Saturday, August 31, 2013

Flushing Meadows still #2 in violent crime

From the Wall Street Journal:

Serious felonies rose in New York City's largest parks during the spring months this year, increasing 44% for April 1 to June 30 compared with the same period in 2012, according to a New York Police Department report.

There were 128 felonies in the city's 31 biggest parks from April 1 to June 30, compared with 89 in the same period last year, according to an NYPD Compstat report.

The increase comes on the heels of a park-crime spike of 7% in 2012, compared with 2011—the biggest year-over-year jump in half a decade, NYPD statistics show.

The report didn't include historical data for crime in parks. Crime in Central Park has reached historical lows in recent years, according to NYPD data for the park's precinct. Major crimes fell nearly 73% from 1990 to 2012 in Central Park, according to the NYPD, and robberies went down more than 90%, from 152 in 1990 to 15 in 2012.

Central Park saw the most serious felonies in the spring with 37 reported crimes—including a rape, two robberies and five felony assaults.

Flushing Meadows Park in Queens had the second-highest number of serious crimes with 27, including two reported robberies and two felony assaults, according to the report.

In 2012, there were 354 major felonies in the city's largest 31 parks, up from 331 in 2011.

Christine Quinn: the education candidate

From the NY Post:

Christine Quinn’s mayoral campaign is encouraging her interns to skip the first days of school so they’ll be available for the critical get-out-the-vote drive before the Democratic primary, The Post has learned.

In an e-mail blast to all the campaign’s summer volunteers, Quinn staffer Ross Adair said he was “pretty sure” that teachers wouldn’t mind if their students miss class on primary day, Tuesday, Sept. 10, “or even Monday and Tuesday” — a reference to the day before the primary.


He told the high school- and college-age workers that the rewards of working for Quinn would be paid back big-time when they move on to careers.

“If you want me to be real for a second, a letter coming from the next mayor of New York City saying that you helped her on election day is something you can definitely put on your resume or application, and I’m pretty sure your teacher will be ok with you missing Tuesday, or even Monday and Tuesday,” he wrote.

Meanwhile, 2 recent polls have her in 3rd place, not even qualifying for a primary. Let's hope this lasts until primary day.

Tony Avella explains why he dropped out of BP race

Click here for audio.

I got the below literature with this note:

"Is it just me, or does this latest mailing from Peter Vallone, Jr., all but imply that he has Tony Avella's support?" - anonymous

Someone's got a really big pair.

New tri-borough rail line proposed

From CBS New York:

Transportation advocates hope New York City’s next mayor will take a fresh look at a bold idea — creating an inter-borough train that would link Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx.

The proposal calls for the train to come out of the Bronx over the Hell’s Gate Bridge, tower over parts of Queens and run below street level through the heart of Brooklyn – a little-used freight line that could have a very busy future, CBS 2’s Tony Aiello reported Thursday.

The Regional Plan Association calls it “Tri-Boro RX.”

“Makes it easier for people to interconnect among all these neighborhoods in the city,” said the association’s Jeff Zupan.

The existing freight line that runs from Hunts Point to Bay Ridge would be used for new commuter rail service. One estimate has it carrying 80,000 passengers a day.

“What this does is create a rail line, a transit service that has transfer points with bus lines and with subway lines throughout the three boroughs,” Zupan said.

Zupan said the line could easily connect major transit hubs, including Astoria-Ditmars, Broadway Junction and Kings Highway.

Will the real Bill DeBlasio please stand up?

From The Daily Beast:

In 2004 de Blasio was a paid adviser to John Edwards’s presidential campaign. And in this year’s mayoral race, his rhetoric about “a tale of two cities”—a line he has used to critique growing income inequality—has echoed Edwards’s rhetoric from 2004 about the “two Americas.” Yet while serving on the City Council, he frequently found himself on the wrong side of progressives in his district (admittedly not hard in ultraliberal Park Slope) and was sometimes blasted for favoring developers and real-estate interests over community concerns about congestion and quality of life.

For example, he sided with a developer in opposing the designation of the Gowanus Canal as a Superfund site—even as nearby residents said that the city was ill equipped to carry out the cleanup on its own. He pushed to allow luxury housing in Brooklyn Bridge Park. And he was one of the primary backers of the controversial redevelopment of Atlantic Yards into a basketball arena for the Brooklyn Nets—a nearly decade-long fight that pitted local residents against powerful real-estate interests.

De Blasio’s most important maneuver has been to capitalize on liberal frustration with Mayor Mike Bloomberg.

“He said that it was necessary to stop the tide of gentrification, but everyone knows this was the most gentrifying thing to ever happen to Brooklyn,” says Lucy Koteen, a local political activist who backs current City Comptroller John Liu. “He is not wrong about the ‘tale of two cities.’ But look at his record. Did he help level the playing field, or is he on the side of developers who have gotten rich displacing people?”

From the NY Post:

The City Planning Commission rep appointed by Public Advocate Bill de Blasio — a critic of big developers — voted with the administration 93 percent of the time, records show.

One of those votes was to approve Extell’s West Side tower that includes a “poor door” separating subsidized tenants from those paying market rents.

A de Blasio spokesman said the rep actually fought “the poor door,” but Extell found a way around her objection.

De Blasio’s rep has voted in favor of 554 out of 595 projects since 2010.

Capital New York has a good wrap-up of his development stances in the past.

Now there are helicopters also making noise

From WPIX:

The FAA changed the flight path around LaGuardia last summer.

Neighbors have been trying to get the agency to reconsider the decision.

Now, they are noticing increased helicopter traffic.

Friday, August 30, 2013

And this is why illegal conversions are a big deal...

From the Times Ledger:

The South Jamaica home where a famed chair designer died during a fire last week had been illegally subdivided into four apartments, a spokeswoman for the city Buildings Department said.

The house, which had been OK’d as a two-family residence, was also issued violations for work without permits to create illegal apartments, plumbing and electrical work performed without a permit, defective or exposed electrical wiring and an illegal gas stove in the cellar, the spokeswoman said.

Three families had been living in separate apartments alongside that of 83-year-old Charles Pollock, residents said, and the tenants can no longer stay at the house on 157th Street near 115th Avenue until a vacate order issued by the DOB is lifted, the agency said. In addition, the property was also cited for failure to maintain a detached garage, the spokeswoman said.

Queensbridge Park's parkhouse to be renovated

From DNA Info:

Queensbridge Park is going green — the waterfront space in Long Island City has been allotted $2.5 million for the complete renovation of its park house, a building that’s been out of use for decades, city officials announced Tuesday.

The Parks Department will hold public scoping meetings to see what park users would like to see in the greenspace, which could include amenities like a modern comfort station, storage facilities for athletic teams and offices for the park’s staff.

City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer secured the funding for the renovation, which he says is part of a larger effort to improve and “reawaken” Queensbridge Park.

“It is extremely important that every single senior and child who lives in Queensbridge know that our City has allocated every single cent we could to make sure that Western Queens has a park that rivals Central Park in Manhattan or any other park in the City of New York,” the councilman said in a statement.

Seniors and children. Seniors and children. Everyone else is chopped liver and don't visit parks, apparently.

Is Aqueduct on the brink of closure?

From Crains:

The New York Racing Association is considering shutting down the financially troubled Aqueduct Race Track in southeast Queens, an action that would take down the money-making casino next door unless state law were changed.

Establishments with video lottery terminals, including Resorts World Casino at Aqueduct, cannot exist under the law without being tethered to a race track, according to John Sabini, the former chairman of the New York State Racing and Wagering Board. Aqueduct is the lone state-owned racetrack in New York, so crafting a bill to make the casino there an exception would not be complicated.

"Because it's state-owned they could do a carve out, a quick piece of legislation," said Mr. Sabini, a former state Senator from Queens.

Strange days, indeed!

From NY1:

More negative campaign mail, this one’s out of Queens. Here’s a picture of Dan Halloran getting hauled off. He’s part, of course, of a corruption inquiry. He’s been arrested. “Our community has suffered enough.” You flip it on the other side – “Paul Graziano would be another embarrassment to our community.” Now let’s be clear, folks: Paul Graziano has absolutely nothing to do with Dan Halloran, with the corruption inquiry, or anything involving legal wrongdoing. So this is a pure slam. It’s put out, by the way, by Jobs For New York, Inc. and I should note that it says absolutely nothing about jobs or anything else positive. I thought you should see that.

The following was sent to Congressmember Meng, Senator Stavisky, Assemblymember Braunstein, Assemblymember Kim and Councilmember Weprin and cc'd to the five District 19 Council candidates:

During the course of the City Council Race in District 19, Jobs for New York has sent a series of "hit pieces" against three of the candidates for the benefit of Paul Vallone. The mailers are paid for by Jobs for New York and upon information and belief, were designed, printed and distributed by Parkside. All legally done and done in the name of politics for the good of the county machine and to promote and theoretically ensure the election of a candidate who will serve the interests of his benefactors, the Real Estate Board of New York.

That legally a candidate can have no connection to the sponsor of such correspondence is a convenient legal fiction enacted into law by the very people it serves to protect. Such politics benefits no one but the County machine and candidates who are willing to sell their offices to the highest bidder at the expense of their communities.

Jobs for New York has thrown down the gauntlet of negative campaigning with a level of vengeance that is beyond comprehension in a local race. The lies, innuendo, out of context quotes and literally inflammatory graphics should be as deplorable to any sitting politician or candidate as they are to me and members of the 19th Council District. They should especially be deplorable to a candidate who continually touts integrity, family values and his Christian church as his hallmarks.

That you all endorsed and continue to support the Vallone candidacy without reservation speaks volumes about your desire to remain in the good graces of the county machine and uncontrolled future benefactors and very little about your actual support of this or any other endorsed candidate. However, there comes a time in human events, including political campaigns, when courage, integrity, decency and standing up against what is wrong separates the public servants from the hacks.

This campaign tactic is one of those watershed events. All of you are current office holders who have either the power to introduce legislation to take back total control of your campaigns and to disallow such spending and return the political process to the constituents you claim to serve or to influence colleagues who have such power. The" poor little candidate" who cannot stop a big bad entity from spewing unwanted campaign literature throughout your districts doesn't play well. It is time to take responsibility for your campaigns and to be accountable to your constituents for what is put out in your names.

This may turn out to be one of those issues which empowers voters to say "NO" at the polls to candidates who support negative independent expenditures, who refuse to take accountability for their campaigns and who are willing by extension to sell their offices. The beginning of such a movement in District 19 may have been the joining of five civic associations in common voice against the practice though the civics themselves support different candidates.

It is unfortunate for the political process, the integrity of your offices and your standing in the community that none of you have publicly repudiated this practice.

Rhea O'Gorman
Station Road Civic Association

And finally, residents of the 19th Council District received this call last night:

Sandy homes coming down

From DNA Info:

Dozens of homes damaged by Hurricane Sandy in Staten Island and Queens have been slated for demolition by the city, including two abandoned homes on New Dorp Lane neighbors have complained about for months.

Homes that Department of Buildings inspectors determined were in danger of collapsing and posed a safety risk will be taken down by the city in the coming weeks, a source said.

The city did not confirm the number of homes set to be demolished, only saying a few dozen. But discussion with building owners has started and preparations are underway to tear down several already, the source said.

Parking eased along Northern Blvd

From the Queens Courier:

The community has spoken, and they have been answered.

There have been increasing complaints from business owners as well as neighborhood residents that the parking restrictions on certain blocks along Northern Boulevard are more of a hindrance than a benefit.

Because of this, the New York City Department of Transportation (DOT) will be removing the 4-7 p.m. parking restrictions along the south curb of Northern Boulevard between Parsons Boulevard and Utopia Parkway.

“As part of our ongoing efforts to provide safety and transportation enhancements to the Flushing community, DOT recently removed the evening rush-hour regulation from the south side of eastbound Northern Boulevard between Parsons Boulevard and Utopia Parkway,” said Nicholas Mosquera, a DOT spokesperson. “This change, which was requested by Councilmember [Peter] Koo and also supported by the Community Board 7 Transportation Committee, will provide additional parking for the community and customers of nearby businesses during these hours, while retaining loading areas for local deliveries.”

The current regulations have become an issue because they prohibit parking during prime shopping hours, making it more difficult for residents to find spots.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Paul Vallone says he would favor legislation that bans election spending by PACs

But has no problem benefiting from such spending now...

Why won't he denounce the mailers put out by Jobs For New York/Parkside if he, as the county candidate, had nothing to do with them? (As if County and Parkside aren't thick as thieves.)

Build what you want. City Planning has your back.

From the Daily News:

Dozens of homeless families are living in squalid conditions in two illegally operated South Bronx shelters.

And the owner of the buildings — on Southern Blvd. and Hall Place — is one step closer to gaining city approval to keep the shelters open, despite the protests of neighbors and officials.

The landlord, Julius Ausch, got the thumbs up from the Department of City Planning last week on a zoning exemption that could allow him to keep the buildings operating as shelters.

Residents complained of mold, mice and shoddy construction work in the building.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Homeless Services would not address the legal issues, saying only that the agency was “being kept abreast” of Aush’s efforts to bring the buildings into compliance.

Locals have battled the scofflaw landlord in the past.

They argued that Ausch — who lives in Brooklyn — willfully disregarded zoning laws when he built the Southern Blvd. residence two floors higher than he’s legally permitted.

He later leased it to New Hope, which opened it as a homeless shelter in 2009 and operated under temporary approvals that expired in May of 2012.

The City Council has two months to make the final call on the zoning exemptions for both shelters.

The Upper West Side is also fighting a shelter. Pretty soon, the City will just consist of high-rises for tower people and one giant homeless shelter.

Fake crowds following Weiner

From the NY Post:

Anthony Weiner is having such a hard time generating support for his limp campaign that he has resorted to paying a rent-a-crowd firm to provide “supporters” for his events, The Post has learned.

Some of the gung-ho Weiner crowds, including at the Aug. 11 Dominican Day Parade in Manhattan, were really actors who were paid $15 an hour by the California firm Crowds on Demand, according to a source with direct knowledge of the deal.

The source said surrogates for Weiner approached the Santa Monica-based company days after Indiana-native Sydney Leathers came forward to say that Weiner had continued his digital dalliances after resigning from Congress.

The campaign asked the company to have actors seem “like either supporters or people who met him and became supporters as a result of that encounter,” the source said.

“The people would initially be skeptical and then they ask him various questions but would appear then to be convinced by his spiel,” according to the source, who said the campaign used Crowds on Demand “several times.”

Initially, Weiner’s associates asked the company to try and confront hecklers, but the company — fearing liability if there was violence — refused, the source said.

Crowds on Demand had no comment.

Weiner’s camp denied employing the company.

Has anyone seen this commercial?

I haven't, but I haven't watched much TV lately.

Capital New York says, The ad is running on cable channels in Queens from today until primary day, according to the campaign.

Queens Museum wonders if people will show up

From the NY Times:

When the Queens Museum of Art announced plans for a renovation in 2006, it joined a building boom in which cultural institutions all over the country were adding wings by name-brand architects, seeking their own Bilbaos. And when the recession of 2008 forced many of those institutions to pull back — worried about whether they needed and could support larger physical plants — the Queens Museum persevered.

The road wasn’t easy; the project was ambitious and took seven years instead of the three originally announced. The budget ballooned to $68 million from $37 million. And though the renovation is now about to be completed — a reopening is planned for early November — the hard part is still ahead: with the new building expected to add $1 million to the $4 million annual operating budget, as well as six new full-time positions, will the institution be able to support this larger operation? And, more basically: now that they’ve built it, will people come?

The building became a museum in 1972, though physically it was never ideal. Its western facade, which faces the Grand Central Parkway, was opaque and forbidding and, over the years, became obscured by plants and fencing. “You couldn’t even see the building,” said Mark Husser, Grimshaw’s principal architect on the project.

When they say "plants" they really mean "trees" - dozens of which were removed for this project. Add these to the ones that will be sacrificed for the USTA expansion, and we've lost a small forest.

Even if people’s ultimate destination is the park, to play soccer, Mr. Finkelpearl said, he hopes they stop at the museum just to use the bathroom or get a drink — and maybe they’ll decide to catch an art exhibition while they’re there. (Suggested admission is $8; $4 for students and older visitors.)

Yes, let's bank on that. And this, my friends, is why the Queens Museum is generally thought of as a joke.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

District 19 residents revolt against Vallone tactics, but he won't stop

At noon yesterday, 4 out of the 5 Democratic candidates for City Council gathered near the Bayside LIRR station with State Senator Tony Avella to call Paul Vallone and Jobs for New York on the carpet for the attack mailers against his opponents. This "anybody but Vallone" moment was brought to you by Bayside Patch.

UPDATE: Here's video:

At least one candidate has struck back with his own mailer explaining who Vallone is loyal to. Shafran's piece is the first, but likely not the last.

This was the scene outside the Bay Terrace Commmunity Alliance's Candidates' Night last night:

Yet Vallone and Jobs for New York (REBNY and Parkside) won't stop the repetitive hit pieces.
I like the new spelling of "embarrassment", myself.

Since when are there only 4 options? Why is he omitting John Duane, the only current candidate to have actually served in office previously?

Now, check out what a candidate in the 35th Council District in Brooklyn said about Jobs For New York endorsing her:
...the Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts founder wants voters to know she did not ask for the PAC's support, nor does she want it.

Cumbo said she has asked Jobs for New York to "immediately discontinue spending any independent funds in support of [her] campaign."

"Now, some of my supporters are beginning to question my integrity and are asking themselves if I am a development candidate, easily bought and sold. I am not."

"This is horrible," Cumbo added. "Their so-called support of my campaign has done more harm than good in the community."
If Paul Vallone was smart, he would be taking the same position. But instead he claims he has no control over what Jobs For New York is doing, and won't denounce their tactics. I guess their money is just too good for him to pass up, especially since he blew most of his coin on lame expenses before petitioning was over and now has less cash on hand to spend within the limit than any other candidate.

This is the same guy who puts his banners on the construction fences of teardowns and then poses in front of them. No wonder REBNY loves him.

Looks like Coach Paul really "screwed the pooch" on this one. (Poor doggie.)

Melinda Katz: Tough. Tested. Turkey-basted.

From the Daily News:

For once, Curtis Sliwa wants to keep his frozen sperm under wraps.

Sliwa, co-founder of the nonprofit citizen crime patroller Guardian Angels, is trying to get out of answering questions under oath about his supposed sperm donation to Queens borough president candidate Melinda Katz, the Daily News has learned.

The talk show host has moved to quash a subpoena by his ex-wife Mary seeking “any and all records concerning the sperm bank(s), semen bank(s), or cryobank facilities where Curtis Sliwa supposedly deposited and stored his sperm for use by Melinda Katz” to “be artificially inseminated.”

Sliwa and Katz have maintained that Sliwa made the donation she used to have two children — now ages 5 and 2 — before he tied the knot with Mary in 2000.

Mary’s lawyer, Paul Siegert, said she believes they had the kids while carrying on a years-long affair, and wants proof she kept his sperm in storage for a decade.

CB1 member forms LLCs for 2 Malba properties

I received a request from a reader to look into the property records of the 2 houses pictured here. The addresses are 13-35 143rd Street and 13-39 143rd Street in Whitestone/Malba.

The owner of both properties is Pauline Jannelli, who purchased both homes between 2003 & 2004. Ms. Jannelli is a board member of CB1 in Astoria.

In 2011, Jannelli formed 2 LLCs - one for each house - and transferred the deed over to them.

The current R1-2 zoning allows for one enormous McMansion here, should the lots be combined (minimum lot width is 60ft & current lot widths are 40ft) and the owner desires to build. Of course, there's always the possibility that the landlord wanted to form LLCs to collect rent...10 years after purchasing the homes that happen to be next to each other.

Only time will tell, but perhaps the writing's on the wall here.

"Noise torture" in Bayside

From WPIX:

All was quiet in Bayside Queens on Monday. This is rare because residents like Cecilia Cody say it is normally filled with, “Noise torture, that’s what it is.”

Cody has lived here for the past thirty-five years. However, it was only until recently that her nightly ritual started requiring a soft touch to block out the sounds overhead, “I put in earplugs to go to sleep. This is what we are left to deal with, it’s simply horrendous.”

What she is referring to is the sound from airliners utilizing a “TNNIS 4″ climb out of LaGuardia’s Runway 13. On Monday, major carriers were making their ascents in the opposite direction.

However, ever since early 2012 there has been a dramatic uptick in traffic heading over Bayside Queens and the surrounding areas due to the FAA opting to utilize a flying procedure called “TNNIS 4″ climbs.

Assemblyman Ed Braunstein lives in the district and is trying to change the pattern that become more prevalent more than 18-months ago. According to Braunstein, on certain days the takeoffs begin early, “Starting at 6:00 a.m. you can set your watch to it. You’ll have a plane going off once a minute.”

FAA imagery shows what the “TNNIS 4″ climbs look like compared to the Whitestone and Flushing climb in side-by-side imaging. The trajectory of the “TNNIS 4″ Climb is much more concentrated and the repeated ascents more accurate. The pink area that completely covers the map in one section reflect the ascents that are right on top of one another.

The reason for this is due to RNAV equipped aircraft which has improved settings and navigation.

According to a report, this is about de-conflicting airspace.

Assemblyman Braunstein agrees, adding, “It’s really the flight traffic at JFK drives the flight traffic at LaGuardia.”

However, what Assemblyman Braunstein along with other politicians at the local, state, and federal level are hoping for, is that the FAA conducts a study utilizing monitors on the ground to identify if measures need to be taken regarding the aforementioned, “noise torture.”

Storms will bury NYC under water by the end of the century

From the Daily News:

Based on projections from the National Weather Service and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, if a storm equivalent in strength to Hurricane Sandy were to hit the five boroughs in the year 2100, vastly larger swaths of the city would be submerged.

The reason is simple. Sea levels are forecast to rise by as much as six feet before the end of the century, making low lying cities like New York all but defenseless to the wrath of powerful storms.

Unfortunately, over the past decade, scientific projections on sea level rise have grown rapidly as more data on climate change has continued to be analyzed.

Six years ago. the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) estimate that by 2100 sea level would rise by a maximum of 23 inches. In a draft of this year’s report, the final version of which is to be released this fall, the IPCC revised that outlook to a maximum of six feet.

But not to fear! The City has opened a water-resistant park at the edge of LIC, which is the only neighborhood in Queens that matters anymore.

From Curbed:

In a post-Sandy city, the first question that comes to mind with new waterfront developments is "how did it fare during the storm?" Hunters Point South, it turns out, fared very well. "We were surprised at how well the water drained," said Manfredi. "We always anticipated that there would be a major storm." Every part of the park is design to take on water. After Hurricane Sandy, all of the major surfaces were undamaged and intact, and most of the trees survived because all grades in the park were calibrated to accommodate storms, so the tree roots were protected.

No mention of the contaminated river and creek water that bathed Hunters Point.

Oh, and the trees survived because they weren't there yet. In fact, none of it was there on October 31, 2012. The satellite imagery proves it.

We'll see how well this area fares after the next 100 year storm, which, according to past experience, should be happening any day now...

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Vallone supporters now using violent imagery against Graziano

Goodness, now we're setting other candidates on fire, Mr. Vallone?

How many times can you send out different versions of the same hit piece?

I suppose desperate candidates call for desperate measures. This is obviously a stock photo of a "family" nowhere near Queens.

So much for the "family man" Mr. Vallone purports himself to be.

Tony Avella, Chrissy Voskerichian, Paul Graziano, Austin Shafran and John Duane will be denouncing these mailers today at 12 noon at the Bayside LIRR station.

Even the Daily News has noticed. And instead of manning up, Paul Vallone denies any knowledge of the smear campaign:

“Anybody who thinks Paul Vallone’s politics and policies will be affected by a piece of mail clearly does not know him,” he said.

What? How about denouncing the mailer? Obviously, Paul Vallone isn't man enough to do that.

And FYI, from Crains:

The City Council's Progressive Caucus fired a warning shot at the Real Estate Board of New York Monday in the form of a legislative proposal to severely limit the real estate industry's ability to spend money on political campaigns.

The council should seek to close the "LLC loophole" in state campaign finance law that allows many real estate corporations to give $150,000 to independent expenditures like REBNY's "Jobs for New York" political action committee, according to a memo from Councilman Brad Lander obtained by The Insider.

Mr. Lander, who co-chairs the council's Progressive Caucus, is unlikely to find much support for his bill during an election year, with more than half of the council up for re-election and several of the Democrats running for mayor benefiting from independent expenditures on their behalf.

Astoria landlord in deep doo-doo

From DNA Info:

A Queens landlord was indicted Monday for stealing tens of thousands of dollars from prospective tenants for rent on apartments that were deemed uninhabitable after the space was illegally converted into a nine-family building, according to the Queens District Attorney's office.

Hinyoung Limtung, 55, is facing charges for allegedly pocketing $44,050 from would-be renters for apartments at 31-70 Crescent St., near Broadway, in Astoria — despite the fact that a vacate order had been issued at the property for unsafe and illegal conditions.

According to the Queens DA, the Department of Buildings had issued the vacate order in December of 2012 after an inspection found the two-family building had been illegally converted into a five-family building, and that the first and second floors had no sprinkler system and no secondary means of egress.

A second inspection of the building in February of 2013 found tenants still living at site, despite the vacate order, and that the property had been illegally converted again, this time into a nine-family dwelling, the Queens DA said.

Officials say Limtung collected rent from 10 prospective tenants between December 2012 and April 2013, despite the vacate order.

More people dumping house trash in city bins

From the Daily News:

Home trash in city litter bins is really piling up — and this year, scofflaws have been largely getting off scot-free.

The number of $100 fines issued for illegal dumping of residential garbage in street bins dropped by 78% in fiscal year 2013, which ended June 30, city records show.

The number of trash tickets doled out declined to 922 from 4,185 in fiscal 2012.

The Sanitation Department said the huge drop happened because the agency’s cadre of enforcement officers were transferred to traffic duty for weeks after Hurricane Sandy.

While fewer tickets were issued, illegal trash dumping at the city’s 25,000 litter baskets is on the rise, local authorities say.

Queens Plaza millstones vandalized; electeds don't give a damn

From DNA Info:

One of the historic millstones on display in Queens Plaza was vandalized recently — renewing a local historian's call to have the pair of artifacts moved from the site.

The two stones, which are located in a park in Queens Plaza called Dutch Kills Green, are estimated to be at least 200 hundreds years old and possibly a relic from a mill that once operated nearby, according to Bob Singleton of the Greater Astoria Historical Society.

Singleton said he was notified by a community member of the vandalism last week. A photo he snapped of the vandalized millstone shows it was tagged with the word "Patria," in its center, and someone wrote the word "choky" numerous times in what appears to be marker.

The Parks Department removed the graffiti Friday morning, a spokesman said, "using methods recommended by our art and antiquities conservators." The department has notified the NYPD and planned to file a police report of the incident.

But Singleton says the vandalism is further proof that the millstones should be moved from the park to an indoor space where they can be preserved — something he's been pushing for years.

Look folks, this is typical. The City at this point knows that Queens Plaza is a bad place for the millstones. Yet they can't bring themselves to admit that. They can be placed indoors in an accessible location. But this being Queens, the electeds won't push for that, and will kowtow to the EDC.

It's quite embarrassing.

Update on Wendy's site

From Brownstoner Queens:

A 115-unit apartment building is in the works for the corner of Reeder Street and Queens Boulvard in Elmhurst. The site is right across from the new rental building known as The Elm as well as the Grand Avenue/Newtown R stop. DOB documents state that the building will include 27,801 square feet of commercial space, 26,273 square feet of community space, and 93,940 square feet of residential space. It’ll rise seven stories tall. The DOB disapproved a building plan earlier this summer and has not yet issued permits. We’ll letcha know when they do…

This is the Wendy's site. And if you know anything about the development that's occurred along that stretch, you know those new buildings are mostly empty.

Monday, August 26, 2013

When lobbyists get public pensions

From the AP:

As a lobbyist in New York's statehouse, Stephen Acquario is doing pretty well. He pulls down $204,000 a year, more than the governor makes, gets a Ford Explorer as his company car and is afforded another special perk:

Even though he's not a government employee, he is entitled to a full state pension.

He's among hundreds of lobbyists in at least 20 states who get public pensions because they represent associations of counties, cities and school boards, an Associated Press review found. Legislatures granted them access decades ago on the premise that they serve governments and the public. In many cases, such access also includes state health care benefits.

But several states have started to question whether these organizations should qualify for such benefits, since they are private entities in most respects: They face no public oversight of their activities, can pay their top executives private-sector salaries and sometimes lobby for positions in conflict with taxpayers. New Jersey and Illinois are among the states considering legislation that would end their inclusion.

Horse stable fights sale to Korean church

From the Queens Chronicle:

Joy Tirado is no quitter.

She’s the owner of the Western Riding Club, a traditional stable in a residential neighborhood of Fresh Meadows, who is fighting to keep the facility open. And now its future may rest with a judge who will determine the outcome.

Since May, more than 1,000 area residents have signed petitions to keep the stable open. State Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) tried unsuccessfully to get it landmarked and the Knights of Columbus held a fundraiser so Tirado could hire an attorney.

That’s because her landlord, John Lightstone, 87, who lives in the adjacent house, wants to sell the property to the Reformed Church of America, a Korean congregation. Church members told her they would tear down the barn and turn it into a parking lot and use the house for the church.

“I was never told the property was listed last year,” said Tirado, who has been there for three years. “I only found out in March. We don’t even know the price, as it’s ranged from $699,000 to $800,000.”

She was supposed to be out by the end of July, but the K of C came through with enough money for her to hire an attorney, who filed a legal complaint, and now “everything is on hold,” according to Tirado.

Her lawyer said that Lightstone’s attorney has not yet responded and has 30 days to answer the charges, which include the right of first refusal to purchase as is spelled out in her lease and a good-faith clause, among other issues. It is likely the owner will ask for a 30-day extension beyond that.

With a little breathing room Tirado is hoping to raise funds to buy the property at 169-38 Pidgeon Meadow Road and turn it into a community center and stable. “It would go from the Western Riding Club to It Takes a Village Ranch,” she said.

Astoria candidate doesn't play by the rules

Astoria attorney John Ciafone is running for City Council District 22 (Astoria) to replace outgoing Peter Vallone, Jr. He has run previously for the council as well as for the assembly. He dropped out back in 2010, and he may have dropped out this time around as well since there are no CFB filings from his campaign on file.

What you may not know is that Ciafone currently appears on Public Advocate Bill DeBlasio's slumlord list. To his credit, he is on the "most improved" list, having reduced his violations from 195 to 2. He tried to donate to DeBlasio, but it was returned. Local council member/Vito Lopez protege Steve Levin and Queens BP candidates Peter Vallone and Melinda Katz apparently have no qualms about keeping his money, however.

Ciafone currently has ads on residential buildings in the Williamsburg-Greenpoint area.

They appear on 202 Franklin Street, 119 Freeman Street, and 199 Green Street, among others.

No permits are on file, so far as I can tell, that allow commercial signs on these buildings.

It's all about who you know, and who you give money to.

Rego Park rape

From WPIX:

The NYPD released surveillance video of man they say brutally raped 52-year-old woman in Rego Park Friday.

The victim was caught on camera in the Rite Aid on 63rd Drive and Queens Blvd just moments before the heinous crime. Police say the suspect, who identified himself as “Junior” to the woman, approached the victim as she exited the Rego Park Subway station and asked her for her name and phone number. She refused and ducked into the Rite Aid, where he followed her in and began harassing her but then left. That is where he was caught by surveillance.

Police say the suspect then waited outside the store and followed the woman to an apartment building on Saunders Street, pushed her down a small flight of stairs and raped her.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Rockaway bathrooms already falling apart

From DNA Info:

The multimillion dollar bathrooms and lifeguard stations placed along city beaches as part of a post-Hurricane Sandy fix have already begun rusting and leaking, DNAinfo New York has learned.

The city spent $105 million to place the 35 modular units, which were designed by Garrison Architects and built by Triton Construction, along beaches on Rockaway Beach, Staten Island and Brooklyn in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.

Of the 35 stations, 21 are lifeguard shacks, 10 are public bathrooms and four are used for maintenance and operations, according to the Parks Department.

But while the shacks were intended to be strong enough to withstand the next superstorm, those who have used them say they are already falling apart — including at least one structure that has duct tape securing its railings for the handicapped-accessible ramp.

An amazing feat

From the Queens Courier:

A pregnant woman was injured when she backed her car over another vehicle in Bayside Friday evening.

According to police, at 211st Street and Northern Boulevard, she put her Honda in reverse, drove over a sidewalk and curb, and mounted the other car.