Wednesday, April 30, 2014

AirBnB: Why take on a roommate when you can rent out to complete strangers?

From the NY Times:

The vacationing couple from Hattingen, Germany, showed up at Michael Naess’s shipshape Queens apartment at the end of February. They had never met before. Nonetheless, here they were, digging into scrambled eggs, sipping coffee and chatting companionably with him on a Saturday morning. A German radio station, plucked from the Internet, rendered a flavor of home.

Over the past 10 months, Mr. Naess has had a parade of 72 strangers living with him, respondents to his overture of: “Beautiful room for rent in Astoria” on the website Airbnb. They have drunk his beer and indulged in his muffins and dirtied his guest towels. They have come from Italy, Canada, India, South Korea, Belgium, France, New Zealand, the Czech Republic, Bulgaria and so on and so forth. Among the so forth are the domestic bookings: Austin, Tex.; Waterloo, Calif.; and Washington, D.C. Members of this international bazaar, usually in pairs, have stayed from two nights to a month. Mr. Naess may bump into them in the mornings; then they might intersect in the evenings, decompressing together in the living room. For the most part, they glide past one another.

This is life as a hyperactive New York City “host” in that swelling substratum of the hospitality industry that unfolds in people’s homes, all part of the modern world’s sharing economy, spinning by with serial comings and goings.

Some things to know about Mr. Naess. He is 37, Texas-born, tall and lean, a sunny, genial man with an endlessly repeating smile. He is one of close to 350,000 hosts worldwide on Airbnb, the short-term home rental company that matches those with rooms to let and those who want to rent them in 35,000 cities. In New York, Mr. Naess is among 15,000 hosts listed on Airbnb, and easily among the busiest individual ones.

Some things to know about hosts. By and large, they do not accept strangers in their homes because they relish phenomenal amounts of company or washing soiled bedsheets. They do it for the money.

Well, duh. Aren't these people special? They rent out their spare bedrooms instead of taking on roommates, making it harder and harder for people to find decently priced housing. Then they whine that they have to do it in order to be able to afford their place. I'm sure they report all their extra income to the IRS as well. In the meantime, we have the mayor about to supersize low-rise neighborhoods because there isn't enough "affordable housing".

The beginning of the end for Woodside

From the Times Ledger:

Woodside is being mentioned in real estate circles as the next hot neighborhood in western Queens, and a new luxury apartment building called Icon 52 may be responsible for moniker.

The nine-story building, at 52-05 Queens Blvd., sold all 66 units in just six weeks, surprising Eric Benaim, who represents the landlord, the Tsilo Group.

Icon 52 rented studios starting at $1,500 per month, one-bedrooms for $1,700 and two-bedrooms for $2,600. Benaim’s first venture in Woodside went so well he is already at work on another project just a couple of blocks away.

The hot neighborhood buzz has at least one Woodside resident feeling uncomfortable.

David Rosasco leads an award-winning neighborhood beautification nonprofit called the Woodside Neighborhood Association and he said he is aware of more hipsters and young professionals moving into the neighborhood but not enough to cause the current buzz.

“I suspect there are more powerful forces in play,” Rosasco said. “I have a feeling that this is by design to gobble up Woodside and transform it into another generic, dull, hipster and young professional community where they make demands but never get their hands dirty.”

He added that his all-volunteer group has worked too hard cleaning up the neighborhood for the last seven years for the community to be overrun by outsiders, noting that three condominium and apartment buildings have been built in Woodside in the last three years.

“What I do fear is that, after all the work we did to restore confidence and order, pride and service, that all we did was beautify Woodside so thatwe could be banished from it,” Rosasco said. “I am depressed by it because all this work was done by poor, minority, immigrant, working-class people at no cost to the taxpayer.”

Hydrant parking by DA staffers

Sleepy old District Attorney Richard Brown. How can he enforce the law when his own staff is violating it right outside of his office's windows by parking at a hydrant?

Now imagine if Peter Vallone Jr. were the DA. At least his motorcycle would not take up as much space as these placard abusers.

By the way, I am not related to Jimmy Justice but i consider him my mentor.

-Parking Avenger

Illegal eyesore house coming down

From Brooklyn Daily:

The wrecking ball cometh!

City officials have confirmed that the owner of a stalled construction site in Homecrest will finally raze the house that has caused neighbors headaches for nearly a decade.

“That is the best news I’ve heard in a long, long time,” said Betty Travitsky, who lives next to the 1882 E. 12th Street site.

The Department of Buildings said an attorney for property owner Joseph Durzieh handed the city a letter on April 25 committing to the demolition and indicating a formal application could come as early as next week.

Engineer James W. Feuerborn of firm Thornton Tomasetti will draw up plans to tear down the structure, department officials said.

Bill introduced to protect the convicted

From the Daily News:

Businesses would be banned from asking job applicants about their criminal records under a proposed city law.

The bill, which will be introduced this week, would prohibit commonly used check boxes on applications asking if the job seeker has been convicted of a crime, or any questions about the job seeker’s criminal record until after a job offer has been made.

“It’s extremely difficult for people who have convictions to get jobs,” said sponsor Jumaane Williams (D-Brooklyn). “It’s disheartening. If you’ve paid your debt to society, you should not have to do that again.”

Employers could be hit with $1,000 in damages if they asked about an applicant’s criminal record too soon.

The city already bars asking about convictions for government jobs, but the new bill would extend the mandate to all employers.

Under the bill, known as the “Fair Chance Act,” employers would only be able to retract a job offer if they discovered a conviction related to the job or that posed an undue risk to their business.

Jobs that require background checks would be unaffected by the changes.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Melissa takes 1st step at reform

From the Daily News:

The City Council speaker would be stripped of the power to determine how much each lawmaker gets in member-item funding, under a set of rule changes to be proposed on Tuesday.

Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito is set to sponsor the bill, which a majority of council members have said they’d support. The bill would give each council district in this year’s budget the same amount of money, which lawmakers can dole out at their discretion, sources said. The allotment could be increased by up to 25% based on the poverty level in a district, sources said.

Critics have long bemoaned how the current arrangement allows the speaker to play favorites by slashing funding for opponents or those who simply failed to fall in line on a particular issue.

Comrie vs. Smith

From NY1:

NY1 has learned that former City Councilman Leroy Comrie of Queens will challenge embattled state Senator Malcolm Smith in a Democratic primary.

Comrie had represented the 27th Council District in Southeast Queens from 2002 until last year.

He'll face off against Smith as the state senator awaits trial on federal corruption charges.

This was originally reported by the Queens Tribune.

Affordable housing push is likely to hurt industry

From Crains:

Within days, Mayor Bill de Blasio is scheduled to unveil his long-awaited plan to build 200,000 affordable-housing units during the next decade. When the proposal is revealed, an intense debate will likely erupt over whether it will work and what the costs will be.

Before that happens, a different question should be raised: Is the residential housing boom sweeping the city, as well as an intensified push to build more low-cost housing, endangering the economy by squeezing New York's industrial and commercial sectors?

There isn't a problem in the short term. True, the tech boom has soaked up all the space in midtown south—which some say has the lowest office-district vacancy rate in the country. But downtown is awash in millions of square feet of available space. The Hudson Yards miniboom will add several million square feet of modern space as well.

In the long term, however, Economics 101 will play out. Developers are bidding up the price of land because they can make a lot of money building luxury housing. If, as expected, the de Blasio plan requires those same developers to build or finance more affordable housing, it will put further pressure on both land and construction costs.

Already, the squeeze is pressuring the recently stable manufacturing sector. Industrial businesses, such as warehousing, will soon find themselves priced out of the city. Commercial space will become less and less economical.

Grim news for Grimm

From Capital New York:

Rep. Michael Grimm surrendered to federal authorities on Monday morning, shortly before prosecutors at the U.S. attorney's office in Brooklyn unsealed a 20-count indictment related to Grimm's ownership of a health foods store in Manhattan.

Loretta Lynch, the U.S. Attorney for New York's Eastern District, presented the indictment at a press conference in Brooklyn, detailing a tax-evasion scheme that she said was "almost breathtaking in its simplicity."

The indictment accuses Grimm of pocketing more than a million dollars in cash payments at the Upper East Side store called Healthalicious.

"When it came to his restaurant, Michael Grimm never met a tax he didn't lie to evade," Lynch said.

The charges include mail, wire, health care and tax fraud, along with two counts of perjury.

According to the indictment, "Grimm paid a large portion of Healthalicious’ employees’ wages in cash and did not report those cash wages to federal and state authorities, thereby lowering the restaurant’s payroll tax costs."

In 2013, two former Healthalicious employees filed a federal civil lawsuit against Grimm alleging the congressman did not pay them minimum or overtime wages as required by law. During a deposition hearing for the case, Grimm allegedly lied "about several material matters in connection with the lawsuit including whether he paid his employees in cash, and if he had interacted with a payroll processing company," according to prosecutors.

The indictment comes after a two-year investigation that was believed to focus on Grimm's congressional fund-raising.

Another raise in water rates

From the Daily News:

The Department of Environmental Protection proposed a 3.35% water rate increase on Wednesday for fiscal year 2015, the lowest raise since fiscal 2006.

That means a typical single-family homeowner will see an increase from $992 a year to $1,025 a year for their water and sewer bills, and a typical multi-family home with metered billing will see a bump from $645 a year to $666 per year in their bills.

The Water Board is expected to approve the increase May 23, and hearings will be held in each borough in May. The changes are due to take effect this summer.

Water bills have shot up 78% since 2005. They went up 5.6% last year and 7% the year before that, after double-digit spikes from 2008 through 2010 during the Bloomberg administration.

Parking Avenger spots illegal DA office parking

Hi Crapper,

How about that long block of Union Turnpike between Austin Street and Queens Boulevard. That's where the Queens DA staffers usually park between 7am and 7pm. They are only entitled to park in a No Parking zone. But here's a taxpayer-funded staffer who parked in a No Standing zone.

I guarantee that if this were you or me, there would be a ticket slapped on our dashboard instantly.

-Parking Avenger

Monday, April 28, 2014

Knockown Center hosts porn event [NSFW]

It was a very interesting Friday night in Maspeth last week...

Here we are at the Knockdown Center. Approaching the venue, it looks innocent enough.

Nice sized crowd. This looks like it may be one of those wholesome educational activities that Maspeth has been promised by the guy that owns this place.

Oh, wait, no... "Hedonists". That word popped up a lot in online references to this event.

And there we are. The original photo was NOT blurred.

It's funny how Dizzy Lizzy Crowley never mentioned "porn" while lobbying for this place to get a liquor license.

As per Crowley and the folks that run the place, we were supposed to be getting an "arts center" along the lines of PS1 and MoMA. When are these types of events scheduled at those institutions? I keep missing them.

Originally, I figured the mention of BJs in the bathroom referred to something depicted in the slideshow.

But then I discovered that this place only has one built bathroom. So who knows what goes on inside it?

Ladies, would you feel comfortable sharing this space with young men drinking alcohol?

Aaaand this photo brings up an interesting question. Since the place is still under construction, it needs a temporary place of assembly permit to host large crowds of people. So which pencil pusher at DOB thought it was okay to allow them to keep gigantic boulders in the aisles, blocking the paths of egress?

And they plan to have the boulders sitting there during next week's rap concerts, which are expected to draw 5x the number of attendees. From Bushwick Daily:
Upcoming art shows include “Sound and Fury,” an exhibition of large scale sculpture works by Joel Shapiro, Richard Nonas and more, curated by Clocktower Gallery...The show will be up and running during the MIA show, allowing for a very unique opportunity for concert and rave goers to interact with fine art sculptures.
Interact? How about break their necks? And management swore up and down to CB5 that they would never have a "rave" event at the Knockdown Center. So much for that.

From the Queens Chronicle:
Meanwhile, the temporary liquor permits the center sought for the two concerts to be played by popular Sri Lankan rapper M.I.A., scheduled for May 8 and 9, were denied by the SLA.
Thank goodness for small favors!
After nearly 30 minutes of testimony and questioning, the State Liquor Authority decided to give the operators of the Knockdown Center, the controversial arts and events venue at 52-19 Flushing Ave. in Maspeth, until the close of business on April 29 to submit additional paperwork concerning security at large events.

The facility is also seeking a permit to host up to 5,000 people at a time.

A vote on the center’s liquor license application will occur at the agency’s next board meeting, on May 6.

Terrence Flynn, the attorney representing the Knockdown Center at the hearing, asked for an adjournment from the board to allow more time for the center’s owners to formulate a comprehensive security report and to allow for a meeting with the 104th Precinct.

“I would ask to leave the record open for two weeks to provide a complete security report and to have a meeting with the precinct,” Flynn said. “If we can control the numbers of people that at these events, then we can satisfy the community’s and precinct’s concerns.”

Area civic activist Christina Wilkinson testified that young children are believed to be living at the center illegally, an allegation which Flynn denied.

“I know of no children occupying this building at all,” he said.
Records reveal that complaints about illegal occupancy have been lodged since 2011, but the owner has not responded to requests for inspection.

And this place has been hosting events since 2012 and just decided to come up with a comprehensive security plan? And everyone is supposed to be okay with that, I suppose.

God help us all.

Get out while you can!

From the Queens Chronicle:

Two weeks ago, a worried construction manager hurried a reporter and a frustrated building superintendent out of a vacated fifth-floor apartment because of newly formed cracks threatening the structural integrity of the structure’s facade.

While 19 tenants still don’t know when they can return to their residences, work has begun to shore up the fracture-laden apartment building at 94-01 64 Road in Rego Park damaged by excavation work at the next-door lot.

Emergency external shoring work was approved by the Department of Buildings last Thursday for the cracking structure, temporarily easing the worries over whether at least part of the building could collapse in the coming weeks.

“The bottom line is that work has started,” Mike Santoro, Samson Management’s director of construction management, said. “But we have to continue monitoring what they are doing.”

Booth Holdings LLC, the owner of the excavation site in question, has been tasked with installing the external bracing and shoring on the neighboring building.

While Santoro is pleased that work has begun to save the cracking structure, he has his suspicions over Booth Holdings’ ability to properly secure the building.

By Feb. 26, the cracks were getting to be so bad that a resident called 911. After the FDNY and the DOB surveyed the building, it was determined that six apartments, including that of the building’s superintendent, were unsafe to occupy.

Since the partial vacate order was issued, the cracks have seemingly gotten worse, spreading to the roof of the building and getting large enough for daylight to stream through the concrete in the basement.

Judge stymies town's bid to stay crap-free

From CBS New York:

A federal judge has ruled in a housing discrimination lawsuit against the Village of Garden City.

The judge ruled that Garden City violated the Fair Housing Act. WCBS 880′s Sophia Hall said.

The plaintiffs in the case, a group called ‘Communities For Change’ argued that the decision to adopt zoning for single-family and town homes instead of multifamily housing made affordable housing economically unfeasible.

Ninety-three percent of Garden City’s residents are white.

The judge said that Garden City has to set aside 10 percent of future multifamily developments for affordable housing. The village has 30 days to appeal the decision.

A village spokesperson said that zoning changes were not enacted with discriminatory intent.

Restaurant patrons want to sit outside

From LIC Post:

A Long Island City resident has started an online petition calling on Community Board 2 to allow restaurants and bars along Vernon Blvd to use their backyard space.

The petition is in response to the Community Board 2’s almost uniform denial of Vernon Blvd restaurants from using their backyard space. The board, which tries to represent the wishes of the community, is able to keep the backyards closed by making it a requirement in order for them to get their liquor license.

Restaurants such as Alobar, Blend, Lounge 47, Corner Bistro and L’inizio are just a few that have been told that in order to get their liquor license they must keep their yards closed.

Renee Katsaitis, who put the petition together, said she is fed up hearing from business owners that they are not permitted to open their backyard space. She and her friends like going to the bars and restaurants and want to sit outside and enjoy a drink and some food.

“It angers me that the neighborhood is being held hostage by one person or one group,” Katsaitis said. “I am organizing this so people are heard,” she said. “I also want to make sure that people show up at the meetings and fight back.”

And the reason why they won't let these establishments open up their yards is because they abut residential yards and houses. No one wants to hear laughing, yelling, music, etc. and no one wants to smell smoke all day and night.

Boathouse meeting attempts to "clear the air" but instead raises more questions

"Harbor Master" Dewey Thompson speaks at one of the meeting sessions

Last week, 2 meeting sessions were held that were meant to settle the controversy surrounding the North Brooklyn Boat Club's attempt to stealthily move its proposed permanent location from the Greenpoint Manufacturing and Design Center to a yet-to-be built hotel owned by the Argentos.

Unfortunately, the meetings raised more questions than they answered.

Adam Perlmutter, speaking on the behalf of the NBBC, noted that the boat club/"education center" could not be located at the GMDC because the GMDC lacked a Certificate of Occupancy. He really harped on this point. If this is the case then:

Why was a proposal (to be voted upon) filed in the first place for the GMDC location?
Why move to the new location, 51 Ash Street, which does not have a valid C of O?

A land use attorney - incidentally, one behind the Williamsburg-Greenpoint Rezoning of 2005 - knows full well that a new C of O is obtained upon change of use of the building, so it's uncertain what the purpose of this explanation was.

As per Curbed:
Nonprofit City Parks Foundation, which, to put things as simply as possible, is actually responsible for getting the boathouse built, paid one architect until the project's lack of progress rendered that firm unavailable. Then funds were spent hiring a second architect. Madonna Architects received $3,000, and Ed Weinstein Architects received $36,444.13.
City Parks Foundation was charged with determining the feasibility of the projects before, during and after the vote. If an agreement to locate the boathouse at the GMDC was not made prior to the vote, then why was it even on the ballot and put in first place? Quite a few other projects were jettisoned by City Parks Foundation due to lack of feasibility before the vote, but not this one. Why is that?
The club is currently operating out of a temporary location at 51 Ash Street. That site is owned by Broadway Stages, and negotiations are now underway to build the boathouse at that location instead of the Manhattan Avenue one. There are renderings, but due to ongoing negotiations, Thompson said the NBBC cannot share them at this time.
So we're how many years past the vote and we're still negotiating a new location? This seems pretty asinine, especially for a project that came in 3rd place in the voting.
...meanwhile, a revised budget for the 51 Ash Street site has not yet been released.
And why is that? City Parks Foundation was required to report back to the DEC with a revised budget at regular intervals, so this sounds rather lame. The GMDC plan would have been a much larger undertaking, so the new revised cost should be much less - freeing up money for other projects on the list. Is this dilly-dallying fair to the rest of the stakeholders?
As for New York Shitty's assertion that boathouse funds are being used for a "transient hotel," Thompson said that landlord Broadway Stages is working on its own separate commercial plans for the site, but hasn't announced what their function (or functions) will be.
Actually, Gina Argento quite clearly stated to the Daily News that she was building a hotel at that location (and expected to split the cost of construction with the boathouse). Perhaps the NBBC is still in negotiations with the Argentos because it was revealed to Gina that she won't be seeing any of that money?

Now here's where it gets really interesting. From the The Greenpoint Gazette:
Brian Coleman, the CEO of GMDC said his organization was unceremoniously dumped from the process involving the boathouse’s construction.

“How is this project in any way benefitting the community in its new location?” he asked at the meeting. “Why have we yet to receive any formal notice regarding our participation in the project?”

As the process dragged on, the Boat Club temporarily relocated to 51 Ash Street, a property owned by Broadway Stages, which is offering the space rent-free to the Boat Club.

Coleman said he was never informed of the change and that his organization was never formally asked to step away from the project. In addition, he argued that the Ash Street location would not offer as much open space to the project as the location on Manhattan Avenue.

Coleman and other concerned residents argue that the Ash Street property will soon be home to a private club and hotel owned by Broadway Stages and the Boat Club’s presence on the same property will mean that Broadway Stages will pocket part of the funds.
From the Brooklyn Paper:
Coleman wanted too much money for the waterfront plot, which floods, and worried the building lacked the proper permits to house the education programs the paddlers want to conduct, according to club founder and harbor master Dewey Thompson.
See point above about getting a new C of O, and as for asking for too much money, when you advocate for the massive upzoning of your neighborhood, that's generally what happens. GWAPP, sponsors of the boathouse, supported this rezoning.

Original boathouse proposal at GMDC

The proposal that the community actually voted on was one that would provide repair of the large bulkhead at GMDC which would allow public access to the Creek, an esplanade/park on the waterfront, an environmental center/boathouse and educational programs run by the boathouse out of an historical building.

What they will instead be getting is: no public esplanade/park on the waterfront, no repair of the large bulkhead at the GMDC, but repair of a much smaller one at the new location and an environmental center/boathouse IF and WHEN the Argentos build their "transient" hotel. And how funny is it that so-called "environmental groups" are coalescing around the Argentos, considering their unauthorized actions in the waste trade business?

It sounds like a bait-and-switch, with the focal point being a free boathouse for these folks, in return for them providing only a fraction of what was promised. What's worse is when the CPF and DEC come out with statements like the following:
The mariners contended that Greenpoint Manufacturing was only on the forms as a possible landlord, not a partner, and a state spokeswoman agreed, saying at the hearing that the club had the right to look elsewhere for boat-housing when negotiations collapsed.
"They have the right to look for a new location for the boathouse" is basically letting the public know that this is all this vote was ever about. Let me remind you about the conflicts of interest that abound here. Some in attendance stated that it seemed that the NBBC simply wanted a boathouse and didn't care where it was built, so long as they could find someone to pay for it. And all else involved went along happily.
Thompson said he hopes the boathouse will be open by 2016.
And back when the vote was taken, we all expected the boathouse to be open by now... Instead we got this:

Sunday, April 27, 2014

DeBlasio not all that different than Bloomberg...

From the NY Times:

At issue was the Council’s role in approving development projects that require changes in the city’s zoning ordinances — changes that would have to occur frequently if Mr. de Blasio is to reach his ambitious affordable housing goal. The mayor has repeatedly said he is willing to allow developers to build taller, denser buildings in exchange for setting aside units for low- and moderate-income renters.

Under the city’s charter-mandated land use process, known as the Uniform Land Use Review Process, a developer whose project would exceed the size permitted under existing zoning regulations must first get the proposal certified by the city’s Planning Department.

From there, projects go before the local community board, the borough president, the Planning Commission and finally the City Council — with a public hearing at every step. Approvals are required only from the Planning Commission and the Council.

When the mayor’s office negotiates with developers for public benefits — parks, plazas or low-priced apartments — it typically does so where the administration has the most leverage: before certification, or before the Planning Commission’s vote.

As it stands, members of the Council get to negotiate with developers for even more where they hold power: before the Council votes. For a single project, individual council members can hold great sway; traditionally, the full Council defers to the member or members who represent the affected neighborhoods before even bringing it to a vote. Developers say the Council’s ability to take a second bite of the apple leads them to hold back in talks with City Hall, so that they still have something to give when they come before the Council.

In recent days, according to a Council official aware of the talks, aides to Mr. de Blasio proposed that council members raise their concerns at the beginning of the process — before certification — rather than at the end. The administration would then negotiate on the Council’s behalf and reach what the mayor’s aides suggested could be a better deal for the city as a result.

But at a meeting of the Council’s leadership on Thursday morning, a member briefed on it said that David Greenfield, a councilman from Brooklyn and the chairman of the Land Use Committee, had argued forcefully that Mr. de Blasio was trying to undermine the land use process in a way that would erode the Council’s charter-granted powers. The council member said Mr. Greenfield had warned that he expected the mayor to bring up the idea in a meeting later that day and that he would vigorously oppose it.

Really tall buildings are the price for saving hospital

From Crains:

The highest-scoring bid for Long Island College Hospital captured the support of surrounding Brooklyn communities and elbowed aside a deep field of competitors by pledging to preserve a full-service hospital at the Cobble Hill site.

But that pledge comes at a cost. The would-be real estate developers of the medical campus are counting on high-rise residential towers of a scale never before seen in an area at the heart of Brownstone Brooklyn in order to make the deal pencil out, according to emails among executives involved in the bid.

Brooklyn Health Partners envisions raising at least two soaring residential buildings of up to 50-stories on the campus of low-rise buildings that comprises LICH. BHP has plans to build a 40- to 50-story condo tower on the site of a large parking garage on the corner of Atlantic Avenue and Hicks Street that is part of the LICH campus, according to emails from a financier involved in the bid and obtained by Crain's.

The building would be 80% market rate and 20% affordable. The financing group, HKS Capital Partners, indicated in the Brooklyn Health Partners proposal that it plans to raise the roughly $600 million that BHP estimates it will need to acquire the hospital, keep it running and refurbish it, as well as to develop up to 2 million square feet of residential space, according to the emails.

The BHP developers envision raising another tower that could be similar in height and size, but would feature rental apartments, 40% of which would be affordable housing.

BHP currently is negotiating with the State University of New York on a contract to buy the LICH campus. The group scored the highest number of points in a bidding process concluded by SUNY earlier this month. A coalition of community groups and unions sued the school system to revamp its bidding process for LICH, opening the door for BHP’s last round winning bid. As a result of a court settlement, the bids were scored to award higher points for proposals that included building a full-service hospital at LICH.

You'll just have to take it with you

From WPIX:

The MTA is expanding the pilot progam to remove trash cans.

Transit crews are taking away the trash cans at 29 stations in along the J amd M lines in Brooklyn and Queens. It’s part of a 6-month pilot program, according to the signs.

“The results have been for the most part very positive and we have seen some behavioral changes by riders,” said Department of Subways, SVP Joe Leader. “We will expand the pilot to stations between Broad Street and Jamaica Center-Parsons/Archer in order to gauge the impact along an entire line segment.”

In a presentation to the MTA board, a transit representative reported a reduction in trash although slightly more was found on the tracks.

The MTA removes 40 tons of trash every day from the system from more than 3,500 trash receptacles.

Update on creepy sign

"The creepy poster referencing terrorism has been removed from the building at Crocheron Av & 162nd Street." - The Flushing Phantom

Little Neck residents want wall to come down

From the Queens Chronicle:

The wall is up, the people are angry, and, according to state Sen. Tony Avella, “a stop work [order] is going into effect.”

At the center of the controversy is the construction of a new 35-foot-high building, which would sit atop a hill that is already approximately 10 feet above curb level, in the middle of a tree-lined residential neighborhood in Little Neck.

Nearly 100 area residents, along with Avella, Assemblyman Ed Braunstein (D-Bayside) and Councilman Mark Weprin (D-Oakland Gardens) and representatives of Community Board 11, gathered at the corner of 262nd Street and 60th Road on Tuesday morning to protest the construction.

“The moment I saw this, looking at the wall, I felt I was back in the concentration camp,” said a woman who identified herself only as Margret, a Holocaust survivor who lives on the corner across the street from the site. “It is very depressing. I sit at my table and I have to look at this wall.”

The wall, from most accounts, seemed to have been erected overnight.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Bayside High enrollment number just a misunderstanding

From the Queens Chronicle:

The Department of Education is calling it a misunderstanding regarding next fall’s enrollment at Bayside High School.

Edward Tan and Jaya Sarkar, officers with the Bayside High School PTA, recently sent an email to the Chronicle saying the school is bracing for more than 1,000 new students in the fall, “to clear space for new schools co-locating at the downsizing Flushing and Martin Van Buren high schools.”

But the DOE says that number is based on the incoming freshman class, estimated at 900 students, which is actually down from the current freshman class of 1,005 students.


Someone has to own this theater, but who?

From the Wave:

There’s a theater, some mystery, and a little family intrigue. The setting is Beach 116th street.

People have been asking for a long time, who owns the theater? The huge, dilapidated, long-vacant building casts a literal and figurative shadow over Rockaway’s main commercial strip.

With many new storefronts and a handful of new businesses, Beach 116th Street looks better than it has in decades. A new merchants association is bringing positive energy. And now there is the potential for many millions of Sandy relief money to further transform the block and surrounding area.

But a true transformation cannot occur without the overhaul of the theater, the string of vacant stores near the beach, and the Park Inn Adult Home on the boardwalk.

That’s where the Konig family comes in.

Esther Konig says she wants Beach 116th Street to be beautiful. And she is going after Game Changer money to make it happen.

The Game Changer is a competition to spur economic growth. Using CDBG-Sandy relief money, the Economic Development Corporation (EDC) will award up to $18 million to a single winner or spread that amount among a number of entrants.

Esther Konig and partners in Sea Wave Realty own the Park Inn building on the boardwalk between Beach 116th Street and Beach 115th Street. The New Park Inn Adult Home is a tenant and is known to share its mentally ill residents and panhandlers with the Beach 116th Street shopping strip. The adult home business, according to Esther, is owned by her father-in-law, Sam Konig.

The Park Inn is currently undergoing a facelift of sorts. As reported in The Wave in November, the Park Inn was in line to receive $1.4 million from the New York State Sandy Social Services Block Grant. Esther says work is being done though no money has been received. The owners are doing the work hoping to be reimbursed, she says.

Esther also owns the buildings around the corner, the row of steel gated vacancies, that begin on the oceanfront and then continue down 116th Street. She also owns the beachfront building of what used to be the Sand Bar.

Abutting all her property, all 44,000 square feet, is a crumbling theater. She doesn’t own the theater. And she says she doesn’t know who owns it. But she did say she “heard through the grapevine” that there might be plans for a medical facility on the theater site.

That’s, maybe, where Michael Konig, her husband, comes in. He’s not sure if he owns it. At least that’s what he said in a phone interview. He said he has “influence over it” but would have to check if he owns it because “these things are in corporations.” Although he was unsure of ownership, he said the building is for sale. He’d take $6 million. If he owns it.

He would also join in the Game Changer “if it were prudent.”

Although Esther Konig claimed repeatedly that she doesn’t know who owns the theater she did arrange tours of the place and according to a local even accompanied interested parties on a walk-through in the fall. As for hearing things through the grapevine, it seems the grapevine is indeed fruitful.

Whitestone high school nixed

From the Queens Tribune:

The School Construction Authority has decided against placing a high school at a controversial site in Whitestone, after protests from the community and its councilman.

During a Queens Delegation briefing on April 17, SCA president Lorraine Grillo confirmed that the plot of land located at 150-33 6th Ave. in Whitestone is no longer under consideration for a new high school. The news came from Councilman Paul Vallone (D-Bayside), who helped lead the community protests against the proposal over last summer.

Vallone, with the backing of civics such as the Greater Whitestone Taxpayers Civic Association, personally delivered more than 500 signatures against the plan to Grillo. While the SCA had not purchased the land, which is privately-owned, it was considering the site for a new public high school. However, the community quickly came out against the idea, stating that there was a lack of infrastructure and transportation, making the site less than ideal for teachers, students and civilians. It would also have a negative impact on the quality of life for surrounding residents.

Grillo agreed with the councilman and community members, stating those factors as the reason why the Whitestone site is out of the running.

Good for them. However, I seriously doubt that it was lack of infrastructure and transportation or potential quality of life problems that killed this. When has SCA ever cared about any of that? More likely, someone important lives nearby or the site is contaminated beyond belief.

Community board term limit resolution introduced

From the Queens Chronicle:

A resolution wending its way though the City Council could send a seismic wave through community boards throughout the borough.

Councilman Ben Kallos (D-Manhattan) wants borough presidents and Council members who make appointments to limit them to five consecutive terms; set term limits for board and committee chairmanships; and use things like meeting attendance and committee participation to end the practice of automatic reappointment.

His proposal also seeks to ban the appointment of executive board members of political parties or people serving on the staffs of elected officials.

Resolution 164 has 10 co-sponsors, including Danny Dromm (D-Jackson Heights), Peter Koo (D-Flushing) and Antonio Reynoso (Brooklyn, Queens).

A resolution doesn't do squat. You need to change the city charter.

St. Albans Civic protests variance for oversized housing

From the Queens Chronicle:

Moments before leaving for Albany on Tuesday evening, state Sen. James Sanders Jr. (D-South Ozone Park) offered to help mediate the ongoing dispute between the Presbyterian Church of St. Albans and neighbors over a proposed 5-story senior housing complex that the church wants to build on Farmers Boulevard.

He should have stayed another 20 minutes, as the meeting, hosted by the St. Albans Civic Association, erupted into a nearly five-minute shouting match before about 30 church members walked out of the Guy R. Brewer Democratic Club.

The land in question is at 118-27/47 Farmers Blvd. in a neighborhood containing mostly one- and two-family houses.

The church wants the 67 units to house senior citizens who are being forced by circumstances to raise their grandchildren. There also would be space for a community center and some of the church’s social service programs.

Residents fear that 67 units could bring into a small plot of land more than 200 new residents, who they believe could overwhelm area schools, parking availability, infrastructure and services.

Under city zoning regulations, the church could build 22 units in three stories or fewer with about 26 parking spaces. But developers sought and received variances for height, allowable floor space and parking from Community Board 12 in November.

The final approval now must come from the city’s Board of Standards and Appeals. Harrigan said no hearing is yet on the BSA’s calendar, but that he wants to bring at least 25 residents to speak in opposition when a hearing does take place.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Uninvited houseguest in Howard Beach

From the Queens Chronicle:

The unkempt lawn and a sign on the front door are the only signs that anything may be wrong with the house at 162-38 90 St. But what’s inside the home has neighbors very concerned.

Residents who live in the area have complained that squatters are living in the vacant house and are worried about the possible effect on the community’s quality of life.

Police and neighbors are calling him a squatter, but the man who is living in the house, identifying himself only as Peter, rejects that designation.

“I’m not a squatter,” he said. “I’m cleaning the place up. I suppose whoever owns it will want to rent it one day.”

Peter said he has lived in the home since last year. He described it as “a hot mess” when he got there.

The home was owned by Isaac Khafizov, who was convicted in 2012 of federal mail and wire fraud charges connected to a mortgage scheme. He is currently serving a nine-year sentence in a federal prison.

Neighbors, none of whom wanted to be identified, said the house has been vacant since at least 2012. One resident who lives several doors away says it was vacant earlier than that. The home is in foreclosure and the entity that holds the deed is based in Florida.

Another theater bites the dust

From DNA Info:

A movie theater that has anchored Austin Street since the 1970s closed Sunday to make way for a new pediatric health facility, the landlord said.

Brandon Cinemas, at 70-20 Austin St., had shown art-house and mainstream films for decades and was once a vital part of social life along the street, locals said.

“I feel very badly that the Brandon closed,” said Leslie Brown, president of the Forest Hills Chamber of Commerce.

But Brown also said that she wasn't surprised. The space needed an upgrade and it “was empty most of the week," she said.

The two-screen movie theater is set to be replaced by an urgent care facility for children, with construction starting on May 1, said Heskel Elias of the Heskel Group, Inc., which owns the space.

North Flushing parking fiasco

Dear QueensCrapper,

Some months ago there were postings on Queens Crap about cars being parked on the sidewalks in Queens. It saddens me to send you some photos taken over the last twelve months, the most recent photo taken a couple of days ago, of cars being parked in front of a multi-family home at 165-12 and 165-14 Crocheron Avenue, North Flushing, Queens. Although the attached homes have driveways on either side, there are cars parked in the front yards and sidewalk every day. Most of the time the cars are parked on “private property” and they have probably escaped being issued parking violations by the Police Department. On other days, the cars are partially blocking the sidewalk. You will also notice in the photos that one of the homes has paved over their small “green space” while the other half of the attached home allows parking on overgrown weeds in the spring/summer and mud bearing tires marks in the fall/winter months. It may interest you to know that a gracious one family Tudor style home was torn down some years ago to construct the current multi-family dwelling that allows cars to be parked in their front yards and sidewalk. It is my opinion that not only is the homeowner(s) breaking the law by allowing cars to be parked in the front yards and sidewalk, but they are being disrespectful and inconsiderate to the community of North Flushing, whose residents take pride in maintaining their homes and property. I wonder, is the homeowner collecting “rent” from these cars? All of these cars belong parked in the street and driveway and not in front yards and sidewalks!

I strongly urge the Department of Buildings to please inspect this property and all other properties in Queens that face a similar situation.

Thank you –

Concerned homeowner in North Flushing

Church may find salvation...or be sold to developers

From the Daily News:

The Borough of Churches is losing another congregation.

St. Luke’s Evangelical Lutheran Church of Fort Greene will close this summer following a string of maintenance issues and a long dwindling congregation, The News has learned.

Church officials said the 145-year-old congregation, which once boasted hundreds of parishioners, has shrunk to a paltry 30 regular members over the past 15 years.

Area residents predicted that St. Luke’s, which sits accross from Pratt Institute, will become an apartment building. Church officials said that they'd like to sell the $2.9 million property to a religious organization.

“Our hope is to sell it to another religious institution,” said Rimbo. “There are several developers in the area, [but] I don’t know if there’s any interest on their part.”

You can't hide from the Parking Avenger!

Hi Crapper,

Look what I found today, an unmarked Chevy Impala at the corner of
80th Road and Kew Gardens Road, standing at a hydrant without even a
placard. Does the car owner think that having tinted windows and
protruding rooftop antennae entitle it to block a fire hydrant near a
tight street corner?

Across the street from this office are the offices of DA Richard
Brown, Borough President Melinda Katz, Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz
and Rep. Grace Meng. Imagine someone violating a law as basic as
keeping a hydrant clear in such a politically sensitive neighborhood.

I doubt any of the listed elected officials will confront the cops
about their placard and parking abuses. I must now return to my

Parking Avenger.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Community in the dark about proposed Glendale shelter

From the Queens Courier:

Queens leaders said they are frustrated that there has been no date set for a community meeting on a controversial Glendale homeless shelter proposal.

Community board members, along with the New York City Department of Homeless Services (DHS), said Monday they have yet to hear from Samaritan Village about when the homeless advocacy group will be ready with a presentation on the proposal to convert the abandoned manufacturing plant at 78-16 Cooper Ave. into a home for 125 families.

Politicians and Glendale residents alike have previously expressed reservations over the sudden population influx, the building’s distance from the subway and possible contamination at the site in question.

Since the DHS announced that it would support the Samaritan Village effort, though, elected officials in Queens have worried about whether the two political groups are on the same page.

“It’s a very difficult process that seems to be all too standard,” said Gary Giordano, District Manager of Community Board 5, which includes Glendale. “It’s my impression that the Department of Homeless Services is talking to the applicant long before they’re talking to either the community board or the council person in the community.”