Monday, April 30, 2012

Forest Park Greenhouse reconstructed

From the Daily News

The historic Forest Park Greenhouse, which grows plants and flowers that liven up concrete stretches in Queens and Brooklyn, is moving beyond its early 20th century roots.

A section of the greenhouse has just undergone a $3.8 million reconstruction that will increase its capacity and make it more environmentally-friendly.

The first stage of the renovation focused on two of the houses that were built in 1905 and designed by greenhouse experts of the time, Lord and Burnham.

“In those days it was a state-of-the-art facility and we lived with that system for over 100 years,” said Queens Parks Commissioner Dorothy Lewandowski. “It was a really old system, all with hand-operated window cranks and it was difficult to regulate the temperature.”

Those buildings were replaced with new structures boasting a computerized system that controls the heating and automatic window shades.

City to allow development of colonial cemetery

This is Brinckerhoff Cemetery, a burial ground for the Brinckerhoff family, Dutch settlers who owned a nearby farm for some 150 years. The earliest grave dates to about 1730. In 1919, a survey was completed that found 72 headstones, which have since disappeared.

In 1957 and 1960, a nearby resident purchased the 2 lots from the City, which had condemned it due to non-payment of taxes. (Why would a cemetery be taxed in the first place?) It turns out that the City had illegally sold the property.

Descendants of that owner have petitioned a court to declare the cemetery abandoned in order to clear the way for a sale to a developer who wants to build 2 homes on the property.

In 2000, the LPC calendared the property in anticipation of declaring it an official NYC landmark. Also in 2000, a judge ordered the sale of the property to the Queens Historical Society for $100,000, but only gave them 14 days to come up with the money. They failed to do so.

Elected officials representing the area, including Toby Stavisky and James Gennaro, have called on the City to preserve the property as a public memorial or park, but have not allocated funding toward its purchase by either the City or a non-profit like QHS.

In 2010, the property was resold to a developer for $105,000.

Last week, the LPC sent out letters stating that they will be holding a hearing on 5/15 to decalendar the property.

And there goes another piece of Queens history due to hack politicians who say all the right things, but don't back up their words with action. Do we still have a Queens Borough President? Anyone seen her around lately?

There's more to this story than Dan's letting on

From the Times Ledger:

City Councilman Dan Halloran (R-Whitestone) laced up his working boots Tuesday morning and took to the vacant lot near the intersection of an abandoned corner property, at 24-19 Francis Lewis Blvd. in Whitestone, alongside property owner Robin Singh to help spread some topsoil for new greenery.

“Hopefully, with this tree the site will become a green oasis instead of the urban wasteland it has been for so long,” Halloran said. “I thank the property owner for hearing the cries of the community.“

Singh said the lot should be complete by the end of the week.

The lot has been vacant and full of vegetation and debris for years before residents and local lawmakers moved to change its image. A trademark wooden fence riddled with graffiti became a common eyesore for residents in Whitestone.

The moral of the story is: if you want to light a fire under Halloran's ass, have Tony Avella tell the media that he fixed something in Halloran's district.

BTW, if the City could find the owner and make him clean up the lot back in February, then why was Halloran only able to track him down 2 weeks ago to ask him about the fence?

And for a good laugh, watch this followup from WPIX where Halloran speaks on behalf of the owner and says he "had no idea" what kind of condition the lot was in. So he bought the lot sight unseen? Or did he win it in a poker game?

Brace yourself for the BSA application, folks!

Meng keeps interesting company

From the NY Post:

Queens congressional candidate Assembly woman Grace Meng used a North Korea sympathizer to help out with her upcoming primary race.

John Choe, who gathered 20 signatures on a Meng petition dated April 2, is notorious for telling a 2006 “Global Struggle for Socialism” conference that Kim Jung-un-led North Korea was “at the front line of the liberation struggles against imperialism.”

Choe left Comptroller John Liu’s campaign in 2009 after his remarks became public, and resigned as a senior aide in the Comptroller’s Office last September — just weeks after The Post reported he’d been hired there.

“Apparently John Choe — who is not a part of our campaign staff — was one of over 100 volunteers who collected 4,300 Democratic signatures. Assemblywoman Meng completely disagrees with Mr. Choe’s politics concerning North Korea,” said Meng campaign spokesman Michael Tobman.

Illegal boarding house vacated

From the Times Ledger:

The city last weekend vacated an illegal South Jamaica boarding house, which is the target of a lawsuit, after a suspicious fire broke out in the cellar.

On Saturday evening, the FDNY put out a small fire in the basement of the three-quarter house, at 144-01 Lakewood Ave., which just two weeks ago was the subject of a TimesLedger Newspapers article about a class-action lawsuit against the building’s landlord, Yury Baumblit.

The lawsuit claims Baumblit operates his three-quarter houses as unlicensed rehabilitative and transitional housing programs that treat tenants as clients, violating their tenants’ rights.

There were about a dozen women living in bunk beds from the cellar up through the attic of the two-story house, according to tenants.

One of those tenants, Valerie Williamson, said Baumblit had illegally evicted her from the bunk she slept in on the building’s second floor more than two weeks ago for her participation in the lawsuit, and she claimed a victory when Baumblit admitted in Queens Housing Court he had illegally evicted her and agreed to let her return. The class-action lawsuit is still pending in Brooklyn Supreme Court.

On the night of the fire, there were about a dozen or so women in the South Jamaica building, all of whom escaped without injury, the Fire Department said.

Union tent city in Woodside

From NBC NY:

Hundreds of job seekers have camped out on a Queens street for their chance to apply for recently-opened union positions.

About 500 people are gathered around the training offices of Local Union 46, the union representing metallic lathers and reinforcing ironworkers, to hand in their applications on Monday.

People started arriving at the offices in Woodside after the State Department of Labor and the union announced they were looking to hire iron and wood apprentices for 50 positions.

The first person in line arrived last Sunday.

The line wraps around the entire block, with job hopefuls wrapped in blankets and sleeping in tents. Many people in line aren't working, or want the benefits of a union position.

One applicant told NBC 4 New York he came from Phoenix, Arizona for his chance to hand in the application.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Oy vey!

I think it might be time for a photo caption. Knock yourselves out.

Pols make bad staffing decisions

Paul Rivera is holding the box above.

From the Daily News:

A special adviser to state Senate Democratic Minority Leader John Sampson is set to see his $80,000 salary jump to $130,000 a year — and he won’t even have to work full time.

Paul Rivera’s incredible $50,000 bump — a 62.5% increase in his pay — comes after the Senate Democrats laid off more than 300 staffers during the past 17 months, sources said.

The raise will be retroactive to Feb. 16, but the real kicker is that Sampson, a Brooklyn Democrat, allowed Rivera to keep a special designation so he won’t have to work the 35-hour weeks required of most Senate staffers.

Instead, he can clock in for as little as 25 hours a week in his state job, freeing up time for campaign work, the sources added.

From the Daily News:

Paul Rivera, a top aide to Senate Minority Leader John Sampson, will not be getting his $50,000 a year raise after all.

“Mr. Rivera, who had voluntarily taken a significant pay cut in 2011, has agreed to forego the restoration of his previous salary,” a Senate Democratic spokesman said in a terse statement.

Insiders said that Sampson was under great pressure from several of his members who were upset after they learned about the raise Wednesday from a Daily News report.

From the NY Post:

City Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez today fired his cop-hating spokesman David Segal, hours after The Post revealed that Segal had served time in a federal prison for torching an Army recruitment center in The Bronx, council sources said.

Rodriguez's dismissal of Segal came a day after the Democratic Manhattan councilman repeatedly ducked Post reporters trying to ask him about what he knew about Segal's terrorist past, and when he knew it.

Segal, 26, is a native of leafy Litchfield, Conn., who was hired as Rodriguez's spokesman last March even after disclosing the arrest to Council Speaker Christine Quinn’s office, which conducts the background checks, sources said.

In January 2005, Segal threw a burning rag into the Parkchester recruitment center — and was carrying a note that described a “wave of violence” targeting military complexes in the Northeast.

Before he started a six-month sentence at Fort Dix, he described, in an online rant, his arresting officers as “pigs” who asked a bunch of “dumb questions.”

Segal served six months in federal prison and four months’ house arrest. He was on probation for another three years and ordered to pay more than $4,100 in fines and restitution.

Segal — who also has three prior busts for civil disobedience, including one last month — reiterated his anti-war stance when asked yesterday about the arrest.

New life for Apple building

From the Daily News:

Score one more for Long Island City and its transformation from gritty factory town into a live, work and play neighborhood.

A long vacant building at 30-30 Northern Blvd., now just a concrete shell, will become a seven-story commercial complex by this time next year, according to the project’s developer.

And a university campus could also be there in five years.

Alma Realty has begun gutting the building and plans to add two stories and complete a new 270,000-square-foot structure by early 2013. Plans also call for a rooftop terrace and for the building to be Gold LEED-certified, a coveted badge of eco-friendliness.

Alma will soon be looking for tenants — especially tech firms — to occupy the building, which a decade ago housed a topless dance club.

24 high schools to close and reopen

From the NY Times:

A bit before midnight, more than three months after the idea was proposed, the Panel for Educational Policy voted to reconstitute two dozen city schools by closing them, replacing most of their staff members and reopening them with new names.

Come summer, Alfred E. Smith Career and Technical High School, Herbert H. Lehman High School, Banana Kelly High School, J.H.S. 22 Jordan L. Mott, I.S. 339, Bronx High School of Business, J.H.S. 80 Mosholu Parkway, M.S. 391 Angelo Patri Middle School, Fordham Leadership Academy and J.H.S. 142 John Philip Sousa, all in the Bronx; Automotive High School, Sheepshead Bay High School, John Dewey High School, John Ericsson Middle School 126 and J.H.S. 166 George Gershwin, all in Brooklyn; Bread and Roses Integrated Arts High School and High School of Graphic Communication Arts, in Manhattan; and August Martin High School, Flushing High School, Long Island City High School, William Cullen Bryant High School, John Adams High School, Newtown High School and Richmond Hill High School, in Queens — will no longer exist.

But before the meeting was the drama of a last-minute save for two of the schools that were on the list. As Anna M. Phillips reported for The New York Times, “The schools chancellor, Dennis M. Walcott, retreated on Thursday from a plan to shut down a last-chance high school for students who have dropped out or have failed at traditional schools.”

That school, Bushwick Community High School, is a transfer school that was passionately defended by its students and public officials who had heard the stories of success and, in some cases, salvation, that the school, its staff and administration, had provided them.

Also saved was Grover Cleveland High School in Ridgewood, Queens.

Both schools had C’s on their last school progress reports and, despite very low graduation rates and other weaknesses, had shown signs of improving.

Whitestone says there are too many cell repeaters on building

From the Times Ledger:

The reception might be good near the intersection of 150th Street and Willets Point Boulevard in Whitestone, but state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) said his calls haven’t been answered yet.

The senator gathered with area residents Friday to protest what he called the poster child for the unwarranted expansion of the cell phone industry outside a real estate office, at 24-12 150th St., riddled with more than 20 cell phone towers and a large generator.

“The amount of antennas on this building presents a handful of dilemmas for the entire community,” Avella said. “The sheer number of these towers alone beg the question of whether the building can even sustain the weight of the multiple towers.”

Avella said he reached out to the city Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications as well as the city Department of Buildings to no avail, asking them for an analysis on the number of radiation-linked illnesses in the last decade in that area.

The DOB returned his calls with what he called an incomprehensible response, only recognizing that each individual permit was valid.

Aside from the aesthetic disadvantages Avella had mentioned, the senator also said area residents were concerned about a potential health risk in living so close to the towers.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Jet Blue sign to light the way

From the NY Times:

In response to a push from the airline JetBlue, which opened a new headquarters in Long Island City this month, proposed zoning changes are moving forward to allow the company and its neighbors to shout their identities from huge rooftop signs that could be seen from Manhattan.

On Tuesday, a City Council subcommittee unanimously approved the changes to permit such signs on nonresidential buildings along 14 block fronts between 23rd Street and the Sunnyside railroad yards.

It is one of the last steps in the approval process that the airline embarked on more than a year ago and that has been slowed by red tape and community opposition. The full Council is expected to vote on Monday to approve the amendments, which will pave the way for the four-and-a-half-story-high sign, and perhaps others.

Crane company owner found not guilty

From Crains:

The owner of a construction crane company was cleared of all charges related to a 2008 fatal crane collapse on the Upper East Side of Manhattan.

Manhattan Supreme Court Judge Daniel Conviser acquitted James Lomma and his two firms, New York Crane and Equipment Corp. and JF Lomma Inc., of manslaughter and other charges Thursday. The crane collapse at East 91st Street and First Avenue led to the death of two construction workers on the site.

Prosecutors had argued that the crane fell because Mr. Lomma hired a cheap and unknown Chinese company to repair the crane at the site. Mr. Lomma's attorneys said Mr. Lomma and his firm responsibly repaired the crane and therefore did not cause what they called the tragic accident. If Mr. Lomma had been found guilty in the non-jury trial, he would've faced five to 15 years in prison.

Prosecutors said that Mr. Lomma did not follow city inspectors' requirements for the repairs.

Liu pals indicted; "support rally" planned

From the Daily News:

Embattled Controller John Liu’s former campaign treasurer, Jia (Jenny) Hou, was named in an indictment with fund-raiser Xing Wu (Oliver) Pan.

Pan was busted in November for trying to get around campaign contribution limits by rounding up straw donors to give more than $13,000 to Liu’s mayoral campaign.

Hou, 25, was arrested in February and accused of taking part in the same scheme by directing at least 40 fraudulent donations to the campaign.

The two cases were joined on Thursday.

Hou was already arraigned on charges of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, attempting to commit wire fraud and obstruction of justice. Each charge carries a maximum of 20 years in prison.

The new indictment added one charge of making a false statement, which carries an additional five years in jail.

From the NY Post:

City Comptroller John Liu’s former campaign treasurer has been hit with a new charge of lying to the FBI during its probe of contributions to the embattled mayoral contender.

Jia “Jenny” Hou allegedly made the bogus statements on Feb. 27, one day before she was busted on charges of scheming to funnel illegal donations to Liu’s campaign.

Hou pretended that a Jan. 17 report she filed with the city Campaign Finance Board included all campaign-contribution bundlers “and [that] no one was left off,” according to a new indictment of fund-raiser Xing Wu “Oliver” Pan.

Hou also falsely claimed she had turned over “all responsive documents” after checking “every single e-mail in her e-mail account,” the Manhattan federal court filing says.

From Capital Tonight:

A reader forwarded an email invite sent by veteran Democratic consultant Bill Lynch to a “support” rally being held Monday for embattled NYC Comptroller John Liu “in light of recent investigations.”

The event is being held at a church, and Lynch is careful to note that this is NOT a campaign event, nor an effort to secure endorsements, but merely a moment to demonstrate general support for the comptroller as he battles for his political life.

Lynch’s firm, Bill Lynch Associates, served as the general consultant for Liu’s successful 2009 run for comptroller.

Liu has refused to pull the plug on his aspirations to run for NYC mayor in 2013, despite the fact that a top campaign aide was arrested in February on allegations of campaign finance fraud and a bundler was indicted on charges of conspiracy and wire fraud.

It will be interesting – not to mention telling – to see who shows up Monday.

City cracking down on illegal hotels

From the NY Times:

Armed with a new state law, the city has spent the past year cracking down on the growing industry of short-term rentals; since the law took effect last May, nearly 1,900 notices of violation have been issued at hundreds of residential buildings.

The new law made it illegal to rent out apartments in residential buildings for under 30 days. Owners of an apartment or a town house may still rent out one or two rooms, provided that they live in the home and everyone has access to common areas like the kitchen. Illegal hotels found by the city included small rental buildings, condos and town houses, and many of them were hiding in plain sight.

The Loftstel, a town house on Greene Avenue in Bedford-Stuyvesant, advertised on Web sites, including a New York University site that offers suggestions for short-term housing. (N.Y.U. does not endorse the locations.)

Students and tourists came to the Loftstel from all over the world, said Tommy Walton, 56, who lives a few doors down. They threw “crazy parties,” he said, adding that he was once invited in by a guest and found a refrigerator packed with beer and vodka, but not a scrap of food.

During an inspection last year, the Mayor’s Office of Special Enforcement found 44 guests in the house, inadequate smoke alarms and other unsafe conditions, problems the city says are common when residences are used for short-term lodging.

The building now stands vacant. The man behind the business, Jeff Pan, said he had “made a clean break from it.”

Vallone wants cab drivers to speak English

From the Queens Gazette:

Councilmember Peter F. Vallone Jr. last week blasted officials at the city Taxi & Limousine Commission (TLC) for approving a plan to issue street hail permits to livery drivers – including drivers that can’t speak English.

Vallone said he is looking into legislation that would give drivers a grace period, during which they must learn to speak English. Drivers who fail to comply by the end of the grace period could lose their permit.

The TLC last week approved new rules that would allow 18,000 livery drivers to obtain permits to pick up street hails, bypassing car service companies.

The new permits will be sold in groups of 6,000 a year, beginning in June 2012, only to current livery drivers.

Existing TLC rules require drivers of yellow cabs to pass a test showing they can speak English, possess a knowledge of city geography and understand all agency rules, before they are issued a permit.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Power proposal may benefit Astoria

From the Daily News:

A proposal to create a $2.2 billion power transmission line to bring wind and hydroelectric power from Quebec to Astoria is pitting environmentalists and against each another and creating some unusual alliances.

The Champlain Hudson Power Express project would bring up to 1,000 megawatts of Canadian power into the city through a roughly 333-mile underground, and at times underwater, cable.

A public hearing on the project is slated for 6 p.m. on Tuesday at Public School 122 in Astoria. The state Public Service Commission is to review comments on the plan before deciding whether to approve it.

The proposal delighted some locals who don’t want more power plants built in western Queens.

But detractors say it could discourage the state from developing its own renewable energy sources and warned that cost overruns could be passed on to consumers.

Meng lies about her relationship with Multimedia

Date: Tue, 10 Apr 2012 19:55:30 -0700
Subject: Re: Sexual exploitation of women in Queens

Thank you for contacting me about the use of Grace Meng of the Multi=media company which is connected with the Queens Tribune.

If you have followed our Women's Center activities, you would know that we have had a campaign against the use of community newspapers for exploiting women and featuring ads that encourage prostitution.

I learned of the fact that Grace Meng is using this company through an editorial of the Queens Chronicle. Mark Weidler, the publisher, was the first one to cooperate with the Center's campaign to voluntary agree never to publish these ads!

I do not know if Grace Meng is aware of the connection with her campaign advisors and the Queens Tribune. I have left message for Assembly Meng today to talk to her in her district office. She is probably in Albany and it may take a day or two for me to reach her.

I respect Grace Meng and have heard her champion rights for women and I do not for a minute believe that she is aware of the connection. I do not want to harm her campaign and believe she has the right to be informed of the issues.

I appreciate your letter and your efforts. You can be of enormous help by sending your complaint to her. I can assure you that I will follow up. I am personally acquainted with all of the Democratic candidates for the Congressional seat. They all are very sensitive to the issue of sex trafficking and domestic violence and have concern for women's rights.

The issue needs to get public attention and we have to raise the public awareness of the exploitation of women for the sake of advertising dollars!

Let us see what her response will be. Thanks for your concern on this issue.

Ann Jawin
Center for the Women of New York (CWNY)
Queens Borough Hall
120-55 Queens Boulevard, Room 325
Kew Gardens, NY 11424
Phone 718 793 0672
Fax 718 793 0020

Subject: Fwd: Assemblywoman Meng & Sex-trafficking
Date: Wed, 25 Apr 2012 13:08:04 -0400

Multi media is not receiving any consulting fees from my campaign. They are printing some of our posters/fliers.

Thank you for inquiring.
Sent from my iPhone


What does that mean? Why exactly does Meng feel compelled to use Multimedia for her printing considering their seedy rep and connection to sex trafficking ads?

Let's recall the Queens Chronicle's March 29th editorial:

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.

And let's also revisit the first paragraph from a recent City and State article:

A spokesman for Assemblywoman Grace Meng’s congressional campaign confirmed this morning that its main campaign consultant, Michael Nussbaum, urged a Jewish state committeeman in Queens to run for the same congressional seat as Meng.

Why would someone who's "just a printer" be contacting other candidates and asking them to be vote splitters?

From City and State:

Assemblywoman Grace Meng unveiled her congressional campaign team today, which is notable as much for those involved as it is for those not.

Team Meng includes the following:

Multi-Media, Strategist and Consultant; Michael Nussbaum, executive vice president and associate publisher of the Queens Tribune, is the principle at Multi-Media. The Tribune was founded by Congressman Ackerman back in 1970.


I threw in Jawin's "Grace must not know" response for comic relief. I could see how she could miss these ads in the Trib every week:

Why does this "women's group" have a boro hall office address unless they are an arm of the Queens Machine?

Former commissioner has a big debt to pay

From the NY Times:

A former senior Bloomberg administration official has been fined $22,000 by the city’s Conflicts of Interest Board, primarily for using a city computer account to send e-mails related to her paid service as a board member of a real estate company.

Martha E. Stark, a former Department of Finance commissioner who resigned in 2009, acknowledged that she sent roughly 300 e-mails from her city account, over a four-year period, related to the Tarragon Corporation. Ms. Stark also acknowledged that she asked a former first deputy commissioner, as well as an executive assistant, to work on administrative tasks related to Tarragon.

Tarragon, which does not do business with the city, had paid Ms. Stark more than $134,000 in 2006 and 2007, while she was serving as finance commissioner. She had received permission from the Conflicts Board to serve on the Tarragon board, but with the requirement that she not use city resources for Tarragon work.

According to the conflicts board (see report below), Ms. Stark also asked, using her city e-mail, the vice president and general counsel of a corporation that owns luxury rental apartment buildings to help her former domestic partner look for an apartment. And, again using her city account, with her default signature as city finance commissioner, she asked a senior official at a real estate trade association to help her recently laid-off stepsister find a job.

Gillibrand prefers killing over humane goose control methods

From Metro:

It’s open season on Canada geese, if Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand has her way.

Today, the day after a plane in Westchester County had to make an emergency landing after two geese struck its windshield, Gillibrand introduced legislation that she vows will “cut the bureaucratic red tape” and allow “for the swift removal of Canada geese” around the city’s airports.

In the past, geese have been removed by being rounded up, stuffed into crates and gassed to death by agents with the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

For the past two years now, the USDA has culled geese within a seven-mile radius of John F. Kennedy and LaGuardia airports. Under a plan supported by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, USDA agents killed 1,509 wild geese in parks throughout New York City and 167 more in Long Island in 2010. Last year, 575 geese were killed.

But they’ve been unable to get into one area that is the main home of the birds: The Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge, a 9,000-acre estuary and bird sanctuary that surrounds JFK’s runways.

The refuge is maintained by the National Park Service, and the federal government has been resistant to allowing USDA agents in there until it can complete an environmental impact study.

Gillibrand’s proposed legislation would not only allow agents into the preserve, but it would also require them to kill the birds during their June and July molting season.

“That’s when their new flight feathers are coming in and they can’t fly,” said Edita Birnkrant, the New York Director of Friends of Animals. “They get them when they’re flightless. They pen them and they can’t fly away.”

Adults and goslings alike killed

Geese are nesting right now, said Birnkrant, so it’s both adult geese and goslings that will be killed under Gillibrand's plan.

Birnkrant called Gillibrand’s suggestion to kill more birds “ a kneejerk reaction that won’t work.”

“We can’t get rid of every bird in the city and deciding to slaughter them is counterproductive,” she said. “Wildlife repopulates itself. Even if they do kill the geese, more will come back to these areas because it’s an attractive place to live.”

Birnkrant proposes using bird radar technology, which she said the Air Force uses. She said it detects flocks of birds, and pilots either delay take-off or maneuver around the birds. She also suggested modifying the birds’ natural habitat in Jamaica Bay Refuge, such as planting dense grass and shrubs and replacing the Kentucky bluegrass that grows there. That grass, she said, "is like candy to the geese."

Lots of old photos now available

From the NY Times:

Call it “Forward to the Future.” The Bloomberg administration unveiled a trove of 870,000 digitized images and media from the city archives Tuesday, with photographs dating from 1858, color images from the 1980s of every building in the city, and farm maps dating to 160 years ago. The gallery is accessible free on the city’s Web site (though opening-day traffic was so heavy that it’s been down most of the afternoon), and reprints and digital copies are available for purchase.

The collections represent a still life of New York: an unfinished bridge, the mug shot of a forgotten criminal, a murder victim in a barrel, two ocean liners, ships passing by day, a Sanitation Department horse cart.

The searchable gallery includes all the holdings or a representative sample from 30 historic collections, including 1,300 photographs from the 1930s taken by the Federal Writers’ Project and 15,000 shot by Eugene de Salignac, on assignment for the Department of Bridges from 1906 to 1934. The oldest photograph is of the site of Central Park before construction began.

The collections, including films, maps and other media, were available at the Municipal Archives at 31 Chambers Street behind City Hall; only a few hundred were previously available online.

The Departments of Citywide Administrative Services and Records and Information Services produced the online archive and will continue to add digitized content.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Bovis Lend Lease is fined big time

From the Daily News:

One of the world’s biggest contractors routinely inflated bills on high-profile construction jobs over the last decade, ripping off taxpayers and developers alike, prosecutors charged Tuesday.

Bovis Lend Lease - which has billions of dollars of public and private construction work around the city and world - was for the first time hit with criminal charges.

But the company, after dodging charges in the 2007 Deutsche Bank tower fire, will again avoid prosecution after paying $50 million in fines and restitution — and agreeing to clean up its act.

The company was charged with three counts of fraud conspiracy.

At the same time, a top Bovis executive in New York, James Abadie, pleaded guilty to fraud conspiracy charges in Brooklyn Federal Court.

Abadie admitted he and other unnamed Bovis executives let the laborers union “add one or two hours of overtime to their time sheets every day whether they worked it or not." They passed these costs on to their customers.

Abadie was released on $500,000 bond. He faces up to 12 and a half years in prison.

Prosecutors noted that some of the alleged fraud was committed in buildings next to and across the street from the courthouse where Abadie pleaded guilty.

Cars being torched in Bayside

From Bayside Patch:

Fire officials are calling the burning of two parked vehicles just after midnight on Sunday "suspicious."

One Acura and one BMW caught fire while parked near Fort Totten, and were reported at around 12:15 a.m., according to an FDNY official.

A spokesman said it was unusual for parked cars to simply overheat and combust on their own, noting that fire marshals are likely to investigate what caused the flames.

"If there’s nobody driving the car to overheat it, than that would be suspicious," said an FDNY spokesman, who added, "It wouldn’t be a normal way for car to catch on fire."

A witness who lives near 15-42 216th Street, and 15-9 215th Street, where the two cars were situated around the block from one another, believes they were purposely set ablaze.

Pols outraged over, but not the Trib

From CBS New York:

Lawmakers held an emotional hearing Wednesday, calling on Village Voice Media to shut down the adult section of its classifieds website.

City Council members choked back tears as a girl named “Briana,” now 13, testified from behind a screen. She described her ordeal as a 12-year-old sex slave being advertised on Backpage by her friend’s brother.

Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras’ voice grew loud as the attorney for Village Voice Media testified that keeping the site up helped identify missing and exploited children.

“You’re making a profit off these pimps putting these girls on your website,” Ferreras said.

The Gateways Progam’s director even testified Wednesday that 75 percent of the young women in the program have been trafficked on Backpage.

Brooklyn DA Charles “Joe” Hynes also testified that 70 percent of his sex trafficking cases come from Backpage.

Why wasn't the Queens Tribune put on the hot seat at the hearing? Could it be because all the pols on the council kiss Schenkler's ass in return for endorsements and positive coverage? Or because the tweeders hire Multimedia for their campaigns?

Padavan will sit out State Senate race

From the Times Ledger:

State Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) has two less challengers after Sen. Toby Stavisky (D-Whitestone) decided to run in another district and former Sen. Frank Padavan opted not to relive a heated previous campaign for his old seat.

“I’m going to focus my efforts on getting Dan re-elected,” Padavan said at a recent event, referring to City Councilman Dan Halloran (R-Whitestone), who is running for Congress.

It was widely speculated earlier this year that Padavan would face off against Avella in a general election, and Padavan told TimesLedger Newspapers in February that he was considering the move.

But a source in the Queens Republican Party confirmed Padavan did not want to run. Now the party is in the process of drawing up a shortlist of possible candidates and interviewing them.

It was also uncertain where Stavisky would end up running after the redistricting process, but her office said she would be making an announcement on the steps of Flushing Library, at 41-17 Main St., indicating she would go for the new 16th District.

That district most closely resembles her current seat, but is centered around Flushing, with two arms that extend west into Forest Hills and east along the Long Island Expressway into parts of Bayside. The district is 53 percent Asian, and by running there Stavisky will avoid a primary with Avella.

Kosciuszko Bridge project to start next year

From the Daily News:

Commuters weary of the all-too-familiar sight of the sea of brake lights atop the Kosciuszko Bridge can rejoice.

Construction on a new bridge is now expected to begin in spring 2013 — a year ahead of schedule, thanks to $460 million made available for the job by Gov. Cuomo’s New York Work initiative.

The 73-year-old bridge, which carries the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway over the Newtown Creek, qualified for the money in part because it is on the state’s “deficient bridge” list.

The initial phase of construction will build an eastbound lane next to the existing bridge, according to the state Department of Transportation, the agency overseeing the project. The 1.1-mile bridge is expected to be done in 2017 and will cost about $800 million.

When completed, two new spans with a total of nine vehicle lanes and paths for pedestrians and bikes will replace the original structure.

It’s the single biggest project made possible through the New York Works program, an initiative to create jobs while repairing the state’s infrastructure.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Ulrich announces State Senate candidacy

From the Daily News:

Queens City Councilman Eric Ulrich announced [yesterday] morning his bid to take on Democratic Sen. Joe Addabbo through a YouTube video.

“I will be a state senator that never stops fighting for the middle class,” Ulrich says in the video released just after 10 a.m. this morning. “I’ve watched too many of my friends and relatives pack up and move out of New York because they simply could not afford to live here any longer.”

The video was posted to Ulrich’s new website, which launched this morning as well.

Ulrich, considered a rising star in the New York City Republican ranks and a councilman for the last three years, does not mention same-sex marriage or even his potential fall opponent.

Instead, he focuses on middle-class and business tax cuts. He also says he would push for “investment” in higher education so “young people” like him can stay in New York.

Simotas supports new rape definition

Aravella Simotas has kept a pretty low profile in the Assembly since being hand-picked by the Vallones for the job. But here she is talking about how she's against rape, which is really sticking her neck out there!

I am not sure that the wisest thing to do is legislate based on the outcome of court cases you don't agree with. If Michael Pena had been one of her Albany tweeder friends and was found not guilty, she'd be throwing a party, not trying to toughen up the law, dontcha think?

Push for Astoria dog run repairs

From the Daily News:

Local dog owners are pressuring elected leaders and city officials to fix up a beloved but rundown dog park in Astoria.

But they’ve run into resistance from fellow dog owners and the run’s unofficial caretaker. It is also unclear which city agency is responsible for the waterfront property that Bugsy’s Dog Run sits on.

“My goal would be to establish a community-sponsored dog run,” said Dan Cain, 33, of Astoria, who is leading the latest charge to renovate the run.

“The dog park itself is falling into the river,” said Cain, who added he and other dog owners would be willing to chip in for the repairs. “It’s dirty, it’s filthy and it’s unsafe for dogs.”

Cain, who has an eight-pound toy fox terrier, said he’s afraid his dog could get injured in the rocky run, which is not partitioned into small and large dog sections like most city runs.

But he said some dog owners don’t want to make improvements to the run because they fear the city will stop allowing dogs off-leash in the early mornings and late evenings at nearby Astoria Park.

The run’s condition wouldn’t effect off-leash hours since it isn’t on city Parks Department property, an agency official said.

Other dog owners said they worried if enough attention was brought to the poor condition of the run, with its rocky terrain and sloping fences that have gaps in some spots, it would be closed.

Long time readers may recall that QC visited this spot in 2008.

Mormon church variance hearing

From WPIX:

Sanford Avenue near Parsons Avenue in Flushing, has submitted an application to move to 33rd avenue, a street that is zoned for single family housing. The zoning changed in 2009. But the church, according to civic leaders, bought three parcels of land and submitted plans to build to the city.

The community board turned down the application.

"Why go into a low density area and upset the community, destroy zoning when you already have a site," said State Senator Tony Avella.

Today, the community went to the Board of Standards and Appeals to make their case about keeping the church out. The church is asking the city for an exemption since it's a religious entity. If the project is given a go, the structure is set to be 21,000 square feet. The average home on the block is 1,500 square feet.

Fraud eyed in 911 overhaul

From the NY Post:

The city Department of Investigation is probing the Bloomberg administration’s bungled $2 billion overhaul of the 911 emergency-call system for evidence of corruption, fraud and violations of city regulations, The Post has learned.

Agents have focused on the money trail — such as cost overruns, contract payments and other expenditures — connected with the Emergency Communications Transformation Project, which actually made the system worse than it was before.

“It’s looking at it comprehensively,” a source told The Post.

The inquiry is preliminary, and probers have not found any proof of criminal conduct, sources said.

But the DOI will open a full-blown criminal case “if the review finds possible corruption,” a source said.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Open letter to Ann Jawin

Courtesy of GeorgetheAtheist's blog:

Dear Ms Jawin:

Next Saturday, April 28, 2012, your esteemed organization, the Center for the Women of New York will be honoring Assemblywoman Grace Meng at the Douglaston Manor with one of your "Women in Leadership" Awards. As you are well aware, Assemblywoman Meng has employed as a campaign consultant in her race for the United State House of Representatives, the Multi Media consulting firm headed by the long time Associate Publisher of the Queens Tribune, Michael Nussbaum. Multi Media shares the same premises with the Queens Tribune. As you are further aware, the Queens Tribune is notorious for having published and continuing to publish demeaning-to-women sex-trafficking classified ads in its back pages. How can your organization, a champion of women's rights, in good faith laud Ms Meng by presenting her an award when she is indirectly promoting this degradation of women through her affiliation with Multi Media? Your organization states that you are "Honoring women . . . who are committed to women's rights . . ." It makes absolutely no sense. Assemblywoman Meng's relationship to Multi Media is a commitment to women's rights? Is this a joke? Your public reply would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you for your attention.

Sincerely, GeorgetheAtheist

They pimped more than just their rides

From the NY Post:

A father and son from Queens ran a lucrative — and cruel — brothel on wheels for two decades, using six livery drivers to deliver hookers to hotels and apartments, Manhattan prosecutors said today in announcing the ring’s breakup.

In a sick twist, the dad, Vincent George, Sr., 55, not only taught Vincent, Jr., 33, how to pimp, but may at one point have either employed his own daughter as a hooker or pawned her off on yet another pimp, prosecutors said, declining to elaborate.

Johns on the go could purchase and enjoy a sex act without ever leaving the back seat, officials said of the operation, quoting the price scale at $200 to $500 per customer.

Business was good — one woman alone allegedly earned half-a-million dollars for the father and son last year, and the Georges employed five women at the time of the bust, officials said.

But as nice as they were to customers, the alleged father and son pimps were nasty to their prostitutes, threatening them, giving them little money so as to keep them helpless and even branding them with tattoos — including a bar code on one woman’s neck, according to officials.

The father and son “trafficked” their women from Queens and from Allentown, Pa., into the city, forcing them to solicit Johns at upscale hotel bars and outside of strip clubs, officials said.

The women were made to pass out cards reading “Professional Masseuse,” according to court documents.

Meng will keep cash from dad's shady pal

From the Daily News:

A congressional hopeful accepted a $300 campaign contribution from a family friend whose fundraising shenanigans tarnished her father’s political career.

Assemblywoman Grace Meng, running in a Democratic primary in the re-drawn 6th Congressional District in Queens, accepted the contribution from her father’s one-time administrative aide, Simon Ting.

“We appreciate the opportunity to discuss this $300 contribution, received just a few days after Assemblywoman Meng announced her campaign and given by an old friend of her father’s, but will not be returning it,” said Michael Tobman for Meng’s campaign.

Ting pled guilty in 2007 to a misdemeanor charge of attempted offering of a false instrument for fabricating 36 voter registration forms with incorrect addresses in Jimmy Meng’s successful 2004 Assembly race. He was sentenced to a $500 fine.

Ting had written in his own address or that of a bookstore owned by Jimmy Meng on the fraudulent voter forms, the District Attorney’s office stated.

Queens DA Richard Brown’s office said at the time that the forms had no bearing on the elder Meng’s 2004 win and that they believed Ting acted alone.

However, Jimmy Meng did not run for re-election, citing health concerns, and Ting was charged a couple weeks after the elder Meng’s term ended.

Shop owners sue city over ramp accidents

From the NY Post:

Two Queens shops shuttered after out-of-control cars plowed into their storefronts not once but twice — and within just nine days of each other — have filed a $1 million lawsuit, blaming a 59th Street Bridge exit ramp.

Espinal Caribbean Restaurant II had been open four years in Long Island City when the first crash happened in March 2011.

“It was a major setback and years of work evaporated,’’ owner Tony Espinal said. “But then the second crash!

“And then the third crash!” he said, referring to yet another in which a car sped toward the shops, only to be stopped by scaffolding erected after the earlier accidents.

Joining Espinal, 44, in the suit is Villa De Beauté hair-salon owner Akber Jiwani, 32.

The owners of the two smashed storefronts on Queens Plaza South teamed up to sue the city, the Department of Transportation, and the drivers for damages.

The destruction of their shops and their ensuing business losses were caused by “negligently planned and/or designed traffic patterns . . . leading to the location of the incident which constitutes a hazardous and/or dangerous condition,” according to their lawsuit, recently filed in Queens Supreme Court.

Birdbaths lead to fines

From the NY Times:

During mosquito-breeding season, from April to October, standing water on the ground, in roof gutters, on swimming pool covers and in discarded tires, among other places, can violate Article 151, which covers pest prevention and management. Health officials said the 699 summonses issued last year was about average.

In a city where Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg has all but banned smoking and waged war on soda and trans fats, some New Yorkers may complain that the crackdown on birdbaths is yet another intrusion by the nanny state or a ruse to raise more money for municipal coffers.

Mosquitoes that carry the West Nile virus lay their eggs in standing water, although exactly what constitutes standing water is ambiguous. Asked to explain the difference between standing and stagnant, a department spokeswoman, Chanel Caraway, gamely said: “Standing waters become increasingly stagnant with time as they become more and more concentrated with decomposing organic material, which is food for the mosquito larvae.”

Ms. Caraway emphasized that the agency is not necessarily anti-birdbath. “The health department will issue a notice of violation for standing water in a birdbath only if that water is stagnant, not simply for having water in a birdbath,” she said. “The decomposed organic matter found in stagnant water is the food for mosquito larvae. The department recommends replacing the water in the birdbath every two to three days to prevent mosquito breeding.”

Monday, April 23, 2012

Et tu, Rory?

From Queens Politics:

A source very close to Gottlieb indicates that a little over two years ago, Gottlieb was to oppose the Staviskys on a matter of leadership.

What came in return was Evan and Toby threatening that they would unearth Jeffrey’s fiery problems from the 1970′s.

Jeffrey decided not to confront them and he laid low and stayed behind the scenes, but this time around Jeff thought that Evan and the Staviskys were working with Grace Meng, so there would be no real conflict because his campaign would be focused against Rory Lancman.

Jeff was wrong.

What Jeff didn’t know is that Lancman had retained Stavisky as an advisor prior to the nomination of Grace Meng. Rumor has it, and it’s been pointed out here, Stavisky is in fact working behind the scenes with Lancman.

From True News for Change NYC:

For the first time since the rise of Brian McLaughlin, Parkside is not running a major race for the Queens organization. It was not the string of losses, including Weprin and the Democratic Majority that knocked them out of the Meng campaign. It was the anti-Semitic flyers that the company attacked her father with when he beat Parkside candidate Barry Grodenchik in 2004. What Gottlieb did not understand is that Evan fears that a Meng win could destroy his million dollar consultant and lobbyist business. Congresswoman Meng would demand that County no longer deal with Parkside.

Port Authority kills anything that moves

From the NY Post:

Birds aren’t the only hazard to planes at JFK. The airport is teeming with bunnies which can hop out onto runways in front of a plane or simply draw birds of prey.

Ninety-nine wascally wabbits and hares were shotgunned at JFK last year by Elmer Fudd firing squads comprised of Port Authority and USDA workers.

“It’s open season at the airport to shoot rabbits,” said Steven Garber, a biologist and consultant for wildlife management at airports.

A new federal wildlife assessment of the airport recommends “regularly” killing Eastern cottontails and black-tailed jackrabbits “to decrease the prey base on the airfield.”

Rabbits have been cited in three minor US plane crashes in the last 30 years, National Transportation Safety Board records show.

Wildlife is a constant nuisance at the 4,930-acre Kennedy, which borders Jamaica Bay across from Gateway national park.

Meeks "partying like a 1 percenter"

From the NY Post:

Gregory Meeks, one of the poorest members of Congress, continues to party like a 1 percenter.

The Queens Democrat scored coveted Super Bowl tickets in February, weeks after living it up in Las Vegas.

The good times were paid for by his campaign and political action committees, which footed the bill for plane fare, hotels, meals and tickets.

He used campaign funds to snag $19,000 worth of Super Bowl ducats, buying them from television networks, ticket brokers and the NFL, according to his recently released campaign filing.

The NFL and networks sell Super Bowl tickets at face value — $800, $900 or $1,200 — to VIPs and pols who may resell them at an inflated price to raise campaign cash.

He paid $3,625 for tickets from the NFL, a price that means he may have bought tickets to a suite at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.

The ticket buying, while not illegal, has been criticized because politicians are receiving something not available to the public.

Meeks, who has held Super Bowl fund-raisers for the last five years, refused to tell The Post in February whether he would hold one for this year’s Giants-Patriots championship game.

Columbia contractors have crooked histories

From the Daily News:

In the two years since Columbia University began work on its controversial West Harlem campus expansion, the Ivy League institution has engaged the services of a slew of contractors with checkered records, the Daily News has learned.

One firm was implicated in a bid-fraud scheme at a Brooklyn hospital, and two were cited in bribery investigations. That’s in addition to Breeze National, the mob-linked demolition company handling the jobs in which two workers have been killed.

Columbia says on its website it is the biggest client of Brooklyn-based Eagle Two Construction, owned by Roxanne Tzitzikalakis, whose father Demetrios Tzitzikalakis pleaded guilty to grand larceny and falsifying business records for bilking the city out of cash at his former company, Foundation Construction Consultants.

State controller Thomas DiNapoli found in an audit last week that the ex-con father plays an active role in running the company — and that Eagle won six contracts at SUNY Downstate Medical Center where forged bids or bids from affiliates posing as competitors were submitted.

After the Daily News inquired about the allegations against Eagle, Columbia spokeswoman Victoria Benitez said the firm has been suspended from consideration for contracts, pending the outcome of DiNapoli’s investigation.

Utility work on Columbia’s expansion project has been contracted to Felix Associates and MFM, which records show share a Westchester address and officers.

Felix was identified by Con Edison as the firm accused of bribing 11 Con Ed supervisors, who were arrested in 2009 for demanding more than $1 million plus goodies like Giants tickets in return for letting the company jack up costs.

Other demolition work on the expansion project is being handled by Par Environmental. The Suffern, N.Y., firm, then known as Par Wrecking, was cited in a 2008 federal indictment for paying $35,000 to a Gambino crime family associate to allow them to ignore labor agreements on a Newark garage demolition.

The expansion project, which encompasses 64 properties on 17 acres, has been slapped with 59 building code violations, 13 stop work orders and four lawsuits alleging unsafe working conditions.

What the hell happened to Cardozo Playground?

At B59th Street and Arverne Blvd is this site which displays a Parks Dept sign and the name "Cardozo Playground." You can read its history here.

The park has been in this condition for about 10 years or so, according to park advocates and locals. There is evidence of basketball having been played here and this photo was taken from a softball backstop.

The Parks Dept's page says the park is closed "indefinitely" but doesn't say why. In recent years, the park got acceptable ratings during inspections, which reveals what a joke the department's inspections are.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Fixing sinkholes presents a challenge

From the Times Ledger:

The coastal areas of College Point are about to get a face-lift, but the city still plans to perform construction in the isolated neighborhood and then give the accompanying amenities to Douglaston.

In late spring, the city Parks Department is set to begin making improvements to the interior pathways of MacNeil Park and has nearly finished reconstructing the comfort station and improving site drainage, according to a department spokesman.

The projects are part of more than $1.2 million that the department is using to spruce up the greenspace, Parks said.

But the money, allocated by elected officials, is still not enough to fix the sinkholes that plague the coastal walkway.

Borough President Helen Marshall and City Councilman Dan Halloran (R-Whitestone) allocated $425,000 to fix the interior pathways, and Marshall designated a further $800,000 to reconstruct the comfort station and improve drainage.

But to fix the sinkholes, the department would also have to fix related seawall problems, which it does not have the cash to do, a spokesman said.

Parks is currently seeking funding for such a project, which James Cervino, a marine and earth scientist who lives in the neighborhood, testified about at a recent budget hearing.

Cervino wants the seawall project to be included in Marshall’s budget for the coming fiscal year. Large rocks called riprap need to be restacked in front of the seawall in a neater fashion to prevent water from eroding the soil underneath the pathways and creating the sinkholes, Cervino said.

The city Department of Environmental Protection is also working to make College Point a little greener, but critics charge that the department should be doing more.

DEP now is creating wetlands at the end of Powell’s Cove Park, and when the project is complete, the area will have less invasive plant species, restored landscaping in the park and more than 3,500 trees and shrubs.

But the department is also putting resources into a restoration in Douglaston that community leaders think should stay in College Point.

Graves resigns

From the NY Post:

A city Board of Elections employee caught on tape soliciting a $25,000 “finder’s fee” from a voting-machine company three years ago has resigned, The Post has learned.

Officials said Stephen Graves, a $66,392-a-year systems analyst, submitted his letter of resignation Tuesday.

He also intends to take a leave of absence from his post as first vice chairman of the Queens GOP.