would pay off in increased tax revenue and economic growth.

Crowleys raked in conflict-of-interest $$$

From City Hall:

The Queens court system is getting crowded with Crowleys—so crowded that the borough’s top political dynasty is breaking rules meant to prevent nepotism.

In early 2010, Margaret Crowley, sister of Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley and cousin of Queens Democratic Leader and Congressman Joe Crowley, landed a $100,000-a-year job as the principal law clerk to Queens Supreme Court Judge Darrell L. Gavrin.

Since then, records show Margaret Crowley’s sisters, Bernadette and Theresa, and their law firms have seen a spike in the number of cases they have been appointed to by Queens judges.

Those appointments violate rules that bar siblings of high-level court employees from winning case appointments in the same judicial district where that sibling works. Those rules were imposed nine years ago to prevent the rampant nepotism previously found in the state’s court system, especially in Queens.

After an inquiry by City Hall, a spokesman for the New York Unified Court System, David Bookstaver, said the Crowley sisters had improperly failed to remove themselves from a list of attorneys eligible for case appointments, and have now agreed not to receive cash for any future appointments.

“The sisters were on the eligible list prior to their sister [Margaret] becoming law clerk,” Bookstaver said. “They should have removed themselves from the eligible list at that time.”

Photo of Bernadette Crowley & husband from Bayside Patch

Greetings from Staten Island

Greetings from Staten Island, and Happy Friday! I've been following you for quite a while, because the similarities between Queens and Staten Island are striking - uncontrolled development, questionable politicos, conflicts between commericial and residential interests, traffic...

We are a neighborhood at the foot of the Bayonne Bridge (home of Manhattan project tailings and M31 abutting R zones...) and are part of an Environmental Justice district recently designated by the EPA. We are very concerned about the Mayors waterfront plan, which will create wonderful waterfront playgrounds throughout the city - except in Queens and Staten Island.

Can you direct us to other civics or similar organizations facing the same issues?

Thank you.

Victoria M. Gillen
Elm Park Civic
Staten Island

Thursday, July 21, 2011

You'll just have to hold it, kids!

City's long-term housing plan a bust?

From the Gotham Gazette:

Looking at the city's long-term housing plan, you would never know there had been a bubble or that we cannot simply build our way out of any crisis. The PlaNYC2030 four-year update, released on Earth Day this year, is all about building hope and enabling new apartment construction. With its penchant for numerical targets, the plan focuses on how many homes the city plans to create and preserve by stimulating growth through zoning changes.

One of the plan's goals is to have completed 165,000 affordable units by 2014. Almost two thirds of these will be renovations of existing units, and only one third will be the result of new construction. All accounts suggest that numerical goal will be met, though it's not clear what is expected to happen after that – almost certainly under the next mayor, who may very well ignore this administration’s plan altogether.

As commendable as the accomplishments may be, meeting the 2014 target will not solve the city's more deep-rooted affordable housing problems. The city’s housing plan is all about increasing supply, mostly by encouraging market-rate development, yet the real crisis has been the loss of existing affordable units. If the past is prelude to the future then the city may end up losing more affordable housing than it is able to create. The mayor has on many occasions claimed that attracting more people with higher incomes is a sign of a successful city, yet more upscale housing is likely to increase rents and house values in existing affordable neighborhoods.

Fire kills squatter in open and unguarded home

From NBC:

Fire marshals are investigating the cause of an overnight fire in the Bronx that has killed one person.

The fire broke out shortly before 2 a.m. in a three-story brownstone at 1991 Morris Avenue in the Mount Hope section of the Bronx. Over 25 fire units were called in to battle the two-alarm fire.

Other reports say the victim was a squatter. That's because the building was left open and unguarded. If DOB had responded to a complaint from July 4, this tragedy may have been averted. But it seems that DOB prefers to wait until a tragedy happens before it takes action.