Tuesday, July 31, 2012

City council aide rented out forcibly vacated illegal basement apartment

An idea that's literally full of crap

From the Daily News:

CCNYC is looking to start a composting program for dog poop. Modeled on similar pilot programs in upstate Ithaca and Cambridge, Mass., the group hopes to put small, anaerobic composting stations at several, high volume city dog runs.

The poop would be collected in biodegradable plastic bags then deposited into the composting stations where bacteria would break down the poop.

Though health regulations prohibit using dog waste generated fertilizer in a vegetable garden, Kostmayer said the product can be used to nourish grass on a baseball field, parks and even for landfills.

Using biodegradable bags would reduce plastic bags in city landfills, reducing the amount of waste in the city’s waste management system.

Cambridge’s pilot program used a $100,000 “anaerobic digester” which turns the gases given off by the decomposing poop into electricity.

Though he’s doubtful the city would be willing to commit that much cash to a pilot program, if successful, running all of the city’s dog waste through such a device could generate enough electricity to light 750 homes, Kostmayer said.

Woodhaven's ongoing graffiti battle

From the Queens Courier:

On a recent rainy Saturday afternoon, Ed Wendell stopped the car every few blocks to inspect one of the graffiti-covered mailboxes in his neighborhood.

If untagged, he and fellow Woodhaven Residents Block Association (WRBA) member Alex Blenkinsopp felt it a small victory. If retagged, Wendell rolled down the window, despite the raindrops, and snapped a picture of the graffiti on the box.

Over the past two years, the WRBA has been trying to clean up graffiti in the neighborhood, which is mainly found on mailboxes or fireboxes. In the last few months, members have gone out to repaint them — sometimes to find them retagged a few days or weeks later.

Wendell, president of the WRBA, and members have mapped out the neighborhood into three zones to keep track of common graffiti areas.

They went out to clean up “Zone A” on Saturday, July 14, where Wendell said 44 percent of the mailboxes had been tagged. By day’s end the entire zone — bordered by Park Lane South and Atlantic Avenue — was cleaned, he said. By Tuesday, July 24, however, Wendell said 56 percent of the mailboxes in Zone A were tagged again.

Construction billing practices being investigated

From Crains:

Federal prosecutors are investigating the billing practices of four more New York City construction giants, radio-station WNYC reported Monday morning. Turner Construction Company, Tishman Construction, Plaza Construction and Skanska USA are now under the FBI's magnifying glass. That news comes after charges filed against Bovis Lend Lease in April ultimately led to an admission of guilt and $56 million in fines.

A grand jury subpoena had been issued to a firm called AECOM, a parent company of Tishman, in December of last year, the report said. But a spokesman from Tishman declined to comment on the investigation.

Turner Construction Company issued a statement this afternoon confirming that they, among other major construction contractors, had been issued a subpoena by the United States Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of New York last December.

Companies currently under investigation are involved in a number of large-scale public projects, including the extension of the 7th Avenue Subway line.

Some Jews go to great lengths to protect fruit trees

From the NY Times:

In certain Orthodox Jewish communities, from Borough Park to Monsey, N.Y., rabbis say, there is a strong aversion to chopping down fruit trees, which results from some combination of biblical verses, Jewish law and mystical documents that prohibit destroying them wantonly. In New York City, where space is tight and the option to build out in another direction generally does not exist, that means friendly neighborhood foliage can present an especially hard challenge.

“It’s an extraordinary reminder of the kind of spiritual consciousness people need to be able to sustain, particularly in urban settings,” said Rabbi Saul J. Berman, an associate professor of Jewish studies at Yeshiva University. “You see this tree and the way it’s being guarded, and suddenly you realize there’s something going on here besides just human needs.”

Interpretations may vary, but several rabbis, including Rabbi Berman, Rabbi Mayer Schiller and Rabbi Gavriel Zinner, who has written more than two dozen books on Jewish law and tradition, say this practice emerged from a passage in Deuteronomy: Even in wartime, one should not chop down your enemies’ fruit trees. There are also Talmudic sources, some said. And a mystical document called the Will of Rabbi Yehudah HaChosid, which dates back nearly 1,000 years and tends to hold more sway in Hasidic communities, took it further.

“He very cryptically asserted that it’s really dangerous to cut down a fruit-bearing tree because you’re tampering with God’s property,” Rabbi Berman said. “And if you want to tamper with God’s property, be cautious.”

Housing project becomes eyesore

From the Daily News:

Thirteen years ago the New York City Housing Authority got a big pile of taxpayer money to fix up the deteriorating Prospect Plaza houses in Ocean Hill, Brooklyn.

It never happened.

NYCHA moved all 1,500 residents into apartments scattered around the city in 2000 with the promise that they’d all be back in new and improved versions of their familiar locales by 2005.

They hired a developer and planned to spend the $148 million, including money they’d borrow plus a $21 million grant allocated to them by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Today Prospect Plaza is a ghost town, a boarded-up testament to bureaucratic bungling and constantly shifting priorities that illustrates the agency’s inabilty to get the job done, even when it’s handed free money.

Of the $21 million HUD awarded NYCHA in 1999, a stunning $17 million remains unspent, and a project that NYCHA vowed would transform lives has instead become a symbol of incompetence.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Feds probing Meeks' money

From the NY Post:

Federal investigators are scrutinizing millions in taxpayer dollars that Rep. Gregory Meeks steered to a Queens nonprofit.

The US Attorney’s Office recently issued a subpoena to the Greater Jamaica Development Corp. seeking information on federal funding secured by Meeks, a government source told The Post.

Fred Winters, a spokesman for Greater Jamaica, confirmed that the organization had received a subpoena and said it was not the target of the federal investigation. He refused to say who was.

Greater Jamaica has been a funding favorite of Meeks. His political mentor, the Rev. Floyd Flake, sits on the board.

Carlisle Towery, the president of Greater Jamaica, kicked in $1,000 in June to Meeks’ re-election campaign.

The Queens Democrat has arranged for numerous grants to the organization, including $9.2 million from the Federal Transit Administration to fix up a decrepit underpass below the Long Island Rail Road tracks and create a shopping arcade there.

Another $8.2 million in federal money is to go toward an extension of Atlantic Avenue.

The long-delayed underpass project was finally completed this spring, and Meeks appeared at a “lighting ceremony” with other officials to symbolically open the dark underpass. But the row of four newly built storefronts — a total of 5,500 square feet of space — sits empty.

Hold onto that MetroCard!

From NY Magazine:

In part to reduce the volume of MetroCards printed and strewn about subways stations, but mostly to generate an estimated $20 million in annual revenue, the MTA has proposed to tack on a $1 "green fee" for the purchase of new MetroCards. If the thing passes, frugal riders would just need to save their cards, which remain valid until their expiration, and then replenish them.

NY to pay more for illegal alien heath care

From the NY Times:

President Obama’s health care law is putting new strains on some of the nation’s most hard-pressed hospitals, by cutting aid they use to pay for emergency care for illegal immigrants, which they have long been required to provide.

The federal government has been spending $20 billion annually to reimburse these hospitals — most in poor urban and rural areas — for treating more than their share of the uninsured, including illegal immigrants. The health care law will eventually cut that money in half, based on the premise that fewer people will lack insurance after the law takes effect.

But the estimated 11 million people now living illegally in the United States are not covered by the health care law. Its sponsors, seeking to sidestep the contentious debate over immigration, excluded them from the law’s benefits.

As a result, so-called safety-net hospitals said the cuts would deal a severe blow to their finances.

The hospitals are coming under this pressure because many of their uninsured patients are illegal immigrants, and because their large pools of uninsured or poorly insured patients are not expected to be reduced significantly under the Affordable Care Act, even as federal aid shrinks.

In some states, including New York, hospitals caring for illegal immigrants in life-threatening situations can seek payment case by case, from a program known as emergency Medicaid. But the program has many restrictions and will not make up for the cuts in the $20 billion pool, hospital executives said.

Don't you find it interesting that Bloomberg, Cuomo, Gillibrand and Schumer have not mentioned one word about NY City & State taxpayers being forced to shoulder the burden of paying for this?

Surrogate system is all in the family

From the NY Post:

If you’re a lawyer in New York, there’s no sweeter deal than getting assigned to an estate case in Surrogate’s Court.

The work is often routine — selling assets, paying bills, contacting heirs — but the pay can reach into the millions.

Landing such a gig requires currying favor with one of the city’s seven surrogate judges, who handle wills and estates. They have the power to appoint lawyers and approve their sometimes jaw-dropping invoices.

The jobs often go to the judges’ friends, associates or campaign contributors, court authorities admit. Looting of the estates can sometimes result.

Let's remember that in Queens, the lawyering Crowleys and their cronies are the biggest profiteers at the Surrogate's Court because Joe Crowley appoints the judges who in turn appoint them. Nice, eh?

People who want raises shouldn't be no-shows

From the Daily News:

State lawmakers are clamoring for a pay raise, but a lot of them had trouble showing up for work this year.

At least a dozen lawmakers — many of them city Democrats — missed 10 or more days during the recently concluded legislative session, according to a Daily News review of legislative attendance records.

Seven lawmakers, including three candidates for Congress, skipped 20 or more days, roughly one-third of the Legislature’s 2012 session, according to the records.

“We expect to have them show up,” said Barbara Bartoletti of the League of Women Voters of New York. “They are elected to do a job, but on the other hand, a lot of these people figure they can essentially get away with it.”

Queens Assembly members Rory Lancman and Grace Meng each missed 28 of the Assembly’s 62 session days as they battled each other in a Democratic primary for Congress.

Since Grace said that her father was her "moral compass," this is hardly surprising.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Who is James Robert Williams?

From the NY Times:

It is a small apartment in a scrubby section of Jamaica, Queens, where the average household income is $33,800 and many residents receive government assistance.

The apartment building in Jamaica, Queens, where James Robert Williams lives.

But from this unlikely address, nearly $900,000 has flowed to the campaign accounts of powerful political players across the country.

It is hard to say where the big sums are coming from.

Neighbors describe the man who lives inside — James Robert Williams, 64 — as a reclusive figure who walks with a cane and orders Chinese food for many of his meals.

Yet Mr. Williams, who has few apparent assets and no obvious source of income, has become a major benefactor to political candidates and risen to V.I.P. status in New York Republican circles.

Mr. Williams, who contributed to more than 50 campaigns in the past five years, appears to be bipartisan. In addition to the $400,000 he and companies listed at his address gave to Republican state and county committees in New York, he contributed $50,000 to Andrew M. Cuomo’s campaign for governor, and $20,800 to another Democrat, Representative Charles B. Rangel.

And then the 3-page article gets really interesting...

Richmond Hill-Woodhaven rezone approved

From DNA Info:

More than 200 blocks in central Queens will get the first rezoning in decades, after the City Council approved it Wednesday.

The Woodhaven and Richmond Hill rezoning was crafted in response to concerns raised by Community Board 9 and local elected officials who were trying to prevent overdevelopment and preserve the area’s character with its one and two family homes.

The new zoning, covering 229 blocks, will allow for larger construction along the commercial areas on Jamaica and Atlantic Avenues.

Down with the old, up with the new

From the Queens Ledger:

In a ceremonial pouring of concrete, the new Elmhurst branch of the Queens Library put the finishing touches on it's foundation. The $27.8 million project will be 30,000 square feet and is set to be completed in 2014.

Queens Borough President Helen Marshall and Councilman Daniel Dromm were in attendance at the July 25th ceremony, and spoke as the new library was being built behind them. Marshall allocated $23.5 million toward the project.

The new Elmhurst Library will be over twice the size of the previous library, which stood on the same spot, and will include separate areas for adults, children and teens.

The new library will also feature a computer center, adult learning center and community gardens in both the front and back of the facility.

The former library was built in 1906. The new library will preserve its legacy by creating and establishing “memory features.” Original brick will be used in the new facade, and the nostalgic Children's Room fireplace will be relocated to the new building. There will also be a memorial wall.

Picking up the pieces in Middle Village

From the Times Ledger:

Residents in Middle Village are tired of picking up the pieces of a crumbling house.

A retired couple on 67th Road has lived near an abandoned home since the original owner met an untimely end more than two years ago. Since then, shingles have fallen from the house’s facade, windows have shattered and the overgrown backyard has become a home to rodents and a breeding ground for fleas and mosquitoes.

“It’s bad for the neighborhood, bad for the block and bad for the environment,” said the neighbor, who chose not to give his or his wife’s names. “It’s a health hazard and it seems like no one wants to do anything about it.”

The couple, who have lived in the house for more than 50 years, had taken it upon themselves to clean the property and attempt to improve the residence’s appearance. Along with the help of other neighbors, they pull weeds, sweep away shattered siding and pick up rusted nails strewn along the driveway.

But lately the work has gotten to be too much. The frustrated neighbor has written letters to Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the city Department of Health, but his prodding has only yielded automated responses.

“I do the best that I can, but I can’t do it anymore,” the neighbor said. “I’m a retired veteran.”

HSBC Bank U.S.A. is currently acting as trustee for the house, but it does not own the house, according to a bank spokesman.

Astorians want more transportation options

From the Times Ledger:

In light of recent public transportation restorations across the city, Astoria’s elected officials and civic members demanded Tuesday that the MTA bring back the W subway line and the QM22 express bus.

The request has been a common one for Astorians. Community members had protested the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s budget cuts-inspired decision to get rid of the lines in 2010 as well as conducted petitions and more rallies to restore services after they were eliminated.

The MTA did not respond to requests for comment.

The W train ran from the Ditmars Boulevard subway stop at 31st Street in Astoria along the Broadway line and ended at the Whitehall Street stop in Lower Manhattan from 2004-10, and ran from Ditmars to Coney Island in Brooklyn from 2001-04. The QM22 ran from Jackson Heights to Midtown Manhattan, making stops in Astoria and Long Island City.

Why no mention of the Q train? That goes from Astoria to Coney Island.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Crime isn't up, and we have enough cops

From NBC:

In his weekly appearance on the John Gambling radio show, Mayor Bloomberg said the city does not need to increase the number of NYPD officers it employs.

Bloomberg said that the number of officers in the city has remained the same over the last 10 years and that crime rates have continually dropped.

This is how stupid hipsters are

From Curbed:

Marooned in the middle of the parking lot— after being pulled out of the water due to a leak —and surrounded by other nautical rejects, our "room" for the night was a water-filled, dilapidated yacht with the ladder about to fall off and the floor panels torn out. Entirely uninhabitable, and certainly devoid of any artistic flair, the vessel was seemingly being used as storage space for other Boatel miscellanea.

What a bust. Especially for a place that had piqued the interest of the Times and NPR, and which to many, seemed like the coolest thing to hit the Rockaways since Rockaway Taco. True, the creators of the project had always been upfront about the fact that this wasn't a real hotel. But then they went ahead and used words like "reservation" and "check-in," kind of setting up the expectation that, at the very least, visitors would have somewhere safe and sound to sleep.

Meanwhile, other "guests" were gathered on the dock, dancing to hip hop tunes on an iPod and drinking beers like there was no tomorrow. A few dogs traipsed in and out of the crowd, occasionally getting stepped on by the inebriated and rowdy crew. About twenty half-eaten bags of pretzels littered a coffee table off to the side, lit haphazardly by a few strings of Christmas lights. This place wasn't edgy or inspired; it was kind of a dump.

Myungsuk strikes back

From the Politicker:

Myungsuk Lee, one of many candidates vying to replace Assemblywoman Grace Meng's soon-to-be-vacated seat, has been battered by a couple recent New York Post articles reporting the existence of prostitution ads in the newspaper he owns, the Korean American Times. But, according to a source monitoring the Korean language media, it seems Mr. Lee is not going to be taking the issue sitting down.

Mr. Lee reportedly held a press conference last Friday arguing that the alleged brothels are, in fact, legal businesses, and said he would seek to file a lawsuit against the Post for defamation and libel. In a translation provided to The Politicker, Mr. Lee further said he would seek a face-to-face discussion with the publication's management, which he said produces articles "against Korean-American community at large."

Of course, defamation lawsuits against political figures are notoriously difficult to prove in the United States as they require significant evidence of malicious intent. But Mr. Lee likely feels that he needs to push back in order to succeed in the September 13th primary, where he is competing against Democrats Ron Kim, Yen Chou, Ethel Chen, John Scandalios and Martha Flores-Vazquez.

New life for the Eagle Theater

From DNA Info:

It’s showtime again at the former Eagle Theater.

The historic Art Deco film palace, a former Bollywood movie theater shuttered for almost three years, is getting a new lease on life starting Friday night as a multi-cultural food court and supermarket.

The dilapidated space at 73-07 37th Rd., which most recently showed Bollywood movies and once served as a porno palace, will be home to the new Jackson Heights Food Court, which will cater to shoppers looking to pick up South Asian groceries or snack on some samosas, momos or even halal tacos, management said.

Safety concern in Springfield Gardens

From CBS 2:

Residents who live on 185th Street near 143rd Avenue in Springfield Gardens, Queens describe their neighborhood as a racetrack.

They told CBS 2′s Hazel Sanchez on Wednesday that cars whip around a dangerous, two-way curve, with no idea about what may come from the other direction.

There is a school and two day care centers located on 185th Street, and locals said they are surprised that a human has not been seriously hurt yet.

Donovan Richards, a spokesperson from City Councilman Sanders’ office, is now demanding that the Department of Transportation install speed bumps, traffic lights or signs.

Friday, July 27, 2012

DA Brown messes up yet again

From Eyewitness News:

...he was behind bars at Rikers, IDed by a witness who picked him out of a lineup.

He was charged with the attempted rape of a woman last September near a bus stop along the Cross Island Parkway in Whitestone.

A crime in progress was stopped by a former Marine who happened to be in the area.

A police sketch led police to the 41-year-old.

For 9 months, that question was hanging over his head. The Queens DA's office pressed forward with their case against him. It took 7 months before a DNA test was ordered.

33 hotel rooms to replace 3 one-family homes

From the Queens Chronicle:

Residents of 186th Street in Fresh Meadows are concerned about plans for a 12-story hotel on their block that will have 49 parking spots.

Jim Gallagher, president of the Fresh Meadows Homeowners Civic Association, said Tuesday the plans he’s seen on the Department of Buildings website call for the hotel to be built at 61-27 186 St., next to the former Filene’s parking lot. Preliminary plans call for a one-story parking garage to be built in the rear.

Calls to architect Chang Hwa Tan of Elmhurst were not returned and attempts to reach the property’s owner, Mayflower Business Group and Xiao Zhuang Ge, of Great Neck, one of the company’s principals, were not successful.

The DOB application calls for 33 units. The height of the building will be 127 feet on a 13,000-square-foot lot. The width of the property is 120 feet.

Gallagher said the property — which once housed three single-family homes — is zoned C4-2 and developers can build a hotel there as of right.

Pictured is the "before" shot.

A Friday puzzle for you

Open up the photo nice and big and tell me what's wrong here.

Pelham Parkway is narrowed instead of widened

Remember a couple of years ago when the city decided that Pelham Parkway needed to be widened for safety reasons, and a whole bunch of trees had to die so a guardrail could be installed? Well, things haven't exactly gone as planned...

You want flies with that?

From the Queens Chronicle:

The Associated Marketplace, a supermarket at 153-30 89 Ave., just opened on April 4, and there are still “grand opening” banners hanging along the exterior. But one area resident noticed something that was less than welcoming — piles of dead flies along the windowsill.

The manager of the store, Rody Sarita, said Friday that he didn’t know how the flies got wedged on the windowsill between the glass exterior of the store and the back of the internal pharmacy structure, but he said, it made them hard to reach and therefore hard to remove.

But the flies were also located in other spots along the sill where there was no barrier to impede their removal. To that, Sarita said he would have a staffer address the issue. “This one we will clean it out, no problem,” he said. “We know we have to clean the other one out too.”

Sarita was also quick to point out a passing inspection notice by the Department of Agriculture and Markets, dated the day the store opened, which stated that the market is “in substantial compliance in that no critical deficiencies were observed.”

Geoff Palmer, a spokesman for the DAM, said Tuesday that the agency would send an inspector back out to the site soon to check on the cleanliness of conditions there.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

"Cash-and-Carry Larry" convicted

From AM-NY:

Bronx City Councilman Larry Seabrook was convicted Thursday on nine counts of corruption and wire fraud in Manhattan Federal Court. in Manhattan.

Seabrook, 61, who was retried following a mistrial in December, misdirected $1.5 million of taxpayer money that was supposed to go to community groups to his own pocket, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said.

"Today's conviction ensures that the Councilman will pay for betraying the public trust. Rooting out public corruption and restoring the public's faith in honest government remains a vital mission of this office," he said in a statement.

The mayor's office has indicated that Seabrook will be removed from office and a special election will be held to determine who will finish his term.

Is College Point oversaturated?

From the Wall Street Journal:

For decades, residents of College Point in northeastern Queens enjoyed its suburban feel—a quiet, waterfront enclave that sits on Flushing Bay and the East River.

But the addition of several big-box retailers in the 1990s, followed by new condo and co-op construction, brought in more residents and shoppers—creating traffic bottlenecks in an area dotted with several narrow, one-way streets.

And now, two new projects slated to make College Point home are further sparking congestion concerns.

One of the new projects, Point 128, a hotel and retail complex on 20th Avenue and 127 Street, will feature a 114-room "green" hotel, a supermarket, restaurants, a food court, shops and 124 parking spots.

Construction on the complex is nearly complete, and the hotel is expected to open in mid-August, with other portions of the facility opening later this year, according to Raymond Chan, the architect behind the complex.

But the scope of the development has sparked concern among residents as well as local officials because it is situated off already-congested 20th Avenue—home to retail chains such as BJ's Wholesale Club and T.J. Maxx.

"You can go on a weekend and the traffic is unbelievable—backed up to the service road of the Whitestone Expressway," said state Sen. Tony Avella, a Queens native who lives in neighboring Whitestone.

Mr. Avella added that locals have also had to deal with traffic brought on by the College Point Corporate Park, a 550-acre office park that is home to several companies.

But critics say the accommodations are insufficient and that College Point has been smothered with more development than its infrastructure can handle, changing the character of the neighborhood in a fundamental way.

"Historically, College Point was a quiet, residential neighborhood with a small-town atmosphere, where families lived for generations," said Mr. Avella. "I'm not against development, but the city has failed to match developments with infrastructure, and now they [residents] deal with traffic on a daily basis, sometimes like Manhattan."

You can catch a lot more than planes at JFK

From Metro:

John F. Kennedy airport is No. 1 — but not in a good way. A new study by Massachusetts Institute of Technology lists JFK as the most likely airport in the nation when it comes to spreading extremely contagious diseases like SARS or the H1N1 flu virus.

The study, released today by MIT’s Civil and Environmental Engineering Department, looked at how likely the 40 largest U.S. airports are to spread a contagious disease. Surprisingly, airports that handled the most daily flights did not fall highest on the list.

While Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta has the highest frequency of flights, JFK still tops the list in terms of risky disease-spreading factors. JFK is a high risk due to its connectivity to other airports worldwide, and its location in a large metropolitan area, the report found.

TV show to remodel Woodhaven home

Fireworks may come back to East River

From the Daily News:

Macy's is considering a return of its famed Fourth of July fireworks to the East River — a move that would thrill Brooklyn and Queens residents who lost their view of the display for four straight years, the Daily News has learned.

Bending to outer-borough pressure, Macy’s execs and top people in its fireworks operations have agreed to meet soon with pols to discuss moving the dazzling show off the Hudson River for the first time since 2009.

“Macy’s has expressed willingness to move to the East River,” said a source involved with the talks.

“Macy’s has been receptive to sitting down and discussing solutions,” the source said. “We’re optimistic that soon there will be good news.”

Public Advocate Bill de Blasio and state Sen. Daniel Squadron (D-Brooklyn Heights) have been in talks by phone for months with Macy’s about a possible venue change for the iconic Independence Day celebration.

The sit-down will be local elected officials’ first face-to-face discussion about the fireworks with Macy’s execs.

“The fireworks,” said de Blasio, “belong” in the East River. “Outer-borough New Yorkers deserve to be part of the city’s Fourth of July celebration too.”

65th Place inundated with trucks

From DNA Info:

Woodside’s 65th Place — a once quiet residential street with many single family homes — has become a highway for trucks that is choked with congestion, noise and air pollution, residents and elected officials said Monday.

Some residents, who asked for a crackdown on the truck traffic, also said that their homes have suffered from structural damage caused by the vibrations.

“These trucks that are barreling through this quiet residential neighborhood are not only utilizing this route illegally but they are also presenting a serious hazard to the quality of air for the people of Woodside,” said City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer.

Currently, 65th Place is not a truck route, which means that trucks can't travel on it "unless they are making local deliveries."

But the street lacks the necessary signage, officials noted.

Van Bramer said that earlier this year, he contacted the DOT requesting that signs be installed along 65th Place between Queens Boulevard and Maurice Avenue.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Meng called informant after arrest

From the Daily News:

Shortly after he was released on $1 million bail, ex-Queens Assemblyman Jimmy Meng called the government witness who had secretly taped him soliciting a bribe to fix a criminal case, prosecutors revealed.

Meng didn't even get outside the Brooklyn Federal Court building on Tuesday night before he dialed up the snitch from his cell phone, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Marisa Seifan today. Later, an associate of Meng's also “reached out” to the witness, Seifan told Magistrate Cheryl Pollak.

Meng, who had brought along his wife, Shiao, to co-sign the bond posting two Queens properties they own, got a tongue-lashing from the judge.

“It is a violation of this bond to threaten or attempt to influence the testimony of anybody who might be a witness against you in the case,” Pollak said. “If you do it again, you’re going to jail."

Meng’s court-appointed lawyer, Michael Padden, said he had also advised the defendant to refrain.

The sad condition of 162nd Street

Click photo for story

Bloomberg doesn't care what you think

From the Daily News:

East Harlem community leaders are furious that Mayor Bloomberg is rushing to spend more than $300 million to develop three parcels of public land in their neighborhood — all part of what they say is a huge hidden subsidy to Cornell University’s new tech campus to be built on Roosevelt Island.

When Bloomberg revealed in December that he had selected Cornell to build the new $2 billion science school, he claimed the city’s only aid would be 11 acres of public land at the southern end of the island, plus $100 million for infrastructure improvements.

He never mentioned East Harlem’s contribution.

But as part of the deal, Bloomberg agreed to relocate by October 2013 hundreds of patients from Coler-Goldwater Hospital, a city-run long-term care facility that partially sits on the proposed island site.

To meet that deadline — and a possible ground-breaking for the new campus before Bloomberg leaves office — city officials are racing to erect several facilities in East Harlem that will house as many as 700 Coler-Goldwater patients.

They never bothered to ask locals what they wanted done with that land, according Community Board 11, which voted unanimously in mid June to oppose them.

Residents say they are amazed at how City Hall fast-tracked these projects.

The mayor issued a rarely used waiver to allow the new 99th St. building to be taller than zoning rules allow, while construction of the new North General building is being permitted six days a week starting at 7 a.m.

Claire's been at this for years

Letter to the Times Ledger:

In an article in the July 8 New York Post Queens Weekly section, headlined “Shulman gets slap for illegal Willets lobby,” Claire Shulman, the former borough president, once again got away with illegal shenanigans.

Shulman started the Fort Totten Redevelopment Authority when President Bill Clinton sold the 168 waterfront acres to the city for $1. One of the honest members of the authority sent a list to me of the people Shulman appointed to represent the community. Many were developers while others were receiving monies for their nonprofit organizations from Shulman.

She named her group an authority in order to keep the community it was representing out of the meetings. This is also done by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. There are no open meetings and authorities are not under the Sunshine Law.

We the people living around the fort had to protest to just listen to what was being discussed for our community. When we arrived to go into the meeting, Shulman called in eight policemen in riot gear to stop us from walking down the hallway. We paid taxes to listen to what the group was planning for us.

Eventually, we won. We did not give up and she had to eventually allow the community in. Why was there such a strong protest by Shulman to keep the community out of the meetings?

Can it be the same reason she received a slap on the wrist for illegally lobbying city officials to “win approval for their favored projects”? Shulman has received too many slaps on the wrist. As a taxpayer, why? Other taxpayers should ask why she gets away with her backroom deals.

In fact, we should demand she resign from the $3 billion project and an investigation ensue, including her bank statements. Enough is enough! A slap on the wrist will allow her to continue her underhanded activities, for she appears to think she is above the law and morality.

It is time state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman stop playing politics and dig deeper into Shulman and the city Economic Development Corp. and local development corporation run by her.

Joyce Shepard

Jamaica trash problem continues

Dear Councilman Leroy Comrie, Councilman James Gennaro, Councilman Ruben Wills, Queens Borough President Helen M. Marshall, Senator Malcolm Smith, Assemblymember Rory Lancman, Assemblymember Vivian Cook, Iggy Terranova, Community Board #12 Members, Community Board #8 Members and Other Concerned Individuals:

Attached are photos taken this morning of garbage again at the 170th St LIRR Tunnel and garbage in a nice park, St. Albans Park (shame how some people treat such a nice park). Yesterday I walked along the Hudson River thru Hudson River Park from 23rd Street all the way to the end of Battery Park. There were a huge amount of people everywhere (and all kinds of diverse people), yet I did not see one piece of garbage anywhere on grass or sidewalks during my walk. I could just imagine if those people there were switched with some of the fine upstanding people living in our community, there would have been garbage everywhere because many of the people in our community have no respect for the environment or their community. My walk would have been different:bottles, cans, food, diapers, garbage bags all over the place and on the nice lawns of the park.

At least happy to say that some of the areas I have brought to your attention have been cleaned up, specifically the abandoned playground at 171 St & 109 Ave and the empty lot at the corner of Merrick Blvd & Foch Blvd. But all the areas need constant monitoring or else they will revert back to the way they were, including the empty lot near my place which is located the corner of 170th St & 90th Ave. The 170th St LIRR tunnel always needs monitoring since it seems to be a breeding ground for illegal dumping. Why are there no "NO DUMPING" signs there plus very good lighting? Seems to me like a simple task to do and could more than likely deter some of the dumping in that area.

Joe Moretti

1940s time machine

Click graphic for some interesting historical info about your neighborhood.

And who knew there were naked chicks on display at the 1939 World's Fair?

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Grace Meng's father arrested for wire fraud

From the Times Ledger:

Jimmy Meng, a former Flushing state assemblyman and father of current Assemblywoman Grace Meng (D-Flushing), was arrested on charges of wire fraud in an FBI sting operation after he accepted a fruit basket containing $80,000 in bribery money Tuesday afternoon at his Flushing-based company, according to federal prosecutors.

In 2011, Meng told an unnamed acquaintance facing charges on state tax crimes that members of the Manhattan district attorney’s office could be influenced into doling out a lesser sentence with an $80,000 bribe, according to U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch, who alleged that Meng offered to broker the deal.

But Meng never actually contacted anyone in the prosecutor’s office and instead led the acquaintance into believing the money could influence the case, Lynch said.

The unnamed person eventually went to the government and turned into a witness, wearing a wire since December to record ongoing discussions between him and Meng about the nature of the bribe, Lynch said.

The sting operation ended Tuesday afternoon, when the cooperating witness brought a fruit basket filled with $80,000 stuffed inside, on Meng’s instructions, to Queens Lumber, at 34-47 College Point Blvd., and federal agents arrested Meng.


Say it ain't so, Mo!

From the Daily News:

Ex-Mets slugger-turned-landlord Mo Vaughn has fouled out with tenants at a Brownsville housing complex.

Residents of the DCA Central Brooklyn complex are mad because Vaughn has had nearly every tree on the property chopped down over the past two weeks.

They charged chopping down the 17 leafy giants at the Mitchell-Lama affordable-rental development was part of over-zealous security measures.

“I feel an injustice has been done to the tenants, to the children, to anyone who walks down the street here,” said Jeannette Cruz, 49, who lives in the nine-building complex on Park Place, Howard Ave. and Sterling Place.

“It makes it seem ‘ghetto’ with no trees,” said another resident, Karen Joyner, 44.

The arborcide is one of several outdoor changes Vaughn’s company Omni New York has made at the complex, which it bought late last year. Highly visible green security bars on windows, omnipresent security cameras and intense floodlights are new, too.

Short-term rentals and long-term problems

From the NY Post:

New York City may be losing as much as $155 million annually in tourist business because of new restrictions on short-term rentals.

That's according to the Committee for Short-Term Rental Reform, a group that wants to revise new rules intended to crack down on illegal, unlicensed hotels.

The group says the new law has been too broad, and had the effect of banning legitimate vacation rentals.

Pointing to similar money being made in London for the Olympics and in Saratoga Springs for the racing season, the group wants an amendment to regulate the short-term city rental market.

Soon after the law took effect last year, officials moved against 15 illegal hotels.
City inspectors found one three-family house in Brooklyn occupied by 44 guests with no sprinkler or fire alarm system.

In the meantime, the NY Times reports that Stuy Town residents are cracking down on short-term rentals themselves.

IN her apartment in Stuyvesant Town the other day, Janey Donnelly was on a hunt for a hotel room. At the Web site airbnb.com, she narrowed her search to the East Village, and scrolled down until a thumbnail photograph caught her eye.

“Warm and spacious E.Vil 1 BR,” the listing offered. “$200/nt.”


“If you’re me, you see the window, and there’s nothing else you need to see,” she said. “That window, that radiator — that’s Stuyvesant Town.”

Ms. Donnelly, who has lived in Stuyvesant Town for 30 years, was not looking for a place to stay. She was playing detective, trying to find out who among her neighbors was renting out his or her apartment as a hotel room, in violation of both the lease and, in many cases, the law.

Fort Totten ecodock on hold

From the Times Ledger:

Plans to build an eco-friendly dock at Fort Totten Park will have to wait another year due to a lack of funding in the city’s capital budget, according to the Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance.

While the MWA continues working to build community eco docks in every borough, appropriate for different vessels, community events and educational opportunities, President and CEO Roland Lewis said the Bayside project will not move forward until at least next year due to budget constraints.

Eco docks are wooden barges that rise and fall with the tides and can accommodate different kinds of vessels, Lewis said. The multi-purpose docks, which cost around $700,000, will also have a human-powered boating platform so kayakers and rowers can visit, Lewis said.

What makes them eco-friendly, Lewis said, is the small footprint left behind in the water.

OTB site to continue gambling?

From the Queens Chronicle:

Civic groups in Bellerose are concerned over a proposal to bring a “gaming cafe” to an area that already has several pawn shops and what some consider “questionable” spas. They have urged the community board to vote against the plan.

Menesh Patel wants to open the establishment at 245-19 Jericho Turnpike, a former OTB site, and the Queens Colony Civic Association, the Bellerose Hillside Avenue Civic Association and the Joint Bellerose Business District Development Corp. have expressed their disapproval. Patel could not be reached for comment by press time.

There are several issues of concern. Even though the owner assured residents at a meeting two weeks ago that the site would not be used for gambling, according to Angela Augugliaro, president of the Queens Colony Civic Association, the word gaming is often associated with such activity. And although the owner also said there would not be any accessibility to porn sites, customers must be at least 18 years of age and would be subject to an ID check, Augugliaro said.

This 40-seat gaming cafe is scheduled to open in late August. The Department of Consumer Affairs gave Community Board 13 a time frame of 15 days to decide whether it was for or against the plan, according to District Manager Larry McClean.

And in Flushing, a 24-hour "internet cafe" has opened. Who's trekking out to use the web at 3am?

$850K bocce courts coming to Juniper Park

From DNA Info:

Bocce ball players in Middle Village will have more room to play soon, because the city Parks Department is planning on adding a new court to Juniper Valley Park.

The new court, revealed in a city request for proposals released Wednesday, is part of several bocce-related renovations for Juniper Valley park.

The renovations will cost $850,000 and will include the reconstruction of two existing courts in the park, along with shade structures, benches, game tables, lawns and trees.

The new court is a welcome addition to players in Middle Village, where bocce is hugely popular. Players say the current courts have several problems; including a slanted surface that prevents the court from draining rain water properly and the midday sun.

But the bigger problem, players say, is that the courts are too crowded.

Interestingly, back in February, Parks said the new courts would cost $750,000. So the cost went up by $100K in 6 months?

Monday, July 23, 2012

An appeal to the Italian-American community

Un appello alla comunita italo-americana di New York

Original letter on George The Atheist's blog.

Dear friends:

Here is a photograph of the distinguished New York City-based Italian immigrant Piccirilli Brothers, master stone carvers of some of our town's and the country's greatest monuments. You can read about their illustrious history and artistic accomplishments here. Famed for carving the New York Public Library's iconic lions, the U.S.S. Maine Monument at the entrance to Central Park, statuary on the NY Stock Exchange and the United States Capitol. They carved the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery. They worked with the greatest American architects and sculptors of their day: Carrère and Hastings, Daniel Chester French, Stanford White, et al.

They also collaborated with the renowned sculptor Frederick MacMonnies on the work of the statuary grouping known as "Civic Virtue" ("Virtu Civiche") - an artistic allegory depicting the conquering of Vice and Corruption in governmental affairs. This work of art was situated next to Queens Borough Hall for decades. Its tortured history can be read here.

It was moved from its original emplacement outside of City Hall in Manhattan because the then Mayor, a veritable artistic ignoramus (un vero ignorante artistico), Fiorello LaGuardia, it is said, could not stand looking at the statue's culo. A person who hated his own heritage! So it was shipped off to the "hinterlands" of Queens where it stood totally neglected, non-maintained, and exposed to the elements. This was the thanks that the great Italian-American Piccirilli Brothers were given by the civic authorities for the brothers' magnificent artistic endeavors. The statue stood there, ignored, unmaintained, and unloved through the years. But to make matters worse, the ignominy of Political Correctness (Corretezza Politica) reared its ugly head.

The statue was considered demeaning to women!! Why? It was alleged that the Conqueror, Civic Virtue, was slaying 2 women in the guise of snakes. Pandering-to-the public politicians, with nothing else to do, paraded in front of it demanding that it be sold off on CraigsList: here is the House of Representatives disgraced sex-pervert Anthony Weiner, opining on its merits. (If you look carefully, you can see, the ineffective Ann Jawin of the Center for the Women of New York, standing under her umbrella, like a Bobble-head doll, nodding in agreement.) -

There you have it folks. The statue, a sterling example of Italian-American artisanry, has been castigated instead of honored. What is its message? It champions "civic virtue" - something that that should be lauded and not despised. Its future has yet to be written. Help write it.

A slap in the face to Italian-American endeavor?

An insult to the legacy of the Italian-American community?

It is time to wake up! It is time for action!

Don't let them steal it from you. Fix it! Honor your ancestry!


Saluti, giorgiol'ateo

Airplane noise a new Briarwood concern

From the Queens Courier:

Some residents in Briarwood are trying to get back to sleep after they said an increase in flights from nearby LaGuardia Airport every day in the month of May — and intermittently after — caused nonstop neighborhood turbulence in the early hours of the morning.

...Joseph Manago, 58, said low-flying aircraft roared past their homes on Burden Crescent every day in May from 6 a.m. to noon with only about one minute between each flight. The noise now fluctuates, sometimes disappearing for days, but Manago said the issue is far from being temporary.

“We didn’t have this in the winter. It seems to be something that has just materialized. It subsided for a while and then it comes back. It sounds like a permanent change,” he said. “I don’t think it’s weather related because even on good days we hear it.”

Jim Peters, a spokesperson for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), said the traffic was due to departures from LaGuardia Airport off two paths on Runway 13, where airplanes turn right over the Briarwood area.

The procedures, he said, are routine and nothing new. Peters attributed the flight fluctuations to a number of factors, including weather volume and wind.

USTA plans to gobble up more parkland

From the Daily News:

Not every aspect of the U.S. Tennis Association’s proposed expansion in Queens is an ace right down the middle in the court of public opinion.

Advocates are yelling “fault” at the proposal to build two parking garages in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, saying they have no place in the greenspace.

The garages are included in the $500 million expansion plan for the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center announced last month.

The two garages — two and three stories — to be built on the footprint of current surface-level parking, would add 500 spaces.

But several community board members and parks advocates panned the proposal.

“Queens is getting to be a parking lot. It’s wrong,” Eugene Kelty, chairman of Community Board 7, said during Wednesday’s hearing. “We’re not building parking garages. I can’t see my board voting that way.”

The park falls under the jurisdiction of Community Boards 3, 4, 6, 7 and 8.

Derek Lee back as Queens DOB Commissioner

From DOB press release:

Buildings Commissioner Robert LiMandri today announced a rotation of the Department’s Borough Commissioners in an effort to increase the efficiency and productivity of the agency’s operations. For the second time in four years, the Borough Commissioners have been rotated to further standardize plan review operations and streamline the construction project approval process citywide. Each Borough Commissioner oversees the review of construction-related applications and plans in their respective boroughs, and in 2011, Department plan examiners reviewed more than 450,000 sets of construction plans. Effective immediately, this latest rotation shifts experienced professionals into new leadership roles to better facilitate development and ensure builders, developers and design professionals follow the City’s strict safety standards. The Borough Commissioners have a combined 124 years of experience in the architectural, engineering and construction fields.

Derek Lee, Queens Borough Commissioner – Derek Lee is a New York State Registered Architect with 35 years of experience with commercial, industrial and institutional buildings. Joining the Department in 2000 as a Plan Examiner, Borough Commissioner Lee was promoted to Plan Examiner Squad Leader in 2001, then Deputy Queens Borough Commissioner, where he participated in the structural assessment of buildings in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2011, and the jetliner crash in Belle Harbor, Queens. In 2006, he was appointed as Queens Borough Commissioner, then Brooklyn Borough Commissioner in 2008 and Manhattan Borough Commissioner in 2009. Prior to joining the Department, Borough Commissioner Lee served as a Principal at Lee Associates, an architectural and engineering firm, an Architectural Designer and Construction Manager at Graf & Chan Architects and a Designer at Galson & Galson Consulting Engineers.

Astoria potholes to be repaired

From DNA Info:

More that 30 potholes that marred 31st Street — the consequence of the harsh winter of 2011 — have become an annoyance and a safety hazard for both pedestrians crossing the street and drivers forced to maneuver around them, Councilman Peter F. Vallone Jr. said.

But after receiving multiple complaints from Astoria residents, Vallone asked the Department of Transportation to repave 31st Street between Ditmars Boulevard and 34th Avenue.

After fixing the portion between Ditmars and Astoria Boulevards last year, the DOT will now complete the remainder of 31st Street through 34th Avenue.

And in 6 months, it will need repaving again.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Is this really a good thing?

From DNA Info:

More camping sites, bike trails and enhanced boat access could be coming soon to Jamaica Bay Park, according to a new initiative signed between the city Parks Department and the National Park Service.

Under the agreement, which builds upon one signed in October last year, more than 10,000 acres of federal and city-owned park land will be merged into a “single seamless park,” said Interior Secretary, Ken Salazar.

The initiative will also help fund research that can continue to help preserve the area's fragile ecology, authorities said.

The park houses almost 300 species of birds, including some that are endangered, and has been under threat because of its proximity to JFK Airport and raw sewage discharge.

The land covered by the agreement is part of the 27,000 acre Gateway National Recreation Area.

A new “friends” group, similar to the ones in Central Park and Prospect Park, will also be formed to help plan and raise funds for the park, authorities added.

The public has also been invited to chip in with their ideas on how to make the Jamaica Bay Park better under the joint management.

Of course, because when one thinks of management excellence, the NYC Parks Dept comes to mind...