Saturday, March 31, 2012

Chronicle keeping tabs on the Trib

From the Queens Chronicle:

...we have to again take the Tribune to task for favoritism in its coverage of a race for public office, favoritism that likely has both politics and money behind it. Coincidentally, it’s again a race that involves Halloran, the winner of that 2009 contest and now a candidate for the Congressional seat that Rep. Gary Ackerman is giving up at the end of the year.

But this time it’s not Halloran the Tribune is showing bias against — at least not yet. Instead it’s Assemblyman Rory Lancman of Fresh Meadows and Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley of Middle Village. They’re the two Democrats vying for the congressional nomination against the party’s choice, Assemblywoman Grace Meng of Flushing. Whoever wins the primary will then face GOP designee Halloran.

The Meng campaign just hired Multi-Media, the consulting firm the Tribune claims acts independently of the newspaper, even though it’s headed by the paper’s associate publisher, Michael Nussbaum.

So what does she get for hiring Multi-Media? Political advice, mailers and, just maybe, last week’s Tribune front page, which focused on Meng’s “making history” with her campaign (she’s Asian, you see), and relegated her competitors to inset-style photos.

We hope the Tribune — a storied newspaper that does also produce quality journalism —will play it straight this time around and be fair to all the candidates. We’ll be watching for this, since we read the Trib, and most of our competition, on a regular basis. And if we find the paper is showing favoritism again, we’ll report on it.

Developer violated Quaker burial ground

From the Queens Chronicle:

Quakers are known to be peaceful people, but a construction job gone awry has the Flushing contingent furious.

Construction workers for a planned apartment building at 136-33 37 Ave. behind the Quaker Meeting House and burial ground, erected a temporary fence and a utility pole onto the historic property.

Linda Shirley, a meeting house trustee, said work was carried out by Pinnacle Engineering without members’ knowledge or permission and without conducting the necessary archeological tests or obtaining the required permits from the city Landmarks Preservation Commission.

Workers tore back the Quakers’ chain-link fence and erected a plywood construction barrier about four feet onto the property. That is the location of the group’s graveyard that dates back more than 300 years.

Any construction work at or near a historic graveyard in the city must be approved by the LPC. It usually involves archeological testings to ascertain that remains are there.

Shirley, and members of the Committee with a Concern for the Cemetery, James Cleary and Cheshire Frager, wrote to the LPC, the Department of Buildings and the developer for help.

After receiving photos of the site from the Queens Chronicle last week, the LPC instructed the contractor to take down the pole. It was supposed to have been taken down Friday, but was finally removed Monday afternoon.

Lisi de Bourbon, spokeswoman for the LPC, said the contractor responded immediately after her agency informed him that a failure to remove the pole could lead to a violation and fines. “We are very pleased we were able to help resolve this matter quickly given the historic importance of the site,” de Bourbon said.

Flushing tofu makes people sick

From the Daily News:

Two people got botulism - a rare but potentially fatal foodborne illness - after buying tofu at a store in Flushing.

The city Health Department said in a release Friday evening that it confirmed one case of the potent form of food poisoning, and suspected another case.

Both of the afflicted are Chinese-speaking Queens residents who recently bought fresh, unrefrigerated bulk tofu from Flushing market. The tofu was not made at the store, and its source is under investigation, the Health Department release states.

"This kind of tofu -- commonly sold in an open, water-filled bin -- is highly suspected to be the source of these cases; however it has not yet been confirmed," the release states.

Fresh, unrefrigerated tofu is used to make fermented tofu and is an ingredient in a popular Chinese dish called chou doufu, or stinky tofu. Anyone who has bought this variety of tofu is urged to throw it away, even if they cooked it, because the toxic spores can survive cooking.

A Health Department spokewoman said neither patient has died of the illness, but declined to comment on their condition. She also declined to name the Flushing store where the two bought the tofu.

Illegal JFK cabbie in jail

Fox 5 recently documented the problem of taxi hustlers ripping off tourists at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York City.

Now one of the phony cabbies we exposed is in trouble with the law.

Arnold Diaz has this update to the investigation.

Donut runs are not an excuse!

From the NY Post:

NYPD brass is cracking down on cops who go through red lights while on patrol by forcing officers to fork over $50 fines if they get caught on camera and can’t prove they were on legitimate police business.

A Manhattan cop said he was hit with a summons three months ago after he ran a red light to stop a vehicle with a potential drunken driver.

The motorist was sober but tired, so no ticket was issued, and the cop didn’t make a note of the stop in his memo book, he said.

When the precinct received the red-light summons, his supervisor grilled him — then ordered him to pay the fine.

“They didn’t believe me,” the cop said. “Where was the proof? I had to pay it out of my own pocket.”

His union blasted the policy.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Where would Meng raise the kids?

While Baby Boomers were focused on having careers and kids at the same time, subsequent generations have been putting more emphasis on child-rearing. And traditionally, Asians have always put their families first. Considering this, one has to wonder why Grace Meng would want to run for an office that would cause her to spend so much time away from her family, which includes a young child and a new baby.

Perhaps, like Joe Crowley, she'll just move the whole clan to Washington and raise them there. After all, the neighborhoods and schools are better in tony DC suburbs than anyplace in NY-6!

The idiots back in Queens won't care, they'll keep sending her back term after term so long as she comes back once in awhile for photo ops.

Rockaway park vandal caught

From A Walk in the Park:

This afternoon police caught the person responsible for causing more than $100,000 in damage last week to a Queens playground, NYC Park Advocates has learned.

This afternoon Police arrested 17-year-old Allan Swafford of Rockaway Queens acting on a tip according to sources.

According to police Swafford stole a John Deere excavator at Beach 29th St. Playground in Far Rockaway, Queens around 4 a.m. and drove it through a chain link fence and into the nearly completed playground early Tuesday morning.

He wrecked climbing equipment, slides, and fencing causing more than a reported $100,000 worth of damage.

Swafford was charged with Unauthorized Operation of a Motor Vehicle, Criminal Mischief, and Burglary.

Council District 32 residents participate in budgeting

From the Daily News:

Residents of Rockaway and Broad Channel can finally let their elected officials know exactly what they would do with $1 million of government spending.

They are hitting the polls this week and voting on a number of capital projects as part of a citywide initiative on “participatory budgeting.”

The projects vary from year-round heated bathrooms on the Rockaway boardwalk to a library vending machine in Breezy Point and technology upgrades at several local schools.

Those receiving the most votes will get funded.

Four City Council districts throughout the city are hosting participatory budgeting initiatives. The only Queens site is a portion of the 32nd District, represented by Councilman Eric Ulrich.

Voting is taking place at local libraries, schools, Ulrich’s district office and other locations through 7 p.m. on Saturday.

A sample ballot and polling sites can be found at

Over the past few months, people from Rockaway and Broad Channel gathered for several neighborhood assemblies to suggest and select projects for the ballot.

They settled on 16 projects. Residents 18 and older can vote for five items.

It's amazing what a little money can buy

From The Brooklyn Paper:

The developer behind a plan to build apartments at the former Domino Sugar factory spent at least $100,000 courting Williamsburg community groups that later supported controversial plans to allow residential construction at the industrial site, The Brooklyn Paper has learned.

Community Preservation Corporation Resources — which is fighting to avoid foreclosing on the massive waterfront plot where it hopes to build 2,200 apartments and retail space — doled out donations of between $9,000 and $30,000 to organizations that subsequently backed the Domino project from February 2008 to December 2009, months before its campaign to rezone the site, court filings reveal.

The currently cash-strapped developer says the donations, which it calls “public reputation” money, simply prove that it is invested in the neighborhood. But attorney and civic watchdog Norman Siegel said the donations suggest an instance of quid pro quo.

“If the developer was giving community groups money five or 10 years before their mission, that would be one thing, but if the developer is giving money for the first and perhaps the last time, it raises the question whether the donor is buying recipients support and it raises questions about the community groups themselves,” said Siegel.

SHOCKING NEWS: Kew Motor Inn a hooker haven!

From the Village Voice:

The Kew Motor Inn, located in a residential section of Kew Gardens, according to Queens District Attorney Richard Brown, was a "haven" for hookers and their pimps. So was the Par Central Motor Inn, which also is located in a residential area of Kew Gardens.

Thanks to the city's "nuisance abatement" laws, however, the alleged hooker havens are no mas -- they were shut down earlier this week after five motel employees were arrested on multiple hooker harboring-related offenses.

(It should be noted that each of these establishments boasts a Yahoo! travel rating of "one star" and "three star" respectively).

"These two motels have been deemed public nuisances that have generated numerous prostitution-related arrests - including those involving underage girls - during the past year and have been the subject of numerous complaints from local residents," Brown explains as the reasons for shutting down the two hooker sanctuaries.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Frank Lloyd Crap's latest disaster

From Curbed:

What could have inspired this terrible building? A few ideas:

· The Candyland national flag
· A sweatshirt on the discount rack in an Urban Outfitters
· A really bad acid trip
· A very poisonous frog

The mess in Springfield Gardens

From CBS 2:

Residents in Springfield Gardens, Queens say that their neighbor’s yard has become a prime site for illegal garbage dumping and a home for rats and raccoons.

Neighbor Mary Moore told CBS 2′s Hazel Sanchez on Wednesday night that she has been complaining to the city about the dilapidated house since it became vacant 20 years ago.

The yard is filled with overgrown weeds and garbage, including a pile of tires, an old mattress and a rusted car bumper.

Meet Johnny's co-comptroller

From the NY Post:

Comptroller John Liu has turned to his top political adviser, Chung Seto, for more than just campaign advice — he has actually let her run much of his office, even though she is not a city employee, The Post has learned.

Seto, who orchestrated Liu’s political ascent, has been dealing with everything from redecorating to communications with the White House — and has even referred financial advisers to the city’s pension czar, according to e-mails between Seto and Comptroller’s Office staffers obtained by The Post through a freedom- of-information request.

Correspondence between Seto — a former chief of the state Democratic Party — and the Comptroller’s Office shows that there was no division between Liu’s political operation and the office of the city’s fiscal watchdog.

The e-mails show there were no details too small for Seto, such as including a recycling symbol on business cards, getting an extra key for a secretary, deciding where individual staffers would work and what Liu would say in an economic speech.

And the documents show Seto had use of staff and space at the comptroller’s downtown offices, where she held sway like a chief of staff or operations director.

“Nothing important happens without Chung’s approval,” one insider said, echoing the e-mails. “She is basically co-comptroller.”

Council suddenly grows a pair

From the Daily News:

The City Council passed a controversial “prevailing wage” bill Wednesday — setting the stage for a clash with Mayor Bloomberg, who has vowed a veto.

The measure would raise pay for hundreds of service workers at some 41 buildings that receive city tax breaks. The salary bump would be determined by the City Controller’s prevailing-wage scale.

Repairmen and cleaners at major office buildings whose pay is now governed under that scale earn $24.74 per hour, or roughly $50,000 a year. Workers covered under the bill would get a pay increase of 35% to 45%, officials said.

The bill passed 45 to 4, an indication the Council most likely has the two-thirds vote needed to override a mayoral veto.

The Council successfully overrode mayoral vetoes on two other bills Wednesday. The first was a measure to ban the Sanitation Department from slapping fluorescent stickers on cars parked in violation of alternate-side and other parking laws designed to clear the way for street sweeping.

The second was a bill to require traffic agents to rip up muni-meter tickets if a motorist produces a paid receipt within five minutes of the summons.

Johnny still playing the race card

From the NY Post:

Even City Comptroller John Liu agrees — the arrests of his campaign treasurer and his top donor for allegedly scheming to make straw donations have likely torpedoed his planned run for mayor in 2013.

“That’s certainly an understandable assessment,” Liu told The Associated Press.

He also acknowledged the suspicions among his supporters that his campaign was targeted because he — and the bulk of his donors — are ethnically Chinese.

“People ask me almost every day: ‘How come they’re only investigating your campaign?’ ” he said. “I can’t answer definitively if there’s racial or ethnic targeting going on here.”

From the NY Post:

Liu’s campaign, recall, hauled in buckets of $800 donations, many of them supposedly from supermarket cashiers, hotel maids and cooks. Such an amount is equivalent to a full week’s salary or two for these folks.

Did the other pols get similar gifts? Not quite:

City Councilwoman Margaret Chin (D-Chinatown) got plenty of donations from bakers, cooks and seamstresses — but they rarely surpassed $30 per person.

Councilman Peter Koo (D-Flushing) self-financed most of his 2009 campaign, but the rest of his donations came from doctors, bankers, managers, engineers . . . with just a single $25 check from one waiter.

What might explain Liu’s lucky $800s?

Donors who are looking to circumvent campaign-finance laws.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Helen gets bumped from behind!

From DNA Info:

A car carrying Queens Borough President Helen Marshall and two top aides was rammed on Tuesday morning by a Channel 4 news truck following Marshall to an early-afternoon tour of a Queens hospital, sources said.

Neither Marshall nor three staff members in her car were seriously injured when the TV van plowed into the car's rear bumper at Beach 35th Street and Seagirt Boulevard, said Marshall's spokesman, Dan Andrews, who was riding in the car.

Marshall's car was stopped at a red light at about 11:45 a.m. when the news van jarred the four passengers.

Marshall's car was headed at the time to St. John's Episcopal Hospital, where she was going to check the condition of the emergency room following news yesterday that nearby Peninsula Hospital will close.

Andrews admitted he may have unintentionally misled the police into thinking the accident had led to serious injuries.

When police asked Andrews if everyone in Marshall's entourage was OK, Andrews told them they were heading to the hospital. He said the cops, not knowing about Marshall's scheduled tour of St. John's, probably thought they were going to St. John's to seek medical treatment.

Illegal alien guilty of terrorist gun sales

From the Daily News:

A Manhattan Federal Court jury found a Queens super guilty Tuesday of trying to sell guns to Hezbollah terrorists.

Patrick Nayyar, 48, an illegal immigrant from India, showed no emotion as the jury convicted him after just two hours of deliberations.

He faces 75 years in prison.

Prosecutors said Nayyar was motivated by greed in agreeing to sell guns, ammunition and other military items to an FBI informant posing as a Hezbollah agent.

The jury heard Nayyar and the informant on tape — chats his lawyer called “two knuckleheads b.s.-ing each other."

Pork still on the table

From the NY Post:

Don’t count pork out of the state budget just yet.
Assembly Democrats are eyeing an existing source of cash to pay for new “member items,” The Post has learned.

It’s a $103 million account that’s supposed to pay for prior-year projects — but that could be tapped for new items if some older projects are scrapped.

Gov. Cuomo and Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos (R-LI) are on record as opposing new pork projects, which traditionally fund athletic fields, senior-citizen centers, and the like in the lawmakers’ home districts.

Cuomo, Skelos and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver are negotiating a budget for the fiscal year that begins April 1.

City picks on Glendale grandmother

Rangel has to pay the piper

From the NY Post:

Scandal-scarred Rep. Charlie Rangel has agreed to pay a $23,000 fine for using a rent-stabilized apartment as a campaign office, The Post has learned.

Rangel, a Democrat now seeking his 22nd term representing Harlem, entered into an agreement with the Federal Election Commission to pay the fine.

“There was the determination that they had, in fact, violated the law,” said Kenneth Boehm, chairman of the National Legal and Policy Center, which filed the complaint against Rangel with the FEC.

The FEC found Rangel signed a rental agreement with “full knowledge” the unit was rent stabilized.

In fact, he leased four rent-stabilized apartments in his luxury Harlem building, and used a 10th-floor one-bedroom as a campaign office, in violation of city and state rules that say rent-stabilized units can be used only as a primary residence.

Rangel was paying a paltry $630 per month for the apartment, whose market value was $1,700.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Halloran enters NY-6 race; support exaggerated

From the Queens Courier:

The Queens GOP leadership made a bold move Saturday at their March Executive Committee meeting by endorsing City Councilmember Dan Halloran to run in the newly created 6th Congressional District. Party leaders strongly felt that with this unique opportunity Halloran was the best candidate to win this seat for the Republican Party, and Halloran graciously accepted the nomination with a rousing speech about the need for change in Washington.

The new NY-6 is now drawn to encompass Murray Hill, Bayside, Bayside Hills, Oakland Gardens, Fresh Meadows, Auburndale, East Flushing, Flushing Murray Hill, Queens Boro Hill, Briarwood, Forest Hills, Rego Park, Glendale, Middle Village, Maspeth and Ridgewood. Many of these neighborhoods have one and two family homes and have been represented by Republican elected officials like Senators Padavan and Maltese and approximately 40 percent of this newly carved district is currently represented by Councilmember Halloran.

40 percent?

Eh, I don't think so.

How the district actually breaks down based on current representation:
Crowley = dark blue
Meng = pink
Lancman = light blue
Halloran = red

Tweeding involved in Wyckoff mess

From the NY Times:

In recent years, Wyckoff Heights Medical Center in Brooklyn has often gone hat in hand to the city and state, lamenting cuts in government assistance and questioning whether officials truly understood the burden of running a nonprofit hospital in Bushwick, one of the city’s poorest neighborhoods.

For much of that time, Wyckoff’s chief executive was driving to work in a Bentley Continental GT, a $160,000 automobile, and at one point, the hospital paid thousands of dollars to insure the vehicle, according to hospital records and interviews. When the chief executive lost his license after an accident, hospital security guards chauffeured him and his wife around the clock in a Cadillac Escalade or a Lincoln Town Car.

The chief executive, Rajiv Garg, was not the only one who benefited from his ties with Wyckoff. One member of the hospital’s board obtained for the pharmacy that he owned the exclusive right to market prescription drugs to hospital patients. Another board member lent $2.4 million to the ailing Wyckoff at 12 percent interest, with the hospital required to put up several of its buildings as security.

Local politicians also joined in. Allies of United States Representative Edolphus Towns, Assemblyman Vito J. Lopez and Councilman Erik Martin Dilan have landed high-level positions at the hospital, despite questionable qualifications, further weakening its management. Mr. Dilan’s wife became the hospital’s director of public relations.

Many hospitals in downtrodden areas of New York City and across the state are faltering, raising concerns that a wave of closings will deprive poor people of badly needed care.

A three-month investigation by The New York Times into Wyckoff, based on dozens of interviews and an examination of internal documents, offers a sobering portrait of how one such hospital has been undermined by the very people entrusted to run it.

Another hospital bites the dust

From the Daily News:

Peninsula Hospital’s recovery efforts have flatlined and the hospital will be closing, officials confirmed Monday.

The troubled Far Rockaway facility had flunked a state inspection of its lab last month, forcing ambulances to be diverted and most patient care to be suspended.

Peninsula was months — not weeks — away from reopening the lab, according to bankruptcy documents filed by trustee Lori Lapin Jones on Monday.

The state Department of Health “determined that substantial additional time, effort and expense would be required before the laboratory would be eligible for re-certification,” Jones wrote to the bankruptcy court.

With insufficient money to keep the hospital afloat for that length of time, Jones wrote that closure was necessary.

City-funded not for profit urges squatting

From the NY Post:

Picture the Homeless, a Bronx nonprofit that has received at least $240,000 in taxpayer money in the last five years, is giving a crash course on squatting — and city-owned buildings are a prime target.

Two weeks ago, board member Andres Perez held a teach-in on how to wrest “control” of vacant apartments. He called it “homesteading.”

“The best time to enter a building is in the late hours,” he advised a group of about 20, who gathered in front of the half-empty East New York housing complex Arlington Village.

“You make sure you have your proper tools. You remove the chains and padlock, and then you go in.”

He then led them through the next steps — including filling out a change-of-address form at the post office and setting up utilities. After that, “nine out of 10 times the courts will allow you to be able to have control of the property,” he said.

How to get away with a sloppy demo

From the NY Post:

Demo “experts” know:
* How long it takes for complaints to result in inspections.
* What kind of “innocent inaccuracies” to fill out on forms to get special permits.
* How long they can get away with violating low-grade rules on things like noise and hours restrictions. (Hint: Often, as long as it takes.)

Shady contractors have the upper hand for two reasons:

One, they know the city doesn’t do effective enforcement on minor violations.

The Department of Buildings should pick up on what the NYPD has learned about the importance of getting serious about minor crimes. People who don’t respect “small” laws likely won’t respect the big laws that save lives, either.

That’s true of contractors, too. So, for instance, inspectors should revoke permits for work that can’t be done without violating the noise code.

To clean up the demolition industry, the city should also force contractors to be more productive in their use of city-owned land. Right now, demo crews exploit a valuable city resource — the public streets — with impunity.

SHOCKING NEWS: Overdevelopment strains schools

From NY1:

New development in New York has soared over the last 10 to 15 years. While this may be good for the city’s economy and the overall health of the real estate market, a new study examines one major downside to new construction.

"The report goes through all the new construction in a number of neighborhoods and it shows how many seats the city should have planned for based on the new housing units built. The city should have been building schools all along," says Barbara Denham, the chief economist of Eastern Consolidated.

Unfortunately, it has not. According to Denham's report, the city has not followed its own formula for how many new school seats should be created based on the number of new housing units added.

Her report evaluated the Upper West Side, Midtown West and Lower Manhattan and found the more construction, the more the public schools are being squeezed.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Major photo caption opportunity

And for the first time, an audio clip of Broadway Joe singing:

Port Authority's dumping ground

From NY1:

The wide open gates to a former Port Authority construction area in Jamaica, Queens have invited people looking to get rid of all kinds of trash and debris, from tires and closet doors, to cassette tapes and even a refrigerator.

The State Department of Transportation said the spot was a grassy area until about a decade ago when the Port Authority fenced it as a staging area during construction of the AirTrain above the Van Wyck Expressway.

The AirTrain has been running for years, but the fence remains.

DOT officials say while they are responsible for the property, the Port Authority was supposed to restore the area.

"It's a mess," said Jamaica resident Raynald Turner. "They just left the fencing and never came back for it. It looks like everything was kind of left behind."

Much of what was left behind has been vandalized, from the fence to concrete barriers. Then there is the ongoing illegal dumping, and residents say the site has been cleared out many times.

One man's swank is another man's crap

From Bayside Patch:

The developer of a six-story apartment building going up in the center of Bayside is promising swank condominiums decked out in marble.

"It promises to be a very chic new addition to the bayside housing market," said Andy Bassaly, the project's developer.

The building, which is already in construction at the corner of 214th Place and 43rd Ave., will also have parking garage.

The 22 units will be mostly 2 bedrooms, with marble kitchen countertops, and marble inlaid in the bathrooms. The building will also have an exercise facility.

Community Board 11, which often deliberates over building construction of any scale, had very little opportunity to oppose or support the project, because Bassaly is not requesting permission to depart from any zoning regulations.

Even so, some residents already already have their peepers open for anything unsightly.

"Bayside is one of the few places left in Queens with a pleasant character to it," said Bayside resident Mike Mathis, adding, "If the character goes away (along with the parking) then there's no reason to stay."

Future of West Side Tennis Club

Filthy Howard Beach supermarket

From the Forum:

Residents of 95th Street called the office of The Forum on Monday afternoon to express their outrage over a man they claimed was partially unclothed and taking a bath in the parking lot at the Howard Beach Waldbaum’s on Cross Bay Boulevard.

The homeless man was unclothed from the waist up and was bathing with pans of water and rags—his belongings in plastic bags. He sat near the fence in the parking lot and told The Forum that he does so regularly and has never been approached to leave. Asked if he ever used drugs in the parking lot he asked, “Who can afford them?

This disturbing event is the latest thing that has greatly upset the homeowners in their battle to get things done to improve conditions at the store and in the lot.

Resident Neil Iovino, who has spearheaded the effort on his block, says the situation has become untenable and that little changes have been made but the serious issues –drug paraphernalia, garbage, damage from shopping carts left on the street and in driveways–have not been addressed at all.

Now the residents have taken their battle one step further by submitting a signed petition—by nearly 60 residents– to the corporate office of the store. The petition calls for several demands that Iovino says are essential to his neighbors and to the whole community.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Avella eyes Whitestone CYO property

From the Times Ledger:

The courts have taken the next step in foreclosure proceedings against the owners of a vacant Whitestone property, but a lawmaker hopes to intervene before the lot hits the auction block.

Northeast Queens civic leaders would rather see the 6-acre cluster of undeveloped land, along 150th Street near 5th Avenue, turned into sports fields, which is why state Sen. Tony Avella is hoping to snag the property.

“If it’s done properly, I absolutely think it is a good idea,” said Al Centola, president of the Malba Gardens Civic Association.

Centola has had his eye on the property for several years after the company known as Whitestone Jewels LLC failed to pay its mortgage.

As a result, in 2007 La Jolla Bank began foreclosure proceedings against the company. In 2010, the lender was bought by One West Bank, the institution currently foreclosing on the property.

Late last year Queens Supreme Court Judge Orin Kitzes ruled in One West Bank’s favor.

A lawyer was recently assigned by the state courts to find out exactly how much is owed on the lot.

It was not clear when he was assigned, but Friday afternoon when a call was placed to the lawyer known as a referee, he had not even been informed of his assignment to the property.

After the referee determines how much money is owed, he will submit a report to Kitzes. The bank will ask for a ruling to move ahead with an auction and the referee will put a notice in the paper, according to a court clerk.

But this is where Centola hopes Avella will intervene.

The lawmaker is hoping to work with the bank to circumvent an auction.

“We are talking with the bank,” Avella said. “I want the city to acquire that for a park.”

It was not clear whether Avella’s discussions have paid off, since the bank cannot ask for what is known as a judgment of foreclosure until after the referee’s report.

$6M Jackson Heights park deal is done

From the Daily News:

The city has reached a long-awaited deal to purchase the yard of a cash-strapped private school to expand a popular Jackson Heights park.

The Garden School sold its more than 26,000-square-foot yard to the city for roughly $6 million, sources close to the deal told the Daily News on Wednesday.

The property will be used to expand Travers Park.

“It’s a deal that’s a win-win for everyone involved,” said City Councilman Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights), who has been pushing for the acquisition. “Jackson Heights has needed this open space for years and finally this dream has come true.”

The yard is to be connected to Travers Park by turning 78th St., between 34th Ave. and Northern Blvd., into a permanent pedestrian plaza, Dromm said.

The road, which runs between the two properties, is already closed to traffic in the summer.

Eye in the sky in Astoria parking lot

From the Daily News:

Following a brutal mugging and a bureaucratic tussle, there’s an extra set of eyes at a troublesome Queens parking lot.

After failing to convince the city Department of Transportation to reactivate a broken surveillance camera that was idle during the robbery of a beloved deli owner, City Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. had his own installed — with a humorous twist.

Vallone, chair of the public safety committee, recently had the NYPD install the video hookup on the side of his district office, overlooking the municipal lot.

“I’ve been a proponent of more cameras in public spaces because we have less cops,” Vallone (D-Astoria) told the Daily News. “Both the criminals and the hard-working residents who use this lot should know it’s under surveilance.”

The camera was provided by the NYPD’s Technical Assistance Response Unit, he said.

While the camera itself is relatively inconspicuous, Vallone had a large white sign installed next to the camera that reads “Smile You’re on Council Camera,” a reference to the TV show “Candid Camera.”

Woodhaven heroin peddlers busted

From the Queens Gazette:

Twenty suspected members of a Woodhaven-based heroin ring were indicted in Brooklyn Federal Court on March 13, wrapping up a nine-month probe by the NYPD, Nassau County Police, Suffolk County Police, the FBI and the U.S. Marshals Service, a spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s office said.

The law enforcement agencies joined forces after police from Queens to Nassau County noticed an increase in heroin use on Long Island, the spokesperson said.

The probe, dubbed Operation County Connection, uncovered a network operated by a group known as the Perez Organization, based in Woodhaven, said U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch, spokesperson for the Eastern District.

Law enforcement agents that busted the ring seized heroin with a street value of more than $30,000, along with thousands of dollars in cash, an FBI spokesperson said.

Avella vs. Padavan rematch?

From Douglaston Patch:

Having deferred Congressional ambitions, State. Sen. Tony Avella, D-Bayside, announced on Monday that he will run to be re-elected to the state Senate.

A Republican contender for the seat has yet to emerge, but Queens GOP leaders are hoping former Sen. Frank Padavan will attempt to regain his old seat.

Avella had been named as a potential candidate for U.S. Rep. Gary Ackerman's, D-Bayside, seat after the long-time congressman recently announced that he would retire. But the senator has, instead, decided to support state Assemblywoman Grace Meng's, D-Flushing, bid for Congress.

Avella said he is planning to run again for the Senate.

The Queens GOP hopes Padavan will take up arms for his old seat. Avella and Padavan last faced off in 2009. At that time, Padavan had been the 38-year incumbent.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Bloomberg healthy food policy reaches new stupidity level

From the NY Post:

The Bloomberg administration is now taking the term “food police” to new depths, blocking food donations to all government-run facilities that serve the city’s homeless.

In conjunction with a mayoral task force and the Health Department, the Department of Homeless Services recently started enforcing new nutritional rules for food served at city shelters. Since DHS can’t assess the nutritional content of donated food, shelters have to turn away good Samaritans.

DHS Commissioner Seth Diamond says the ban on food donations is consistent with Mayor Bloomberg’s emphasis on improving nutrition for all New Yorkers. A new interagency document controls what can be served at facilities — dictating serving sizes as well as salt, fat and calorie contents, plus fiber minimums and condiment recommendations.

Pete vs. pot

From the Daily News:

City Councilman Peter Vallone Jr., responding Wednesday to a Daily News investigation, said he has initiated drafting of a bill to ban synthetic marijuana.

“I guess we all assumed that the federal government was going to act on it, but we can’t wait because our kids are dying,” the Queens Democrat said.

“We should move as other municipalities have, like Suffolk (County), to make this substance illegal. It’s a camouflage killer.”

Synthetic pot, often called K2 or Spice, mimics the effects marijuana’s active ingredient, THC, has on the brain. The unpredictable mind-bender is sold at bodegas throughout the city, and has caused scores of patients to show up at hospital emergency rooms with symptoms including seizures, hallucinations, panic attacks and violent behavior.

New York Sen. Charles Schumer is pushing legislation for a nationwide ban.

Pass the pork!

From Eyewitness News:

Incumbent lawmakers pushing to bring back member items should come as no surprise, as pork is the currency of incumbents.

"This is basically re-election insurance. They have their photos taken handing over their checks to people and they expect that good will flow back to them at election time," said E.J. McMahon, Empire Center.

More vibrant diversity in our midst

From the Daily News:

A Manhattan Federal Court jury listened Tuesday to a recording of a Queens man agreeing to refer to the Lebanese terror group Hezbollah as “the brothers.”

Prosecutors broadcast the conversation during the trial of Patrick Nayyar, a 47-year-old citizen of India who is accused of providing material support to a terror organization.

“Listen, we don’t have to keep repeating the name Hezbollah,” the informant, a man named Ali, says to Nayyar, who then agrees.

Ali was posing as an agent for Hezbollah.

During the July 27, 2009 conversation Nayyar also says he can supply Ali with sniper rifles, night vision goggles, Glock handguns and hollow-point bullets.

Johnny's judgment questionable (understatement of the year)

From the NY Post:

Comptroller John Liu has awarded $6 million in contracts to manage city pension funds to a firm under investigation by New York federal and state prosecutors over claims it ripped off millions from public-employee pension systems around the world, The Post has learned.

Boston-based State Street Corp. has faced litigation from state governments in Washington and California, as well as the United Kingdom, dating back to 2009 — each alleging the company fraudulently overbilled their retirement funds during so-called “foreign exchange” trades.

But that didn’t stop Liu from doing business with the company — his administration disclosed the contract in Friday’s public record.

His office awarded three contracts totaling $6.141 million to State Street Global Advisers, the company’s investment arm, the public notice said.
In 2010, State Street forked over $12 million to settle claims by the state of Washington over accusations the firm overcharged for its foreign-investment transactions of pension money over a 10-year period.

And in 2009, the California attorney general filed suit, saying State Street committed “unconscionable fraud” and “raided” $56 million from its pension funds over eight years. That case is pending.

And then there's this:

“I don’t believe it’s our campaign’s responsibility or any campaign’s responsibility to verify the home address, to verify the work address, to essentially run a credit check on any donor,” Liu said in response to allegations that his campaign made use of straw donors who funneled illegal contributions from wealthy individuals into the campaign. “Do we operate differently than other campaigns? Absolutely not.”

Friday, March 23, 2012

Crowley campaign run by Stavisky COS

From the Daily News:

City Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley kicked off her campaign for Congress Thursday in the shadow of the Unisphere at Flushing Meadows Corona Park.

Flanked by her teen sons, Owen and Dennis, Crowley said she was running “with the support of my family and with the support of my friends.”

“As a daughter from Queens, from a very young age I felt the calling for public service,” said Crowley.

Eric Yun, on break from his job as her City Council communications director, fielded more questions from a frustrated press corps.

“She’s in the race to win,” he said, after being asked if Crowley was intentionally trying to split the vote.

Uh huh. You know what's really going on here. Eric Yun used to be a weekly news reporter. Funny how the roles are interchangeable in Queens.

Also, why is Toby Stavisky's chief-of-staff - seen in the video wearing a yarmulke and whispering in her ear - working for Crowley if La Liz isn't running just to split the vote? Toby endorsed Meng...

Who left the keys in the ignition?

From the Daily News:

Vandals plowed through a nearly completed Far Rockaway playground early Tuesday morning after commandeering a parked construction vehicle, authorities said.

Someone jumped into a John Deere excavator parked outside Beach 29th St. around 4 a.m. and rammed through a chainlink fence, officials said.

They wrecked the slides and climbing equipment, before trying to break into two construction trailers at the site.

The park, an oasis among weed-filled empty lots near the Rockaway Beach boardwalk, was slated to open this summer.

Avella's eyesores in prime time

Middle Village house needs some attention

From the Daily News:

A dilapidated Queens house remains in the crosshairs of city inspectors after collecting numerous violations and angering residents in the area.

Officials with the city Department of Buildings have yet to determine whether 58-22 84th St. in Middle Village is a “public nuisance” after dispatching the agency’s Padlocks Unit in December, agency officials told the Daily News on Monday.

Buildings began investigating the home after the owner, Ganesh Arora, “repeatedly ignored the Department’s orders to fix violating conditions at the property,” said agency spokeswoman Ryan Fitzgibbon.

The property has collected $25,500 in unpaid fines from nine outstanding building violations over the past decade, according to agency records.

The derelict property has been a long-standing blight in the wind-swept patch of Middle Village, neighbors said.

The two-story house stand in stark contrast to its well-maintained neighbors. The gate surrounding the property is rusted and the facade of the building has a thick layer of dirt on it. The sidewalk has been illegally cut to extend the driveway and the garage appears on the verge of collapse.

Are Brown's tactics low down?

From the Village Voice:

​If you get arrested in Queens, you might get interrogated before being arraigned or meeting with a lawyer -- a practice which the New York Civil Liberties Union has decried as "unconstitutional" and "unethical" in a legal brief filed today against the borough's District Attorney.

The NYCLU claims that Queens D.A. Richard Brown's program, in operation since 2007, unfairly targets those who are too poor to find a lawyer.

Here's what happens, according to the civil rights group: when a person is jailed because of a cop's testimony, the constitution and state law require: "that a judge quickly determine whether the arrest was valid, appoint an attorney, and determine the conditions of release so the person can return to work, home, and family pending the disposition of the criminal case."

In Queens, wealthier suspects who retain an attorney do get the green light to proceed to court for this hearing.

If you are indigent, however, you get put into a room "just next door" to the court, where a prosecutor interrogates you, the NYCLU argues.

In there, prosecutors are said to mislead suspects by implying that they "will have no other opportunity to 'tell us your story.'"

Death at Columbia project

From DNA Info:

A 69-year-old construction worker was killed and two others seriously injured when a violation-plagued building recently bought by Columbia University collapsed in Harlem

Thursday morning during demolition work, authorities said.

The tragic incident unfolded at the one-story structure at 604-606 W. 131st St., near Broadway, about 7:51 a.m., FDNY officials said.

All three victims — Juan Ruiz, 69, King Range, 60, and Sakim Kirby, 30, all of The Bronx — were pulled from the wreckage by hand. Ruiz and Range were rushed to St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital with life-threatening injuries and Kirby suffered serious injures, fire officials said.

Ruiz was later pronounced dead.

"I just seen brick falling on the workers. I just seen people running towards it but they couldn’t get them out," said witness Willy Katende, 46, who lives nearby.
"It sounded like bomb — boom. It came down so fast," he added. "The whole thing came down.”

According to FDNY and Department of Buildings offficials, the workers were cutting a structural beam near the building's perimeter wall when steel, concrete and red brick began raining down on them.

Two of the workers, including Ruiz, were partially buried by rubble near the center of the building. The third was buried near the building's northwest corner about 50 feet from them, officials said.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Health Dept fines Vet club; parade may be off this year

Queens Machine still stinks

From the Times Newsweekly:

Ranking members of the Juniper Park Civic Association (JPCA) publicly slammed "clubhouse" politicians who allegedly put their own self-interests before the people they represent during the civic group's meeting last Thursday night, Mar. 8, at Our Lady of Hope School in Middle Village.

Robert Holden, JPCA president, specifically railed against Rep. Joseph Crowley, who is also the head of the Queens County Democratic Party, for overseeing a "corrupt system" that has led to the gerrymandering of the borough in order to ensure the re-election of established incumbents with little or no opposition.

Toward the end of the session, things turned testy when a member of the civic group spoke out against the ranking members' opinions about local lawmakers, past and present, in an editorial published in the JPCA's magazine, The Juniper Berry, which criticized Crowley. Holden and others defended its position, saying that the organization maintains its right to criticize anyone it believes is misrepresenting or harming the neighborhood.

Holden criticized the proposed realignment of Assembly and State Senate districts as proposed earlier this year by the Legislative Task Force on Redistricting and Reapportionment (LATFOR), claiming that the lines give an unfair advantage to incumbents and political parties.

"We've had that in Queens County for far too long," he said, charging that Representative Crowley and his cousin, City Council Member Elizabeth Crowley, "are an example of this clubhouse atmosphere in Queens."

Holden claimed that Representative Crowley was "handed the Congressional seat" from the late-Rep. Thomas Manton, who declined to seek re-election in 1998. The civic president claimed that after Manton — the former head of the Queens County Democratic Party — secured the petitions to get on the ballot, he announced his retirement, which allowed him to pick Crowley to take his place on the ballot.

Since winning the Congressional seat in 1998, Holden stated that Representative Crowley has run unopposed in many elections since. He went further to claim that the legislator keeps his primary residence in the Virginia suburbs of Washington, D.C. rather than in his own Congressional district.

"This is the kind of corrupt system that we have," Holden told residents.

911 bungle & bloat

From the Daily News:

City Hall aides repeatedly bungled supervision of a massive upgrade of the 911 system, even as the project fell years behind schedule and its cost ballooned by as much as $1 billion, an audit has found.

When Mayor Bloomberg launched the 911 project in 2004, he promised a seamless system that would replace antiquated police, fire and EMS call-taking and dispatch functions with 21st century technology. It had a price tag of $1.3 billion and was supposed to be done in three years.

City Hall now concedes the cost has zoomed to at least $2 billion, and Controller John Liu will claim Wednesday that the price tag is closer to $2.3 billion.

Liu will also release an audit that concludes management failures dogged the multiagency project almost from the start. It blames City Hall aides for repeatedly failing to address the problems.

Much like the notorious CityTime payroll project, the 911 upgrade kept devouring astonishing amounts of money while getting delayed.

A new Brooklyn 911 center that was supposed to be finished in 2007 did not become fully operational until late last year. A second emergency center originally scheduled for the same time in the Bronx - as a backup in case of terrorist attack or natural disaster - will not be ready until 2015.

Homeowner fined for unnecessary sidewalk repair

From the Queens Courier:

Biagi, a 62-year-old retired mechanic, told The Courier he was warned in 2004 by the Department of Transportation (DOT) to replace approximately 68-square-feet of sidewalk on his property — defective from two trees that the city recently removed, he said. Although Biagi said he had every plan to cooperate with the agency, he first requested for more information about the broken slabs. He said he did not hear back from them.

Then, city workers came out of the woodwork in 2009, he said, replacing nearly the entire sidewalk surrounding Biagi’s corner home — including close to 800-square-feet of pavement instead of the originally estimated 68.

The total cost the city billed to Biagi: $2,240.69.

Biagi said what angers him most is the fact that the DDC allegedly attached the expenses to his mortgage and took the remaining balance out of his real estate taxes.

Neighbors not surprised by building collapse

From the NY Post:

Neighbors yesterday said they weren’t shocked when the third floor of a Queens home suddenly gave way and turned into a giant slide — sending as many as 100 teens attending a 13-year-old’s birthday party tumbling down.

Miraculously, no one died, and only one person was seriously hurt — the older sister of the birthday boy. She’s expected to be OK.

A spokeswoman for the city Department of Buildings — which ordered the entire house, in Arverne in the Rockaways, vacated yesterday — said there were 100 teens at the party. Other guests, however, insisted the number was much smaller.

The house was issued five violations in 2004, according to the department. The violations were issued for everything from not having the proper permits for construction to failure to fence off the work.

Neighbors said additions constructed at the site in 2004 and 2005 were poorly built.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Crowley screwed community out of park...and landmark

From the Forum:

A landmark without a home now doesn’t even have a temporary home.

St. Saviour’s Church, a historical building that civic leaders saved from demolition, is deconstructed and in storage. Activists have dreams of rebuilding it at a new site, but for now, it needs to find a new holding tank before it finds a permanent site.

Galasso Trucking has stored the labeled beams and pieces in warehouses in west Maspeth. But now they need the room back.

For decades, the 1847 Carpenter Gothic church stood on a hill on Rust Street in Maspeth. When the owners decided to redevelop the property, Juniper Park Civic Association (JPCA) leadership convinced the owner to let them disassemble the building and find new land for it.

In the meantime, they labeled the pieces of the building and stored it in two trailers.

Those trailers have sat on Galasso Trucking’s property for more than three years now.

JPCA President Bob Holden led the charge to save St. Saviour’s from the wrecking ball in 2008. He said he was thankful for what Galasso has done, but he’s now in a bind.

“The owner certainly has been most gracious,” said Holden, president of the JPCA and Save St. Saviour’s Inc—an organization formed to take donations on the church’s behalf.

He and other advocates have been holding out for parkland to rebuild the church.

But in November, the Parks Department dropped a bid to acquire the church’s original site.

Time to set the record straight. Parks didn't drop its bid. Elizabeth Crowley decided it would be easier for her to go after a much smaller piece of land, so she pulled her funding out from the St. Saviour's park project and hasn't done a thing with it since.

Maspeth has no landmark because it has no park. And it has no park because of Crowley. Here's what it has instead:

DOT eyeing safety improvements in Rego Park

From the Daily News:

The city is looking to slow down traffic at several Rego Park speeding hotspots where dozens of pedestrians have been injured in recent years.

The situation is particularly hazardous for the area’s large senior citizen population who routinely navigate the busy thoroughfares of 62 Drive/63rd Ave. and 63rd Road around the Rego Center Mall.

According to the DOT, 121 people were injured — including 41 pedestrians — along 62nd Drive from Queens Blvd. to 112th St. between 2005 and 2009.

That number is even higher along 63rd Road from Queens Blvd. to 112th St. where 192 people have been injured during that same time period. That statistic includes 48 pedestrians.

The department is hoping to slow down drivers with a combination of narrowing streets, removing lanes and installing back-in parking.

Along 63rd Road, where there have been six pedestrian fatalities since 2001, the DOT plans to remove one travel lane and widen parking lanes.

Carrozza now a blogger

From Douglaston Patch:

Former northeast Queens assemblywoman Ann-Margaret Carrozza has joined the Huffington Post’s Expert Panel as a blogger.

Carrozza, who will offer advice on elder law and estate planning for Huff Post Money, served 14 years on the state Assembly and covered Douglaston, Little Neck, Bayside and Whitestone.

Her first blog entry, “Don’t Let the Government Write Your Will," can be read by clicking here.