Friday, January 31, 2014

The T Building: Should it stay or go?

From the Times Ledger:

About a year after it floated a plan to convert an underused building on its Jamaica Hills campus into supportive housing, Queens Hospital Center is now considering tearing down the T Building, though a group of preservationists wants to see the historic structure stay.

The hospital’s plan last year to lease the 76-year-old former tuberculosis ward was met with sharp rebuke from neighborhood residents and community leaders, who feared the building’s tenants — people with low incomes, chronic conditions, mental disabilities and those living with HIV/AIDS — would be too close for comfort to nearby schools.

Queens Hospital eventually dropped the plan and now is looking at a number of options for the building — which is currently being used as a back office — including demolition.

The Queens Preservation Council, however, is up in arms over the prospect of losing the building designed by John Russell Pope, architect of Washington, D.C.’s Jefferson Memorial and the National Gallery of Art.

“Not only is this handsome building an outstanding work by a master architect, but its history embodies our city’s and our country’s response to urgent public health care needs during the Great Depression,” preservation chairman Mitchell Grubler wrote.

Richard Hellenbrecht, president of the Queens Civic Congress, said he has heard both sides of the argument and said each has a valid point.

“It’s impressive architecturally. It’s got a lot of detail that would be nice to preserve, but it’s got structural problems that would be expensive if they had to be repaired,” he said. “I’m on the fence myself. I don’t know if it’s best to demolish it or to save it.”

Melinda wants LPC decisions to be time-limited

From Crain's:

In their first joint public appearance, the city's five borough presidents—four of them new to their office this month—laid out their visions for development of their domains at a forum Tuesday hosted by Crain's. Borough presidents play an advisory but influential role in the land use review process, giving them the potential to spur, shape and sometimes kill projects.

Queens Borough President Melinda Katz called for a "real process" with more public input for planned developments at Flushing Meadow Park and Willets Point, and a "more finite" plan. "I think we need to take a little step back," she said. Ms. Katz, the former chair of the City Council's Land Use Committee, also is pushing for better transportation to the Rockaways.

The five borough presidents offered differing views on the creation of historic districts by the Landmarks Preservation Commission.

Ms. Katz offered another criticism of the process, saying proposals for historic districts linger for extended periods of time without being voted on, causing land to sit undeveloped. She once sponsored a bill setting a time limit for such proposals, and called for such a measure to be introduced again.

Johnny's new teaching gig

From the Daily News:

It's back to school for former city Controller John Liu — but now he’ll be at the head of the class.

Liu, who also ran in the 2013 Democratic race for mayor, on Wednesday began a part-time gig teaching municipal finance and policy at Baruch College.

Little Neck Bay kind of crappy

From the Daily News:

Little Neck Bay is still awash in stormy sewage.

Even though the city has pumped a whopping $142 million into blocking crud from the bay, pollution continues to taint the water, residents said Monday.

Scummy storm runoff from nearby streets and front yards continues to plague the area where people fish and swim.

“Storm water is still running off the land and storm water carries everything with it into the water,” said William Nieter, a professor of environmental studies at St. John’s University and a board member at the nearby Alley Pond Environmental Center.

Nieter noted the area has seen significant improvement since auto salvage shops and dumping grounds dotted the landscape. Meanwhile, cleaning facilities and tidal marshes the city Department of Environmental Protection completed in 2011 have reduced the flow of contaminated water by 261 million gallons per year, according to the agency.

But the beach at Douglas Manor next to the Nassau County border still had to close due to heightened bacteria readings for 47 days in 2012, the highest number in the city, according to the National Resources Defense Council.

Fishermen who have the city’s blessing to cast lines in the bay might think twice if they want to eat what they catch.

Car part thieves arrested

From the Queens Courier:

Police arrested two men in Flushing for allegedly sawing catalytic converters off multiple trucks in a U-Haul storage lot.

The device — which contains precious metals inside, like platinum — has been the target of a costly new citywide crime trend.

Dwayne Longmore, 31, and Neil Stephens, 33, were arrested Jan. 4 and charged with grand larceny for allegedly removing eight catalytic converters out of the 36-30 College Point Blvd. lot, police said.

The stolen devices totaled nearly $5,000, according to Crime Prevention Officer Anthony Lo Verme of the 109th Precinct.

Executive Officer Captain Tommy Ng said the precinct has not seen other catalytic converter thefts since the arrests.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Something reeks at Newtown Creek (and it isn't the water)!

Miss Heather has posted some eye-opening screenshots that seem to indicate that the Argentos of Knockdown Center fame have pulled another fast one on communities on both sides of Newtown Creek. How did they accomplish this? Let’s take a trip back in time to 2010…

Back then, it was announced that the City Parks Foundation was looking for participants to attend meetings to help determine how the Newtown Creek Environmental Benefit Project Funds were to be distributed. People from both sides of the Creek were invited to share their wishes, and ultimately a vote was taken to determine the top finalists.

Here is the list that was published after the vote tally:

The list was vetted by DEC and the NY Attorney General's office, and the final result was this:

You’ll note that a boathouse was the number one vote-getter. It wasn't. It actually came in third, but for some reason, it was given priority over the other projects ahead of it. It’s also controversial because the Dept of Health actually doesn’t want people paddling around Newtown Creek for health reasons, but the Parks Dept & City Planning convinced them to keep it on the list.

Christine Holowacz and "Commodore" Dewey Thompson.
Photo by Stefano Giovannini from the Brooklyn Paper.
Christine Holowacz is often referred to as a Greenpoint “community activist”. She and "Commodore" Dewey Thompson (that's what he prefers to be called) are allied with GWAPP, which is the group that pushed for the boathouse with a massive get-out-the-vote drive, including relentless blast e-mails. GWAPP members are also members of various other astroturf groups that were created to make it appear that the whole area wants a boathouse.

GWAPP seems to be under the impression that the entire $7M in Creek funds is theirs:
On October 25, 2011, the DEC and CPF submitted a letter [PDF (3.5MB)] approving the funds of the EBP to building out the boathouse, promising up to $7 million for the project. Runner-up projects would receive any leftover funding that was not used in the creation of the boathouse, however those project cannot receive funding until the principal project, the boathouse, is completed.
Unless there were some closed door shenanigans that we are not aware of, that is not the case. They were approved for $3M as noted in the screenshot above.

The address of the boathouse, as per the Newtown Creek website started December 2013, is now 437 McGuinness Blvd, aka 51 Ash Street. The website also says, "Holowacz and Thompson are currently working to finalize a location to house the boathouse and environmental education center."

Finalize a location? Why is that? The project was approved for 1155 Manhattan Avenue, the site of the Greenpoint Manufacturing and Design Center. These are very specific, detailed plans, incorporating the architecture and history of the previously proposed site. How can they just pick up and move to a not-yet-built site? And how is DEC ok with this?

So, what do you get when you pull up the DOB filing for 51 Ash Street? An application to build a 4-story hotel, with a “private club” listed as the "community facility" that allows the owner to build larger than what is normally allowed. The owner? None other than Broadway Stages, co-owned by Gina and Tony Argento! If the "private club" is temporary, then how do they calculate an augmented FAR based on its inclusion?  Could it be the new permanent home of the North Brooklyn Boat Club?

Is the "Greenpoint Waterfront Association for Parks and Planning" actually pushing for a private boathouse? How do so-called environmentalists sleep at night knowing they have sold out their community to people who "lack good character, honesty and integrity" in exchange for a boathouse? The club currently charges $40 for membership per year. How can public funds be released to build a boathouse that is only open to members? Who the hell in Greenpoint, outside of these charlatans, wants to see a boathouse built with environmental settlement money inside a hotel right next to the Pulaski Bridge?

Bottom line: GWAPP is getting the money for their private club, the Argentos are getting an FAR increase to build a bigger hotel, and everyone benefits except the rest of the neighborhood.


From City Parks Foundation:
The Dutch Kills Basin Park Project proposed to construct a park with athletic fields and waterfront access. The proposed park location is along 47th Avenue between 27th and 29th Streets, in the area adjoining the Dutch Kills basin. Long Island City Roots is serving as the primary community representative for the proposed project. City Parks Foundation partnered with The Trust for Public Land (TPL) in evaluating the proposed park location. TPL submitted a letter of inquiry to the property owners of the parcels required to construct the park in the proposed location. The property owners did not respond to TPL’s letter. While awaiting response from the property owners, City Parks Foundation contracted with Goodman-Marks Associates to perform an appraisal of the proposed park location. The appraised value of the property greatly exceeded the proposed project budget. Given this information, DEC determined that the initial project location is infeasible. CPF is currently working with Long Island City community groups in an attempt to find an alternate location.
The decision posted in the second photo above states,
“If after all the projects in the primary group are implemented or projects have been determined to be infeasible to implement and additional mitigation funds remain uncommitted, the State will propose a prioritized list of projects for implementation from the secondary group.”
The language is quite clear. If a project isn’t going to happen, then it’s removed from the list and the DEC draws from the second group. It doesn't say that they'll sit and wait for the people behind a project to scramble to find an alternate location. Yet that is exactly what is happening with the Greenpoint Boathouse and the Dutch Kills Basin Park Project.

Wouldn’t it have been smarter to fund them in the order that they were ready to go? For example, planting trees could have been first and would already be making an impact. If the St. Saviour’s ULURP had been funded back in 2011, there might have been a park at that site instead of warehouses. The DEC knocked that relatively inexpensive item off the list completely, yet kept the construction of the park on, which expedited the death of the project.

The Pulaski Bridge Study was ready to go.
Renovation of McCarren Park would be finished by now.
The Greenpoint Monitor Museum was ready to go as well. (Oooooh, but that would have held back the development of the greenway along the coast! We can’t have that. The site of the Monitor Museum has been proposed for public restrooms. Which means the city will eventually own it. Which means eminent domain.)

Instead everyone now must sit by and wait for a hotel to be built next to the Pulaski Bridge. Because the actual polluting of the Creek wasn't enough punishment.

More to come! Stay tuned!

And now for something completely different

I have been sent some links to poetry centered around Elmhurst. Here is a sample from [the light at van horn] by Matthew Kremer:

anyway i should say
that a minute or so ago
i observed a sedan creeping
to the light at van horn
in a manner that was odd.
he did not speed to the light
but rather seemed to decelerate
from a considerable distance.
what is strange about this
is that most cars in this town
have this habit of racing
to red lights as if their speed
is going to have some effect
on the duration of the interval.
i observe these things quietly.
here was a man who had perhaps
perused the AAA literature
about how slow accelerations
and decelerations are actually
easier on one's gas mileage.
and having not so nice of a car
he was exercising prudence and
frugality instead of needless haste.
that was my theory at least
for the forty-five seconds
i thought about it.
perhaps i have been reading
too much francis hutchinson.
i admired him and felt the need
to reach out in appreciation
for his moderation, i admit.
but then the thought came
that this was entirely dissimilar
to my car-driving days.
likely the case was that
having seen the light he elected
to decelerate as a means of checking
his smartphone or something.
this disappointed me.

When will the NYC Parks Dept plant new trees at Hoffmann Park?

Here's what Hoffmann Park in Elmhurst looks like these days.

Looks like it may be time to either remove those stumps and asphalt in the tree pits and plant new trees in them.

I had planned to also show you the back of St. John's Hospital, but I think I'll save that eyesore for another post.

St. John's Episcopal Hospital needs funds to stay afloat

From the Daily News:

Local leaders are eyeing a prescription that would keep an ailing Rockaway hospital in stable condition.

Two officials introduced a bill to reimburse St. John’s Episcopal Hospital — the only hospital left on the peninsula — the $4.3 million it spent sheltering, feeding and caring for thousands of Hurricane Sandy victims.

“They need all the help they can to get back on their feet,” said Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder (D-Rockaway Beach), who introduced the bill on Monday. “We’ll beg, borrow and steal to make sure the hospital stays open.”

State Sen. James Sanders (D-South Ozone Park) introduced the bill in the senate.

Goldfeder also sent a letter to Gov. Cuomo this week asking that the hospital receive a portion of the $1.2 billion the state sets aside for hospitals, nursing homes and other health care facilities across the state.

Rockaway counts about 170,000 year-round residents, Goldfeder said. Hundreds of thousands more flock to the peninsula’s beaches during the summer.

The 257-bed facility has seen an influx of new patients since Peninsula Hospital closed in 2012. To cut costs, St. John’s recently got rid of its detox center, outsourced some of its clinics and laid off several dozen employees.

During Sandy, the hospital was a beacon for residents.

Further dismantling of the Queens Machine

From The Capital:

Longtime City Council employee Chuck Meara is resigning his post as of March 31, he confirmed to Capital.

Meara, who would have served in the Council for ten years in June, was chief of staff to Christine Quinn, who served for eight years as speaker and left office Dec. 31.

He did not work on her campaign for mayor last year.

He also was one of the highest-paid council staffers, earning $209,973 in Fiscal Year 2013, according to records provided by the council through a freedom-of-information request in December.

Among Meara's duties is overseeing the Council's legislative division and its office of general counsel.

He works closely with Ramon Martinez, who handles land use and budget issues. Martinez is retaining his post for the time being, Capital has reported.

See previously: Machine hacks may have to find real jobs

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

This is comforting: Prisoner walks right out of Creedmoor

From the NY Post:

A killer who had been locked up for for the past 15 years for manslaughter, escaped from a psychiatric center in Queens by swapping clothes with a friend Tuesday, cops said.

Raymond Morillo, 33, was imprisoned for manslaughter in 1999, prison records show. In December he was moved from prison to the Creedmor Psychiatric Facility in Rosedale, according to police.

At about 11:25 a.m. Tuesday, Morillo was visited by a friend, with whom he traded a black baseball cap, white sneakers and tan pants. The new get up allowed him to exit the building, cops said.

The friend also managed to leave the building, police said.

UPDATE 1/31/2014: We can relax. He was caught in Tennessee.

East Side Access Project faces further delay

From the Times Ledger:

The already long awaited day that Long Island Rail Road trains finally pull into Grand Central Terminal has crept even further into the future along with a higher price tag.

Craig Stewart, senior director of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority Capital Projects Plan, said the massive project is again over budget and once more running late.

In remarks before an MTA committee Monday, Stewart said the cost of the East Side Access, now estimated at $8.3 billion,“ could cost more” and he expressed doubt the latest completion date could be met.

The East Side Access was originally estimated to be a $4.3 billion project with a completion date of 2009. The latest date for the trains to start rolling underneath the East River had been 2019.

Talkin' trash (and poop)

From CBS New York:

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority said its pilot program to reduce trash in the subway system is working and it will remove refuse cans at an additional 29 stations.

The agency launched the program in October 2011 in an effort to reduce the subway rodent population and the amount of refuse pick-up in the stations.

The agency first removed trash bins at the Main Street station on the No. 7 line in Queens and the other in Greenwich Village at Broadway and Eighth Street.

The MTA expanded the program a year later, making eight more stations – two each in the Bronx, Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens — trash can free.

The MTA said it has resulted in a 66 percent reduction in the number of bags collected.

The expansion calls for the removal of refuse cans in 29 stations along the J and M lines.

Perhaps they may want to replace the trash cans with commodes to prevent the following:

And speaking of poop, one street in LIC is just FULL of it.

Meanwhile, Astoria wants more trash pickups. (And there's a doozy of a photo at that link as well.)

No surprise here: Trib endorsed only Multimedia candidates

From the New York World:

Months after the New York World first highlighted the practice, a pair of Queens community newspapers persisted in handing out endorsements to political candidates who are paying clients of the papers’ affiliated political consulting firm, a review of campaign filings reveals.

In 2013, in competitive primary and general electoral races, all candidates who hired the firm, Multi-Media Advertising, and spent more money than rivals on consulting services and ads in the Queens Tribune and PRESS of Southeast Queens received an endorsement in at least one of the two newspapers.

The endorsements did not disclose the business transactions to readers.

In all, the endorsed candidates and their outside supporters spent a total of more than $268,000 on Multi-Media during the 2013 election cycle. The largest sum came from Republican mayoral candidate John Catsimatidis, who paid Multi-Media $135,000 for consulting services, printing and postage for his campaign.

Five days before the primary, the Tribune’s editorial page endorsed Catsimatidis for the Republican mayoral primary: “Catsimatidis is an approachable billionaire,” it raved. “He loves people and he loves this City…he will bring into his administration bright people.” The other candidates on the Republican ballot, Joe Lhota and George McDonald, were not Multi-Media clients.

Catsimatidis was not available for comment.

The Tribune and PRESS of Southeast Queens endorsed candidates in 19 competitive races on the ballot in Queens. In all nine contests in which a Multi-Media client was in the running, the papers’ editorial pages endorsed the candidate who did the most business with Multi-Media and the publications. (If that candidate was defeated in the primary, the Tribune and the PRESS in some cases endorsed for the general election a candidate with smaller or no business ties with the firm.)

Among the Tribune’s endorsements was one for Reshma Saujani in the public advocate primary. Saujani spent $5,400 on ads in the Tribune and PRESS of Southeast Queens. Rival Daniel Squadron had spent $340 to have Multi-Media print his primary ballot petitions, but nothing on advertising with the paper.

When the World reported the connection between the papers and consultancy last year, the newspapers and the political consulting firm were both owned by Tribco LLC. They continue to share the same address in Whitestone, the Tribune’s website, the PRESS’ website, and a recent ad for Multi-Media show.

The Tribune and PRESS’ editor-in-chief, Steven Ferrari, declined to comment when reached over the phone and by email. Their publisher, Michael Nussbaum, who is also Multi-Media’s president, did not respond to an email and a phone call; The New York World visited the office but was told that Nussbaum was not available to meet.

Douglaston wants better transportation

From Bayside Patch:

A bevy of elected officials representing northeast Queens are calling on the city to increase bus service to Douglaston and add more bus stops in the community.

Currently, the last express morning bus leaves the community at 7:45 a.m. As a result, many Douglaston residents living south of the Long Island Expressway have limited commuting options.

"There aren't enough bus lines serving the neighborhood," U.S. Rep. Steve Israel, D-Great Neck said. "We want additional bus stops and our fair share of federal funding"

Israel and state Assemblywoman Nily Rozic, D-Fresh Meadows, want to see an increase in funding for the Federal Transit Authority Bus and Bus Facilities Grant, which pays to replace, rehabilitate and purchase buses and construct bus stops.

Jimmy come lately

From DNA Info:

City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer is calling for an oversight hearing on the Queens Library, following news reports about the library system's president collecting a large salary while shedding more than 100 jobs over the past five years.

Van Bramer, the council's new majority leader and chairman of the committee on cultural affairs and libraries, called for the hearing following stories in the New York Daily News that said Queens Library President Thomas Galante collects a $391,594 salary and spent $140,000 last year on renovations for his offices at the Queens Central Library in Jamaica, including a "private smoking area."

The library has eliminated nearly 130 jobs over the past five years, the paper reported.

In a statement, Van Bramer — who worked for the Queens Library for 11 years before his election to the City Council — called for "an immediate oversight hearing on the Queens Library, its Central Library project and its operations."

"Stories of private outdoor patios and questionable spending deserve great scrutiny and they will get it," the councilman said.

So let me get this straight...Jimmy worked for the library for 11 years, has been chair of the library committee since he entered the council in 2009, and regularly hobnobs with these people at cultural events, but he didn't know a thing about what was going on until the Daily News story?

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Slave burial ground in Bronx being recognized

From NY 1:

Little historians working on a school project helped uncover an African slave burial ground.

It started last year, when their teachers discovered the photo seen at left while working with the department of education's Teaching American History project that focuses on teaching local history to kids.

"There's an image that said, 'Slave burial ground' in the Bronx, but that was all the information we had on it," said Brian Carllin, director of the Teaching American History Project.
They turned to the Huntington Free Library for help. Its president, Thomas Casey, immediately recognized the photo and offered some insight.

"The U.S. census, the first one we have is 1790, and we find from the 1790 reports that, in fact, about one-third the population were slaves," Casey said.

They were slaves who belonged to the Hunts, Leggettes, the Tiffanys, families that owned large portions of land in the 17th-century Bronx.

The white landowners were buried in a fenced-off cemetery preserved in Drake Park, while the rest of the park was built over the burial ground for their slaves.

Elected officials and community members are now calling for official recognition of the land where the slaves are interred.

"Make sure that we put this site, we put this African-American burial ground on the site of the state historic registry," said state Senator Jeff Klein, whose district covers parts of the Bronx and Westchester.

Those involved say that even a sidewalk in the park could be hallowed ground. They believe that the burial ground stretches throughout much of this area, and they want to see the people buried here memorialized.

Legislators say they won't stop with recognition on the state registry and hope to have the burial ground recognized as a national historic site, too.

This is quite similar to the East Harlem MTA depot site.

But then there's Elmhurst, where no elected officials give a shit about a slave burial ground being destroyed by a condo project, and learning about its history is certainly not part of any school project.

Why does the Queens Library director make more money than the mayor?

From the Daily News:

For a classic study of the “Tale of Two Cities,” Mayor de Blasio should visit the Queens Central Library.

Patrons of that dilapidated two-story building on Merrick Blvd. in Jamaica have faced years of unending construction and diminished services.

But that didn’t stop library President Thomas Galante from spending $140,000 last year to renovate his offices on the building’s second floor. Galante managed this after eliminating nearly 130 library jobs through layoffs and attrition over the past five years.

We paid a visit last week to tour the Central Library renovations, which include:

- A 250-square-foot rooftop deck adjacent to Galante’s office for use as his private smoking area. Built with teak tile, furnished with wrought-iron furniture, and surrounded by two dozen evergreens that shield it from onlookers, the deck’s tab alone was more than $27,000.

- Two new executive conference rooms, one of which looks more like a private lounge area, featuring sparkling wood floors, a half-dozen leather sofas and chairs, a stylish drop ceiling, and a giant flat-screen television. Cost: more than $110,000.

- A paint job for his existing personal bathroom and shower.

All this came courtesy of you, the taxpayer.

And that’s on top of Galante’s eye-popping salary last year of $391,594 — an increase of $12,000 from the previous year.

You didn't think that whole transparency thing was genuine, did you?

From an op-ed by former mayoral candidate Sal Albanese in the Daily News:

Many New Yorkers were heartened by the election of Bill de Blasio because of his stated commitment to transparency. He loved transparency so much that he gave it a section on his campaign website.

Unfortunately, de Blasio fell out of love with transparency long before taking the oath of office at an event that he tried to keep private.

Despite lofty promises to let the sunlight in, de Blasio has long controlled his image with a paranoia that went out of style with the Cold War. As public advocate, he issued “transparency report cards” for city agencies, yet regularly met in secret with dozens of lobbyists.

Everyone is entitled to personal privacy. But when de Blasio is delivering speeches as mayor, he is acting on behalf of the public. They have the right to know where you are, who are you talking to and what you are saying. That’s what real transparency looks like.

This water tastes a little funny...

From the NY Times:

With their quaint barrel-like contours and weathered cedar-plank sides, rooftop water towers are a constant on the New York City skyline. And though they may look like relics of a past age, millions of residents get their drinking water from the tanks every day.

But inside these rustic-looking vessels, there are often thick layers of muddy sediment. Many have not been cleaned or inspected in years. And regulations governing water tanks are rarely enforced, an examination by The New York Times shows.

Even some that are routinely maintained contain E. coli, a bacterium that is used by public health officials to predict the presence of viruses, bacteria and parasites that can cause disease.

When found in drinking water, E. coli, a microbe carried in the feces of mammals and birds, requires the issuance of a boil-water order, according to federal Environmental Protection Agency regulations.

Samplings taken by The New York Times from water towers at 12 buildings in Manhattan, Queens and Brooklyn found E. coli in five tanks, and coliform in those tanks and three more. Coliform by itself is not harmful, but does indicate that conditions are ripe for the growth of potentially dangerous microorganisms. The positive results all came from the bottoms of the tanks, below the pipe that feeds the buildings’ taps, though public health experts say the contamination is still a concern because the water circulates throughout the inside of the tanks.

How do elected officials not see this?

"Mr. La Mura/liaison for the borough president and Leroy Comrie/Deputy to the borough president. This is what we have to endure on a daily basis. Photos taken on saturday 1/25/14. Mr. La Mura, you said that you wanted a specific location. Well, this is Dr. Auto located on Merrick Boulevard between 108 & 109 Avenues.

This chop shop and many others along Merrick Boulevard have been operating for years. No one believes that you cannot find this location. Get a GPS and stop your irrational excuses.

Do you know who to blame for this epidemic? The law makers, you and Comrie including who are privileged to sit with them and initiate so-called solutions. Another major problem is that the victims (residents) are keep out of the decision-making process.

About three years ago, then Councilman, Leroy Comrie vowed to make sweeping changes. We are yet to see one broom. However, this is the present situation at hand.

As stated before, the chop shops have now taken over side walks. As seen in the following photos, one car is directly on the sidewalk, another is parked on the street partly blocking the yellow hydrant.

As for the green car, half is parked on the street and the other half is on the sidewalk. It is against the law, but you and your political gangsters are allowing this because it is not in your neighbourhood.

We did not choose this inconvenience. We want a stop to this inferior treatment.

Team P/J has provided you with all the evidence, but in your quest TO DO NOTHING, all the evidence is not enough. No one believes you all anymore.

Clean-up Jamaica. We are not satisfied until we get EQUALITY


Garbage epidemic. 4,628 were registered last year.
Mosquito infested high grass.
Abandoned lots.
Abandoned parks.
Amistad Daycare.

So, you all are sick of hearing about this damn list over and over. Imagine, we are forced to live in the epidemic.

Clean-up Jamaica. The world has to know how blacks are treated in the black neighbourhood.


And now the Daily News has noticed! Hurrah for Team P/J!

Monday, January 27, 2014

Sidewalk parking at Court Square Diner

"Dear Queens Crap:

I love your blog. Keep up the good work.

I spotted this car on the sidewalk in front of the Court Square Diner on 23rd St and 45th Rd.

I confronted the driver, who makes deliveries for the restaurant, and he told me that his boss told him to park there.

Thanks very much and please post if you think appropriate." - anonymous

Fireworks over Bell Blvd is a Vallone priority

From the Queens Courier:

Councilmember Paul Vallone wants sparks to fly during his time in office.

The freshman legislator launched idea after idea — including shooting fireworks on Bell Boulevard and hosting movie and game nights — during a two-hour interview with The Courier.

“I want to bring back that old-time feel,” he said, gazing at the boulevard out of his fifth floor Bell Plaza windows.

“You look at things from a different perspective,” he said. “As a father, I think, ‘What would my kids want to do?”

His long list of plans for the district also include having quarterly roundtables with the district’s community groups and starting up a new Student Ambassadors program in February with three local high schools.

The initiative allows about 10 juniors from Holy Cross High School, Bayside High School and World Journalism Preparatory to serve for a year as community representatives.

Fireworks, movie nights and roundtables. Wow, those are some lofty goals. Is he an elected official or cruise ship entertainment director?

Involvement with Hiram still haunts Julissa

From the Daily News:

The City Council’s new point person in overseeing the $50 billion municipal budget didn’t do such a hot job overseeing a nonprofit group at the center of a Council slush fund scandal, records show.

Julissa Ferreras, the Queens Democrat who was named Wednesday as chairwoman of Council’s Finance Committee, headed the board of directors of LIBRE, the Latino Initiative for Better Resources and Empowerment, when it was looted by then-Councilman Hiram Monserrate.

As a Council member, Monserrate steered $300,000 in city funding to LIBRE and then diverted $109,000 of the money to pay people to work on his campaign for the state Senate.

He later pleaded guilty to federal mail fraud and mail fraud conspiracy charges for the scam.

In addition to serving as Monserrate’s handpicked chairwoman of LIBRE’s board, Ferreras was chief of staff in Monserrate’s City Council office.

The Council’s Finance Committee is highly influential, with oversight of the city budget — making the committee’s chairmanship one of the most sought-after positions in the legislative body.

Ferreras’ ascension to the post was seen as a reward for bucking the Queens Democratic Party by backing Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito’s successful campaign for Council speaker.

Ferreras declined Thursday to answer questions by the Daily News about her role at LIBRE at the time of Monserrate’s wrongdoing.

Bloomberg's final act as mayor was a doozy

From the Daily News:

In one of its final acts, the Bloomberg administration pushed through a costly contract to modernize the city's 311 call system — hiring the same company fired by the feds for the botched rollout of the Obamacare website.

The city’s Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications, known as DoITT, awarded the contract to the Montreal-based company CGI on Dec. 31, hours before Bill de Blasio was sworn in as mayor.

Bloomberg administration officials were keen on approving the deal because the former mayor sees the 311 hotline as one his legacies, sources said.

But rival companies are up in arms, saying CGI has little if any experience managing call centers. A website,, has popped up to protest the contract.

CGI has never overhauled “a 311-type system,” said a source in the information technology industry.

From CBS Local:

A contract awarded to a Montreal-Based CGI on December 31, has caught the eye of City Comptroller Scott Stringer.

“I’m certainly reviewing the contract now,” Stringer told WCBS 880′s Jim Smith.

“This is a critical project when it comes to enhancing 311 and we’re going to be looking at all aspect of this process and contract,” Stringer said.

Stringer said that it was important to make sure that the company does what it said it would do. CGI and the city’s IT department say the competitive bid was awarded after a rigorous evaluation process.

Can the new land use chair be trusted?

From Crains:

For real estate interests, the election of an unabashed liberal as City Council speaker this month was a setback. Another one holding the gavel of the powerful Land Use Committee could have been a real problem. So, Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito's appointment of Brooklyn Councilman David Greenfield as chairman drew sighs of relief. Real Estate Board of New York President Steven Spinola said he expects Mr. Greenfield to be "diligent and fair" in running Land Use, which approves projects.

Unlike other powerful committee heads named, Mr. Greenfield is not a member of the labor-backed Progressive Caucus. He owes his position instead to helping broker the speaker deal for Ms. Mark-Viverito. That could grant him a level of independence.

Ms. Mark-Viverito and Mayor Bill de Blasio are promising broad changes in development policy, including mandatory affordable housing in rezoned areas. Mr. Greenfield did not immediately have a comment on that policy, but said he expected new council rules would leave chairmen "empowered to run committees independently."

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Hoarding horror in Elmhurst

The front of this house at 57-03 84th Street in Elmhurst looks pretty normal. But it's what's in the yards around it that is kind of a shocker.

The driveway.

The side yard.

Because what Fresh Meadows needs is another hotel

From the Queens Chronicle:

Fresh Meadows residents are hoping to pressure the city to stop the construction of a hotel on 186th Street, but the development can proceed “as of right,” meaning it does not need variances to proceed.

Neighbors along the narrow residential block near the eastbound Horace Harding Expressway say the structure, which is slated for 11 or 12 stories, would loom over their homes and wreak havoc with the overused sewer system in the area.

Two years ago, the developer, Mayflower Business Group of Great Neck, was turned down by the Department of Buildings for a 12-story plan based on inadequate parking [48 spaces] and a too-dense floor-area ratio.

The group’s latest proposal, according to the website of the contractor, Crosscity Construction of Long Island City, calls for an 11-story hotel with 147 rooms and 42 parking spots.

Although the project is as of right, the developer must still meet city guidelines.The 77,000-square-foot project would be built at 61-27 186 St., the site of three former houses and is next to the Michaels arts and crafts store parking lot.

Developer yuppifying old Bushwick mansion

From Wyckoff Heights:

An enlargement application has been filed for 1002 Bushwick Ave, a large residential building constructed in 1887 as the home of Louis Bossert, a wealthy Bushwick businessman. Later used as the headquarters for the Arion Singing Society, and more recently “to host international volunteers for a local nonprofit,” the property was purchased by a Williamsburg developer in March of 2012 for $1,300,000.

This is the second enlargement for the building since 2012. The first, which was signed off in October, added 2,300 square feet and converted the building to multifamily residential use with 20 apartments. This new application proposes to add a fourth floor to the building, maxing out the FAR and increasing the number of dwelling units to 35.

Isn't it ironic that the people funneled into Bushwick to "save" it are actually destroying what charm it has left? This is a landmark-worthy building that's about to be crappified.

Out-of-state plate legislation being introduced in Albany

From The Forum:

Assemblyman Mike Miller (D-Woodhaven) has a message for drivers wielding out-of-state license plates who are hogging parking spaces on the street: Your time is up.

The lawmaker is introducing a bill this week in Albany that aims to “stop the abuse of the registration of out-of-state vehicles in all our communities.”

The bill, which Miller expects to soon have corresponding legislation in the state Senate, would prohibit vehicles with out-of-state license plates to park on the street between 2 a.m. and 5 a.m. daily.

“We know some people are fortunate to own homes out of state, so there’ll be exemptions for them, and you’ll be able to get a pass for families from out of state,” Miller said “We don’t want to curtail tourists from coming in, so people can buy a pass for a specific period of time through the DMV.”

Saying that the idea behind the bill is that “parking is difficult and we all pay for that privilege,” Miller said he believes the bill will help residents find the often elusive street parking – as well as ensure that the state receives money it deserves from registrations.

“There are a lot of cars with out-of-state plates,” Miller said. “Out of every 50 cars, I’m sure you have five or six cars that have them.”

Five or six? More like 20 or 25. There are days when I walk down my block and there are more out-of-state plates than NY plates on the cars.

Bikeshare blues

From Crains:

Now some news out of Canada bodes poorly for urban transportation utopians. Public Bike System Co., the company that designed the sturdy bikes and nifty solar-powered docking stations used in New York and more than a dozen other cities around the world, was forced into bankruptcy protection in Montreal, where it also administers the local sharing program. The nonprofit, known as Bixi, has debt of nearly $46 million.

Bixi's financial troubles have persisted for years; Montreal gave it over $100 million bailout in 2011. Part of Bixi's shortfall is a result of New York and Chicago program operators withholding payments of over $5 million because of problems with the software that runs the bike docking stations.

Bixi acts as a supplier to Alta Bicycle Share Inc., which administers New York's Citi Bike and similar programs in Chicago, Boston and elsewhere. Alta said on its website Jan. 20 that its systems "are up and running and ABS will ensure that they continue to operate without interruption."

Citigroup said its program is safe.

"Alta has reassured us that they have appropriate plans in place, and we are confident Citi Bike operations will not be negatively impacted for users," said a bank spokesman.

It's not clear, though, what Bixi's troubles mean for CitiBike's scheduled move into new areas of New York City. Citi Bike is operated by Alta subsidiary NYC Bike Share.

From the Epoch Times:

As the weather got colder this winter, more New Yorkers set aside their Citi Bikes. On Jan. 3, the day after a howling overnight snowstorm, the city’s bike share system logged the fewest number of trips for a 24-hour period since launching in May last year, according to data posted on its website.

Riders checked out the blue bicycles a record-low 1,230 times across the city, compared to an average of over 30,000 times per day during the summer.

Snow was not the only cause for the record low reached on Jan. 3. The number of daily bike share rides has declined steadily as average temperatures have dropped. Citi Bike users rode the bikes four times less in January compared to the system’s record month of September.

The seasonal drop is likely to make a financial dent for the Alta Bicycle Share. Bloomberg said in October that Alta was still losing money due to the costs of rolling out the system.

The mayor’s office and NYC Bike Share did not return requests for bike share’s financial data.

It would probably help if someone plowed/shoveled the bike lanes. But that's not likely to happen.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Murray Hill fire death

From the Daily News:

A 63-year-old man died after a fire ripped through the basement of a Queens apartment building early Friday, authorities said.

The blaze began at 5:59 a.m. in the structure at 159th St. at 43rd Ave. in Murray Hill, police said. The victim was pulled from the flames with severe burns and trauma, police said.

From the Queens Chronicle:

The victim, whose identity was not immediately announced because his family had not yet been notified, was found with severe trauma and burns to his body inside of 43-06 159 St. after the authorities responded to a fire there a little after 6 a.m., police said. Emergency Medical Services took the man to New York Hospital Queens, where he was pronounced dead on arrival.

From the NY Post:

A 63-year-old man appeared to have been badly beaten before he was pulled from a suspicious Flushing blaze and pronounced dead Friday, authorities said.

Looking at the previous complaints on this address, it appears there was an illegal conversion in the cellar where the body was found. Considering a beating was involved, goodness knows what else was going on in that cellar.

Food vendor damaging street tree

"Hi there-

Wanted to share this pic with you - this is a brand new tree on the corner of gates and st nicholas, right on the brooklyn/queens border.

This food truck sets up every weekend right in front of the tree pit, note all the customers standing in the tree pit and the awning of the truck hitting the tree. A small branch was broken off the tree. It's really too bad as we need these trees. I should also note that there has been an explosion of these food trucks in this area. Note the chairs and small table they have set up.

Love your site-

Jeff - from Ridgewood."

Resolution for collapsed building may be in the works

From the Forum:

After months of civic leaders pleading with the city to do something about a Woodhaven building that partially collapsed in April, sending a sea of bricks crashing onto Jamaica Avenue during a busy rush hour, an elected official said there could be a light at the end of the tunnel regarding the structure that has prompted numerous safety concerns and become what residents call a serious eyesore.

Assemblyman Michael Miller (D-Woodhaven) said this week that the property’s landlord, a group by the name of 78-19 Jamaica Ave. LLC, has hired an architect to look into fixing the crumbling building that stands in a bustling commercial corridor.

“It took a long time, but at least something is going to be done about it,” Miller said.

When the roof of the abandoned furniture store collapsed, it sent a storm of bricks into an area often packed with vehicles and pedestrians during rush hour. A car was badly damaged in the collapse, but no one was hurt.

The landlord, who could not be reached for comment, has reportedly recently paid thousands of dollars in fines owed to the city for a variety of violations, from a failure to maintain the building to conducting work without a permit, according to area elected officials and civic leaders. However, those payments have not been recorded on the city Department of Building’s website, which still states that there are 33 open DOB violations on the property, as well as eight open Environmental Control Board violations.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Buildings said the DOB issued a criminal court summons for failure to maintain the building and failure to comply with the DOB commissioner’s order to file plans and commence work to repair the building by Nov. 29, 2013. While a judge in a criminal court case does not have the power to force a defendant to make repairs, there is incentive for the owner to comply with the summons – and make repairs – because it can lead to a better outcome for them.

Help on the way for Far Rockaway

From CBS New York:

Help is on the way for a Queens neighborhood that has been experiencing repeated street flooding for more than a year — and in this week’s blast of bitter cold, the water has turned to ice.

But as CBS 2′s Tracee Carrasco reported, for Far Rockaway residents who can no longer even drive down Pinson Street, the improvements cannot come soon enough.

CBS 2 first visited the neighborhood in July and then again in December. The floodwaters, believed to be overflow from the sewer and nearby Jamaica Bay, are still there, a huge disappointment for residents.

Residents say the situation has become hazardous. Police have put up caution tape along the street.

“Each and every day now, cars are going into the potholes, and someone has to tow them out,” Burkhead said.

It’s not just cars. Last week, one Pinson Street resident shot cellphone video of a school bus full of kids unable to navigate through the murky lagoon of ice and water, which residents say has overtaken their neighborhood.

On Thursday, City Councilman Donovan Richards, D-Far Rockaway; the Department of Environmental Protection; and the Department of Design and Construction announced that a $22.5 million project to rebuild the sewer system in the neighborhood will begin this summer.

After 10 years, it actually may be "coming soon"!

From the Queens Chronicle:

The lot on Cross Bay Boulevard between 149th Avenue and North Conduit Avenue in Ozone Park has sat vacant, surrounded by a fence, for more than a decade. Back then, a giant sign on the fence at the site, which sits adjacent to the Magnolia Court housing development, advertised a strip mall or commercial center that would be built to suit a potential buyer.

That sign is gone now and the fence, now covered in graffiti, is also starting to show its age.

But that may soon change, as the developer who owns the site says he expects to start work there this winter.

The new owner is Platinum Realty, a Brooklyn-based developer that has built strip malls in Brooklyn and Metro Plaza at 71st Street and Metropolitan Avenue in Forest Hills. It is also constructing a new strip mall at a former gas station site at Rockaway Boulevard and Centreville Street, about a mile away.

Dave Koptiev, a representative from Platinum Realty, said they are hoping to break ground on a strip mall on the site once they get final approval from the Department of Buildings, which he hopes will be very soon.

“We’re just waiting for our permits, which we expect will come in the next few weeks, and then we can put shovels in the ground,” he said.

Koptiev confirmed that a strip mall is to be built on the site, but said there were no tenants yet.

I have to thank the Queens Chronicle for revisiting this, because I was planning to write about it, but always found myself in the area after sundown and couldn't take pictures.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Here come the legalized cellar apartments

From the NY Times:

Mayor Bill de Blasio, who made the shortage of housing for lower-income New Yorkers a top campaign issue, is promising to build or preserve 200,000 affordable units over 10 years. In setting such a goal, Mr. de Blasio is seeking to do more than either Mr. Koch, whose effort yielded more than 190,000 units over 13 years, or Mr. Bloomberg, whose push saved or added 165,000 units over 12 years.

It is a lofty goal, experts said, and Mr. de Blasio and his aides said it must be, given the pace of change washing over the city. Apartments affordable to people with low or moderate incomes are being lost to deregulation faster than units can be created or preserved. With federal housing funds diminishing, the city housing authority is struggling to maintain many of its 334 projects, and it has no plans to add more. And much of the new residential construction in the city is not being built with poor New Yorkers in mind.

Housing was central to Mr. de Blasio’s tale-of-two-cities electoral campaign, and he has promised aggressive measures. He said he wanted to steer $1 billion of city pension funds to the construction of lower-rent units. He said he would raise taxes on vacant land to close a tax loophole and spur development. He favors legalizing some illegal basement and cellar apartments.

And in one of the biggest departures from his predecessor’s approach, Mr. de Blasio said he would require, rather than encourage, developers to set aside new units for low- and moderate-income renters in major residential construction projects.

This is more about allowing his scummy landlord supporters to profit by destroying low-density neighborhoods than it is about creating affordable housing. "Affordable housing" is a smokescreen for allowing overdevelopment.

I'd like to hear his plan for improving infrastructure to support all these additional units.

Good luck collecting fines

From the Times Ledger:

A Huang family company that racked up city Department of Buildings violations in December for allegedly cutting down trees on a protected property in Fresh Meadows has not been a registered business since 2009, according to Department of State records.

Audrey Realty Corp., headed by Henry Huang, son of notorious developer Thomas Huang, was dissolved in 2009 because it did not pay its taxes, DOS spokesman Laz Benitez said.

“The entity in question was dissolved by proclamation as they failed to pay taxes and are no longer registered with the Department of State, thus they cannot operate as a business entity,” Benitez said.

Audrey Realty is listed as the owner of the historic Fresh Meadows Klein Farm, at 194-15 73rd Ave., on the property’s deed.

Audrey Realty is due to appear in court Jan. 28 and Feb. 4 for the violations at the Queens Business Center in Jamaica, at 144-06 94th Ave.

An Environmental Control Board judge will rule on the violations and the company could face up to a total of $20,000 in fines, according to ECB.

If Audrey Realty fails to attend the hearings, it could be found in violation and given a penalty five times higher than the standard amount imposed, said DOB spokeswoman Kelly Magee.

“If the property owner fails to correct the violations and pay the associated fines, then the violation remains open and increased penalties may be assessed,” she said.

Henry Huang did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

Benitez said a corporation that has been dissolved is still allowed to own property while it is going through a “winding up” phase, which could take years.

Reporting on the past, charging for the future

This photo was snapped this past Monday, January 20th, 2014 along Grand Avenue. There are 2 things that are very, very wrong with this newspaper vending box. Let's see if you can pick them out. (You may have click on it to enlarge it in order to spot the problems.)

Meet the new City Council. Same as the old City Council.

From last October in the Daily News:

The newcomers who pledged to abolish the stipends are: Corey Johnson, Helen Rosenthal, Mark Levine and the winner of the David Garland/Ben Kallos race in Manhattan; Alan Maisel, Robert Cornegy, Antonio Reynoso, Carlos Menchaca, Inez Barron and Mark Treyger in Brooklyn; Costa Constantinides, Rory Lancman, Daneek Miller and the victor of the Paul Vallone/Dennis Saffran election in Queens; Andrew Cohen and Ritchie Torres in the Bronx; and Steve Matteo in Staten Island.

We’ll see if they are true to their word.

From CBS New York:

Members of the New York City Council have voted to give themselves stipends.

As WCBS 880′s Rich Lamb reported, council members already get paid just over $112,000 annually from taxpayers.

In its first meeting, the new council approved a long list of extra pay to be doled out to members.

The speaker gets $25,000 and the majority leader $20,000, while ten members get $15,000 apiece. Thirty four other members get $8,000 each.

The stipends, known as lulus, are extra payments given to members in lieu of expenses.

“New Yorkers elected a reform-minded city council and this was an opportunity for them to deliver on that promise and they missed it,” said Dick Dadey of the non-partisan watchdog group Citizens Union.

“Over 30 members of the city council pledged not to accept lulus when they were elected and now they all voted in support of the committee recommendations and the lulus. So they’ve broken a promise that they made to New Yorkers.”