Sunday, November 30, 2014

Massive development to be built atop taxi garage

From the Queens Courier:

The trend of converting parking facilities into new sites for residential development has reached Alert Garage Corp.’s massive lot in Long Island City.

The owner of the nearly one block-sized parking garage filed permits with the Department of Buildings on Wednesday to construct a new 10-story mixed-use residential and commercial tower on the site of the lot.

The property, now used for a parking facility at 30-17 40th Ave., will be developed into a new, mostly residential building with more than 290,000 square feet and 428 units, according to city records.

GKV Architects will be designing the new tower, which will have 214 parking spaces — meeting city requirements based on zoning regulations for the area. The site, however, is located adjacent the 39th Avenue N and Q subway station, giving future residents easy access to transportation.

How many more people do they plan to dump on these over capacity subway lines?

Tomorrow's borough board meeting sounds like fun

From Progress Queens:

Borough President Katz will host a meeting of the Queens Borough Board on Monday, Dec. 1, at 5:30 p.m. at Queens Borough Hall to discuss large-scale real estate development of Queens.

Scheduled to be discussed during the meeting is an agenda item titled, "Planning for the Future of Queens – an Update on Strategic Initiatives." Carl Weisbrod, a director of the New York City Department of City Planning and Chairman of the New York City Planning Commission, is expected to address the meeting, according to the Borough President Katz's media advisory.

The Queens Borough Board meeting will begin at 5:30 p.m. Monday evening, and the meeting will take place in the Borough President’s Conference Room of Queens Borough Hall, 120-55 Queens Boulevard, 2nd Floor.

Queens finds itself in the cross-hairs of real estate developers and government officials for major development, none of which fully addresses the need for the creation of large-scale stock of affordable housing. Mayor Bill de Blasio (D-New York City) announced that the city would target Flushing, Queens, for zone-busting development, and the city's Economic Development Corporation has expressed interest in exploiting Jamaica, Queens, for rapid development, as well. Flushing is encompassed in Queens Community Boards 7, 8, and 11, whilst Jamaica is encompassed in Queens Community Boards 8 and 12. Already, a group has formed in Jamaica "to build relationships with private companies" to facilitate real estate investments in Jamaica.

Residents in Queens, including long-term immigrant residents, have opposed the conversions of hotel facilities into permanent homeless shelters, like the former Pan American Hotel, as seen on Oct. 3, 2014. Queens is being targeted for rapid upscale real estate development at the same time when the borough is also paradoxically being chosen as the setting for a greater share of the city's homeless shelters and for more juvenile inmate detention centers.

Separately, the city is looking at Queens for the creation of permanent homeless shelters, which is causing turmoil in bedroom communities opposed to inconveniences associated with shelters, even pitting long-term immigrant residents against newly-arrived immigrants. The city is also evaluating the need to create a permanent detention center in Queens for juvenile inmates to comply with new state regulations at the same time when federal prosecutors, in an unrelated action, have recommended to the de Blasio administration the relocation of teenage inmates away from Rikers Island, a recommendation that New York City Councilmember Elizabeth Crowley (D-Queens) said could be accomplished by renovating the now-vacant Queens House of Detention.

Doctoroff pushing hard for development of Sunnyside Yards

From the NY Times:

We are an undisputed leader in tourism, yet we lag badly in one important aspect: the huge convention and conference business. Nationwide, conventions add nearly $400 billion to our gross domestic product, and employment in the industry is set to grow 33 percent through 2022. Sadly, New York ranks 64th globally in this business, leaving tens of thousands of jobs and billions of dollars on the table — resources that could fund better schools, parks and affordable housing.

New York struggles for two main reasons. First, of course, is price. With the average Manhattan hotel room costing nearly $300 per night, we are pricing ourselves out of the market for many major conventions. Then there is the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center. Located on Manhattan’s Far West Side, Javits was unloved practically from the moment it opened. It’s too small for many events and can’t compete with facilities in other cities.

Fortunately, there’s a solution — one that would not only address our lack of competitiveness in the conventions and conferences business, but would also catalyze the transformation of two neighborhoods and make a meaningful dent in our affordable housing crisis. The best part is that we can do this all without costing taxpayers a dime.

The key is to replace the Javits Center. There’s been talk over the years of expanding it, but that won’t solve the affordability problem. Fortunately, the perfect undeveloped location for a new convention center exists at Sunnyside Yards, the more than 160-acre rail yard that carves a nasty scar through the heart of Queens.

Sunnyside Yards is adjacent to Long Island City, a neighborhood that has blossomed in recent years with new residents and businesses, including nearly 20 new hotels since 2007, with almost as many currently under construction or in the planning stages. The average hotel room rate in Queens is less than half that of Manhattan; a convention center on the border of Long Island City would go a long way toward solving the affordability problem that holds the Javits Center back.

Long Island City is also one of the most convenient, transit-friendly areas in the city, served by eight subway lines. The Long Island Rail Road and Amtrak pass through and park their trains there. Even New Jersey Transit stores its trains in Sunnyside. From my office one block south of Bloomingdale’s in the heart of Midtown Manhattan, I can get to Long Island City by subway in just one stop, and eight minutes flat.

Given the neighborhood’s many advantages, redeveloping Sunnyside Yards seems obvious — but the biggest barrier has always been the multibillion-dollar cost of building a platform over the train tracks that can allow the trains to run while accommodating large construction. The cost has always made the idea a nonstarter, but times — and real estate values — have changed. Stronger market conditions bring us closer to feasibility, but the numbers for building the platform still don’t add up unless we get creative.

That’s why we should relocate the Javits Center to Sunnyside, sell the extremely valuable property the Javits Center owns, and use the proceeds to pay for it.

And where will the conventioneers stay since we are converting all our hotels into homeless shelters?

Drinking & biking: a bad idea

From Forbes:

The number of bicyclists killed in crashes on U.S. road is on the rise, particularly among adult males and urban riders, groups that now represent most of the deaths, a new report shows.

Failure to wear helmets, alcohol impairment and an increase in urban commuting were among the factors sited as reasons for the recent spike in deaths.

Fatalities among bicyclists in motor vehicle crashes increased 16 percent from 2010 to 2012, while overall motor vehicle fatalities increased just one percent during the same time period, according to Spotlight on Highway Safety: Bicyclist Safety, released late last month by the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA), a nonprofit organization representing state highway safety offices.

The report analyzed how fatality trends and crash patterns have changed since the mid 1970′s.

Some highlights from the report about bicyclists killed in 2012:

-More than 1 in 4 adult were legally drunk

-More than two-thirds were not wearing helmets

- Nearly three-quarters were adult males

Noise monitors coming to Broad Channel and Bayswater

From the Forum:

In a continuing effort to effectively monitor noise caused by planes flying in and out of JFK Airport, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey has agreed to install additional sound monitors in Bayswater and Broad Channel, Queens. Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder (D-Ozone Park) was aggressive in his pursuit of these monitors and wrote a letter to the FAA and Port Authority in September.

Beyond the additional monitors, the Port Authority offers a tracking system on its website, so that residents can monitor the paths of aircraft and see for themselves the specific decibel levels being recorded. It has also increased staffing to handle noise complaints.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Street not repaved since 1997

From the Queens Chronicle:

Residents of Hamilton Beach are taking their fight to have a street in the community repaired to the highest level of City Hall.

Roger Gendron, president of the New Hamilton Beach Civic Association, has started a petition asking Mayor de Blasio to direct the Department of Transportation to repave 104th Street, which has been neglected for years.

“We just want to get it leveled,” Gendron said. “That road is our only way in and out of Hamilton Beach.”

The corridor, which runs north and south, was ripped up along with other Hamilton Beach streets in 1997 as part of a city project to place sewer pipelines throughout the area, Gendron said.

Following the completion of the construction later that year, Gendron said, many of the roads were repaired, repaved and maintained by the city, with the exception of 104th Street.

“It hasn’t been touched,” he said.

The condition of the road has been made worse by a construction boon in the area.

Gendron said about six houses have been erected on 104th Street since 2008, which has only exacerbated the problem.

Pedestrian safety = taller buildings?

Sometimes you just gotta sit back and laugh at the desperation of these "transportation advocates" to be taken seriously. It was brought to my attention that Streetsblog has a post up about transforming Queens Blvd, which includes trees in the medians, above subway tracks, where they can't be planted, and tall buildings in Forest Hills where 1-story commercial enterprises currently are situated:
Remaking Queens Boulevard is about more than just street geometry. Massengale also envisions taller buildings along the street to match its width and create a place that feels less like a wide-open highway and more like a grand boulevard.
When you click through to the original analysis they are pimping, you find this:
You can see in the “Before” photo above that the market has clearly said over the years that housing away from the artery (even just half a block away) is more desirable for most than being right on the boulevard. Even the main shopping is one block away from the boulevard in some locations.
Now, as you and I know, there are already a TON of tall buildings situated along Queens Blvd, so it's interesting that they decided to focus on this stretch where the tall buildings are set back and claim it has anything to do with pedestrian safety or livability.

Real estate shilling much?

Queens is where yuppies want to be!

Another "Queens is the new Brooklyn" article from the NY Times featuring pretentious a-holes who wish they could afford Manhattan, but won't admit it:

“I was vehemently opposed to moving to Queens,” said Mr. Anker, a life coach who arrived with his family to Parker Towers in May, renting a renovated $3,600-a-month three-bedroom, two-bath with a balcony. “Now, I couldn’t love it any more if you paid me.”

In October, the monthly rent for two-bedrooms in Long Island City was $3,831 and in Astoria, $2,610. But, brokers and developers say, more newcomers are considering those areas as destinations in their own right.

“There is less of a conversation around, ‘I can’t afford anything else,’ ” said Rachel Loeb, a development director for World Wide Group. “It’s now a neighborhood of choice.”

Uh huh.

Chuck wants black boxes for trucks

From WPIX:

Sen. Chuck Schumer discusses legislation directed at tractor trailers and drivers. One solution is a black box which documents how long drivers are on the road and how fast they are going. Dan talks with a driver who voluntarily uses the black box.

Bayside complex landmarked

From the Daily News:

A stately Queens apartment complex has been designated a New York City landmark.

Hawthorne Court Apartments in Bayside were built between 1930 and 1931 and cut a distinctive figure in the neighborhood with its Tudor-revival style design.

The Bayside Historical Society mounted a campaign to get the landmark protection for the buildings at the corner of 216th St. and 43rd. Ave.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Schumer says ObamaCare was the wrong priority

From Forbes:

Despite the enduring unpopularity of Obamacare, Congressional Democrats have up to now stood by their health care law, allowing that “it’s not perfect” but that they are proud of their votes to pass it. That all changed on Tuesday, when the Senate’s third-highest-ranking Democrat—New York’s Chuck Schumer—declared that “we took [the public’s] mandate and put all our focus on the wrong problem—health care reform…When Democrats focused on health care, the average middle-class person thought, ‘The Democrats aren’t paying enough attention to me.’”

Sen. Schumer made his remarks at the National Press Club in Washington. “Democrats blew the opportunity the American people gave them…Now, the plight of uninsured Americans and the hardships caused by unfair insurance company practices certainly needed to be addressed,” Schumer maintained. “But it wasn’t the change we were hired to make. Americans were crying out for the end to the recession, for better wages and more jobs—not changes in health care.”

“This makes sense,” Schumer continued, “considering 85 percent of all Americans got their health care from either the government, Medicare, Medicaid, or their employer. And if health care costs were going up, it really did not affect them. The Affordable Care Act was aimed at the 36 million Americans who were not covered. It has been reported that only a third of the uninsured are even registered to vote…it made no political sense.”

Jamaica garage may be developed

From DNA Info:

The city is planning to transform a run-down Jamaica garage into a development that would include affordable housing and retail, as part of its goal to revitalize the long-overlooked neighborhood, officials said.

The city's Economic Development Corporation will soon release a request for proposals in an effort to develop the 45,000-square-foot site on 168th Street, between Jamaica and Archer avenues, Kyle Kimball, president of the agency, announced at a recent community event in Jamaica.

The agency tried to revitalize the site seven years ago, but the developers were hampered by the recession, the city said.

The city-owned site, across the street from the Home Depot, is currently used by the NYPD as a parking garage.

Sources familiar with the site said that it can accommodate about 300 apartments.

The city said the planned development would include affordable housing as well as some market-rate units and retail space.

TDC unhappy with traffic mess it caused

From the Queens Chronicle:

It’s always gridlock alert day in Downtown Flushing.

Calling it “the perfect storm,” Flushing developer Michael Meyer said last Friday at a Community Board 7 district cabinet meeting that changing bus routes, construction and increased traffic have exacerbated the situation over recent months.

“I’ve never seen such a bottleneck in my life and I’ve been around the world,” said Meyer, president of F & T, which is developing the Flushing Commons mixed-use development with the Rockefeller Group at the site of the former Municipal Parking Lot 1.

He said some inconveniences were expected during the multi-year construction project, but that no one had anticipated so much gridlock.

Joe Kennedy, representing the MTA, said the Q17 and Q27 buses have been rerouted from stopping at St. George’s Episcopal Church on Main Street to 138th Street, between 38th and 39th avenues. “The buses have a big problem turning around on 37th Avenue and the only way to solve the problem is to eliminate vehicles in the area,” he said.

CB 7 District Manager Marilyn Bitterman explained that the historic church foundation was deteriorating due to vibrations from all the buses. In addition, drivers were urinating on the structure and the Main Street stop was making it difficult for church dropoffs.

Meyer also believes the casino buses parked in the area add to the problem, as does Bitterman, but Kennedy downplayed their importance.

Capt. Tom Conforti, commanding officer of the 109th Precinct, said that the 37th Avenue traffic flow is backed up from Main Street, past 138th Avenue to Union Street, where the precinct is located.

Weird statue to be placed somewhere in LIC

From LIC Post:

The Department of Cultural Affairs is close to erecting a bright pink, 8 ½ feet tall sculpture on Jackson Avenue.

The artwork would be located there permanently and the cost to taxpayers would be about $450,000. Furthermore, the owners of the adjacent sites have not been notified — which is typical for this type of a artwork since it is part of city program.

The Department of Cultural Affairs through its ‘Percent for Art’ initiative has selected an artist to create the piece and it is a long way in the process of getting it approved. The artwork is called “The Sunbather” which is likely to be placed on the grass median by the crosswalk near 43rd Avenue.

Public inclusion in the process has been limited—with the organization electing not to share the rendering with the greater public or with this news site. It also won’t put the rendering up online until it is approved.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. And in this beholder's opinion, it looks like a bunch of wadded up bubblegum.

You win some, you lose some

From the Times Ledger:

At the monthly Community Board 8 meeting at the Hillcrest Jewish Center, board members turned down an application for one synagogue due to existing violations but voted to approve another synagogue’s application.

The synagogues — Torah Haim Ohel Sara on 144-11 77th Ave.and Sharey Tefilah on 144-02 76th Road in Flushing — submitted variance applications to the community board. Ohel Sara’s application was for an amendment to an existing variance while Sharey Tefilah’s application was for a new variance.

Out of 40 board members present, 37 voted against approving Ohel Sara’s application, while three voted in favor. Thirty-three board members voted in favor of approving Sharey Tefilah’s application, while eight voted against. One of the members left before the second vote.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Thankfully, it's not a teardown!

You may recall the above pictured home located at 60-11 53rd Street in Maspeth from a January 2014 post.

While traveling down Flushing Ave recently, I noticed people entering and exiting the house. I made a mental note to check to see if any plans had been filed. I figured it was being prepped for demolition, but that's not the case.


I can't wait to see the finished product.

Thankful for new boardwalk

From the Forum:

The final steps of the new Hamilton Beach boardwalk are being constructed and it could be opening up soon.

The “boardwalk,” which will now be a cement path connecting Hamilton Beach to Old Howard Beach, has been fully paved and railings have been installed, according to Councilman Eric Ulrich’s office, which is overseeing the plans.

The main portion of the project has been done by the NYC Department of Citywide Administrative Services (DCAS). The last remaining portion of it, which is to add the ramp connecting the train station to the boardwalk, has to be done in partnership with the MTA since they own that portion of the land.

Work started on the path in May and was scheduled to finish by the end of September, but building the ramp has prolonged this process.

Giving thanks for his blessings

From CBS New York:

Despite not having cooking gas for more than a month due to a leak, 46 families of the Ravenswood Houses in Long Island City, Queens, will still enjoy a turkey with all the trimmings.

Brian McMichael, who grew up in the housing complex and just moved his restaurant to Long Island City a month ago, came to the rescue, WCBS 880’s Jim Smith reported.

“My heart goes out to these people, and some of them I actually know personally,” McMichael said, owner of Miriam’s Southern Cuisine.

Partnering with Fresh Direct for the turkeys, McMichael said he’s inspired by the values his mother instilled in him, the restaurant’s namesake.

“She would be so proud. She would just pray. Pray and be joyful,” he said.

His shop will also be whipping up an extra 30 meals for the food pantry.

Thanks for the memories

From the Queens Chronicle:

After more than 50 years of serving the Ozone Park area, Aldo Calore of Aldo’s Pizzeria & Restaurant has retired, according to local community leaders.

Calore started his pizza-making career at the age of 16, working for New Park Pizza in Howard Beach.

Six years later, he opened his own pizzeria at 76-15 101 Ave. in Ozone Park, before moving to 137-01 Cross Bay Blvd.

Ozone Park Civic Association President Howard Kamph said he has fond memories of the restaurant, located a short walk away from his house.

“My nights out was going to his restaurant,” Kamph said. “He gave me the biggest portion for the price.”

Kamph said Calore was engaged in the community, and reached out to anybody who needed help.

“Anybody who came to him, he donated to them,” he said.

Business owners thankful that DOT listened

From the Forum:

The city Department of Transportation last week told The Forum that, after a lengthy study, the agency has decided to scale back the pedestrian plaza in Ozone Park near City Line.

For months, the DOT and civic leaders have heard myriad complaints from small business owners in the area regarding the open space on 101st Avenue at Drew Street and Liberty Avenue. Many have said the plaza has greatly affected their bottom lines.

According to a DOT spokesperson, the department will pull back a portion of the plaza on 101st Avenue to restore metered parking spaces along the block. The change is expected to take place before the end of the year, weather permitting.

A small step, but one the business owners undoubtedly hope will lead to a restoration of clientele.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Katz taps Liu's former aide for cushy spot

From the Forum:

Queens Borough President Melinda Katz last week announced the appointment of Sharon Lee as communications director.

Immediately prior to joining Borough President Katz’s office, Lee, a borough resident, served as campaign manager for Assemblyman Ron Kim’s (D-Flushing) successful re-election bid. Previously, Lee served as senior advisor and press secretary to former Comptroller and City Councilman John Liu.

Oh, Sharon Lee? You mean this Sharon Lee?
A key aide to embattled city Comptroller John Liu may have talked her way into criminal charges yesterday by admitting under oath that she offered to illegally fund donations to his mayoral campaign.

Sharon Lee testified that she phoned about five friends and relatives and offered to reimburse their contributions to help meet a $1 million fund-raising goal while working as a Liu campaign volunteer in July 2011.

Asked if she knew what she was doing was wrong, Lee answered: “I didn’t realize how bad it was, truth be told.”

After getting scolded by Manhattan federal Judge Richard Sullivan for repeatedly not answering the question, she finally said: “Yes.”

Glad to see we're maintaining a long-standing Borough Hall dirty hack hiring tradition.

Dirty developer's deals detailed

From the Daily News:

A developer connected to a 1,700-unit luxury complex on the Queens waterfront in the final stages of city approval allegedly bribed representatives of a Greek bank to get his way in the past, court documents show.

Efstathios (Steve) Valiotis, a principal of Alma Realty, the developer behind the Astoria Cove project, was spotlighted in a 1995 federal court decision for bribing a Greek intermediary in order to secure a multimillion-dollar loan for his separate cargo vessel business.

According to evidence introduced to the court, Valiotis and another director of shipping company Levant Lines paid a bribe to a third party after a meeting with an official of the Greece-based Banque Franco-Hellenic de Commerce in order to secure a $5.7 million loan from the bank in 1990.

Levant, which operated a cargo vessel service between the United States and the Mediterranean, had failed in loan requests to more than 10 banks, to acquire two aging ships, the Spirit and the Pride, court documents note.

The shipper eventually acquired the loan it sought, and a judge noted there was “convincing evidence” that a bribe by Valiotis helped make it possible, though Valiotis was not a party to the lawsuit and the court did not explicitly adjudicate his role in the matter.

The lawsuit was between the bank and another investor who claimed he did not have to repay a related loan because it was secured through illicit means.

The council approved Astoria Cove yesterday, and the city is kicking in $5M to build the developer a ferry dock...

Goodbye, Queens Plaza Clock Tower?

From the Queens Courier:

Those looking to preserve the Long Island City Clock Tower may be running out of time.

Queens Plaza Park Development LLC bought the tower, which was the former Bank of Manhattan building, and an adjoining vacant site for a combined $77 million, according to property records filed with the city on Saturday.

Community members are hoping to landmark the building on 29-27 Queens Plaza North to avoid its development, according to recently published reports, after LIC Clock Tower LLC bought the tower in May for $15 million, city records show.

In just a few months, the price of the tower doubled and sold for $30.9 million. The buyer also purchased the vacant land at 29-37 41st Ave. for $46.3 million.

The vacant site has more than 205,000 buildable square feet. Queens-based developer Steve Cheung purchased the vacant site for $8 million in 2011, city records show, and last year he filed with the Department of Buildings for a 30-story residential tower with 242 units at the vacant site.

Plans for the Clock Tower site have yet to be filed with the Buildings Department.

There goes the green: unhappy ending

And because every blade of grass in the borough must be paved over, I present this latest crappification from Maspeth.
Yes, that pile of dung on the right (four 3-family homes) replaced an empty corner lot. Well, empty doesn't accurately describe it - it was actually a beautiful collection of trees.
Now it's just crap. I called this one back in 2007...

A warning from Landmark West!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Fish going belly-up at Willow Lake

From the Daily News:

Dozens of fish are turning up dead in a Queens lake — and no one is sure why.

Carp have been seen floating on the shores of Willow Lake, a part of Flushing Meadows Corona Park that the city is turning into a wild preserve.

More than a dozen dead fish were seen floating or washed up on shore during a visit to the lake on Friday.

A large number were spotted on the western edge near the walking bridge. More washed up by the bird blind on the eastern side of the lake.

The city has been transforming Willow Lake in Flushing Meadows Corona Park into a wildlife preserve with hiking trails. But in recent weeks scores of dead fish have been spotted floating along the lake's edge. No one is sure why but some speculate herbicides might be the cause.

But there were signs of life near the dead fish and tires floating in the water. Other fish were seen jumping in the air.

An eyesore for almost 20 years

I stumbled upon this house after making a wrong turn in Brooklyn this weekend. I just had to find out what the story was here.

You'd think after 19 years, the city would do something with this property instead of allowing it to bring down the area. The rest of the homes here are well-maintained and it's ridiculous that the neighbors have had to put up with this eyesore for so long, especially since ACRIS records reveal that there are outstanding property taxes due.

Kim calls out shady towing company

From the Daily News:

Assemblyman Ron Kim said drivers have been victimized at the parking lot on 156th & Northern Boulevard in Flushing by a predatory tow truck company. The lawmaker has been working with the Legal Aid Society and the city Department of Consumer Affairs to document the firm’s bad practices and educate the public.

Queens drivers should be on the lookout for tow trucks from a Brooklyn company waiting to rip them off, officials said Monday.

The city is trying to rescind the license of All About Automotive II Inc. after determining it has been overcharging victims and demanding drivers pay cash to get their cars back, Assemblyman Ron Kim (D-Flushing) said.

“We’ve had dozens of people complain at the lot on 156th and Northern Boulevard, and we suspect hundreds have been victimized by AAA’s predatory towing,” said Kim, who is working with the Legal Aid Society and the city Department of Consumer Affairs to document the firm’s bad practices. “We want to make sure the public understands their rights when parking at these lots and report to us they’ve been victimized.”

The company refused comment when reached at its Brooklyn offices.

Paul Vallone's year in review

Front page story: Vallone brings back historic budget. Actually, the council's rules were changed, so everyone got the same-sized slice of budget pie with adjustments based on poverty level. Vallone's district is one of the wealthier ones, so he actually got a smaller amount of funding than many other council members.
At least he included something useful in this taxpayer funded waste of paper. The rest can be used as a bird cage liner.
(Click for larger version)

Now here is what he's really been up to: Sponsoring a handful of meaningless resolutions and not getting any of his 9 introductions passed. What a legislator!

Brinckerhoff Cemetery sidewalk is a mess

Following your recent post on Brinckerhoff Cemetery in Fresh Meadows, I've decided to pay a visit to the site.

As you can see, it's in decrepit condition. The sidewalk is cracked by the tree roots and the wooden picket fence guarding the property has a huge gap.

Behind the cemetery, the home of F. Rich is being enlarged by architect Albert Aronov, AIA. We should keep an eye on the backyard to make sure that the property line is respected.

As long as Linda's Cai Trading Company owns the property, it should keep the site in good condition. I've taken the liberty of making a 311 service request for the broken sidewalk under the number C1-1-1038148511. Will the city respond to this service request or dismiss it? You can follow the status of this request via the 311 website. If enough of your readers make the complaint, perhaps eventually Ms. Cai will give up her fight to develop this cemetery.

-Fresh Meadows resident

It's more effective to pressure the legislators to have the city obtain the property than to call in 311 complaints about a sidewalk, but that's just my opinion. - QC

Monday, November 24, 2014

Gluttons for punishment

There are some people who are outraged at this photo, which is of prosecutors posing for a photo at a holiday party. How dare they display gang signs?

Perhaps the outrage should instead be redirected toward the mayor, speaker, city council and president, who are hell bent on making it easier for Trinitarios, Latin Kings and MS-13 to stay in the country.

From the Observer:
Local Councilman Daniel Dromm was the first elected official to arrive, and spoke to the crowd in Spanish. He praised the president’s action on the issue over the resistance of the Republican-controlled Congress, but said that it was necessary to provide full amnesty to all of the foreign nationals living in the country.

And who's paying? We are, of course:
Millions of undocumented immigrants will be able to apply for deportation relief and work authorization in just a matter of months under executive action announced by President Obama this week. In many cases, that relief will also come in the form of other benefits, like health care and educational opportunities -- but the extent of those benefits will depend largely on the state in which they live.

Precise details of the new program for undocumented parents of U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents are still unclear. But it will most likely be modeled after the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which has garnered around nearly 600,000 beneficiaries since its launch two years ago and will be expanded to cover even more young immigrants under Obama’s executive action. On the whole, DACA recipients have been able to earn more money, drive, open bank accounts, build credit and go to college, but their experiences vary greatly by state. That will likely also be the case for the new group of protected immigrants.

...a handful of states -- California, New York, Massachusetts, Washington and Minnesota -- offer coverage for low-income deferred-action immigrants through state-based funding.

And if you can't get your kid into his or her preferred school, this may be why:
New York has sent a warning to its schools: Expect more illegal immigrants.

The city Department of Education has told principals it plans this year to enroll 2,350 migrant children from Central America who crossed into the United States unaccompanied — with many more to come.

“It is expected that children will continue to arrive in large numbers in the coming years,” says a DOE memo to principals obtained by The Post.

The notice comes as the city rolls out a $50 million red carpet for 1,662 minors who crossed the border this summer to escape ­violence and gangs in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.

In the “surge,” 5,000 of the 63,000 migrant kids caught trying to cross US borders — or who turned themselves in for refuge — have been released to relatives or other “sponsors” in New York state.
Most live with other illegal immigrants.

In the city, Queens has received the highest number of unaccompanied children, 732, followed by Brooklyn (434), The Bronx (433), Manhattan (63) and Staten Island (less than 50), federal reports show.

The recent arrivals join an estimated 350,000 children of illegal immigrants already in New York state — about 12 percent of the public-school population.

The DOE refused to discuss the exact numbers of recently enrolled children, claiming it would violate student privacy. Officials ignored questions about the cost.
Congratulations, suckers! Now please go back to being outraged by guys in suits making funny hand gestures. But before you do, read this Op-Ed, which pretty much sums it up:
Illegal immigration is not up for ethical debate. It shows contempt for the law. It insults legal immigrants, including yours truly. It enables feeble politicians to score empty political points. It also emotionally blackmails American taxpayers into laying out the red carpet and footing the bill for any old riffraff.

America was built on the backs of legal immigrants who endured a strict federal vetting process, resisted welfare, and toiled to assimilate. The illegal human rivers pouring into the open southern border — 290,000 in the past year alone to join the 11 million already here — are burdensome, walking diseases in comparison. Crafty and dishonest, too, for knowing how to play the system and exploit legal loopholes. Most do not show up for their court date after being released on their own recognizance, while adults brazenly enroll as kids in public schools, somehow knowing school districts are federally mandated not to verify their ages.

Criminal aliens are America’s sordid secret. The Federal Bureau of Investigation has records on more than five million of them, while murderers, sex fiends, drug dealers, and kidnappers were among the 2,200 prisoners released from immigration jails last year in a federal cost-cutting measure.

Illegal immigration is a migraine, and its minions should be required to pay an amnesty loan if granted a reprieve. A sealed border, a constitutional amendment denying citizenship to anchor babies, and a national commitment to upholding the law would also go a long way in relieving the preposterous problem.

Sad Japanese-style home in Kew Gardens now for sale

From DNA Info:

A Japanese-style house in Kew Gardens, which the Department of Buildings declared unsafe in 2009, has been listed for sale on Craigslist for $1,200,000.

The house, at 84-62 Beverly Rd., was built in the 1920s and was initially a neighborhood attraction. But neighbors said the owners moved out more than a decade ago, allowing the house to decay.

An inspector who came to examine the house in September 2009 — after the agency received complaints that it was unguarded — found the front door and garage door left open, according to records provided by the Department of Buildings.

The agency then issued two unsafe building violations, which remain open.

In January 2010, the DOB obtained a court order to seal the building by pouring concrete into its windows in order to make it safe, the agency said.

But the ad on Craigslist describes the 3-story property as a “huge beautiful 1 family house.”

"Tons of options," the listing says.

The ad also notes that the 3,600 square-foot house features a garage and a driveway. The lot, where the house sits, is 7,000 square feet, the ad says.

A man whose phone is listed in the ad declined to answer questions on Friday.

They just never learn

From WPIX:

More than 30 people have been displaced after a 4-alarm fire ripped through several homes in Brooklyn.

Firefighters were called to 85 Hemlock St. around 2:30 p.m., Saturday afternoon in the Cypress Hills section of the borough.

The fire started on the first floor of the home but quickly spread to three other homes.

So was there an illegal conversion present? But of course! It was even previously vacated for such and received several violations for failing to correct the condition.

If Parkside isn't Dems' preferred vendor, then who is?

From Progress Queens:

A spokesman for the New York State Democratic Party has denied allegations that candidates for the State Senate were forced to use a preferred campaign vendor, according to a report by Zach Fink from NY1 and published on the Time Warner Cable News Web site, State of Politics.

In news reports, the preferred campaign vendor has been identified to be The Parkside Group.

A recent report by Ross Barkan, published in The New York Observer, noted how the New York Democratic Senate Campaign Committee, or DSCC, headed by State Senator Michael Gianaris (D-Queens), required that "DSCC-backed candidates must use Parkside to print their campaign mail, an arrangement some Democrats have long bristled at."

The report in The New York Observer was followed by a report in Progress Queens showing how almost a decade ago, the Brooklyn District Attorney's Office filed charges against the former chair of the Brooklyn Democratic Party for coercing judicial candidates to use a preferred campaign vendor. Queens District Attorney Richard Brown was unable to comment on the Progress Queens report.

District Attorneys in New York City run for public office with the consent of the respective county committee of the Democratic Party, the dominant political party. Government reform activists have long claimed that district attorneys avoid investigating political corruption, because, in order to first run for office and to keep running for re-election, the district attorneys must campaign with the approval of the chair of their respective Democratic Party. In other parts of New York state, the chair of the dominant political party will have a say in determining which candidate for the respective, local district attorney's office will receive institutional campaign support. In Queens, conflicts of interest for the District Attorney's Office may also arise through the various campaign consultants and lobbyists employed by other politicians, who share relationships with the chair of the Queens County Democratic Party, some government reform activists say. The chair of the Queens Democratic Party is U.S. Representative Joseph Crowley (D-Queens). In the past, Rep. Crowley has also employed the services of Parkside.

Workers' wages being stolen

From the Daily News:

New York is a great city, but as Marco Lino can attest, a workers’ paradise it is not.

For four years, Lino, 53, worked 13 hours a day, six days a week stocking shelves at Rosemary’s Farm, a small grocery store in Flushing. His weekly salary was $350, that is, about $4.65 an hour. In October 2008 he was fired after protesting to his boss about his meager — and illegal — salary and filed a complaint at the Department of Labor. Six years have passed, and Lino is still waiting for justice.

“I am tired of waiting,” he said.

“(Wage theft) has become a crime wave here in New York State,” said Joann Lum, executive director of the National Mobilization Against SweatShops.

“Under Gov. Cuomo, the DOL is not enforcing labor laws. We need a DOL that does its job, not one that promotes wage-theft crimes. If the DOL will not do this, we will sue them.”

Currently, over $1 billion in wages are stolen from New York workers in low-wage industries each year.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

With development looming, Flushing River may get cleaned

From the Queens Courier:

Councilman Peter Koo and Commissioner Emily Lloyd of the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) met deep underground on Tuesday to tour the Flushing Bay Retention Facility, which serves as a storage area for raw sewage and is meant to keep the sewage from entering Flushing Creek, but can only hold so much. The small body of water receives more human waste per year than any other dumping site, according to city records, leading Koo to call the creek “shit’s creek.”

“Cleaning up this waterway has long been a top environmental priority of mine,” Koo said. “There is a popular phrase used by many when trying to explain they are in a bad situation: being up shit’s creek without a paddle. With the amount of raw sewage that still enters it, the phrase might as well be changed to, up Flushing Creek without a paddle.”

With Mayor Bill de Blasio’s announcement that calls for residential development along the Flushing waterfront, Koo and advocacy groups like Friends of Flushing Creek are hoping the spotlight will help spur the city and state to take action and reduce the amount of sewage going into the creek.

“Now that the city has officially announced they are looking to develop the land along the waterfront, this is a great opportunity to shine a brighter light on this longstanding problem,” Koo said. “I will continue my work with DEP, the Friends of Flushing Creek, and every stakeholder in the community so that we can ultimately see the day where people can safely swim in these waters again.”

“Do you know how much human waste that is?” said Alex Rosa, a consultant for Friends of Flushing Creek, which is advocating for the city and state to reduce the amount of filth going into the Flushing bodies of water. “I’ve never calculated how many people you need to make that much waste. But I’m sure it’s a whole lot.”

No, you just need Claire Shulman! And what's with Koo saying the word "shit"? This is conduct unbecoming a council member, no?

Exxon off the hook - for now

From the Daily News:

A federal judge is not convinced that the methane gas leaking from waste oil underneath a Queens building is a ticking time bomb ready to explode.

Brooklyn Judge Pamela Chen rejected a demand by Phoenix Beverage — which operates a large warehouse in Long Island City — to order Exxon Mobil to launch an immediate cleanup.

“There's not enough evidence that there is an imminent threat of an explosion,” Chen said Wednesday. “I, of course, hope it does not come to pass.”

...Chen sided with the Exxon Mobil lawyers who argued that the situation is being monitored and the risk of an explosion is merely speculation. Both sides have been litigating the case for years and Chen will ultimately have to decide who is responsible for cleaning up the boatloads of underground waste oil.

Briarwood subway entrance construction almost done

From DNA Info:

Construction work on the new main entrance to the Briarwood-Van Wyck F train station, which was initially scheduled to be completed last fall, is almost finished, the state Department of Transportation said.

Diane Park, a spokeswoman for the state DOT, would not, however, say when the entrance will reopen, leaving skeptical residents to wonder whether crews will meet the projected deadline after a delay of more than a year.

Park said that the project requires the cooperation of various state and local agencies, as well as Con Edison, and has to be approved by the MTA. But she noted that “things are progressing" and “we are in the inspection phase."

Photos provided by the state DOT show a complete entrance, but Park said the entryway is in the middle of "an active construction zone." The reopening, she said, will require installation of lighting, building a concrete walkway and other landscaping improvements, she said.

Special court for sex trafficking victims

From the NY Times:

In the hallway, they speak mostly in Mandarin, in accents from across China. Some speak Korean. They meet with their court-appointed lawyers in the hallway, often helped by an interpreter born in Fujian Province and hired by the city courts. A snazzy dresser, the interpreter bounces from one defendant to the next; he has found himself adding terms to his usual vocabulary: prostitution (“maiyin”), illegal massage (“feifa anmo”), unlicensed massage (“wuzheng anmo”).

This is the Human Trafficking Intervention Court in Queens, which is marking its 10th anniversary next month, and which serves as a model for a statewide 11-court program that began last year. The intention is to change the legal conversation around the multibillion-dollar sex trade by redefining the women in it as victims instead of criminals. Most are offered a deal: Take part in a set number of counseling sessions, usually five or six, and the charges will be dismissed and the record sealed.

After 13 months, the five New York City courts are still a work in progress, their success tracked more in individual stories than statistics.

“This court is not devised to solve the problems of trafficking,” Judge Serita said of the program, “but to address one of the unfortunate byproducts, which is the arrest of these defendants on prostitution charges.”

All defendants in the specialized courts are presumed to be victims at risk, the first of many assumptions made, in part, because of the silence surrounding sex trafficking. That silence also makes it tougher to shift social mores. Not only do the police and the justice system still treat prostitution as a crime, but the women themselves, most undocumented, often don’t define themselves as having been trafficked — whether out of fear, shame or choice.

The Queens court has changed significantly in the decade since Judge Fernando M. Camacho founded it. Dismayed at seeing the same American-born teenage girls reappearing in his court for prostitution, Judge Camacho said he wanted to break the cycle by offering them alternatives to a criminal record or incarceration.

Now, a majority of the defendants who sit in the worn walnut benches are either Latin American women or, even more often, older, undocumented immigrants from Asia, ranging in age from 30 to 50. According to statistics Judge Serita’s court has kept, Asian defendants represented 27 percent of the cases in 2010. In 2014, they have made up 40 percent.

Untouchables get props from NY1

From NY1:

"Some of them are abandoned," said Sergeant Alexander Cedillo of the New York City Police Department. "Some of them have no plates."

Cedillo has made quality-of-life issues a priority since joining the 103rd Precinct's Hillside Conditions team a few months ago.

"This was one of the big locations that we had numerous complaints, numerous complaints, was that vacant lot right there. There was about, I would say 25 to 30 vehicles," Cedillo said. "We took care of it. There was about two or three cars that were actually stolen."

The officers also do nightly checks of areas that often have drug problems, prostitution and squatters. They have also been helping community activist Pamela Hazel in her efforts to clean up some of the garbage-filled lots and abandoned property. She started calling the officers "the untouchables" a few months ago, based on the old crime-fighting police show.

"Cedillo and his team, they have been so instrumental in helping us and doing the things that other people couldn't do for us," Hazel said.

The officers are also working with some of the business owners to make sure they are keeping their property clean, and that appears to be working in some problem areas.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Schneiderman fines dirty developer

From the Queens Courier:

The developer of a Rego Park building was forced to pay a combined $100,000 in restitution and back wages after ignoring legal obligations for receiving tax benefits, according to Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.

The state settled with Tuhsur Development, LLC after the firm violated mandates of the 421-a program, which offers tax incentives from the city when constructing buildings.

In exchange for benefits under 421-a, landlords and developers must add properties to the rent regulation system, and building workers must receive prevailing wages.

However, Tuhsur neglected to pay prevailing wages to workers at 63-36 99th St. in Rego Park. The firm was forced to pay nearly $10,000 in back wages to three building service workers and $90,000 in restitution to the city.

Developers work on introducing "microsuites"

From DNA Info:

Through a friend of a friend, David Abramovich found a sunny room in a five-bedroom apartment in an industrial building near the Barclays Center when he relocated here from San Francisco this summer for his job at crowdfunding start-up Indiegogo.

The 33-year-old tech worker pays $895 a month. That's nearly 60 percent less than the average price for a Brooklyn studio, according to real estate firm MNS.

Altogether the Prospect Heights home has six roommates, a steady stream of guests crashing on the couch and the occasional small concert staged in the living room of the fourth floor walk-up that still has manufacturing companies on lower floors.

"A lot of people don't want to have five roommates, especially in their late 20s and early 30s, and once in a while, it's like, 'Yo, there are a lot of dishes in the sink,'" Abramovich said. "But it turns out I like to live with a lot of people. And price is important to me."

Some developers are now trying to create their own versions of these types of housing set-ups — albeit up-to-code (which Abramovich's apartment is not) — with sleeker amenities and even social directors like on cruise ships.

Recognizing the thriving underground housing market for single young professionals, whether out of college for a year or even a decade, who subdivide apartments — sometimes illegally — companies are eyeing a model based on "micro-suites," where up to three tenants, each with their own small room, share a kitchen and bathroom.

Each tenant will be on the lease — something that is rare in the underground housing market. Having only one or two tenants on a lease can be problematic if there are problems with the apartment but is a boon for those who don't have credit scores needed to rent their own apartments.

And here's an article from Crains about modular construction.

Subways will stay crowded

From NBC:

If you take the subway to get to work, you’ve noticed it: the MTA says subways are more crowded than they’ve ever been, and even as a fare hike is being proposed, the MTA says there’s nothing they can do about the overstuffed trains. Andrew Siff explains why.

Because the DeBlasio administration is all about the little people

From DNA Info:

Since he started his $205,180-a-year job, Silver has had sitdowns with Bette Midler, Dr. Ruth Westheimer, Donald Trump, billionaire real estate investor Douglas Durst and the wife of a Russian oligarch to discuss their pet park projects, according to his daily schedules.

But Silver's schedules show that he held scores of meetings with heads of powerful nonprofits, wealthy donors, lobbyists and celebrities while he only had five meetings with local community groups.

Do you believe police stats?

From the Daily News:

The city experienced the lowest crime rate in August, September and October since at least 1994, new statistics show.

Total crime, which focuses on the so-called seven majors — murder, rape, robbery, felony assault, burglary, grand larceny and grand larceny auto — is down 7.9% for the last three months as compared to the same period last year, data reveal.

Police Commissioner Bill Bratton said the record lows are proof that both his liberal and conservative critics need to back off.

“The reality of this city is that the city is getting safer and it’s getting safer because the cops are focusing on what they do and by and large are not paying attention to the left or to the right, which is appropriate,” Bratton said.

The way I look at it, if the police are refusing to take reports (and we all know they are), you can't claim that crime is down. Not to mention how much unreported crime there is because the victim is fearful or what have you.

Is the city safer than it was during the crack epidemic? Yes.

Is it safer than it was 10 years ago? I doubt it.