Friday, October 31, 2014

Happy Halloween from Queens Crap!

Tweeding simply explained!

"These are the people who make sure we get nothing but then turn around and have us to vote for them again."

Van Bramer reveals what he really thinks about Queens

Hey, have you heard? Bikeshare was bailed out by a developer, and oh boy, Jimmy Van Bramer can't contain his excitement!

From NY1:

"This literally puts Queens on the map. There will be bikeshare stations. The app will send people to Queens. People will be encouraged to take their bikes to Queens. They'll be able to see our cultural institutions. They will spend money in our restaurants, in our shops in our stores."

I think he needs to be schooled on what the term "literally" means. Queens has plenty of things that have already "put it on the map", sir. In addition, cabs, buses and subways have come here for decades, and everyone that has wanted to get here has figured out how to do so without mounting a clunky blue mobile advertisement.

Rockaway homeless shelter nixed by DHS

From Capital New York:

One day after Councilman Donovan Richards asked the de Blasio administration to reconsider opening a men's homeless shelter in his Rockaway district, the Department of Homeless Services said it has scrapped the plan.

“After hearing the special concerns of Rockaway residents, D.H.S. will not be siting a second shelter on the peninsula,” Chris Miller, a spokesman for D.H.S. said in a statement.

In a letter to the administration this week, Richards cited concerns over the proposed shelter’s proximity to three schools. More specifically, he said his Queens district's “food, transit and infrastructure desert” did not have the resources to serve an increase in population.

From the Daily News:

The city had sought to transform the former Rockaway Manor on Beach 8th St. into a shelter for 100 adult men, but the proposal infuriated local officials who pointed out a new shelter was just been opened on the peninsula.

The former Daytop Center in Arverne started taking in homeless families over the summer.

Queens elected officials, including Borough President Melinda Katz, Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder and City Councilman Donovan Richards, met with Mayor de Blasio and aides at City Hall to discuss the proposed homeless shelter and the Rockaway ferry, which is slated to make its last run.

“We are extremely disappointed at the decision to discontinue ferry service to the Rockaways,” the lawmakers said in a statement. “We will continue to fight for a ferry that the Rockaways deserves and need to connect the peninsula to lower Manhattan. We are, however, very thankful that Mayor De Blasio has decided to withdraw plans to place a homeless shelter on Beach 8th Street.

So a couple of rookie pols got a homeless shelter in their district nixed, while in Glendale and Elmhurst, the pols who have decades of experience between them can't (or more likely won't) do the same for their constituents?

Very interesting!

How's this for spooky?

From WPIX:

A giant drill bit narrowly missed drilling right through a packed subway car in Queens Thursday morning.

The machinery, being used for the East Side Access project, was being operated by a contractor above ground near the 21st St. Station in Long Island City.

The drill bit, measuring 10 inches in diameter, broke through the tunnel’s roof at about 11:45 a.m., grazing the top and side of an ‘F’ train with approximately 800 people aboard, according to the MTA.

No one was injured, and passengers were led to the station via a relief train.

Construction work has since been suspended in the area pending an investigation by the MTA.

DA ordered to stop trying to trick people

From the NY Times:

New York’s highest court ruled on Tuesday that a script prosecutors in the Queens district attorney’s office had read to criminal defendants before they were arraigned so undercut the Miranda warning that it violated their constitutional rights.

In a 6-to-1 ruling, the Court of Appeals found that the way pre-arraignment interviews were conducted in two cases gave the message to the defendants, “for all intents and purposes, that remaining silent or invoking the right to counsel would come at a price — they would be giving up a valuable opportunity to speak with an assistant district attorney, to have their cases investigated or to assert alibi defenses.”

The ruling was a milestone in a long-running fight between the Queens district attorney, Richard A. Brown, and civil libertarians over the office’s practice of interrogating people accused of crimes one last time before they appear before a judge and are assigned a lawyer.

Mr. Brown, in a statement, said that to satisfy the court, his office had already cut the lines from the script used at the interviews. But he defended the program, saying it had been successful not only in winning convictions, but also in weeding out weak cases. He vowed to appeal the decision to the United States Supreme Court.

Writing for the majority, Judge Susan Phillips Read said that statements in the script like “give me as much information as you can,” “this is your opportunity to tell us your story” and “you have to tell us now” directly contradicted the later warning that they had the right to remain silent.

“By advising them that speaking would facilitate an investigation, the interrogators implied that these defendants’ words would be used to help them, thus undoing the heart of the warning that anything they said could and would be used against them,” Judge Read wrote.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Woodhaven businesses pissed off about tickets

From WPIX:

A group of small business owners in Woodhaven, Queens says the New York City Sanitation Department inspectors are playing dirty.

The enforcement agents, they say, are slapping the businesses with $100 tickets in the middle of the night.

Last year, Bill de Blasio, while he was still Public Advocate, called the middle of the night ticketing “unreasonable.” So why is it still going on? Mayor de Blasio refuses to answer. His office referred us to the Sanitation Department , which also declined to address our questions.

Jamaica getting 3 new hotels

From DNA Info:

A Flushing-based developer who recently plunked down $22 million in cash to buy the largest property in Downtown Jamaica, is planning to build three Marriott-brand hotels in the area, he said.

Chris Xu, who built several hotels near LaGuardia Airport and in Chinatown, is also bringing apartments and a supermarket to the neighborhood.

Two of new hotels — Courtyard and Fairfield Inn and Suites — would be located in one building planned on Archer Avenue, near 149th Street, Xu, president of the United Construction & Development Group Corp., said.

The 16-story building would contain more than 330 hotel rooms (Courtyard would feature 224 rooms and Fairfield would have 114), he said.

Xu is also planning to build another hotel — SpringHill Suites — on Queens Boulevard, between Jamaica and Hillside avenues, he said.

That building would be six stories high and would feature 160 rooms, he said.

Queensboro Hill nightmare continues

"Hey Crappy,

In less than one year, a third oversized house is now being built on 56th Road in Queensboro Hill. The second house I wrote to you about a few months ago is nearly complete (it went up so fast I could have swore they brought in some Amish men to build it).

It looks like all the faux grandstanding "Mr. Useless" Peter Koo did (along with the even more useless Nily Rozic) just energized another resident to build this skyscraper-esque monstrosity in-between quaint row houses. Once this third one goes up, the block is officially ruined. The aesthetic of the neighborhood means nothing to many of the new residents in the area.

I've attached pictures of the house being prepared for demolition, along with images of the nearly completed second building. You can see the dramatic difference. It's astonishing to many residents how rapidly and dramatically the neighborhood has gone down hill and turned into the wild west of overdevelopment. RIP Queensboro Hill." - anonymous

Nice going, NYC!

From the Village Voice:

Federal authorities say they've uncovered a long-running Medicaid scam that extracted millions in fraudulent gains, and was run by...New York City.
A civil fraud lawsuit announced on Monday alleges that the city, through its Medicaid biller, Computer Sciences Corporation (CSC), used a sophisticated scheme of computerized fraud to violate Medicaid reimbursement rules, leading to millions in illegitimate payments.

The allegations, made by Preet Bharara, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, are complicated -- the city is accused of circumventing Medicaid rules in order to speed program payments for low-income children with developmental disabilities.

In order for Medicaid to cover such programs, the city first had to show that private insurers had already turned the claims away. The alleged scheme essentially made it look as if the city had submitted the payments for private reimbursement, when in fact it never had.

Among other aspects of the scheme, the vendor, CSC, allegedly programmed its computer systems to automatically insert a fake insurance policy number -- "999-999-999" -- with many of the claims submitted to Medicaid. The fake number ensured that every claim was immediately denied by private insurers, which got the Medicaid ball rolling much faster, expediting payments to the city.

There was no personal gain involved; the charging documents don't allege that anyone was, for example, pocketing these funds. They were going where they were ultimately supposed to -- to poor children who needed help.

Even so, Bharara, the federal government's chief law enforcement officer in the region, says the scheme was illegal. He's seeking "treble" damages from the city -- a fine of three times the sum of the ill-gotten gains -- but doesn't specify the amount fraudulently obtained, beyond saying that it was "millions" of dollars.

No one's home at the Pied a Terres

From the NY Times:

The question of who, if anyone, lives in the multimillion-dollar condominiums being built across Manhattan grows more intriguing with every new tower crane that hoists glass slabs and concrete blocks hundreds of feet into the sky.

New Yorkers want to know: Who are these people who hide behind limited liability companies while shelling out a fortune for a condominium — who see the apartment as an investment or even just a vanity play, and who are too busy sunning in St. Bart’s or skiing in Gstaad to actually show up and shop at the local market or pay for tickets to a Broadway show?

Many well-heeled New Yorkers are frustrated that while a large share of their income goes to taxes of all kinds, their non-New Yorker neighbors down the street pay a comparatively minuscule amount in property taxes. And an evening stroll through Midtown is starting to feel like the Wild West after the gold rush, with buildings like the Plaza — officially the Plaza Pied a Terre Hotel Condominiums — sitting mostly dark. It wouldn’t surprise some of us to see tumbleweed blow by the Apple cube on Fifth Avenue.

As it turns out, this is not just hyperbole.

In a three-block stretch of Midtown, from East 56th Street to East 59th Street, between Fifth Avenue and Park Avenue, 57 percent, or 285 of 496 apartments, including co-ops and condos, are vacant at least 10 months a year. From East 59th Street to East 63rd Street, 628 of 1,261 homes, or almost 50 percent, are vacant the majority of the time, according to data from the Census Bureau’s 2012 American Community Survey.

“My district has some of the most expensive land values in the world — I’m ground zero for the issue of foreign buyers,” said State Senator Liz Krueger, whose district includes Midtown. “I met with a developer who is building one of those billionaire buildings on 57th Street and he told me, ‘Don’t worry, you won’t need any more services, because the buyers won’t be sending their kids to school here, there won’t be traffic.’ ”

The developer told her that the buyers basically would never be here, Ms. Krueger said. “He said it like this was a positive thing,” she added. “You can’t make this stuff up.”

Well as far as providing services, that is a positive thing. As far as keeping cost of living reasonable, it's not.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Queens has most illegal conversion complaints

From DNA Info:

Half of city's complaints about illegal apartment conversions or subdivisions are in Queens, prompting an aggressive approach by the Department of Buildings in the borough, according to a representative from the agency.

Nearly all of the warrants the city has filed to force homeowners to allow access to their homes after inspectors repeatedly couldn't gain entry have been in Queens, according to Anthony Iuliano, an intergovernmental liaison for the borough.

"We pursue a more aggressive approach here in Queens county," Iuliano said Oct. 23 at a town hall in Corona sponsored by Assemblyman Francisco Moya, adding that last fiscal year, 272 of the 278 warrants obtained to access homes where there's evidence of conversions were in Queens.

"When [an inspector] made the first attempt and second attempt and they notice there's a one-family home and there's two or three doorbells, it's a one-family home and there's two or three mailboxes... he takes photos and he sits down with borough attorney," he said.

The results of those warrants weren't clear. It's not immediately clear how many additional warrants were filed this year.

2 chain restaurants open near Queens Center Mall

From the Daily News:

Diners in Queens can now have their fill of all-you-can-eat bread sticks.

Olive Garden, the popular nation chain, opened its first outpost in the borough along with LongHorn Steakhouse on a formerly vacant lot on 59th Ave. at 92nd St., across from the Queens Center Mall.

The new eateries, owned by Orlando-based Darden Restaurants, will employ about 250 workers at an average salary of $15 an hour, a representative said.

Last year, the Mattone Group paid out $3 million to settle a suit filed by the city Economic Development Corp. after the developer scrapped an agreement to build a movie theater on the lot.

I can only laugh at this. The EDC makes a deal for supersized chain restaurants to open in a borough known for its ethnic food.

Sinkhole may be cause for wall collapse

From NBC:

A Queens family thinks a nearby sinkhole on the street is the reason a giant hole opened up under their home, forcing them out. But they say the city has been no help in getting the sinkhole fixed. John Chandler reports.

Discuss your ideas for the Pavilion

Photo from The 1939 World's Fair
From Brownstoner Queens:

This Saturday, November 1st, People for the Pavilion and Architecture for Humanity are setting up information tables around the borough to talk with Queens residents on the past and present of the New York State Pavilion. Reps will be asking passerby what they know about the historic structure and what they’d like it to become. Currently, People for the Pavilion is working to revitalize the towers for community use, with growing support from politicians. If you’d like to stop by and share your thoughts, tables will be out in Diversity Plaza, 37th Road between 73rd and 74th Streets, Corona Plaza, Roosevelt Avenue between National Street and 104th Street, and Queens Library: Flushing, 47-17 Main Street, from 11 am to 3 pm.

Do you feel safer in the subway?

From NY1:

Newly released subway crime statistics show drops in more serious crimes but big increases in lesser offenses.

Transit police say subway robberies are down 32 percent from last year.

Three hundred and thirteen robberies have been reported in 2014, compared to 465 in 2013.

They also say major felonies in the transit system have gone down 15 percent.

Arrests for panhandling and illegally selling goods on trains have dramatically increased on the other hand. So far this year, over 400 more people have been arrested for panhandling compared to last year.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Pair seek to landmark Queens Plaza clock tower

From DNA Info:

Residents who live near the former Bank of Manhattan building in Queens Plaza — known for its clock tower — are pushing to see the structure landmarked.

Matthew Chrislip and Michael Hall recently came before Queens Community Board 1 seeking support for their efforts.

"We both fell in love with the Clock Tower building — we both pass it everyday. Its presence on Queens Plaza sort of can't be denied," said Hall, who has a background in historical and sustainable architecture.

Hall said they were inspired to start their campaign after witnessing the rapid development taking place in the neighborhood.

"It seemed like every block around Queens Plaza has construction projects going," he said.

They sent a request to the Landmarks Preservation Commission this spring asking the agency to evaluate the site. The LPC is reviewing the building, according to a spokeswoman.

Carnival company admits they bribed Monserrate

From the Daily News:

A Bronx-based carnival company has quietly pleaded guilty to bribing ex-State Sen. Hiram Monserrate in exchange for help in securing permits for a festival in his Queens district, the Daily News has learned.

Monserrate was never charged in the carnival scheme because of a confluence of events — he was indicted in an unrelated corruption case, the FBI’s carnival investigation expanded to catch another elected official, and the cooperating witness who allegedly delivered the $7,000 payoff to Monserrate died, sources said.

The five-year statute of limitations expired last month, so Monserrate’s in the clear.

Last month in Brooklyn Federal Court, Tommy’s Midway Inc., a traveling carnival operator, pleaded guilty to the bribery conspiracy in a deal worked out with prosecutors.

The company’s officers, Thomas and Madeline Murray, were not charged. The company’s lawyer did not return a call seeking comment.

Crazy tree cost

From the Daily News:

The city Parks Department is charging the MTA $520,550 to remove and replace 15 large trees from city property to enable an authority construction project. That breaks down to $34,703 apiece.

"Is that a typo?" shocked Metropolitan Transportation Board member Jonathan Ballan said Monday at the MTA Finance Committee meeting.

The Parks Department has a "standard basal area replacement formula" it uses to calculate the cost of replacing trees on city property, an MTA resolution states. The MTA needs a forestry permit from the Parks Department to remove the trees located around the Manhattan on-bound and off-bound ramps to the Robert F. Kennedy Bridge. The MTA Bridges and Tunnels division wants to replace the ramp.

In case additional trees need to be removed beyond the 15 for the ramp replacement, the MTA Finance Committee approved spending up to $750,000 for removal and replacement.

So, if that's how much it costs to remove trees, why aren't developers being forced to pony up when they remove them?

Safety of pre-K kids in question

From the NY Post:

Mayor de Blasio’s frenzied push to expand pre-K programs has had dangerous consequences — hundreds of serious violations at unprepared centers since the start of the school year, including at least 78 for hazardous infractions that have still not been remedied, a Post review found.

The most alarming violations were cited at three centers that failed to report significant issues to the Department of Health — allegations of child abuse, the arrest of a staff member or an injury to a child — within 24 hours, as the oversight agency mandates.

And dozens of additional centers failed to conduct required security-clearance checks on their workers, according to DOH records, which show that at least 22 of the programs have not yet done so.

Experts said de Blasio’s pre-K cheerleading could be behind the rash of violations, which include failure to provide “competent” oversight of kids, not properly maintaining fire extinguishers and not having metal guards on windows to prevent a child from falling.

Under-el sitting areas opened

From DNA Info:

There's a new place to sit in the neighborhood, as the second of two public plazas under the elevated 7 train line is now open.

Officials cut the ribbon Friday on Lowery Plaza under the 40th Street Station in Sunnyside, which has been made over into a public gathering place with tables, chairs and plants, according to the Sunnyside Shine Business Improvement District.

The BID is managing the new site as part of the Department of Transportation's NYC Plaza Program, along with Bliss Plaza, which opened under the 46th Street Station in July.

I don't know who would want to sit underneath an elevated train with traffic whizzing by on both sides of them, but whatever floats their boats...

Monday, October 27, 2014

Muni Lot 3 project may replace Willets Point

From the Queens Chronicle:

During a recent quarterly meeting with concerned parties, members of Community Board 7 demanded input in the review process for development of Municipal Parking Lot 3 in Downtown Flushing.

Bids on the mixed-income, affordable housing complex planned near the Long Island Rail Road station were due earlier this month to the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development.

Agency spokesman Eric Bederman said a designation of the winning plan is expected in the first quarter of next year.

But CB 7 members want to offer their input before a decision is made. Chuck Apelian, board vice chairman, said it’s not enough to review the project when it comes up for a public Uniform Land Use Review Procedure hearing. “It’s a done deal by then,” Apelian said.

The site is located on 41st Avenue near Main Street. The 43,200-square-foot location abuts the LIRR and has 156 parking spaces. Plans call for an equal amount of parking to be retained.

The city envisions affordable housing across a range of incomes and community and retail space. It wants to rezone the area R7X, which allows for greater height and bulk, usually in a nine- to 13-story building.

The project was first announced in 2010 by former Borough President Claire Shulman as a Transportation Opportunity Development project to make the LIRR more accessible to affordable housing.

As part of the project, the LIRR will add elevators and modernize the station next year.

The city has since linked the project with Willets Point to find an alternative site for affordable housing since it has been delayed at the Iron Triangle.

About 872 affordable units were planned for Willets Point, but they will be delayed for years and may never be built at all.

Is anyone surprised at the bait and switch? Willets Point was *never* about affordable housing.

Meaningless legislation of the month

From the Daily News:

After the beating death of 3-year-old Jeida Torres in a Brooklyn shelter, a City Councilwoman is introducing legislation requiring homeless families to be shown a video and given information about domestic violence before being admitted to a city shelter.

Under the bill, sponsored by Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley, the Department of Homeless Services would have to show videos and distribute brochures on both intimate partner violence and child abuse.

Shelter residents must be schooled on “what behavior will not be tolerated,” while victims will be more likely to realize they can seek help, Crowley said.

DeBlasio will continue to rely on the rich

From the Daily News:

Mayor de Blasio has his work cut out for him if he really wants to end New York’s “tale of two cities.” Gotham has become the American capital of a national and even international trend toward greater income inequality and declining social mobility.

There are things the new mayor can do to help, but the early signs aren’t promising that he will be able to reverse 30 years of the hollowing out of the city’s once vibrant middle class.

As the cost of living has skyrocketed while pay has stagnated except for those at the very top, New York has shifted from a place people go to make it to a place for those who already have it made, or whose families have.

And once here, the rich are indeed getting richer even as the rest of the city is barely holding on.

Between 1990 and 2010, the city’s 1% saw their median income shoot up from $452,415 to $716,625 in 2010 dollars, even as the bottom 60% hardly saw their incomes budge at all, according to a recent City University study. The trend precedes Michael Bloomberg, the billionaire mayor who envisioned New York as a “luxury city,” and it won’t be easy for de Blasio to reverse — especially as he rolls out pricey new public-employee contracts and programs like universal pre-K that further expand the city’s dependence on its wealthiest citizens.

Rather than forge a more upwardly mobile society, New York epitomizes what Citigroup researchers have labeled a “plutonomy,” an economy and society driven largely by the investment behavior and spending of the uber-rich. This creates great demand for low-end service workers — dog-walkers, baristas and waiters — but not much for New York’s middle or aspiring middle class.

Adjusting for the cost of living here, the average paycheck in New York is one of the lowest of any major metropolitan area. Put otherwise, working New Yorkers pay a huge premium to live in the five boroughs, one that repels middle-class individuals and families who aren’t compelled to be here.

The exodus of the middle class has been ongoing for 30 years, with New York by one measure now having the second lowest share of middle-income neighborhoods of America’s 100 largest cities.As the middle class has waned, even exemplars of the celebrated creative class — musicians, artists, writers — find the going increasingly rough, and unrewarding. Laments rock icon Patti Smith: “New York has closed itself off to the young and the struggling. New York City has been taken away from you.”

Certainly some middle class jobs could be created by boosting such things as the port and logistics, resuscitating industries such as food processing and specialized household goods, and rolling out policies that encourage, rather than overregulate, smaller firms in the business-service industry.

But de Blasio’s press to bring in more tax revenue to pay for ambitious new programs, more generous social services and new contracts for city workers have the perverse effect of doubling down on Bloomberg’s bet on the wealthy.

His ambitious ramping up of green-energy policy could be the straw that breaks the back of what remains of the logistics and manufacturing industries in New York, something that has already occurred in California.

And his kowtowing to the teachers union and attempted assaults on charter schools threaten to further undermine the effectiveness of public education, something vital to middle and working class residents.

In fact, the effect of de Blasio’s policies may turn out to be more neo-Victorian than progressive. Rather than new homeowners, the city may see a greater concentration of people dependent on government largesse.

Another politico turned lobbyist

From Crains:

A few months ago, Mayor Bill de Blasio rushed a union-backed bill through the City Council that handed $42 million in public funds to privately employed school-bus workers. Even some labor-friendly lawmakers questioned the precedent set by taxpayer-funded raises for workers at the low-wage bus companies.

Behind the scenes, one of the country's pre-eminent political fixers had spent months laying the groundwork for the bill, lobbying records show.

Harold Ickes, a former top Clinton administration official, had long been a fixture in the center of the lobbying universe: Washington, D.C. But since his protégé Mr. de Blasio's election last November — a victory aided by Mr. Ickes — the lobbyist has found new business opportunities in the Big Apple.

Soon after vetting administration hires as a member of Mr. de Blasio's transition team, Mr. Ickes opened a New York branch of his lobbying firm, the Ickes & Enright Group. He and his employees have since lobbied a dozen de Blasio administration officials for a rapidly growing number of clients. Mr. Ickes also separately pushed legislation that led to the bus drivers' $42 million windfall.

In recent months, the Ickes & Enright Group has signed a number of clients seeking to influence local government, such as the American Beverage Association, JPMorgan Chase, MasterCard, North Shore-LIJ Health System, entertainment company AEG Live, office supplier Canon Solutions America and prekindergarten advocacy group Los Angeles Universal Preschool.

At the same time, the 75-year-old Mr. Ickes remains a key de Blasio political adviser. Both men worked for David Dinkins' 1989 mayoral campaign, and drew closer when they worked for the Clintons.

Questioned about their ties at a press conference last week, Mr. de Blasio called Mr. Ickes a "dear friend," but insisted that their relationship would not affect policy decisions. "We all separate in our lives, all the time, the personal relationships we have with people with the work we have to do," the mayor said.

Council members quiet about Noerdlinger

From the Queens Chronicle:

When it comes to the controversy surrounding Rachel Noerdlinger, chief of staff to Mayor de Blasio’s wife, Chirlane McCray, the vast majority of city lawmakers from Queens have nothing to say.

Asked on Monday whether they support Noerdlinger’s continued employment as McCray’s top aide, only three of the 14 City Council members from Queens would answer the question.

Three more said they had no comment and the other eight did not even acknowledge being asked. Councilman Antonio Reynoso (D-Brooklyn), whose Brooklyn district also includes much of Ridgewood, was not queried.

All 14 from Queens were asked the same question in the same manner, via emails to their main spokespersons: “Do you support the continued employment of Rachel Noerdlinger as chief of staff to First Lady Chirlane McCray, and why or why not?”

The first to respond, and the only one to do so on Monday, was Councilman Rory Lancman (D-Fresh Meadows).

“I don’t care who Rachel Noerdlinger dates, lives with or marries, and as long as she pays those parking tickets asap I don’t oppose her continued employment as the first lady’s chief of staff,” Lancman said in an email.

“Only our First Lady could evaluate Rachel Noerdlinger’s capability to serve as her chief of staff,” Councilman Daneek Miller (D-St. Albans) said. “In my experience with Rachel, however, I have found her to be both personable and intelligent. Her track record before arriving at City Hall was admirable, and her work continues to be so.”

Councilman Mark Weprin (D-Oakland Gardens) said, “I do not think that employees should be blamed for the behavior of their significant others. As long as she is doing a good job as the First Lady’s Chief of Staff, she should stay.”

The spokespersons for Councilmembers Julissa Ferreras (D-East Elmhurst), Costa Constantinides (D-Astoria) and Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) said the lawmakers would have no comment.

The other eight did not respond at all to either the first email asking the question or two follow-up emails labeled “friendly reminders.”

Brian Browne, the assistant vice president for government relations at St. John’s University and an adjunct professor of government and politics there, said the silence is likely due to the lawmakers’ desire to stay on de Blasio’s good side.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Queens is hosting the most migrant children

From Capital New York:

The Department of Education is instructing its principals on how to manage the influx of unaccompanied migrant children streaming into New York City, according to a memo obtained by Capital.

The memo, which contains guidelines for everything from enrolling the children to finding them dental care, was sent to all city principals earlier this week.

The letter states that the D.O.E. is "well-positioned to guide the enrollment, instruction and support of unaccompanied child migrants arriving in NYC."

According to D.O.E. figures, 62,998 migrant children have come to the United States since October 2013. D.O.E. officials said 2,552 of them have been enrolled in the city's public schools: 676 in Queens; 409 in Brooklyn; 404 in the Bronx; and 63 in Manhattan. School officials said they expect an additional 1,000 over the next five months.

The children have come mostly from Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador.

From the NY Times:

New York State will conduct a compliance review of school districts’ enrollment procedures in an effort to eliminate barriers to schooling for undocumented immigrant children, the State Education Department and the attorney general’s office plan to announce on Thursday.

The review is intended to determine whether districts have violated federal law in imposing enrollment requirements that bar children on the basis of their immigration status, especially in suburban counties near New York City that have absorbed hundreds of unaccompanied minors from Central America this year.

The new steps come a day after The New York Times reported that some undocumented immigrant children on Long Island have been excluded from classes because their families cannot gather documents that schools require to prove they are residents of the district or have guardianship — obstacles that contravene legal guidance on enrollment procedures the State Education Department issued in September.

In summary, illegal aliens will get to jump to the front of the school line (I'm not sure if they come before or after the homeless kids), while people who actually come from the areas where their schools are located will continue to be forced to prove it. And then they'll only be offered a slot if there's space left. This seems fair, doesn't it?

Club operated illegally without C of O

From DNA Info:

Bar and music venue Radio Bushwick was forced to cancel all of its upcoming CMJ shows after a judge slapped them with a temporary restraining order barring live shows — part of a legal dispute with the landlord that could put an end to all future concerts there.

The venue, at 22 Wyckoff Ave., had to cancel shows by about 40 bands since Oct. 10, with 20 additional gigs for CMJ either being canceled or moving to other venues. The move came after Brooklyn Supreme Court Judge Lawrence Knipel ordered the venue to halt all of its shows immediately on Oct. 10 out of concern for the safety of their patrons, according to owners and court documents.

Knipel slapped the restraining order on the venue following a lawsuit filed by landlord Jamie Wiseman, of Cayuga Capital Management, who argued that the venue did not have proper fire alarms or sprinkler systems in place.

"Defendant's own website shows what appears to be hundreds of young people crowded around a performance stage," Judge Knipel wrote, "One shudders to contemplate the consequences of inadequate fire safety protection."

According to the Department of Buildings website, the venue does not have a Certificate of Occupancy, which is required to operate.

The building was never issued one because an alteration permit initiated in 2008 to convert the building from manufacturing to an eating and dining establishment was never completed, a DOB spokesman said.

The FDNY, which is responsible for monitoring sprinkler systems, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

LIJ to build Ebola unit

From Crains:

The North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System is planning to build at least one containment unit for patients with Ebola and other infectious diseases, the system announced Thursday. The unit is estimated to cost $15 million, will accommodate eight patients and will take 18 months or more to build. An exact location has not yet been determined.

"In light of the public's anxiety about Ebola, it's clear that we need to develop a more permanent solution to meeting public health needs in the event of a major infectious disease outbreak in the future," said Michael Dowling, the health system's president and chief executive, in a press release announcing the project.

The new unit will be modeled after the Nebraska Medicine Biocontainment Patient Care Unit and the Serious Communicable Disease Unit at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta, both of which have been involved in treating Ebola patients.

The new containment unit will be able to handle other infectious diseases, a spokesman for North Shore-LIJ said. "We deal with all kinds of dangerous infectious diseases," including Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), the H1N1 virus and Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA), he said. "They are very contagious, potentially fatal diseases, where if there was a widespread outbreak we should be better prepared to meet public health needs."

Axe attack on cops called an act of terror

From CBS 2:

Authorities believe a 32-year-old Queens man Zale Thompson, the man who attacked a group of NYPD officers in Queens with a hatchet before they shot him dead, acted alone. They also said he may have been inspired by this week’s terrorist attack in Ottawa.

“It appears, just from the electronic forensic piece of this, that this is something that he has been thinking about for some time and thinking about with more intensity over recent days,” the NYPD Counter-terrorism Chief John Miller said.

Police obtained a warrant to search Thompson’s computer for clues about Thursday’s daytime assault, which left one officer with a serious head injury.
Thompson’s activity on social media indicated he was a convert to Islam and included rants about injustices in American society and oppression abroad but offered no clear evidence of any affiliation with terror groups, police said.

Sources told CBS 2’s Matt Kozar that Thompson had been visiting websites affiliated with Al Qaeda, ISIS, and Al-Shabaab.

A Facebook page linked to Thompson includes a picture of an Islamic warrior and a quote from the Koran.

On YouTube, Thompson appears to have posted a comment advocating “holy war,” saying “If you’re looking for ‘perfect’ Muslims who never make any mistakes in their jihad, then you will be looking in vain,” CBS 2’s Tony Aiello reported.

They think city property is their property

From the Queens Chronicle:

State Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) was joined last Friday afternoon by concerned area residents across the street from the College Point Corporate Park, where he announced that the Department of Sanitation had issued summonses to several businesses that he said have taken over streets and sidewalks. He called on the city to take further action against them unless the situation is rectified.
Avella said he first noticed the unlawful activity during the Memorial Day Parade.

“All these businesses just decided, ‘We’re taking over this property,’” he said. “Clearly illegal.”

He said he “immediately wrote to the city. The only agency that took action was the Department of Sanitation. It’s interesting that they’re here today.”

Surveying the tons of supplies that almost completely concealed the sidewalk on one side of 124th Street, he added, “All of this has got to be cleaned up. If they don’t clean it up, the city should come and just seize it all. You cannot take over a city street. This is absurd.”

Avella also suggested that the situation posed “a health hazard, a traffic hazard, a pedestrian hazard,” and asked, “If something should happen, who’s going to get sued? The city. And the taxpayer is going to have to pay the lawsuit. This is the worst example I’ve ever seen of private businesses taking over city sidewalks.”

As far back as late 2011, Community Board 7 filed complaints with the departments of Transportation, Buildings and Sanitation as well as the 109th Precinct over materials that were being stored on the sidewalk, according to a letter provided by one area resident, Jim Singletary, acting president of the 28th Avenue Block Association.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Van Bramer be damned, DeBlasio & Amtrak want Sunnyside yard developed

From Capital New York:

Amtrak is considering developing Sunnyside Yards in Queens as part of a nationwide evaluation of its real estate portfolio and could turn to investors as early as next spring to find partners willing to explore potential uses for those properties, the company’s chairman, Anthony Coscia, said Thursday.

Executives have been in talks with the de Blasio and Cuomo administrations about the site, Coscia told reporters at a global real estate conference at the Jacob Javits Convention Center in Manhattan. Coscia mentioned the plans during a panel discussion moderated by former deputy mayor Dan Doctoroff.

The Sunnyside Yards is one the largest undeveloped parcels in New York City and holds virtually limitless potential to developers willing to build a platform above the tracks. Planners have long dreamed about what could be built on the property, which remains an active rail yard used by several train companies.

It was unclear on Thursday exactly what Amtrak would pursue, whether it would sell or lease the development rights or how involved it would remain in any project undertaken on the site. There are additional development sites the company is discussing in Chicago, Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington, D.C.

“We’ve completed an analysis of what we think we’re going to need for the operating business,” Coscia said after the panel at the Urban Land Institute’s fall conference. “Obviously, it doesn’t make any sense for us to sell real estate that we’re going to need to run the railroad. So, we’ve pretty much completed that and what we’re doing between now and March is trying to determine—after subtracting those needs—what sort of developable real estate sites we have that are available that we can monetize.”

Sunnyside, he said, is the perfect example of the type of site on which Amtrak believes it can make a considerable amount of money. There have been conversations about the site between Amtrak executives and Mayor Bill de Blasio, deputy mayor Alicia Glen and chief of staff Laura Santucci, Coscia said.

A spokesman for the mayor said building on the yards could fit in to the city’s ambitious affordable housing plan—which calls for construction of 80,000 affordable units over the next decade—but cautioned nothing is imminent.

Woodside strip club a nuisance

From the Queens Chronicle:

A night/strip club in Woodside has become a hotbed for crime, and officers in the 114th Precinct are unhappy with it.

During a Community Board 1 meeting on Tuesday, Detective Eddie Negron came before the board and asked them to help the precinct in getting Perfection, located at 62-05 30 Ave. in Woodside, under control.

“There have been 25 major crimes, resulting in 16 arrests this year,” Negron said. “There are quality-of-life issues and safety issues that pose a threat to the community.”

According to the detective, there have been one homicide, three shootings, five incidents where a gun or weapon was found on an individual, nine physical altercations resulting in serious injuries and two cases involving fraudulent credit cards.

Negron added four of the incidents involved employees of Perfection, including the groping of a customer by a bouncer.

“An example I’ll give you is the night of Feb. 24,” Negron said. “At 2:50 a.m., an individual was found with a loaded gun, at 3 a.m. an individual with an active warrant was involved in an altercation and then at 4 a.m. a man was shot in the stomach outside of the club in a taxi. This all happened on the same day.”

Negron pointed out some of the “hired talent” have known criminal backgrounds and he has noticed possible gang activity within the club. He added that a majority of the problems are caused by residents of other boroughs.

A representative for Perfections would not return calls for comment.

Is Jamaica where the artists want to be?

From the Times Ledger:

Jamaica may provide the stage artists are scouring the city for, one study suggests.

An 18-month analysis on art workspace in Queens by Exploring the Metropolis Inc., which connects artists and performance facilities in the city, found Jamaica is ripe for an artistic revival.

David Johnson, Exploring the Metropolis’ executive director, told the Greater Jamaica Development Corp. at its quarterly meeting last week that the neighborhood could take steps to bolster its attractiveness to artists, including soliciting an affordable loft development.

“Jamaica is so well-positioned in terms of transit, it just seems like low hanging fruit,” Johnson told nearly 50 peopled gathered in the Harvest Room Oct. 15. “With the upcoming development, it’s a great opportunity to really focus on artists’ live-work space, find the space, find the developers who can do this.”

Johnson noted an East Harlem school that was transformed into a 90-unit live-work development for working artists received 53,000 applications.

“Clearly, there is a demand for this,” he said.

The Greater Jamaica Development Corp. leaders expressed interest in buttressing the area’s creative capital, saying it spurs economic development and personal fulfillment.

DSNY lax in removing illegal signs

From the Queens Tribune:

One civic group says the illegal signs that pepper the area are an eyesore and the group is calling on a City agency to find a solution for the problem.

The Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association recently issued a report detailing the problem illegal signs have become in their neighborhood, and through many parts of the City, and are asking the Sanitation Dept. to improve its response to complaints about the signs and take them down faster.

The report, which was obtained by the Queens Tribune, describes the civic group’s experience with reporting the problem to the Sanitation Dept. for the past four years, including the agency’s response to the complaints when it has been logged into the 311 system.

The report is based on 164 service requests the WRBA has filed about the signs during that time period, reporting a total of 142 illegal postings.

According to the report, more than 63 percent of the 311 requests were not addressed properly. The group found that 47 percent of the postings that Sanitation claimed to have resolved were not actually addressed when the civic group went back to check on it. Additionally, seven percent of those signs were “partially addressed,” which meant a worker put a sticker or crossed-out the number listed on the posting, preventing people from calling the number.

They also said that 28 percent of their requests appeared to never have reached the Sanitation Dept. after filing it with 311.

On a recent walk around Woodhaven to follow up on the signs they reported to 311, WRBA member Alex Blenkinsopp found that the majority of the 17 signs that were observed were either partially removed or not addressed at all, even though they were told that the complaint had been resolved. There were also four new signs discovered while on the walk. They were previously undiscovered by the civic group and were not included in the 17 that were followed up on.

The signs are mostly posted on street light poles, mailboxes and pedestrian signs in high traffic areas like the intersection of Woodhaven Boulevard and Jamaica Avenue in Woodhaven. Some signs are also posted in residential areas, which, according to the WRBA, tend to take longer to address because it is not in a highly visible area.

Building booms after slowdown

From the Daily News:

New York City construction activity has returned to the boom-time levels of 2007 and 2008, thanks in part to a surge in luxury condo development.

The New York Building Congress forecasts that $32.9 billion will be spend on construction this year alone, 17% more than what was spent in 2013. And the fervor may be set to continue, with forecasts topping $35.3 billion and $35.6 billion for 2014 and 2016, respectively.

"Thanks to an improving economy, increased foreign investment and continued progress on a handful of major public and private sector initiatives, the New York City construction market has just about fully rebounded from its post-recession depths and is nearing boom territory once again," said Building Congress President Richard Anderson.

The surge in construction spending is driven in part by a rise in residential development, which is projected to account for $10.9 billion in spending in 2014, up by $4.1 billion from 2013. By comparison, developers spent just $8.3 billion on residential construction post-recession, between 2009 and 2011.

Little of the spending will go towards homes for moderate- or low-income New Yorkers, however.

Most of the money being spent in the residential space will be put towards the construction of ultra-luxury condominiums, according to data cited by the Building Congress. Developers will spend 60 percent more on new homes, while adding only 22 percent more units in 2014, an indication that apartments will be geared towards wealthy buyers.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Subways are bursting at the seams

From DNA Info:

The platform at the Jackson Heights/Roosevelt Avenue station — the second busiest in Queens with nearly 51,000 riders every day — is routinely packed during the early-morning rush as straphangers wait for the E, F, M and R trains.

Jason Chin-Fatt, a field organizer with the Straphangers Campaign, rides the F train from the station every morning and said the platforms are “excessively crowded,” especially if the 7 train, which is connected to the station along with several bus routes, isn’t working properly.

“It’s to the point that people are almost spilling over on to the tracks,” he said.

Hey, let's upzone and add thousands more people!

ICCC up for BSA vote

From the Times Ledger:

Now that another city Board of Standards and Appeals hearing is nearing, opposition is mounting again against plans by the Indian Cultural and Community Center to break ground in Bellerose to construct a four-story building on the site of the Creedmoor Psychiatric facility campus.

The group originally convinced lawmakers to sell the parcel to build a community center.

It soon changed plans, proposing to build two nine-story buildings instead of the original one-story community center and athletic field.

The new development plans irked the community, and the ICCC again changed its mind and argued in favor of building the two structures, but keeping them to only six stories..

The fourth and latest idea shrank to the one-building with a recreational center on the roof.

“We are not against the ICCC if they build what they said they would,” said Jerry Wind, president of the Bellerose Hillside Civic Association. “The latest incarnation of the plan is this one building.”

Community leaders, in collaboration with state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside), are asking the city Board of Standards and Appeals to deny the variance needed for the ICCC to develop the site at 82nd Avenue and 242ns Street.The BSA was scheduled to hold a hearing on the fourth revised proposal Nov. 25.

“I hope the board reviews the latest proposal and looks at how they got here,” Avella said. The ICCC “didn’t get here with unclean hands.”

When will that project be done?

You may now look up the status of park construction projects by visiting the Capital Project Tracker.

Help sought to finish anti-graffiti project

From the Queens Courier:

Graffiti has been a problem in Hamilton Beach for decades, creating eyesores all around the neighborhood.

And the bridge that connects Hamilton Beach to Old Howard Beach over Hawtree Creek, known to residents as the “blue bridge,” is one of the most notorious spots for defacement.

But some residents, who are fed up with the look it gives the neighborhood, took clean-up matters into their own hands.

“One day, while hanging on my boat with some friends, we all started talking [about] how the bridge made the neighborhood look degrading,” said Laura Weiser, a resident of Hamilton Beach for 12 years. “So, I decided to do something about it.”

And she did.

As Weiser was starting to paint the southern portion, on her second day of painting, she slipped, fell and tore tendons and ligaments in her left wrist. Because of this injury, she could not finish painting the side and has left it a quarter of the way done.

She is now hoping that some residents will follow her good deed and help finish painting the concrete as she will not be able to do so for another six weeks.

Jamaica Savings Bank building being renovated

From the Queens Courier:

A real estate firm investing in downtown Jamaica has plans to renovate and modify one of the area’s landmarked buildings.

The new owners of the 116-year-old Jamaica Savings Bank building at 161-02 Jamaica Ave. in the heart of the neighborhood’s downtown has filed with the city’s Landmark Preservation Commission to modify the building.

The structure, a Beaux-Arts style bank building designed by architecture firm Hough & Duell and built in 1898, was designated a landmark in 2008.

According to city records. the application seeks to “construct rear and side additions, replace doors, install awnings and infill window openings.”

The building was bought by the investment firm of the Laboz family, United American Land, LLC, under the name 161-02 Jamaica LLC for $3.7 million, according to records filed with the city in January. Jason Laboz of the firm declined to speak with The Courier about the project.

The modification of the building could be part of a plan to add new retail tenants into the property as the company has planned with the adjacent buildings on the strip.

United American Land purchased the next-door 10-story building at 160-16 Jamaica Ave. in January for $8.5 million. It filed permits to reduce the larger building down to four stories, matching the landmarked structure and the property at 160-08 Jamaica Ave., which the company owns as well.

Entire block to be demolished in LIC

From the Court Square Blog:

Demolition has moved into a new phase at 45-46 Davis Street, the former home of 5Pointz. The last time we checked in, construction crews had erected fences on Davis and Crane Street.1 More recently, they put up the scaffolding on the Jackson Avenue side, shown in the first photo. Demolition is moving along quickly in the middle section of the lot (see the second and third photos), and with the scaffolding up on the Jackson Avenue, it won’t be long before those buildings start to come down, as well.

Juvie jail to be placed in southeastern Queens

From the Daily News:

The city is searching for sites in Queens to place a “limited secure” facility for juvenile offenders, the News has learned.

Sources said locations in South Ozone Park and Jamaica are being studied.

But officials from the Administration for Children’s Services would only say they are planning to place six of these facilities across the five boroughs with 12 to 20 youngsters in each.

“We have heard a lot of talk about juveniles not bring in regular jails,” said Frank Dardani, chair of the 106th Precinct Community Council. “We want to make sure it would be secure and that they have the proper staffing.”

The 2012 state “Close to Home” law was designed to reform the troubled juvenile justice system that kept young offenders in remote upstate facilities.

Under the reforms, juvenile offenders who only need lower levels of supervision will be moved into the city to be closer to their families and support systems. So-called 'limited secure" will still be locked and fenced but will have less of a jail-like atmosphere,

Young offenders who need to be in the most secure setting will remain in upstate facilities.

Closed bridge has hurt Murray Hill businesses

From the Queens Courier:

The city’s extended closure of an overpass bridge in Flushing is set to end by 2016, according to a Department of Transportation (DOT) spokesman. But the long wait could continue to hurt local business owners.

LIRR train tracks cut through 149th Street, with an overpass bridge connecting the two sides of the street. The bridge has been closed since 2009, according to residents and business owners in the area.

According to a DOT spokesman, a new bridge was ready to open in 2012, but during a final inspection the department found cracks in the foundation, leading the department to keep the bridge closed.

The lack of a bridge in the area left several businesses on 41st Avenue disconnected from the other side. Traffic withered away as a result, business owners said, and led to a noticeable reduction in customers visiting the stores on 41st Avenue, near the 149th Street overpass bridge.

The city plans on completing a final design in 2014. And in the fall of 2015 the spokesman expects a construction contract to be hashed out. The new overpass bridge should be completed within six months after that.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Council members order NYPD to ignore the Feds

From the Politicker:

The New York City Council overwhelmingly passed legislation today to stop the Department of Correction and the NYPD from honoring immigration detainers issued by the federal government unless they are accompanied by a judge’s warrant.

The council voted 41 in favor and 6 against on two bills that will largely end cooperation with the federal government when it requests an immigration detainer — which asks Corrections or the NYPD to hold a person for 48 hours when they might otherwise be released so that the person can be handed over the the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency. The requests are often made when an undocumented immigrant is being released from jail for another crime, or if they have been in NYPD custody for questioning.

Under the new legislation, which Mayor Bill de Blasio has said he supports, the city will honor immigration waivers if the federal government requests them with a judge’s warrant — and even then, only if the subject of the warrant was convicted within the last five years of a violent or serious crime, or is a possible match on the terrorism watch list.

So they passed a law that said the NYPD should ignore a federal judge's warrant? And only 2 Queens councilmembers (Vallone and Ulrich) voted against this? Holy crap, we're in big trouble.

Home sweet homes finally repaired

From CBS 2:

Nearly two years after Superstorm Sandy, two friends in a Queens neighborhood are finally back in their own homes.

As CBS 2’s Elise Finch reported, it took extensive repair work and help from volunteers and each other.

The homeowners credit the St. Bernard Project, Catholic Charities and Friends of Rockaway for donating materials and labor to get them back in their houses.

Alan Hevesi turns to public speaking

From Capital New York:

Alan Hevesi, who served as the comptroller of New York City and New York State before pleading guilty to state corruption charges, will speak next Monday in Queens about the corrosive influence of money in politics.

A notice for the event was posted online by the Central Queens Y, home of the Hevesi Library, which he helped co-found. Hevesi is also a former member of the New York State Assembly and taught public policy at Queens College for years.

The title of Hevesi's speech is “Big Money, Congressional Combat, and the 2014 Elections.”

Hevesi was considered a rising star in Democratic circles before he resigned.

In 2006, after winning re-election as state comptroller, Hevesi resigned from office and pleaded guilty to a felony for assigning a state worker to chauffeur his ailing wife, without reimbursing the state for the service. In 2010, Hevesi pleaded guilty to what the Times called “a sprawling corruption scheme” involving the state’s pension fund. Hevesi admitted he accepted about $1 million in exchange for steering $250 million to associates.

The event will take place at 67-09 108th Street, in Forest Hills, which Hevesi represented for many years, at 1:30 p.m. on October 27, with a suggestion donation of $5 for members, and $8 for non-members.