Friday, November 30, 2012

Damaged homes causing illness

From NBC:

Patrick Zoda has been working nonstop for a month, trying to save his Staten Island home after it was badly damaged by Sandy. As he works, the debris cloud filling his house has also been filling his lungs.

“I feel totally drained, tired," Zoda told NBC 4 New York. "Every morning I wake up coughing."

Dr. Brahim Ardolic, chairman of Emergency Medicine at Staten Island University Hospital, says he has seen a greater number of patients with respiratory issues in recent weeks, mostly in people with pre-existing conditions. The combination of flu season and Sandy cleanup -- which has brought unhygienic conditions, dirty water and mold into homes -- is a perfect storm for sickness, he says.

"Which of these factors actually cause these people to come in is very difficult to say, but clearly, there is an increase in the number of people that are coming in with these conditions," Ardolic said.

Zoda, who lives in Midland Beach, says this cough is different from anything he's had before.

“It is a very dry cough that I have. It's not a normal cough,” Zoda said.

And doctors say it’s not just mold that could irritate residents, but also dust and insulation.

From Eyewitness News:

Volunteers on the front lines of the recovery in the Rockaways see a health threat spreading through hundreds of water-soaked homes.

"We have senior citizens in their homes who are sick in their homes and can't get out."

Like so many homes in the Rockaways, Calvin Turney's home from the outside shows little damage. It's inside where Sandy's surge has left its mark. He says the first floor is filled with mold. The Turneys are also living without heat, electricity and water.

"No heat is a problem. How much can a body take," Turney said.

The mold and cold nights have taken a toll on Mr. Turney's wife, who days ago was diagnosed with bronchitis and given powerful inhalers to help her breathing.

The Health Department says it has no guidelines as to how bad the mold problem must be before considering evacuation.

And one month since Sandy, neither the city, the state, nor FEMA has a concrete plan for alternative housing for those displaced by mold, lack of heat, or a myriad of other problems making homes inhabitable.

Meanwhile, NYC claims it is fixing 300 homes a day.

Randall's Island tossed into Queens Council district

From Crains:

Randall’s Island, a tract of less than a square mile in the East River, is part of the borough of Manhattan.

Yet a panel that recently drew New York City Council district lines, which are set to stand for the next decade, moved the sparsely populated island from its current Manhattan council district into a district that is otherwise entirely in Queens. That’s even though Queens is geographically farther from the island than Manhattan and the Bronx are.

And East Harlem and South Bronx community activists call the move politically motivated, arguing that Randall’s Island was corralled into Queens because the island’s current council member, Melissa-Mark Viverito of Manhattan, and local activists have emerged as thorns in the side of city officials who are pushing private development on Randall’s Island.

For years, community activists in the South Bronx and East Harlem have argued that the island should be the public backyard for their communities, where quality parkland is scarce. Instead, they argue, the Bloomberg administration has attempted to turn Randall’s Island into a country club for the rich, full of golf courses and tennis courts.

The 15-member Districting Commission was appointed by the City Council and Mayor Michael Bloomberg. At public hearings, South Bronx and East Harlem activists argued for the island to remain in a Manhattan-based district. There was little public support for moving it to Queens.

A Queens Borough Hall of the past

From the Newtown Pentacle:

This edifice - known sometimes as “the Subway Building” and others as the “Paragon Oil building” - was, in fact, Queens Borough Hall. Check out the January 2012 posting “high doors” for more on the structure.

The shot pictured above emanates from the awesome collection of historic photographs made available by the NYC Municipal Archives, and was captured by a now anonymous municipal photographer in August of 1936. The center of Queens during the 1930′s, this was Borough Hall. Back then, the power brokers of the borough located themselves nearby the Newtown Creek and perched high above the southern extant of the Sunnyside Yard and alongside the Long Island Railroad tracks. Prior to this, the unofficial Borough Hall of Battleaxe Gleason was located at the Miller hotel (which would become the LIC Crab House) and the official one was on Jackson Avenue nearby modern day Court Square.

Sounds just a little insane

From DNA Info:

Brooklyn concrete magnate John Quadrozzi wants to take toxic sludge dredged from the Gowanus Canal Superfund site, ship it by barge to Red Hook and dump it into the Gowanus Bay to expand a shipping terminal he owns.

The proposal, discussed at a Brooklyn Community Board 6 committee meeting Monday night, would allow Quadrozzi's Gowanus Bay Terminal on Columbia Street to accommodate larger ocean-going ships by extending the terminal into deeper waters.

The plan would also create more land above water, adding to the property that Quadrozzi rents to industrial businesses.

Many questions — from who would pay for which parts of the project, to what exactly will be dredged from the canal, to where the sludge will be shipped, how it will be treated, and whether Quadrozzi can even legally expand his terminal — have not been addressed.

Cleanup of the Gowanus Canal, [Quadrozzi's spokesperson] said, would involve dredging only the lowest-level contaminants, which would then be mixed with a "concrete-like…stabilizing material" that could safely be deposited in open water as landfill.

Quinn divorcing herself from Vito

Here's the latest on the redistricting pickle that Christine Quinn got herself into:

From the Daily News:

In an effort to eliminate a growing political problem, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn is desperately trying to convince city lawmakers to vote down the proposed new map by arguing it will help their chances of staying in office, a source said.

Many of the Council’s 51 members are reluctant to go back to the drawing board to reshape one messed up district that was secretly drawn to help the embattled Assemblyman, the source said.

In response, Quinn's top aides are frantically calling Council members arguing that voting down the proposed lines would help them win re-election by stalling the final maps release until March or April, the Council insider said.

Leaving the lines in limbo until that point would handcuff potential City Council challengers who would be left with just a few weeks to figure out what district they reside in and who they are running against before the likely June Democratic primary.

From the NY Post:

City Council Speaker Christine Quinn insisted yesterday she had nothing to do with a proposed map change by the city Districting Commission to help embattled Assemblyman Vito Lopez.

“I’ve never spoken to a member of the redistricting commission about any lines. I wouldn’t know the chairman if I saw him tomorrow,” a testy Quinn told reporters.

“I’ve not spoken to my appointees, to the mayor’s appointees, to [council Minority Leader James Oddo’s] appointees.”

The speaker has tried to distance herself from a proposed move by the Districting Commission — a 15-member body assigned to redraw council district lines this year — to shift Lopez’s home block of Stanhope Street in Brooklyn into a neighboring council district, where his power base lies.

From the Politicker:

Although the Districting Commission’s proposal for new City Council lines was initially expected to easily pass with no changes, Council Speaker Christine Quinn has officially thrown a wrench into that process. In a letter to the Commission’s chair, Ms. Quinn said she is “requesting in the strongest possible terms that the Commission withdraw its submission to the Council to receive additional input from the public.”

“[I]n reviewing the lines, I have a few concerns that I believe would have been vetted and addressed during another round of public hearings. The most significant concern I have relates to the new lines for District 34,” Ms. Quinn explained. “I am requesting in the strongest possible terms that the Commission withdraw its submission to the Council to receive additional input from the public. After you have satisfied your benchmarks for review and public comment, the Commission should then resubmit a plan to the Council with new district lines. I recognize that the Charter still affords the Council the opportunity to vote on the plan after this formal submission.”

It’s not immediately clear if the process described in the letter, whereby an up-or-down City Council vote is seemingly skipped by simply withdrawing the map, is technically correct. A Commission spokeswoman told Crain’s Insider the legislative chamber needs to reject the map first.

Hat tip to True News.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Schools...good and bad news

From the Daily News:

The Bloomberg administration has abandoned a controversial plan to close 10 struggling city high schools.

Just seven of 17 troubled high schools that the city tried to close this spring ended up on the chopping block in 2012 after many posted gains on city progress reports.

The city had sought to close the schools this summer and immediately reopen them with new instructors, a turnaround plan the teachers union opposed in court.

A court battle that lasted six months, ending with a judge’s ruling in the union’s favor. Now it appears the city has reversed plans to close 10 of those schools.

Students and teachers were thrilled at schools that were spared the axe.

Newtown High School in Queens also jumped from a C to a B on its progress report this year and made it off of the city’s hit list.

From NY 1:

Eleven days after Hurricane Sandy, the Rockaway Beach neighborhood around Scholars' Academy was like no-man's land. Residents fled, leaving behind downed wires, waterlogged debris and sand soaked with heating oil.

But the doors to the school building were open, similar to what we saw at other damaged schools across the city. Contracted crews moved in and out, pumping, repairing and decontaminating, all to get students back as soon as possible.

Yet at some point, school officials say someone must have entered the building and exited with about $100,000 worth of stolen equipment.

"We discovered that approximately 90 iPads were stolen and six to 10 iMacs," said Brian O'Connell, the principal of Scholars' Academy.

It wasn't just pricey tablets and computers. Also reported missing were two automated external defibrillators, each estimated to be worth about $1,600.

This was not an isolated incident. The New York City Department of Education says 30 schools have reported looting so far. Among the items missing include cameras, calculators and a projector.

Officials say they don't yet know the overall value, but there is no insurance to cover it.

Stalled sites on the rise

From The Real Deal:

The number of stalled construction sites in Gotham has risen 17 percent since February—effectively eliminating progress made in getting construction going again in the last year, a new report from the New York Building Congress shows.

The Department of Buildings began tracking the number of stalled sites in the five boroughs in July 2009, following the collapse of Lehman Brothers the previous September, which resulted in widespread construction delays. This month, 691 sites were identified as stalled, up from 592 in February of this year. The November total marks the seventh highest number of stalled projects since the report’s inception, and the highest since January 2011.

Of the sites deemed stalled, 45 percent have been on the DOB’s list since it began, and 26 percent were added this year. The New York City Department of Finance estimates that stalled sites, including vacant land, have an aggregate market value of $883 million, the report said.

City burning trees felled by Sandy

From CBS:

Getting rid of the debris was a major mission a month after Superstorm Sandy, and in Brooklyn on Wednesday, some of the debris was going up in smoke.

As CBS 2’s John Slattery reported, the wrath of Sandy brought down 15,000 trees in the city alone.

The trees have been chipped into 100,000 cubic yards at Floyd Bennett Field in southeast Brooklyn.

City and state environmental officials and the Army Corps of Engineers said the wood will be used for biofuel, for mulch and for landfill cover. But up to 500 cubic yards were being burned in a special incinerator.

City environmental officials said it is a clean way of burning, but CBS 2 was not allowed to look at it up close.

The contraption, the size of a shipping container, is called an Air Curtain Burner — a ceramic-lined firebox that burns debris as a diesel-powered pump shoots air over the box, creating a trap to keep fire and smoke from getting into the open air.

“The air current really suppresses smoke and particles that come from the fire,” and less particulate gets out, said city Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Carter Strickland.

But not all of the particulate is prevented from escaping, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency was monitoring the air at eight spots around Floyd Bennett Field.

The closest residents to the field are those who live in the Rockaways, Marine Park and Mill Basin.

Hempstead also has illegal conversion problem

From WPIX:

Santos Herrera shared pictures of his six-year-old boy in front of the bedroom he died in when a bus slammed into the house Tuesday night. What was an apparent accident may now end in criminal charges however, but not against the bus driver.

The tragic Nassau County bus accident is exposing chronic problems in this town: rampant illegal pedestrian crossings and landlords running unregulated homes overstuffed with poor renters.

Landlord Leo DiLiberti, who owns multiple rental houses in Hempstead, was also at the home this morning with a crew demolishing what remained of the enclosed porch filled with mattresses and furniture. The Village has taken him to court previously for running a boardinghouse here and illegally converting the basement into bedrooms for a mother to use for her children. He pleaded guilty and paid a $500 fine. When asked about the six people occupying his first floor and whether the apartment is legal, he insisted it was legit, and defended it, saying, "What are you going to do? Sometimes they can't afford a regular apartment so they all have to chip in." But Village Inspectors were on the scene looking into whether the home was illegally converted.

FEMA not really helping all that much

From Eyewitness News:

There are serious questions about how recovery workers were supposed to cut through all the red tape to help survivors of Sandy.

A mom in the Rockaways whose home was flooded is still, more than four weeks after the storm, tied up in red tape.

"Where do I bring my baby, she has to go back to school and there's nowhere to sit, nowhere to sleep, nowhere to lay down," Feleza Katz said.

Ms. Katz neighbors have all already received checks from FEMA that they're using for temporary housing.

But because of a single paperwork mix-up, she hasn't gotten a nickel.

"Miss, we don't need you to prove that you own the house, we need you to prove that you live in the house and that's when I ran from there crying, I can't, I can't anymore," Katz said.

But wait, isn't this the kind of red tape the president said he wouldn't tolerate?

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Queens pols allow loss of Civic Virtue

From the NY Times:

Given the improbable journey of “Civic Virtue” since it was begun by the sculptor Frederick MacMonnies in 1920, nothing can be ruled out. The statue, known rudely as “Fat Boy” or “Rough Boy,” is about to become the best traveled public monument in city history, moving from the Bronx (where it was carved) to Manhattan (1922 to 1941) to Queens (1941 until the present) to Brooklyn, where it is to settle indefinitely in Green-Wood Cemetery.

The move was authorized Nov. 13 when the municipal Design Commission approved a long-term loan of the statue to Green-Wood. In a city preoccupied with cleaning up from Hurricane Sandy (Green-Wood suffered at least $500,000 worth of damage), the authorization slipped under the radar. A mayoral spokeswoman confirmed it on Monday.

Within months, perhaps by year’s end, the perennially controversial and increasingly crumbly 15-foot-high marble — an allegory of virtue standing atop the sirens of graft and corruption — will disappear from the prominent spot it has occupied for 71 years in Kew Gardens, at Queens Boulevard and Union Turnpike, outside Queens Borough Hall.

It will be swallowed into the ornamented landscape of Green-Wood Cemetery, where it will stand at Jasmine and Garland Avenues. Surrounded by ornate mausoleums, memorial statuary and 560,000 dead bodies, “Civic Virtue” will be much less conspicuous. Make of that political metaphor what you will.

Brooklyn has sinkholes, too

From NBC:

Families in Coney Island who thought they had escaped the worst of Sandy's wrath found out their homes are in peril because of a sinkhole. John Noel has the story.

Hank Morris calls for reform

From the Daily News:

Hank Morris, disgraced ex-Controller Alan Hevesi’s longtime political consultant, was sent away for masking his role as ringleader in a state pension fund pay-to-play scandal. But he also was charged with arranging campaign donations for Hevesi from firms in exchange for fund business.

As he argued unsuccessfully for his freedom at a recent hearing before the state parole board, Morris said political campaigns should be publicly financed.

“I believe that if you’re doing business with the state government or any government, you shouldn’t be allowed to make political contributions regarding that government,” he said, according to a transcript.

Morris insisted that while some firms he did business with donated to Hevesi, it was not done with promises of access to the pension fund. And he said the same still a the situation was no different than what still goes on.

“The highest officials in the state right now have millions of dollars sitting in their campaign accounts from government, state contractors, city contractors, etc.,” he said. “Would it be better to have a different system? Absolutely.”

Avella & Comrie make borough president candidacies official

From the Times Ledger:

State Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) has decided to throw his hat into next year’s race for Queens borough president, the lawmaker told TimesLedger Newspapers Monday.

Avella was rumored to be mulling a run for months, but made up his mind in the wake of Superstorm Sandy, he said, after witnessing the borough being passed over for recovery resources that went to Manhattan and Brooklyn instead.

“I thought we should have had a much more active borough president and much more of a coordinating effort from the office of the borough president,” Avella said. “That convinced me Queens needs a voice.”

Avella is fresh off winning re-election to his northeast Queens seat earlier this month, where he captured nearly 60,000 votes, according to records from the city Board of Elections, a number the lawmaker believes makes capturing the boroughwide spot viable.

From the Queens Chronicle:

There are many things the three-term lawmaker and head of the Queens delegation has on his agenda. First and foremost, after witnessing the effects of Hurricane Sandy and hearing that meteorologists are predicting that such a storm could hit twice a year in the future, Comrie is naturally concerned about disaster preparation.

He wants to re-examine the flood zone maps, and possibly revamp them to better reflect the likelihood of more communities being in a storm’s path. Also, Comrie wants to make sure there is a strategy to quickly and effectively deploy assistance to those affected.

“Even our B areas can be impacted by an A Zone,” Comrie said, referring to the city flood zones where residents were not evacuated as they were in Zone A. “Superstorm Sandy created a high tide situation for 24 hours and impacted our B areas.

We need to work with the state and federal government to fight for the best courses of action to protect the shoreline and fortify resources.”

One cannot talk about the borough of Queens without mentioning its cultural diversity, something Comrie said should be celebrated publicly and spoken about more in schools.

In addition, Comrie wants to create more opportunities to educate Queens communities in an effort to make people more sensitive to different ethnicities. Part of that effort includes promoting volunteerism and parental participation in education as well as hosting public forums and other culturally-oriented events.

Time to turn the heat on

From Crains:

Hundreds of New York City landlords whose apartment buildings remain without heat or power after Superstorm Sandy are being warned to get repairs lined up promptly as cold weather looms.

Under estimates Mayor Michael Bloomberg gave Monday, more than 800 storm-damaged apartment buildings lack heat because equipment in the buildings needs repair. Roughly 500 lack power. The vast majority are relatively small buildings, under six stories.

The NYC Rapid Repairs program provides free repairs to get heat, lights and hot water back on after the storm.

Bloomberg says landlords who don't sign up or arrange their own fixes quickly could face fines under city law.

An estimated 6,000 private homes also lack heat and power. But it's unclear how many of those are rented and subject to landlord laws.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Bloomberg seeks federal funding for recovery

From the NY Observer:

As New York continues to grapple with closed subway stations and an overcrowded shelter system following Hurricane Sandy’s late October destruction, the City is looking for a little help from its friends in Washington. Mayor Michael Bloomberg sent a letter to members of New York’s Congressional delegation today, estimating the damage caused by late October’s superstorm at $19 billion in public and private losses.

The Mayor’s request to Congress includes a breakdown of the City’s losses caused by the storm, including $5.7 billion dollars in lost gross city product and $4.5 billion spent by city agencies in the storm’s wake. Mr. Bloomberg wrote that “the city will struggle to recover in the long term unless expedited federal funding is supplied.” How much funding? Bloomberg is angling for $9.8 billion in additional money to supplement the $5.4 billion in FEMA assistance and the $3.8 billion dollars of damage that was covered by private insurance. FEMA money does not cover challenges like long-term housing solutions and shoreline restoration.

The number tops Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli’s post-storm estimate of damage totaling somewhere between $15 billion and $18 billion.

The damage in the greater New York area is expected to be much larger, with Governor Andrew Cuomo saying that he would be asking for at least $30 billion in aid several weeks ago. Governor Cuomo met with members of New York’s Congressional Delegation today in Midtown Manhattan to discuss his request for aid.

Not enough rentals for Sandy survivors

From the Daily News:

Thousands of storm-ravaged Brooklynites are still living in their moldy dilapidated homes despite getting money from the feds to move.

Across the borough, vacant apartments and hotel rooms are scarce, forcing Sandy victims to stay put in often dangerous conditions.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has doled out more than $143 million in more than 13,000 damaged households in Kings County since Sandy hit Oct. 29th.

FEMA pays for hotel rooms and apartments for the displaced, listing potential vacancies on their website - but the feds don’t regulate the apartments or rooms, causing Sandy victims to compete for a roof over their heads.

Hotels on the list can drop out without notifying FEMA - and not enough city landlords have been posting on the agency’s website.

Silver testifies about Lopez deal

From the Daily News:

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver testified recently before state ethics commission investigators about his role in the Vito Lopez sexual harassment scandal, the Daily News has learned.

Silver was subpoenaed to discuss how he signed off on a $103,000 taxpayer-funded settlement with two former Lopez staffers who accused the Brooklyn Assemblyman of sexual harassment, a source close to the Speaker said.

A Silver spokesman refused to say whether the powerful Manhattan Democrat testified, saying only: “We’re cooperating fully.”

Silver is the highest ranking official to testify in the ongoing investigation, and one of at least seven people on the Assembly payroll to do so. Others include Silver’s chief counsel Jim Yates and Assembly lawyer William Collins, both of whom spearheaded the secret settlement talks.

Officials in the offices of state Controller Thomas DiNapoli and Attorney General Eric Schneiderman reviewed versions of the settlement agreement, but the two principals are not believed to have testified before the commission, though some of their staffers have, sources said.

Silver has insisted he approved the confidential payout to protect the victims’ privacy, and to save taxpayers from a potential $1.2 million lawsuit. Word of the settlement leaked after Silver announced in late August that he was stripping Lopez of his seniority and leadership positions after the Assembly Ethics Committee found to be credible allegations from two different Lopez staffers who said the lawmaker had sexually harassed them as well.

Silver now admits he should have notified the Assembly Ethics Committee of the two complaints that led to the hush-hush settlement. The Speaker also has said he expects the state ethics commission will ultimately knock his handling of the matter but not find that he committed criminal or ethical violations.

Where the water went

These were taken from the Hurricane Sandy Storm Tide Mapper. Notice the areas flooded. Never build or buy a house on: a barrier beach, landfill, low-lying areas, or within 1/4 mile of a river, whether at the surface or buried. You can't fool Mother Nature, and she can kick your ass.

Beware of shady contractors

Monday, November 26, 2012

Opportunity arises from tragedy

From the NY Times:

New York State will hire more than 5,000 unemployed residents in temporary positions to help clean up debris and distribute supplies in areas stricken by Hurricane Sandy, the Cuomo administration announced on Sunday.

The jobs will pay roughly $15 an hour and could last as long as six months. They will be available to residents in the communities that were most affected by the storm, including areas of New York City, Long Island and the Lower Hudson Valley.

State officials said that hiring would be focused on young people as well as the long-term unemployed, and that the positions would be financed by a grant of nearly $28 million from the federal government.

To be eligible for the positions, prospective workers must be unemployed, at least 18 and live on Long Island, in the five boroughs of New York City or in Orange, Putnam, Rockland, Sullivan, Ulster or Westchester Counties. Residents can apply for jobs by calling 1-888-469-7365 or by filling out an online form.

Flushing BID's website promotes "shame of Flushing"

I don't know if it's a mistake or if their website has been hacked, but the homepage of the Flushing BID is currently promoting (or calling itself) the "shame of Flushing."

Council Member wants extension of eviction moratorium

From CBS Local:

New York City Council Member Dan Garodnick (D-4th) has called for a moratorium on evictions until Jan. 1 in the wake of Superstorm Sandy.

The New York City Civil Court imposed a citywide moratorium on residential evictions after Sandy, but the moratorium was set to expire on Monday, according to Garodnick’s office.

In a news release, Garodnick said the Monday expiration will come too soon. Even in areas where basic services have been restored, anyone who lacked heat, power, hot water, cell phone service or elevator service for a week is still facing challenges, he said.

In many areas, refrigerators remain empty, child care is not always available, and people have fallen behind on work, he said.

Yuppie worries about property values

From the Queens Courier:

Writing in the days after Sandy I simply could not avoid thinking how this event may affect real estate business for years to come. Although the condo building where I live was spared any damage (floor waters stopped 10 feet from our garage before they started to recede), the Murano on Borden Avenue was hit twice as hard — in addition to flood damage to their lobby, rec room, gym and garage, the city’s sewage lines back-flowed into their mechanical room, adding insult to injury (or smelly mess to water damage). Turns out Con Ed won’t work to restore your electricity until you make the area clean for them. They estimate from $100,000 to $250,000 in damages. Among the new buildings, the worst water damage occurred at the City Lights, Powerhouse and the Foundry buildings, where the flood waters reached as high as 5 feet above ground, including some private apartments. Amazingly, the piers and Gantry Park did not sustain too much damage, testament to how well they were designed and built. We cannot discount damages that businesses like Riverview and Crabhouse restaurants or Brighter Babies and LIC Kids facilities have sustained, not to mention all the small warehouses, offices and of course individual homes that got caught in Sandy’s surge, which reached as far east as half-way between 5th Street and Vernon Boulevard all the way up to Borden Avenue in the south, and 46th Drive and Vernon Boulevard in the north (where my own car was treated to 3 feet of water!)

It was refreshing to see resilient parents march their kids at the Halloween parade the day after the storm, and restaurants on Vernon packed with residents supporting local retailers as if they wanted to show how much they appreciated getting through it all relatively untouched. But overall damage a dozen of businesses in Hunters Point may actually put them close to the brink of closing doors, regardless of insurance coverage or defiant stance of its proprietors. In a small market like LIC, even a small hit, like low health department grade or destruction of locals’ favorite park next door can strain a retailer’s bottom line. Let’s hope that our local businesses recover quickly.

Instead of bold predictions, analysis or data, all of which would obviously be guesswork at best, I am leaving you with some questions to which no one yet has answers: Will values of real estate in LIC drop because we are clearly in the flood and hurricane zone? Or will they keep going up because we proved that properties here can withstand the worst kind of storm, and the neighborhood can recover quickly? Will prospective tenants, both commercial and residential, begin to look at Hunters Point the same way one would at Batter Park or Rockaways; basically a real waterfront community at mercy of the big river? How much new investment will property owners now want to make in both improving and reinforcing their buildings knowing that “this hurricane thing is now for real”? Will it affect prices? Is a condo in Court Square or even on Jackson Avenue now a safer living and investment than one closer to the ballyhooed waterfront?

Quinn getting cold feet about helping Vito

From the NY Post:

Sources said Council Speaker Christine Quinn wants to undo the map proposed by the Districting Commission that moved the embattled assemblyman’s home into the district represented by Councilwoman Diana Reyna.

Lopez is being investigated for sexual harassment against female staffers and has been stripped of his leadership posts as a result.

With nowhere to go in Albany, he’s told friends that he might just take a stab at the council seat held by Reyna, a one-time ally and now a bitter rival who’ll leave in 2013 because of term limits.

Reyna, who has become something of an obsession for Lopez, is backing her chief of staff as successor.

The commission’s secret little favor — exposed last week by The Post’s Sally Goldenberg — presents Quinn with a pounding political headache.

She’s running for mayor next year as the only woman in the race — and being linked to an accused groper is the last thing she needs.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Downtown Flushing free-for-all

Flushing is such a booming success that people have to be told to do their holiday gift buying out of town.

They've even got hawkers out on Main St. Pushing the bus service.

All encouraging you to shop elsewhere.

Then theres the obstacle course of junk stands and signs to bump into.

Is that good business... Encouraging people to shop elsewhere?

I guess nobody wants to shop in Flushing...I wonder if the BID knows about these jitneys going to Long Island and upstate.

Blocking sidewalks again on a busy street.

You can barely pass through.

39 Av off Main St. The sign standing except trucks unloading and in the other direction is metered parking. It doesn't say anything about a shuttle bus stop.

Where's the improvement that the BID promised and do they know about all this crap going on? - The Flushing Phantom

Revising building codes in light of future threats

From the NY Times: city officials and real estate developers ponder a landscape of devastation from the South Street Seaport in Lower Manhattan to the Rockaways in Queens to Midland Beach on Staten Island, new flood protections for all building types suddenly seem inevitable, whether voluntary or mandated by new laws.

Last week, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and Ms. Quinn convened a new “building resiliency” task force to study potential changes in the building code and to make recommendations by the summer. Ms. Quinn said she anticipated that the city would require retrofits to reinforce existing structures and more floodproofing for new projects.

The chairman of the task force, Russell Unger, is executive director of the Urban Green Council, which advises the city on sustainable building issues. He said the new group would need to address both direct impacts from the storm, like structure collapse and flooding, and secondary ones, like power losses from utility failures. Levels of protection will have to vary according to location, building use and other variables, he said.

Speaking of the different expectations for different buildings, for example, Mr. Unger said, “we probably expect elevators at senior centers to work, no matter what happens.”

Some of the potential measures are relatively simple, like keeping sandbags handy and installing floodgates at building entrances. Others are more complicated, like relocating critical equipment like boilers above ground level or encasing them in watertight enclosures and rebuilding houses on concrete piles.

The storm’s aftermath also revealed a need for emergency generators to run at least one elevator in tall residential buildings and to pump water to high floors so the buildings remain habitable after a severe storm, some owners said.

What does not seem to be getting consideration, at least for now, is banning development altogether in the city’s flood zones, humble or affluent.

“This is not a viable policy option in New York City, and to be honest, nor is it in any other major coastal city I’ve been working,” said Jeroen Aerts, a water risk expert from the Free University in Amsterdam who has been hired by the mayor’s office to assess flood protections. “The stakes of developers and general economic activities in the waterfront are too high.”

But we're still going to be expected to bail them out when they get wiped out by storms they knew were inevitable?

Resistance is futile

From the NY Post:

Former Comptroller Bill Thompson has decided to clear the decks for his 2013 mayoral run by paying a record-breaking fine of nearly $600,000 for plastering the city with illegal campaign posters during his previous race for City Hall, The Post has learned.

That leaves only Comptroller John Liu among the mayoral contenders still fighting six-figure penalties incurred in 2009 for poster violations.

Thompson had been challenging the 7,925 summonses issued to his old campaign at hearings before the Environmental Control Board that have stretched on for three years.

He lost a final appeal before an administrative panel in September but still had a chance to overturn the ECB’s verdict by going to court.

A campaign spokesman said Thompson has instead decided to end the battle and pay up.

Thompson owes $594,375. His payment would be the largest ever made for campaign-poster infractions.

Quinn messed with the maps

From the Daily News:

A controversy has erupted over the City Council’s redistricting plan, with critics charging the new district lines were drawn to help Council Speaker Christine Quinn’s bid for mayor.

The new map slices and dices the East Harlem district of Democratic Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito, who has been preparing to make a bid for Council speaker.

The new lines remove a big chunk of East Harlem from her district while adding tens of thousands of voters from the Bronx - weakening her politically and leaving her vulnerable to a potential challenge for re-election.

Sources said the move could solidify Quinn’s standing with both the Bronx and Manhattan Democratic leaders as she courts their support for mayor.

Districting Commission kept maps hidden from its own commissioners

From Crains:

Commissioners who unanimously approved new City Council district lines last week were not provided with maps showing last-minute tweaks until an hour before voting for them, one commissioner told The Insider.

Former state Sen. Frank Padavan, a Republican member of the New York City Districting Commission, said the first time he saw last-minute changes that will stand for the next decade came at an hour-long meeting last Thursday — and that he now regrets his vote in favor of the lines at that meeting. Mr. Padavan said he had been unaware that the Broadway-Flushing neighborhood in Queens, which had been in Republican Councilman Dan Halloran’s district, had been split in two.

“When the final drafts were presented [at the meeting] I just didn’t have all the details,” said Mr. Padavan. “It was just cut out and I didn’t notice.”

Commissioners were not provided with copies of the revised maps, but were provided with the opportunity to physically come into the commission’s offices near City Hall in the four days leading up to the final meeting to peruse the final lines. Some of them did so.

“They had drop-ins where you could go down there and take a look at it,” said former Republican New York City Council Minority Leader Thomas Ognibene, another commissioner. “At least, you could have a private opportunity.”

A commission spokeswoman declined to comment on Mr. Padavan’s concerns.

Why weren't the maps e-mailed to the commissioners before the vote? This is 2012, not 1980. While one can blame Mr. Padavan for not taking his role seriously enough, it's kind of suspicious that such dramatic changes were made to the maps by the commission and the commissioners were not adequately informed.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Thanks a lot (line)!

From the Times Newsweekly:

The transparent covering was installed above the patio area in the rear of their 65th Place dwelling, but the owner of the home abutting their residence protested, claiming encroachment on their easement. This led to an ongoing feud between the property owners which not only led to a costly lawsuit but also legal action by several city agencies.

James Chu told the Times Newsweekly in a phone interview that he and his wife bought their 65th Place residence in November 2004. In the years since they moved in, their neighbor’s home was constructed; the residence directly abuts the Chu home and extends several feet adjacent to their rear yard.

Lot-line windows were also built in the rear of their neighbor’s home; according to James Chu, the windows violate the rules and regulations of the building code enforced by the city Department of Buildings (DOB).

The Chus recently installed the transparent awning above their patio area, leaving two feet of space from their neighbor’s building. Following the installation, James Chu noted, their neighbor claimed that the awning violated their easement, which was later found to extend over the Chus’ backyard.

James Chu told this paper that neither he nor his wife knew about the extended easement prior to and during the closing on their home back in November 2004.

“Meanwhile, the DOB is auditing our permits for the erection of a clear awning at the rear of our building,” Elizabeth Chu added in an email to the Times Newsweekly, “and the Environmental Control Board imposed a fine against us for having what everyone else on our block and neighborhood seems to have with or without a permit. Apparently, they think that we violated the law when we put up a standard weather protection awning for which they issued a building permit, but that they made no error when they approved my neighbor’s lot line windows without the fire protection mandated by the building code.”

Buildings Department records indicated that multiple complaints were filed on each of their residences back in October. An examination of the records found that the complaints against the Chus’ property were determined to be unfounded, while no action had yet to be taken by DOB inspectors on their neighbor’s property.

How is it that a reporter was able to take a photo of the lot line windows but the DOB couldn't access them? I guess it's more important to give violations to homeowners whose houses were destroyed than to address this.

City to rezone another flood plain for high density housing

From the Times Ledger:

The large-scale housing complex planned for Astoria has recently filed its Uniform Land Use Review Procedure form, starting a process by which the developers may be able to bring needed commercial space to an isolated part of the neighborhood.

The development, set to be built on the Hallets Cove peninsula along the East River on 1st Street and 27th Avenue, was designed to include 2,000 to 2,200 housing units, 80 percent of which would be market rate and 20 percent of which would be affordable housing geared toward seniors, Moesel said.

The area will need to be rezoned before the project is built, necessitating the review.

City Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria), who has not taken an official position on the Hallets Point project, said commercial properties are scarce on the peninsula, where many people already live in the Astoria Houses public housing development.

“I believe that that area absolutely needs development,” Vallone said. “They don’t have any banks. They don’t have any supermarkets.”

Vallone said the Hallets Point project has broad support and other developers are planning to build a similar project, Astoria Cove, adjacent to Hallets Point. Yet he said that while commercial development is needed but unlikely without the residential units, he had concerns about whether Con Edison has the infrastructure to bring those housing units on the grid, where the students would go to school and if more transportation options could be brought to the neighborhood.

Ah, so Pete is thinking about infrastructure, eh? Didn't he notice that the Halletts Cove peninsula was underwater during the recent storms? Actually, yeah, he did...

So we are going to rezone an area in order to house thousands more people in a flood zone? Haven't we learned from LIC, Gowanus and Rockaway?

Send your soil for analysis

Those of us living near toxic sites have been unable to get answers regarding the possible impact of flooding on our homes and businesses... Marist College has stepped into the breach:

Marist College in Poughkeepsie, New York has begun a study to examine chemical contamination of sediments flooded by or transported by Superstorm Sandy. The project is using a citizen science model, asking citizens who are out in the field doing recovery efforts to send soil and sediment samples from areas of flooding in New York, particularly in or near residences directly to Marist. The collected samples will be analyzed for a variety of organic and inorganic contaminants including heavy metals, organic compounds from gasoline and other fuels, pesticides and other industrial effluents.

Check out the links below for additional information, including contacts.
and here:

Patricia Sheridan
U.S. EPA Region 2 - DESA DO
(Phone): 732-321-6780
(Fax): 732-906-6824

- Victoria

Jamaica is still a dump, literally

It has been awhile since I reported any Jamaica trash, but while walking my dog in an area that I rarely visit I came across this. Just another typical empty lot in Jamaica Queens complete with a whole shitload of garbage (large garbage bags, tires, bottles, cans, container, plus the pieces of the broken wooden fence). From the looks of it, this just did not happen over night, but has been some time in the making and not one concerned individual, city official or leader noticed this. It is not like it is in a desolate area, it is on a busy street: 91-22 175th Street just off Jamaica Avenue. The ironic thing is that is that this lot is just two lots from a so-called "luxury" apartment building (which actually is pretty nice-looking), yet the view is this garbage dump. In fact, 175th Street, with a few of these "luxury apartment buildings" is a pretty garbage strewn street, which is too bad because with the exception of a couple of the typical 3rd world shithole 3-story apartments that not only litter Jamaica, but other parts of Queens, there are actually some very nice homes on this block. Well, at least the ones that survived the horrible zoning laws that allow some of these nice homes to be torn down to put up 3rd world tenements or an empty lot, like this piece of shit. Again another example of the horrible leadership past and present in Jamaica Queens and the population of the low class filthy savages that populate Jamaica. Both parties have been dragging Jamaica down for decades. Why don't some of you politicians put this accomplishment on your websites. SHAME!

The owner of this property (91-22 175th St) had several violations over the years from the get-go beginning with the demolition. Can one of you city leaders or politicians give me a straight answer why this was allowed to continue for so long and why so many owners of such properties are allowed to continue this all the time. CAN ANY OF YOU GIVE ME A DAMN STRAIGHT ANSWER?

Most of you are a waste just collecting a damn paycheck from the tax payers money. From the USELESS Queens borough president with one foot in the grave, Helen Marshall, to the corrupt useless Jamaica politicians like Shirley Huntley, Vivian Cook and some of the rest of you pathetic leaders. All you need to do is look at Jamaica and see that most of you have done SHIT! Some of the most useless bums in the city. The old saying "Throw the bums out" could not be more appropriate! As you can see you do not deserve my respect, because from where I am sitting, all of you, past and present have let Jamaica go down the shitter.

Joe Moretti
Jamaica, Queens

Community Board from hell opposed to development outside their district

From DNA Info:

The construction of the Cornell NYC Tech campus on Roosevelt Island will bring traffic and pollution to Astoria, where the only bridge to the island is located, Astoria Community Board members said during its meeting Tuesday night.

The community board however has little say over the development plans because the project is located within the area of Manhattan Community Board 8.

“They [Manhattan Community Board] are getting a beautiful building and we are getting all the garbage,” said Vinicio Donato, Community Board 1's chairman.

Construction will start in 2014 and the campus will open its doors to the first students in 2017. It will take another 21 years to complete the campus, which will eventually host 2,500 students and sprawl over 2-million square feet.

Astoria Community Board members said they are worried that the university, both during its construction period and once it is operational, will bring too much traffic, pollution and noise to the neighborhood, especially in the area surrounding 36th Avenue where the bridge is located.

When has CB1 ever been against development? Or are the players just upset that they aren't getting a piece of the action for this one?

“We’ve heard all these beautiful stories about the project many times,” said George Stamatiades, a board member. “If you are only expecting a six percent increase in the volume of traffic coming through our community, there won’t be that many people on that island.”


Friday, November 23, 2012

A one-sided deal?

From Crains:

While the identity of a potential team owner of the 20th MLS team remains under wraps, it is widely expected to be a big name who can help bankroll the 25,000-seat venue in Flushing Meadows Corona Park.

The stadium is considered a legacy project for the Bloomberg administration, which has outlined terms of a prospective deal: a 35-year, $1-a-year lease, with no sales taxes on construction materials, no property taxes and no revenue sharing with the city. The plan also requires an agreement to share parking lots with Citi Field. Events at the new soccer stadium would be scheduled to avoid conflicts with Mets home games and U.S. Open tennis.

Sounds like a pretty sweet deal for Major League Soccer. What are the benefits for us taxpayers?

Flushing Bank protest

The Flushing Phantom found something interesting in his travels recently at 161st Street and Northern Blvd.

IBO criticizes waterfront development

From the NYC Independent Budget Office's Web Blog:

The Mayor’s March 2011 report Vision 2020: New York City Comprehensive Waterfront Plan forecast the coming of storms like Sandy and the potential affects: “The rise in sea level and increased frequency and magnitude of coastal storms will likely cause more frequent coastal flooding and inundation of coastal wetlands as well as erosion of beaches, dunes, and bluffs.” A few weeks later, in an update to PlaNYC, the warnings were reinforced: “As a city with 520 miles of coastline—the most of any city in America—the potential for more frequent and intense coastal storms with increased impacts due to a rise in sea level is a serious threat to New York City.”

Yet even as City Hall grappled with these concerns it continued to put substantial resources into major development projects on the waterfront, rezoning sites as manufacturing declined— including some in prime areas for flooding, the so-called Zone A evacuation areas. Just one month before Sandy struck the city, Mayor Bloomberg announced a plan by private developers to build a $500 million complex on city-owned land on Staten Island’s North Shore that would include the world’s largest Ferris wheel as well as a hotel and outlet mall. Part of the site sits in a floodplain.

An even larger development project is planned on the Coney Island waterfront, one of the neighborhoods hardest hit by Sandy. The city has rezoned the area to allow the development of hotels, housing, and a new amusement park, and has allocated more than $400 million for sewer upgrades, land acquisition, lighting, boardwalk and park improvements, and other projects to foster the redevelopment plan. On the Queens waterfront, the city is investing $147 million in the Hunters Point South project, which also sits in Zone A. Already under construction, Hunters Point South includes 5,000 apartments, a 1,100-seat school, and retail space.

Photo from LiQCity

Illegal cigarette tax cheats

From the NY Post:

A Queens mother and her son were arrested with 677 cartons of illegal Asian cigarettes and $132,000 in cash, authorities announced today.

Ying-Jian Lin, 48, and Xiao Lin, 23, face up to four years in prison for peddling the shady smokes, which are untaxed and don’t carry the required surgeon general warnings, according to a Queens District Attorney Richard Brown.

Investigators watched the son pick up the contraband cartons from a Flushing garage and carry them to a small grocery store where his mother was spotted selling the cigarettes, Brown said.

Authorities said they found the cash --- mostly in $50 and $100 bills --- in a safe-deposit box.

Brown said the pair would have cheated the city out of about $45,000 in taxes on the seized smokes alone.

Flooding destroyed criminal evidence

From the NY Times:

Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly said Tuesday that facilities used for storing evidence in criminal cases suffered flooding during Hurricane Sandy.

“In some of our storage locations we have evidence that has been damaged,” Mr. Kelly told reporters Tuesday morning. “Significant flooding has taken place, no question about it.”

The damaged evidence may include DNA samples, he said.

Mr. Kelly said the property clerk facilities that experienced flooding were in Brooklyn, and at least one is in the Greenpoint neighborhood. It was not immediately clear whether the evidence at issue was being stored for use in pending prosecutions, or was in storage following convictions.

“We’re still trying to sort through this and assess the total damage,” he said.

Mr. Kelly said the damage to the evidence could potentially affect the outcome of individual criminal cases. “We’ll see,” he said.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Behold the Sea Box

From the NY Observer:

For the past five years, the Bloomberg administration has been quietly developing a first-of-its-kind disaster housing program, creating modular apartments uniquely designed for the challenges of urban living. Carved out of shipping containers, these LEGO-like, stackable apartments offer all the amenities of home. Or more, since they are bigger, and brighter, than the typical Manhattan studio. It’s the FEMA trailer of the future, built with the Dwell reader in mind.

“It’s nicer than my apartment,” David Burney, commissioner of the Department of Design and Construction, said in a phone interview last week. Along with the city’s Office of Emergency Management and at least a dozen other city, state and federal agencies and private contractors, Mr. Burney has been trying to figure out how best to house the tens or even hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers who could find themselves without a home following a major disaster.

Like Hurricane Sandy. Initial estimates of those forced into long-term homelessness—from months to years—are 20,000 in the five boroughs alone. Over the weekend, Buildings Commissioner Robert LiMandri told the Times that at least 400 homes would have to be demolished along the coast, with 500 more still to be evaluated.

“There’s nobody who wouldn’t like to see a deployable solution available now,” said Lance Jay Brown, an architecture professor at CUNY who has been advising the city on its plans. “But nobody has this, nobody. I think the Japanese are working on something, given all they’ve gone through, but I can tell you, New York is really ahead of the curve when it comes to long-term disaster housing.”

Backpage operation busted

From Forest Hills Patch:

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly announced a big bust on Tuesday, saying an in-depth investigation had resulted in the breakup of a prostitution ring that stretched as far as the Philippines.

Christopher Fairbarn, a 24-year-old Forest Hills man, was one of 19 people arrested in the operation, which also caught residents from Flushing, Bayside, Pennsylvania and Southeast Asia.

According to Schneiderman, the Attorney General's office worked with the NYPD during a 16-month investigation to monitor the advertising agency Somad Enterprises, which created both online and print advertisements in publications like and the Village Voice to prostitute women.

All told, the agency took in more than $3 million for its role in facilitating meet-ups between often unwilling female victims and the men paying for their services, Schneiderman said.

Those arrested include employees of the advertising agency who accepted money to place the ads, pimps, drivers and more. During the course of making arrests, NYPD officers also took two human-trafficking victims into custody, both of whom are now in a safehouse.