Monday, October 31, 2011

Halloween caption contest

Thank you for going with jeans instead of tights and a codpiece, Council Member Vallone.

From azipaybarah on Flickr

Mocker visits Bayside Hills

Worker dies in Bronx building collapse

From the NY Times:

A construction worker was killed after a building he was working in collapsed and buried him under six feet of rubble in the Bronx on Saturday afternoon, the police said.

Muhamed Kebbeh, 51, of Story Avenue in the Bronx, died at Jacobi Medical Center shortly after the accident. About a dozen pillars in the basement of a two-story commercial building had given way, causing the structure to collapse. Two other construction workers escaped unharmed, a spokesman for the New York Police Department said.

Firefighters dug Mr. Kebbeh out from under the rubble with their bare hands about 10 minutes after the collapse, said Jim Donlevy, a F.D.N.Y. deputy chief from Division 6. Around 50 firefighters responded to the scene, he said.

Photo from the Daily News

Halloran rants at car dealership

From the Daily News:

A hot-headed City Councilman let loose a curse-filled tirade at a local car dealer last week that left stunned employees demanding an apology.

"I couldn't believe this was a politician acting like that," said Elliott Rothman, the service manager of the Star Nissan repair shop on 172nd St. in Flushing.

"He had anger in his eyes. He was standing a foot in front of me, pointing at me.... I've run multiple dealerships and nobody has ever spoken to me the way I was spoken to by him."

Rothman received the brunt of two recent rants from Councilman Daniel Halloran, who says he's fed up with noise from the repair shop that disturbs nearby residents.

A video of Halloran's visit to the shop last week shows the Queens Republican angrily threatening the shop with recriminations if it doesn't keep its doors closed to control the noise.

"I'll park every f---ing city agency down here for the rest of f---ing two years," Halloran is heard to say on the video, an apparent reference to the two years left in his term.

"I'm not f---king joking. Either these doors stay closed, top to bottom, all the f---ing time or we're gonna have a problem! This is the last time we have this conversation!"

Halloran says his outburst was justified because of the dealership's long history of conflict with neighbors - including his chief of staff, who lives a block away.

Oh, so that's why it's a big deal.

Beware of 'Young Guns'

From the NY Post:

In Harlem, The Bronx and Brooklyn, small, independent gangs are popping up with increasing frequency -- arming themselves to protect their turf, which sometimes amounts to a single block or housing unit, and lashing out at the slightest insult or challenge.

Though they make money by mugging people or dealing pot or cocaine, their motives are more territorial than financial.

“It’s consistent around the city: young guys doing their own thing, mostly around the projects,” said Lou Savelli, a crime consultant who founded the NYPD’s Gang Unit. “A lot of them are friends who grew up together. They think up a name, and that’s their gang. It’s like the old days of the 1950s, when you had guys who defended their street corner.”

But there’s a big difference. This new generation, often referred to collectively as “Young Guns,” has turned away from traditional gangs like the Bloods, Crips and Latin Kings and is more rash, violent and dangerous than their older counterparts.

The crews, with odd names like Very Cripsy Gangsters in East New York, Wave Gang in Brownsville and From the Zoo in Harlem, aren’t guided by any of the codes or hierarchy of established gangs -- a deeply troubling development, cops say.

Cuomo to pick judges for cushy appointments

From the NY Post:

Gov. Cuomo is set to fill up to three vacancies in the Appellate Division court in Manhattan, where the caseload is already light and the 17 current justices don’t have enough to do, courthouse observers told The Post.

“I don’t think there’s enough work to take care of the people who are here,” a source said of the court. “I think they could manage with fewer judges and the work would be accomplished just as well.”

The appeals-court job is considered a plum assignment and viewed largely as a patronage appointment. The job comes with a raise in annual salary to $144,000 from $136 ,700.

Appellate cases are heard by five-judge panels, and each judge sits on the bench just once a week.

The Governor’s Office would only say that the selection process was ongoing.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Not a bright guy

From NBC:

Police investigating the theft of a laptop from a Queens apartment building say a person of interest helpfully sent along his own picture to investigators through anti-theft software installed on the computer.

The burglary happened sometime during the day last Tuesday, Oct. 18, in Elmhurst, according to police. The intruder forced open the side door of a two-family home in the area of 83rd Street, and took assorted jewelry along with the laptop from the second-floor apartment.

Someone turned on the laptop last Thursday, and his photo was captured by an anti-theft program called Prey Control Panel.

It wasn't clear if the person pictured was the actual burglar, but police were looking to speak to him. Anyone with information is asked to contact NYPD Crime Stoppers at 800-577-TIPS or at

Aqueduct opening was mobbed

From the Daily News:

The Aqueduct racino opened Friday to a capacity crowd - and grumbling from would-be gamblers who had to wait hours to get inside.

The operators said 15,000 were inside by late afternoon and with 5,000 on line outside, they were suggesting that people postpone their first visit to the new Queens hot spot.

"I'm very disappointed," said Dolores Daniels, 65, a retired clerical worker from Rockaway Beach who decided to leave.

"They want us to stand in the cold for three hours? I couldn't even get in to use the bathroom."

Those who did get in, charging through the doors at 1 p.m. after a ribbon-cutting, made for the 2,280 slot machines.

CB13 votes down Creedmoor variance

From the Queens Chronicle:

At its Monday meeting Community Board 13 voted against a plan by a nonprofit group to construct two large apartment towers on the campus of the Creedmoor Psychiatric Center, stating that the project was out of character with the neighborhood and was not what the organization originally told residents it had intended to build.

CB 13 denied the group’s application for a variance by a vote of 22-1 with 16 absent. First Vice Chairwoman Tanya Cruz abstained from the vote and board member V. M. Chacko was the only one in favor.

In 2008, the Indian Cultural and Community Center purchased two parcels of land at Creedmoor, which is located at 79-25 Winchester Blvd. in Queens Village, near the Bellerose border. The approximately 4.5 acres are adjacent to the homes on the west side of 242nd Street, from Union Turnpike to 82nd Avenue.

The ICCC told community leaders the land would be used to build a community center, a multi-use athletic field and an above-ground parking lot, but the plan was changed to include two nine-story apartment buildings that would contain 126 units of affordable housing for seniors.

The project is not in compliance with the master plan created for the campus by former Borough President Claire Shulman, and the towers would be located 30 feet from its low-rise neighbors with no buffer for privacy or noise, according to Richard Hellenbrecht, the chairman of CB 13’s Land Use Committee. The apartment buildings would also completely obstruct the sunlight and vistas of neighboring homes, and could set a precedent for other similar high-density projects.

Woman killed in illegal apartment

From the Forum:

A Queens woman is clinging to life dead after being accidentally shot in the head by a friend allegedly toying with a handgun while visiting his Maspeth Woodside apartment on Monday night.

So far, police have arrested Elijah Stamateris, 22, in connection with the shooting.

Delilah Cordoba, 21, was sitting on a living room couch with Stamateris and two other friends at his basement apartment at 50-43 64th Street between 8:30 p.m. and 9:15 p.m. when the incident occured, according to the Queens District Attorney’s office.

Various media outlets reported that the group was allegedly smoking marijuana as Stamateris was handling a 9-mm handgun when the gun suddenly discharged, firing a round into Cordoba’s head. Neither the 108th Precinct—which responded to and investigated the incident— nor the Queens District Attorney’s office would confirm on Wednesday whether marijuana was involved in the shooting or who the gun belonged to.

The owner of the apartment, who declined to give his name, told The Forum on Wednesday that Stamateris had moved into the apartment on October 10—just 14 days before the shooting. When asked about whether the basement apartment where Stamateris lives in was legal, the owner hung up.

According to the city Department of Buildings website, the 64th Street apartment, currently owned by Monu Talukder, has had five complaints issued against it dating back to 1995—two of them involving the basement of the apartment where Stamateris was living.

In the most recent two complaints, dated August 12, Community Board 2 complained to the Building Department that a car service was illegally being operated out of the basement of the apartment; another complaint alleged an illegal conversion of the two- family home into a three-family home. Both complaints have not been resolved yet.

Illegal dumping in Ozone Park

From the Forum:

Residents in Ozone Park say they understand the plight of nearby neighbors in Howard Beach who have in recent weeks been plagued with illegal dumping near their homes.

Homeowners around William A. Clarke Place, also known as 103rd Street between Centreville Street and Plattwood Avenue, say dumpers are constantly dropping bagged gar- bage and large items such as mattresses, televisions and pieces of old furniture in the heart of the residential area.

Long-time resident Carolyn Lehmann says that frustration is mounting because the dump- ers come into the neighborhood in the middle of the night when everyone is sleeping and leave a mess in their wake. Lehmann says that the Sanitation Department eventually comes to pick everything up, but she, along with other neighbors, say their problems won’t end until someone starts issuing fines and cracking down with stricter enforcement.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Hemmerdingers selling the rest of Atlas property

From the Queens Tribune:

The former owners of the Shops at Atlas Park in Glendale have put the majority of their surrounding property on the market, approximately 375,000 square feet of space covering 11.3 acres.

The announcement came this week from the family-owned property developer, ATCO. The site, commonly known as Atlas Terminals, was developed as a railroad terminal for warehouse and industrial uses in the 1920s. From this one property, ATCO has been able to develop interests in a slew of Manhattan properties as well as in locations across the eastern United States and Europe.

The site is more than twice the size of the 5.5-acre Municipal Lot 1 in Flushing slated for the development of Flushing Commons, the $850 million project expected to have 275,000 square feet of retail, a hotel, residential towers and plenty of open space. Development of that kind at the site is not considered likely given the isolation of Atlas Terminals. The nearest highway entrance is the Jackie Robinson Parkway on Myrtle Avenue, and the nearest large thoroughfare is Woodhaven Boulevard, several blocks away.

Hemmerdinger could not say what sort of development could be expected from potential buyers, but the site's M1-1 zoning permits manufacturing, office, self-storage, and a variety of retail uses.

City to pay for retaining walls

From the Times Ledger:

Homeowners received a letter two years ago informing them of the city Department of Environmental Protection’s interceptor project, which will lay a large sewer line behind their properties from 11th Avenue to the nearby Tallman Island Wastewater Treatment Plant on Powell’s Cove.

The retaining wall behind Tony Stinga’s house, which was built before he purchased the home, extends beyond his property line by about 20 feet. He said he was staring at a $50,000 bill when he was informed that he would be responsible for replacing it.

Faced with the possibility of foreclosure, Stinga gathered his neighbors and they contacted state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside), who set up a meeting with DEP and the city Parks Department.

“Many of these homeowners were being put in situations where they needed to take immediate action at costs that would have forced them into foreclosure,” Avella said. “From the start it was clear that the city should assume the cost of removing these structures and reinstalling them at the new property line.”

The DEP agreed to assume the costs of taking down and replacing Stinga’s and another neighbor’s retaining walls because the structures were installed before they purchased their homes.

Overdevelopment leads to overcrowded schools

From the Queens Chronicle:

Parents expecting a vote Tuesday night on a plan to redistrict PS 49 in Middle Village got a one-month reprieve at the Community Education Council 24 meeting.

And some parents intend to use that month to find some way — any way — to keep their school’s boundaries as they are.

City education officials contend that PS 49 already is at 132 percent of its designed capacity, with 1,060 students in a school designed for 802.

Parents acknowledged that PS 49 is overcrowded, but said PS 58 and PS 87 also are at 98 and 99 percent capacity, respectively.

“I’m not sure of the Department of Education’s numbers,” said Alevina Tripoli, principal of PS 58, whose rolls would increase by only 11 under city figures.

“We already are at capacity,” she said. “If you increase my district by only 12 blocks, with 10 houses on each block, that adds up to 120 houses.”

Added to that, she said are the recent replacement of 15 single-family houses with multifamily dwellings. She also said parochial schools have closed in surrounding districts.

“I have three of those schools, with an average of 210 students per school,” she said. “Just because those schools haven’t closed, it doesn’t mean they won’t.”

Several parents, including Linda Schirling, said the city must help the district clamp down on students who live outside the feeder district, but who gain admission with false documentation.

Liu employee keeps interesting company

From the Capital:

When former Brooklyn Democratic county leader Clarence Norman turned 60 years old last month, a top aide in city comptroller John Liu's office sent out Facebook invitations to a party to mark the occasion.

The Facebook messages were forwarded to me by a reader.

Norman was convicted of extortion, grand larceny and other charges back in 2006, forcing him from the Assembly office he held and, more importantly, from his powerful post as head of the party in Kings County.

The person who sent the invitations is Carmen Martinez, who is a "director" in the comptroller's office. Cell phone and email messages left for Martinez were not immediately returned.

A spokesman for the comptroller's office, Matthew Sweeney, said, "It’s not the business of this office to comment on what an employee does in his or her personal time as long as the City’s rules and procedures governing employment were not broken."

There are in fact no rules against current public employees in good standing associating with former public employees in poor standing. But the visuals aren't great.

Abrams to audit Liu

From the Village Voice:

For such a normally loquacious man, City Comptroller John Liu was comparatively mum in today's press release announcing he has ordered a "comprehensive independent review" of his campaign fundraising.

Liu, known for flooding the email boxes of City Hall reporters, offered just 9 words about the undertaking. "I look forward to a thorough and prompt review," he said.

The 60-day review will be conducted by Robert Abrams, a former state Attorney General now lawyer at the white shoe firm, Stroock, Stroock and Lavan. Abrams, notably, once called a political rival a "fascist," and also has a building named after him in Albany.

Liu took on Mayor Bloomberg over the CityTime debacle in which payroll software contract ballooned from $68 million to more than $700 million, and resulted in a dozen arrests and a series of firings.

But those chickens came home to roost when the New York Times reported irregularities in his campaign books.

Friday, October 28, 2011

City sees no problem with eyesore

Douglaston lot cleaned up

From NY1:

When NY1 first reported on the problem two months ago, the news station had the Department of Building's Padlocks Unit actively investigate if the space was a public nuisance.

According to DOB officials, such storage of construction equipment was not permitted under the area's zoning.

Now, to the delight of residents, the vacant lot is the way it should be -- empty.

Call for end to Little Neck flooding

From the Queens Gazette:

State Senator Tony Avella joined residents who live along 57th Avenue in Little Neck in calling on the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) for the immediate installation of curb openings and additional catch basins to alleviate the massive flooding conditions that plague their neighborhood even after the most marginal rain.

Residents have been complaining to DEP for years that the current catch basins clog far too easily, leading to the flooding of basements and garages of at least six houses on the block.

Flooding of this area is recurrent and dates back to 1987 when the city installed sewers and catch basins on 57th Avenue after the settlement of a suit brought by the homeowners.

At that time, a private engineer retained by the homeowners, advised the city that their plans failed to provide adequate catch basins and the basins should be of a hook and hanger type.

The city ignored the engineers’ recommendations.

Marty knows how to milk 'em

From the NY Times:

New York City has adopted some of the strictest rules in the nation to curb the influence of money in politics. Donors with business before it are all but barred from contributing to officials in the city’s campaign finance system.

Yet in recent years, Mr. Markowitz has found another way to tap into those donors. He has established a network of four charities that has reaped at least $20 million since 2003, and probably more, according to interviews and an analysis of city records.

That amount — remarkable for any local politician, let alone one who does not hold citywide office — is a testament to Mr. Markowitz’s stature as a Brooklyn power broker and to his intense focus on building these nonprofit groups. They have in turn played an important role in burnishing his public profile.

The donors to the nonprofit groups range from huge corporations like Wal-Mart and TD Bank to local entrepreneurs, but they usually have one thing in common: They have a stake in city legislation, real estate projects, zoning disputes and other Brooklyn issues.

Mr. Markowitz has often personally cajoled wealthy executives to give tens of thousands of dollars at a time to his nonprofit groups. Some recalled that he was relentless, seemingly unable to take no for an answer.

His nonprofit network is so intertwined with his office that anyone who wants to hold events in Brooklyn Borough Hall, a stately Greek Revival building on Joralemon Street, pays a fee to one of the charities, Best of Brooklyn, not to the city. Those fees in recent years have totaled nearly $200,000, records show.

Congratulations, LIC!

From the Wall Street Journal:

...East Coast is an exercise in taking a neighborhood with very little residential identity or context to build from and building it into an area so grand in scale, so modern and sterile in feel, and so unlike anything that could be said be evocative of New York City, that it is still fumbling to find an identity.

The builders built tall, statement-making buildings on small footprints, surrounded by as much green space as possible, giving the whole community a classic Corbusian feel of towers in parks surrounded by highways (the Queens-Midtown tunnel roars open onto I-495.

The statement is one of underdog, pioneer indignation: There was nothing here, no roadmap to follow and little in the way of traditional context to respect, so we've built towers that are just as sleek as the latest glazed-over, thumbshaped behemoths in the city.

Hear that LIC? Your neighborhood didn't exist before the towers were built. And even though the developers allegedly had a blank canvas, they ended up building uninspired crap on land given away to them for nothing.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Ratner project dies silent death

This unannounced change of plans comes courtesy of the Mayor's Office of Environmental Coordination...

See previously:

A foolish proposition
Mike replacing marsh with mall
Green mayor plans to develop mall on nature preserve

Glory, glory, hallelujah!!!

Peninsula Hospital lays off employees

From the Daily News:

A troubled Far Rockaway hospital will be taking a scalpel to its staff roster amid ongoing restructuring plans, the Daily News has learned.

Peninsula Hospital sent out layoff notification letters to more than 50 employees on Monday as its new owner tries to stabilize its finances, several union delegates told The News.

Peninsula is currently going through Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings under the stewardship of Revival Home Health Care. Revival had taken over Peninsula from MediSys Health Network in September, after the hospital was struggling with more than $60 million in debt.

He shoulda been a contender

From the Daily News:

Sal Napolitano has built a reputation over the past four decades as the city's carousel man, helping fix and operate its priceless, historic merry-go-rounds.

But Napolitano's expertise wasn't enough to convince the Parks Department he could operate two carousels in Queens - even though he may have been the only bidder for a contract.

Earlier this month, agency officials rejected his bid to reopen the shuttered Forest Park Carousel and continue running the Flushing Meadows-Corona Park Carousel.

There is no one lined up to reopen the Forest Park Carousel or take the reins of the more lucrative Flushing Meadows-Corona Park Carousel next year.

Parks officials declined to comment on their decision. Officials previously told the Daily News that the agency received "no viable proposals." A new Request for Proposals to operate both carousels is being prepared.

Conflict of interest in Crowley court case

From City Hall:

On its face, Rose McGushin’s case seems unremarkable. A 49-year-old woman who lives on a $13,000-a-year disability check in California, McGushin is wrangling with a Queens attorney over a disputed legal fee she says will cripple her financially. The attorney who is suing her, John “Sean” Crowley, recently filed litigation seeking $10,000 for work he performed on McGushin’s mother’s will nearly a decade ago.

Crowley is the brother of Queens Congressman Joe Crowley. And what makes the case unusual is that the judge who will hear the dispute on Thursday at 10 a.m., Queens Surrogate Court Judge Peter Kelly, essentially owes his position to the political support of Joe Crowley — who doubles as the Queens Democratic Party chairman.

Last year, Kelly ran unopposed for a 14-year term on the bench after getting the Democratic nomination from Crowley’s Queens Democratic Party.

McGushin recently penned a handwritten letter to Kelly asking for the case to be moved out of the Queens court system, due to what she says is a clear-cut conflict-of-interest.

“I feel I many not receive a fair trial with you, Judge Kelley [sic], presiding over my case,” she wrote, “where the petitioner is John E. Crowley, brother of Joe Crowley who is the Queens Democratic chairman – head of the party that nominated you prior to your recent election.”

She received a terse response back from Kelly’s law clerk, Francis Kahn, telling her that under court rules, letters about a potential conflict of interest were not admissible. Kahn instructed McGushin, who has serious arthritis, that she would have to fly out from California to represent herself, or find an attorney to represent her.

A spokesman for the court system, David Bookstaver, said Judge Kelly ultimately has the sole power to decide whether conflict of interest exists and whether he must recuse himself.

McGushin has also taken her concern about a conflict of interest to the New York Unified Court System’s Deputy Chief Administrative Judge Fern Fischer. In a letter, McGushen told Fischer she was having trouble finding an attorney to represent her because “lawyers that I spoke to were very reluctant when they heard that a Crowley was suing me.” She says she never received a response.

And here's a followup from City Hall:

The judge in the case, Peter Kelly, is the brother of Queens Democratic leader Joe Crowley’s longtime chief of staff, Anne Marie Anzalone.

3 strikes and Scarano's out

From Crains:

A court decision on Tuesday ended controversial Brooklyn-based architect Robert Scarano Jr.'s final attempt to lift a ban barring him from filing documents—including permit applications and construction plans—with the city's Department of Buildings.

The New York State Court of Appeals ruled against Mr. Scarano's motion to appeal the decision that had barred him and in doing so reaffirmed earlier rulings. The court's decision is seen as a victory for the Buildings Department, which has been battling Mr. Scarano over his practices since 2006.

Mr. Scarano could not be reached immediately for comment.

“Today's decision sends a clear message that there are serious consequences for those who flout the law to make a profit. In his attempts to circumvent the City's Building Code and Zoning Resolution, Mr. Scarano showed a disregard for the laws that ensure safety and quality of life for all New Yorkers," said Buildings Department Commissioner Robert LiMandri in a statement. "Since 2008, 26 licensed professionals have lost their filing privileges with the Department.”

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Maspeth backyard becomes crap

Here's the before shot. Lots of trees.

Then the site was subdivided and now a 3-story, 2-family (wink) house is being squeezed between 2 existing homes.

Thank you so much, A&A!

MTA removing garbage cans in subway stations

From AM-NY:

It seems ironic: to cut down on trash on subway platforms, the MTA is considering trashing garbage cans.

The cash-strapped agency may remove all the cans from some platforms if everything goes well with a test-run underway at two stations. The MTA is banking on riders to take their trash with them, or simply bring less of it.

If the pilot program — which began two weeks ago at the 8th Street N/R station and Flushing/Main Street No. 7 station — is successful over the next two months, it could roll out to other stations.

One Queens perv caught, another on the loose

From CBS New York:

A suspect is being sought in connection with yet another sex crime in Queens.

Police said that last Thursday a suspect approached 22-year-old woman at the Seneca Avenue M Line subway station and grabbed her breast and private area. The suspect then fled the station for the street, authorities said.

The suspect is said to be a Hispanic man, between 25-30 years old and approximately 5-foot-5. He was last seen wearing a hooded ECKO sweatshirt and blue jeans.

From the NY Times:

A 15-year-old Queens youth has been arrested on charges that he tried to rape two women this month, part of what the authorities say is a pattern of five attacks in the borough’s southeastern section that began in late September.

The youth, whose name was not released, is said by prosecutors to have attacked a 40-year-old woman on Oct. 9 and a 24-year-old woman on Oct. 16, both in Laurelton. In the two cases, prosecutors said, the youth punched the women and tore at their clothes, leaving them bruised and bleeding. He is charged with assault, two counts of attempted rape, one count of attempted sex abuse and one count of sex abuse.

The police said the suspect was arrested Sunday and charged Monday after being identified by victims in two lineups.

Because he is a juvenile, the suspect would face up to eight years in prison if convicted, according to the Queens district attorney’s office. A police spokesman declined Monday evening to say how the youth was caught.