Saturday, January 31, 2015

From bad to just as bad?

From the Daily News:

If Frank Seddio of the Brooklyn machine, Joe Crowley of the Queens machine, Keith Wright of Manhattan’s barely-a-machine and Carl Heastie of the Bronx machine succeed in installing Heastie as speaker without so much as a public look-see, New Yorkers may one day look back on Silver’s reign as a golden age of good government.

The four overlords are driving Democratic Assembly members from each of their boroughs into voting for Heastie, never mind that, in deposing Silver, everyone in Albany swore that the Corruption Caucus was dead.

[Carl Heastie] happens to be a featured name in the files of the Moreland Commission to Investigate Public Corruption, for having failed to properly account for $25,000 in campaign spending.

He also claimed almost $21,000 from the Assembly’s notoriously lax travel expense account during just the first six months of 2014 — more than any other member — while otherwise keeping a low profile in Albany.

As for the progressive paragon’s Assembly record, Heastie sponsored a 2013 bill that would have allowed check-cashing outlets to make loans to low-income New Yorkers at interest rates up to 200%. The check cashers had dumped $10,000 into his party accounts.

One of Heastie’s rivals for the speakership, Rochester-area Assemblyman Joe Morelle, raised an alarm about the “rush to judgment” while meeting with this board Thursday. Give him credit for taking a grilling, including on his loyalist first response to Silver’s arrest: “We have every confidence that the speaker is going to fill his role with distinction.”

Baldeo keeps evading sentencing

From The Forum:

Albert Baldeo, the Ozone Park attorney, activist and candidate for public office who was convicted in federal court in August of seven counts of obstructing justice in a campaign-related case, was supposed to have been sentenced on Wednesday, Jan. 21, at the Daniel Patrick Moynihan Federal Courthouse in Manhattan.

However, as a Jan. 25 letter from Preet Bharara, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, to presiding Judge Paul Crotty detailed, the sentencing has been delayed numerous times for what Bharara has deemed suspicious health-related circumstances.

“The Government is concerned both that (a) the defendant is faking or exaggerating his alleged medical problems in order to delay sentencing and/or support an argument at sentencing for leniency, and (b) the defendant may be seeking to hide his location, so to as complicate or defeat the ability of Pretrial Services to supervise him, and the ability of law enforcement to ensure that he does not seek to flee prior to sentencing,” Bharara stated in the missive, which he indicated was sent to Crotty “to provide an update to the Court regarding the continued self-hospitalization of the defendant…and to ask the Court to order certain measures in light of recent developments.”

Is Skelos next?

From NBC:

Federal investigators are looking into state Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos' sources of income, according to people familiar with the investigation.

U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara is taking a hard look at Skelos’ ties to the real estate industry, among other areas of inquiry, the sources told NBC 4 New York.

Skelos, the highest ranking Republican in state government, has not been charged with any wrongdoing.

Skelos is a lawyer and works as counsel at Ruskin, Moscou & Faltischek in Uniondale. A spokeswoman and a partner at the firm, as well as an outside spokeswoman for the firm, did not answer questions as to whether the firm has received subpoenas for information about Skelos’s legal work and income.

The firm is not a target in the probe, a source said.

Former electeds should be worried as well.

The cost of snow

From PIX11:

A new study says the cost of removing snow in New York City is about $1.8 million per inch.

City Comptroller Scott Stringer report Wednesday that analyzed more than 10 years of snowstorms.

It does not include the storm that hit the city earlier this week.

The most expensive years for removing snow were winters — like fiscal year 2011 and 2014 — in which the city received the most snow.

Pols pushing to legalize zoning for basement apartments

From the Times Ledger:

The idea to legalize basement apartments in the borough and the rest of the city is not sitting well with several civic and community associations in the borough.

Those who oppose the idea pointed out that fires in these units had proven to be deadly, and that increasing the capacity in single- and two-family districts overburden the schools, the sewage system and garbage collections.

The Bayside Hills Civic Association is one of the associations fighting to prevent widespread basement living from becoming a reality. The group disagrees with new zoning regulations being proposed to legalize these apartments.

“A basement is no place for someone to live,” said Michael Feiner, president of the civic group. “Zoning regulations are in place for a reason.” Yolanda Gallagher, of the Fresh Meadows Homeoweners Civic Association, said her organization also opposes these conversions.

“It’s just very unhealthy to live in a basement,” Gallagher said. “This is just a bad idea, a very bad idea.”

She noted that basement apartments do not have good ventilation, and most of them have very small windows. “It’s just dangerous to live in them,” she said.

The Queens Civic Congress, an umbrella organization representing more than 100 civic and condo groups in the borough, is against the legalization of basements “due to life safety, fire, congestion, school overcrowding, crime and overuse of city infrastructure, such as water treatment, sewage and transportation facilities.”

The organizations added, “We believe that most small homes with basements were not built for occupancy below grade.”

In a letter sent by Richard Hellenbrecht, the former president of the Queens Civic Congress, to de Blasio, he noted “legalization of illegal residences would encourage creation of new basements, cellar apartments leading to significant overdevelopment.”

But Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras (D-East Elmhurst), agrees with Katz’s and de Blasio’s plan to legalize basements and cellars.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Hotel or homeless shelter?

From the Daily News:

A developer's plan to build a towering hotel in a rundown section of Far Rockaway has leaders on the Queens peninsula scratching their heads.

“We are a beach community, and I am interested in people coming here,” said City Councilman Donovan Richards (D-Queens). “But I’m anxious to find out what this proposal is about.”

The proposed nine-story building at Foam Place would loom high above other structures in the low-rise Mott Ave. commercial district, officials said.

Rockaway has a large number of halfway houses, drug rehab centers, nursing homes and homeless shelters. Officials worry a failed hotel could turn into another homeless shelter.

Wellington Chen nominated for LPC Commissioner

From the Queens Chronicle:

Longtime Flushing activist and planner Wellington Chen has been nominated by Mayor di Blasio to serve on the 11-person Landmarks Preservation Commission as a lay member.

His nomination will now by vetted by the city and voted on by the City Council.

Chen has been executive director of the Chinatown Partnership Local Development Corp. in Manhattan for nine years.

The Flushing resident previously served as a planning advocate for TDC Center, a Flushing developer. The firm, in conjunction with others, is now creating the mixed-use Flushing Commons, at the former site of Municipal Parking Lot 1.

Chen considers himself a preservationist and cites his involvement in trying to get the RKO Keith’s Theatre landmarked and saving Flushing Town Hall from neglect.

Chen also points to his involvement in saving Flushing Town Hall, which had been leased and was rapidly deteriorating. He called a meeting with the leasee and eventually the property reverted to the city.

CB 7 District Manager Marilyn Bitterman, who worked with Chen for years, said the mayor couldn’t have made a better choice in selecting him.

Rosemary Vietor, president of the Bowne House Historical Society, said Chen’s background “is perfect for this.” She pointed to his involvement in restoring Flushing Town Hall, adding, “I am very enthusiastic about him.”

But not everyone in Flushing is a fan of Chen. Paul Graziano, a historic preservationist and zoning consultant, said he has “great reservations” about the nomination. “I am very concerned because he is not a preservationist, but a longtime fixture in development issues.”

Jerry Rotondi, a member of the Committee to Save the Keith’s, said he doesn’t think Chen will be an asset on the LPC.

“He is too politically connected and I don’t see him as a champion for Queens because he’s on the side of too many developers,” Rotondi added.

Julissa wants 24/7 connection at Willets Point

From DNA Info:

The Long Island Rail Road should operate 24/7 at Willets Point as part of the governor's proposed AirTrain to LaGuardia Airport to help workers get to their jobs and minimize congestion, according to a letter sent by Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras.

Ferreras, who represents the area and was an integral part of the plan to redevelop Willets Point, sent Gov. Andrew Cuomo a note about his AirTrain plan with suggestions that can help the community.

Those suggestions include renovation of the bridge that connects the 7 train and the LIRR as well as 24-hour service at the LIRR station, which is on the Port Washington branch.

Hiram's gal to drop lawsuit

From the Daily News:

The Queens beauty slashed in the face by ex-state Sen. Hiram Monserrate is moving on — she has a new baby and is poised to drop her lawsuit against the city claiming cops made her falsely accuse the disgraced politician attacked her in a jealous rage.

Karla Giraldo appeared in Brooklyn Federal Court after parting ways with the lawyer who filed the bizarre suit in 2010.

Giraldo was dumped by the lawyer who is owed $73,500, and complained to a Brooklyn judge that no one else wants to take the case.

City not properly tracking illegal conversions

From Brooklyn Daily:

A high-tech system the city uses to clamp down on residents who illegally rent their apartments over the internet should be used to put an end to the illegally dicing up of homes in Bay Ridge and Dyker Heights, according to local officials.

A sophisticated data-crunching and workflow platform called Palantir is helping the Mayor’s Office of Special Enforcement crack down on peer-to-peer apartment sharing services like Airbnb at an unprecedented rate, according to a WNYC report. But the city isn’t using the software to combat illegal home conversions — and local leaders say that needs to change.

“If they have a program that tracks the illegal hotels, then it should be easy enough to track illegal conversions, whether through the Mayor’s Office of Special Enforcement or through the Department of Buildings,” said Councilman Vincent Gentile (D–Bay Ridge). “We reached out to the Mayor’s Office, and so far no one could give us an answer as to why they’re not using this for illegal conversions.”

Landlords in Bay Ridge, Bensonhurst, and Dyker Heights are violating building and fire codes by subdividing small homes into multi-family apartments at an alarming rate, locals said. The practice creates dangerous living conditions and strains city services.

New Yorkers registered upwards of 100,000 complaints to the Department of Buildings through 311 in 2014 — 1,100 about illegal hotels and 26,000 for illegal home conversions, city data shows. A spokesman could not provide the number of inspectors the department employs, but reports put the figure around 200.

Software like Palantir helps agencies make the most of their staff, an official said.

“Thirty percent more work with the same exact staff,” the acting director of the Mayor’s Office of Special Enforcement, Elan Parra, told WYNC. “I guess maybe you could call it ‘Moneyball’ for quality-of-life violations.”

But Mayor’s Office of Special Enforcement focuses on quality of life issues — not buildings issues, a spokeswoman said.

Buildings/illegal conversion issues ARE quality of life issues. HELLO?

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Julissa misses the old Corona

From the NY Times:

[Ms. Gutierrez] has noticed [Corona] is more crowded. What was once an empty lot across from her family home now holds a 10-unit apartment building, she said, making parking more difficult.

City Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras, who lived in Corona until moving to East Elmhurst a year and a half ago, said overdevelopment is one of the neighborhood’s biggest challenges. In recent years, many two-family homes have been torn down and replaced with larger, multifamily buildings. The resulting influx of residents has not only affected parking, but has also brought in more traffic and strained city services, Councilwoman Ferreras said.

“It’s hard seeing these beautiful, large colonial homes disappearing,” she said. “As a resident, it makes me sad, because I like the feel of old Corona.”

And whose fault is it that this happened? Your old boss - Hiram, and you.

Should property owners be consulted before tree planting?

From the Times Ledger:

In November, state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) stood in front of his office with some homeowners asking the city to let them decide if they want a new tree planted close to their properties.

They claimed problems with trees include breaking sewer lines, pushing up sidewalks and the non-removal of stumps.

According to Avella, a letter he received from the city agency noted, “Just as residents do not determine the placement of city infrastructure such as traffic lights, bus stops or fire hydrants, they are unable to refuse the planting of a city tree in the public right-of-way.”

The lawmaker fired back, saying that “when a city refuses to hear the voices of its residents, something is profoundly wrong.”

The legislator noted that he is drafting legislation “to ensure that we are able to maintain the trees that we have before subjecting homeowners and residents to the liabilities that come with planting new ones.”

Avella said he had a meeting with officials at Parks, but they told him that the policy would not be changed.

Are the times changing for the better in Jamaica?

From the Queens Courier:

In another big sign that Jamaica is changing, the more than three-decade-old Jamaica Colosseum Mall known for its hip-hop clothing stores and huge jewelry exchange is being marketed for sale.

The mall, which was a Macy’s until 1978, has been listed by Epic Commercial Realty for $45 million.

The site at 89-02 165th St. has nearly 50,000 square feet of space and up to 250,000 square feet of buildable potential for a commercial or residential development, New York YIMBY reported.

Dirty Dilan

From the Daily News:

Ex-City Councilman Erik Dilan was slapped with a $9000 fine for taking an affordable apartment for which he didn’t qualify from a crooked developer with business before the New York City Council.

Dilan’s sweet deal was first revealed by the Daily News in 2011, and the Conflicts of Interest Board launched a probe.

Dilan (D-Brooklyn) — now a state Assemblyman — broke city conflicts of interest law by failing to disclose his financial relationship with his landlord, developer Sergio Benitez, when he voted to approve three of Benitez’s projects before the City Council, the board found.

Then, he asked for and got a bigger apartment from Benitez — even though he made tens of thousands of dollars too much to legally qualify for it.

The two-bedroom apartment on Decatur St. in Bushwick that Dilan picked out in 2008 was restricted to families making less than $114,000 a year, but he was allowed to move in even though he and his wife made $174,205.

The conflicts board found Dilan was illegally using his position for personal gain.

Hotels a-boomin' all over

From Crains:

Taking a page from the film Field of Dreams, developers have been lining the city's outer boroughs with a growing number of independent and brand-name hotels, convinced that if they build them, guests will come.

So far, they have: Outer-borough occupancy rates between January and November 2014 ran as high as 81%, according to STR, a hospitality-industry research firm. Most hotel markets operate at 65% occupancy, while Manhattan is "pushing" 83%, said Sean Hennessey, chief executive of Lodging Advisors, a Manhattan-headquartered consulting firm.

"We're in a huge tourism boom, and that echoes across the boroughs," said Rob MacKay, director of the Queens Tourism Council, which is a part of the Queens Economic Development Corp.

With a record number of tourists visiting the city—and an estimated 22.5 million hotel guests among the nearly 56 million visitors to the city last year, according to NYC & Company—hoteliers have turned to the outer boroughs to snag out-of-towners who can't score a reservation in Manhattan's tight hotel market or think it is too pricey.

Over the next 36 months, more than 100 hotels are slated to open across Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island and the Bronx. Still, the future of outer-borough lodging is anything but certain.

"The unanswered question is how deep is the market for people who dream of coming to New York and couldn't because there weren't enough rooms available or in their price points," said Mr. Hennessey.

Moreover, the expansion of the city's hotel sector beyond Manhattan could be threatened by a City Council push for changes that would end hotels' right to open in industrial and manufacturing zones without council approval. Council leaders argue that industrial and manufacturing jobs in Brooklyn and Queens, which represent the strongest outer-borough markets for lodgings, pay workers nearly twice what the hotel, retail and restaurant industries do.

Sorry, but I don't think that having 20% or more of your rooms available on an average night is a good thing for one's business. Hotels in Queens become homeless shelters. And a dirty secret that no one wants to discuss is that even the ones still operating as hotels house the homeless in their empty rooms at night. Who in the borough is saying, "You know what our neighborhood could really use? A hotel!"

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Hundreds more gentrifiers will soon be on their way to Ridgewood

From Crains:

A developer that has long focused on emerging markets in Manhattan and the outer boroughs released renderings Tuesday of its latest endeavor—the largest residential project underway in Ridgewood, Queens. The project, being built by Essex Capital, will be tailored to creative-class New Yorkers priced out of Brooklyn and Manhattan.

The firm has already begun construction on the 90-unit building at 16-14 and 16-26 Madison St., between Myrtle and Wyckoff avenues. Construction will run through summer of 2016.

The property will include a WeWork-style business center designed for renters who work from home (and are largely associated with trendy neighborhoods like Williamsburg), but Essex Capital founder Mitchell Rutter does not want to jump on the Queens-is-the-new-Brooklyn bandwagon.

"We view Ridgewood as having an separate identity and a separate desirability from whatever places like Bushwick are offering," said Mr. Rutter, a 1996 Crain’s 40 Under 40.

Though it is undeniably undergoing gentrification, Ridgewood has a more established working-class residential and retail community than do the gritty former industrial areas of Williamsburg and northern Bushwick that have seen a wave of new residential development. In addition, large swaths of Ridgewood are landmarked, meaning opportunities for new development are limited.

I guess we've given up on keeping artists in the neighborhoods they originally moved to and now have to build more affordable housing (which will be unaffordable as soon as it is completed) to attract them to other areas.

Silver gone as speaker by Monday

From CBS News:

Embattled New York State Assembly speaker Sheldon Silver has agreed to step down by Monday of next week, in the wake of federal corruption charges.

As CBS2’s Jessica Schneider reported, Democratic leaders met for two days, and finally decided Tuesday night to force the powerful assembly speaker to step down.

“I don’t know what decision my colleagues made,” Silver said. “I made a decision that I will not hinder this process.”

Assembly Majority Leader Joseph Morelle (D-Rochester) announced the move Tuesday. Morelle will serve as acting speaker until a new one is elected by Feb. 10.

Sources told CBS2 Silver will step down from the speaker post, but will remain a member of the Assembly.

As majority leader, the No. 2 post in the chamber, Morelle will be the interim speaker from the moment Silver resigns until the lawmakers formally convene again Monday. At that point, they plan to amend their rules to keep him as interim speaker until Feb. 10. That’s intended to give any other member a chance to express interest and explain how he or she would lead, said Assemblyman Thomas Abinanti.

Settlement calls for squatter to leave house

From the Daily News:

The cab driver allegedly squatting in a Bronx woman’s building must find a new home, according to a deal the two parties hashed out at Bronx Housing Court on Monday.

Clark Eli-Selassie, who has been staying at the Kingsbridge home owned by Maria Diaz since at least May, has until March 26 to move out, the settlement mandates.

Diaz, 62, who had been locked out of the dilapidated Sedgwick Ave. building, now has the new key and can enter the second floor, basement and attic, according to the court ruling.

City restores Brooklyn theater for $94M

Max Tourney for Curbed
From Curbed:

Two years ago to the day that the city embarked on a $94 million restoration of the Loew's Kings Theatre in Flatbush, the institution reopened its doors and reclaimed its standing as Brooklyn's largest theater. The restoration was painstaking: when it began in 2013, the theater had already been sitting vacant for four decades, a time during which looters plundered everything that wasn't bolted down (and most of the things that were), and nature found its way into the neglected structure.

Meanwhile, in Flushing...

Chocolate maker gets big grant to stay in Rockaway

From the Rockaway Times:

After receiving a $13.2 million grant from the City, Madelaine Chocolate Company is here to stay.

The 66-year-old chocolate company, which has been operating in Rockaway for 48 years and serving as one of the peninsula’s largest employers, will stay in Rockaway due to a tremendous grant provided through the City’s Hurricane Sandy Business Loan and Grant Program. The large award was made possible after the Mayor de Blasio administration made changes to the HSBLGP over the summer.

Hurricane Sandy devastated the company, leaving it with $50 million in losses from damaged equipment, property and a $10 million loss in inventory alone. Madelaine Chocolate officially opened with limited capability in October 2013. In February 2014, it was announced that the building at 9603 Beach Channel Drive was up for sale and the company may be moving, since it didn’t have sufficient funds to recover.

The grant will allow Madelaine Chocolate to remain in Rockaway.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Is someone looking at the nephew?

Ed Braunstein previously worked in Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver's Manhattan district office.

From the Daily News:

In an only-in-Albany moment, Brian Meara, a veteran lobbyist and longtime friend of Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, was publicly revealed to be cooperating in Bharara’s case against the speaker a day after his nephew, Assemblyman Edward Braunstein of Queens, attended a news conference of Assembly Democrats supporting Silver.

Braunstein attended a nearly two-hour meeting of Assembly Democratic members hours after Silver's arrest. Afterward, several dozen of Silver's members came out for a press conference to say they support keeping Silver as speaker.

That widespread support began to erode over the weekend, leading to Silver to cut a deal in which he will turn over control for now of the chamber to five veteran Assembly members as he fights the criminal charges against him.

Meanwhile, Meara, who has been close with Silver for four decades, is cooperating with U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara's case against Silver.has been cooperating as a “fact witness” as part of U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara's investigation, sources told The News.

Cuomo in a heap of trouble

From the Daily News:

U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara’s warning to “stay tuned” for more corruption arrests after he bagged Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver has sent a big chill through the state Capitol.

“I think everyone is waiting for the next shoe to drop,” said one legislative official.

Added former Assemblyman Richard Brodsky, a Westchester Democrat: “When a prosecutor says stay tuned, I think he means it.”

The big fish reportedly being looked at is Gov. Cuomo.

Bharara has been probing whether the governor and his top aides improperly interfered with the Moreland anti-corruption commission Cuomo established.

He is also probing the circumstances behind Cuomo’s decision to abruptly end the commission after the Legislature agreed to some ethics reforms.

Bharara took control of the commission’s files and promised to follow up on any unresolved leads.

From the NY Post:

“Andrew’s been working the phones day and night, staying up into the early morning hours, making hundreds of calls in one day trying to find out what the hell is going on,’’ a source close to the governor said.

Cuomo, who has retained a private lawyer, has enlisted several former federal and state-level prosecutors with ties to Bharara’s office including Steve Cohen, his former chief-of-staff, in an effort to find out Bharara’s next move, the sources said.

“He’s freaked-out, furious, and obsessed with fear, it’s like a nightmare for him. The whole narrative he laid out for his second term has been derailed by Bharara,’’ said a source in regular contact with the governor.

“The narrative has been taken over by Bharara and it’s all about Albany’s corruption, not Cuomo and his program for the state,’’ the source said.

State political circles are abuzz with speculation that Bharara is seeking to determine if Cuomo had any knowledge of Silver’s allegedly illegal outside income last spring when he agreed with Silver and Senate Republican Leader Dean Skelos to fold the commission.

3 Dems to take over for Silver

From the NY Times:

Sheldon Silver, the longtime speaker of the New York State Assembly, agreed on Sunday to relinquish his duties on a temporary basis as he fights federal corruption charges.

His decision came amid mounting pressure from his fellow Democrats in the Assembly, who worried that the criminal charges would impair his ability to carry out the duties of one of the most powerful positions in the state’s government.

In an unusual arrangement, Mr. Silver would not quit his post. Instead, he would temporarily delegate his duties as speaker to a group of senior Assembly members.

Under the tentative plan developed on Sunday, the Assembly majority leader, Joseph D. Morelle of the Rochester area, and the chairman of the powerful Ways and Means Committee, Herman D. Farrell Jr., Democrat of Manhattan, would assume responsibility for budget negotiations.

Three other senior Democratic members — Carl E. Heastie of the Bronx, Catherine T. Nolan of Queens and Joseph R. Lentol of Brooklyn — will round out the leadership team.

Cutting costs on yet-to-be-built library

From LIC Post:

Construction of the library, which will be built at Center Blvd/48th Ave (next to Gantry Plaza State Park) was expected to begin in 2013. However, there have been several delays due to the inability of the city to find a contractor willing to build it for the $28.6 million that had been allocated.

The bids came in ranging from $33 million to $42 million and the city had to do some value engineering in order to find a construction company that could build it within budget.

Officials said that they had to get rid of some of the more elaborate features to reduce the cost by about $5 million. They included replacing the aluminum exterior facade with cement and glass; forgoing custom interior fixtures; and going without the geothermal well system.

However, the library will feature a rooftop terrace with panoramic views of the city skyline, a garden, a gallery, a conference room, a computer center and youth and teen spaces. The 21,500 square-foot facility will be largely a glass and cement structure.

Take a look at the renderings. Why all the wasted space?

Of course, a developer is involved in the Albany scandal

From the NY Times:

Unlike many other New York developers, Leonard Litwin, a shy, soft-spoken, compact billionaire, has never sought the limelight.

Yet Mr. Litwin and his company, Glenwood Management, have always stood out, for the number of luxury residential towers they have added to Manhattan’s skyline and the exceptionally generous donations Glenwood has made to state lawmakers.

Now, in his 101st year, Mr. Litwin is embroiled in a very public corruption scandal that is rocking the real estate industry and the state’s political establishment.

When Sheldon Silver, the speaker of the New York State Assembly, was arrested on federal charges on Thursday, the criminal complaint against him included accusations that he used his powerful position to reap millions of dollars in graft by steering real estate developers, among others, to law firms that gave him a slice of their fees.

Glenwood is one of the two developers cited but not named in the complaint, according to people familiar with the matter.

At Mr. Silver’s request, the complaint says, Glenwood, which owns 26 buildings with 8,700 apartments in the city, including three in Mr. Silver’s district, and the second developer hired a small law firm, Goldberg & Iryami, to handle some of its property tax work.

Though not named, Leonard Litwin's company, Glenwood Management, is cited as one of the real estate firms in the case against Sheldon Silver.

In exchange, prosecutors say, Mr. Silver got a portion of the fees that Glenwood and the second developer, whose identity remains unknown, paid the firm — a total of $700,000.

Glenwood was unaware of the arrangement until 2012, the complaint says. And Mr. Silver, a Manhattan Democrat, never reported the income as required on his annual financial disclosure forms, even as he continued to deal with legislation of interest to Glenwood and other developers, including rent regulations and real estate tax breaks.

While neither of the developers is accused of wrongdoing, Glenwood’s part in the case has stunned Mr. Litwin’s colleagues in the real estate industry, where he is a revered figure who, friends say, has always sought to avoid controversy. He and the company declined to comment for this article.

From Capital New York:

Leonard Litwin, who appears to be the developer at the center of a criminal complaint against Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, gave nearly $3.6 million to candidates and state-level political parties in the last election cycle, more than any other donor, according to a Capital analysis of campaign finance filings.

Litwin was followed on the list of top donors by the health care union 1199 SEIU, hedge fund manager James Simons, New York State United Teachers (which also managed an independent expenditure committee that spent millions of dollars on Senate races) and the New York State Trial Lawyers Association.

Litwin and 26 limited liability companies owned by Glenwood Management gave $2.07 million to statewide candidates and parties in the four years preceding December 2014 and $1.52 million to state legislative candidates in the two years preceding that month, the analysis by Capital showed.

These donations included $1 million to Governor Andrew Cuomo, $450,000 to the New York State Democratic Committee and $19,700 to Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul. This makes Litwin the largest donor to Cuomo. He was also the largest donor to Attorney General Eric Schneiderman ($240,000) and Comptroller Tom DiNapoli ($180,000).

He gave to each of Albany’s five legislative conferences: Senate Republicans ($1.01 million), the Independent Democratic Conference ($195,300), Assembly Democrats ($179,500), Senate Democrats ($133,000) and Assembly Republicans ($3,150). Senator Jeff Klein received $80,000 from Litwin’s holdings, more than any other individual legislator. In all, 89 state-level campaign committees received money from an LLC owned by Glenwood.

The total does not include amounts Litwin sent to other groups’ political action committees or independent expenditure committees. Glenwood’s LLCs gave $162,200 to Jobs for New York and $100,000 to the New York League of Conservation Voters, both of which supported Senate Republicans. This also does not include donations to local candidates. Litwin was notably the largest donor to Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino in the last year of his 2013 re-election campaign.

1199 SEIU gave the second most money to candidates and parties, contributing $2.43 million. The Working Families Party received $801,350 from 1199, the largest share of its donations. Seven Senate Republicans received money from the union, which pledged last June to give no money to Senate Republicans.

Monday, January 26, 2015

NYPD tickets passengers escaping bum stink

A familiar scene, riders wait on the platform at the first Jamaica Center Station anticipating seats. Then bam, in and out; like a dusty blue bell. Riders trying to escape danger to their health from bums; they passed through the train cars in search of clean air.

But as they bolted through the train cars, they encountered police officers. Each rider was extracted from the train by the police; and given a ticket.

The police officers are quite aware of the routine; so they were armed and ready with their ticket booklet. Ironically, passing through the cars is illegal; it is meant to keep riders safe.

However, it is legal for riders to inhale germs. A deliberate effort to make people sick. Anyone has a better logical conclusion?

Train cars # 9230 & 9231 & 9232 were emitting a strong scent, so naturally riders tried to escape. Meanwhile, riders had to stand in packed cars while the bums occupied most of the seats. Not only with their bodies, but with their sickening scent. - Pamela Hazel


Another great job Pamela, local elected officials should turn a percentage of their overblown salaries to you.

Boy, does this city have everything ass backwards, low-life folks and elected officials get away with everything and upstanding citizens get a big F*CK YOU up the ass without lube.

Here in Jamaica, we cannot get proper enforcement of dangerous illegal truck driving on residential streets, we cannot get a crackdown on illegal conversions, we cannot get enforcement on illegal curb cuts, we cannot get any help on the major garbage problem and the homeless have turned our subway cars and Jamaica Center Station into a roach motel, but NYPD takes the time to give tickets to law abiding citizens, including elderly woman and people going to work who are just trying to escape the deadly fumes and bugs from the bottom barrel cave dwellers, people who made bad career choices in their lives.

Majorly F*CKED UP NYPD and normally I side with you, not this time.

And where the hell are you Katz, Comrie, Miller, Wills and the other assorted do nothing political welfare cases. Oh, wait, Wills is prepping for his eventual trial on corruption charges and Comrie is just being Comrie, which is smiling for a camera while bullshit flies out of the side of his mouth and collecting tax payers money. - Joe Moretti

Can you imagine if we had a whole borough full of Pamelas and Joes? Things would sure be a lot different.

Jamaica is focus of DeBlasio's affordable housing in Queens

From the Queens Courier:

In the de Blasio Administration’s latest effort to make a dent in the city’s housing crisis, the Department of Housing Preservation and Development is calling on developers to build housing on about 175 sites across the city.

The agency released a list of vacant, city-owned properties for the construction of affordable housing across the five boroughs last week, including 17 sites in Jamaica, which are the only Queens locations.

The agency is collecting applications from developers until Feb. 19 for the program.

Addabbo suddenly grows a pair

From the Queens Chronicle:

Mayor de Blasio had better keep in mind that cooperation with his fellow elected officials is a two-way street, state Sen. Joe Addabbo Jr. (D-Howard Beach) warned in an interview last week with the Queens Chronicle.

Explicitly saying that he wanted to see his warning in print, Addabbo said the mayor’s insistence on establishing large homeless shelters where they’re not wanted in his district and his decision to stop running a ferry from Rockaway to Manhattan last October could come back to haunt him.

The city recently opened a homeless shelter in Rockaway and is planning to establish another one in Glendale, both in Addabbo’s district and both despite community opposition — though the lawmaker said the city may be starting to consider alternate uses for the latter site.

The mayor’s going to come to Albany at some point and ask for something,” Addabbo said. “It would be hard for me to embrace the mayor or accommodate his requests at this time. It’s very hard for me to try to work with this administration unless things change.”

He made the comments during a wide-ranging talk on topics from here to Albany.

But Addabbo also said he’s getting the first indications from the city that it may reconsider its plans to turn an old factory on Cooper Avenue in Glendale into a shelter for hundreds of homeless people. The senator has proposed using the site, once any toxins there are cleaned up, to house seniors or veterans instead.

Jackson Heights knows what it doesn't want at Bruson Building

From the Queens Chronicle:

Residents eager to help decide the fate of the reconstructed Bruson Building crowded into the Jewish Center of Jackson Heights Thursday evening, causing the town hall’s organizers to add extra chairs and bump out the back wall to make room.

The meeting, spearheaded by state Sen. Jose Peralta (D-East Elmhurst), was organized to gather community input regarding the fate of the Bruson Building, which burned down in a five-alarm fire last April, displacing tenants such as Plaza College, which has a new campus in Forest Hills, Armondo’s Italian Restaurant, which will reopen in February on Northern Boulevard and Frank’s Pharmacy, which reopened three blocks away in October.

Suggestions from residents, many of which were written on pieces of paper and read by Peralta, included a Jewish deli, a bakery, an American-style restaurant, a medical facility, an interfaith center, a bookstore, a Hallmark store, a pediatric urgent care center, health facility, a Housing Works Thrift Shop and a Wells Fargo bank.

Many were averse to the idea of more 99-cent stores, or more ethnic eateries or shops. Many were also against a fast food chain coming into the building.

A popular idea, which was brought up again and again throughout the meeting, was to have a Trader Joe’s. But, some residents were concerned the grocery store would bring more people into the already-congested neighborhood.

Resident Jimmy Wohl brought up another suggestion that drew oohs and aahs from the crowd: A co-working space to attract area entrepreneurs and thought-leaders, similar to what exist throughout Manhattan and other parts of Western Queens.

Eviction notices "for demolition" issued at the LIC clock tower

From WPIX:

The building has been along Queens Plaza North since 1927.

The subway grew around it. Now buildings rise around it, more tall everyday.

Tenants are receiving eviction notices.

No formal plans have been filed with the NYC Department of Buildings. Last year, neighbors requested the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission consider the location.

It is under active review. It needs to be “calendared” before any protection is put in place.

The development company listed as the owner did not respond to questions about plans for the building and the lot.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Cathy Nolan, Madame Speaker?

From the NY Observer:

Top officials with the Queens Democratic Party are calling Assembly members in Queens, Manhattan and Nassau County about the possibility of supporting Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan, a Queens Democrat, for speaker if Mr. Silver resigns or is forced out of office after his arrest on federal corruption charges, sources say.

Ms. Nolan, first elected in 1984, chairs the powerful Committee on Education.

“Queens is calling around, taking the temperature. They’re pushing Nolan,” said an Albany Democratic source. “They are floating her in case Shelly is no longer speaker so there’s a quick transfer of power and the body can move on.”

Sources say the Queens machine’s three top deputies–Michael Reich, Frank Bolz and Gerard Sweeney–are calling legislators to figure out what kind of support exists for a potential Nolan candidacy. Ms. Nolan, who did not immediately return a request for comment, defended Mr. Silver in the Daily News.

“They feel he’s taken a lot of criticisms for reflecting the views of a hundred very disparate people,” Ms. Nolan said. “It’s not an easy thing to do and he has done it very well.”

Strange Katzspeak

From the Queens Tribune:

The BP is also proposing to create specific zoning designations for areas that are primarily defined by single-family row houses. She said she is asking for this because Queens is a Borough defined by neighborhoods and they must work to protect identities that each area has. Maspeth and Ridgewood are specific examples mentioned by Katz that would fall under this proposal.

Actually, much of the single-family rowhouses in question that were to be affected by this legislation are in Middle Village, Rego Park, Flushing, Bayside and elsewhere. Most of the rowhouses in Ridgewood are *at least* 2-family in nature, with the vast majority being 3-family or more.

Plus, a bajillion Ridgewood houses are now landmarked. So what the hell is she talking about?

Watch out for whitefish!

"Hi Crappie I got a real shitty story for you.

Last night I attended a meeting at Flushing Town Hall about Flushing Bay presented by the Empire Dragon Boat Club and Riverkeeper.

We learned that 1.2 billion gallons of untreated sewage enters the bay each year mainly from three discharge pipes and that there are also four pipes that empty into Flushing Creek. We also learned that sewage tank that was built in Flushing Meadow Park that was supposed to cure the problem only reduces about 56% CSO's from just one pipe. Also one of the pipes is from the Bowery Bay Sewage Treatment plant in Astoria.

They said every time it rains more than 1/10 of an inch CSO's go right into the bay. Add this to Willet's Point where there never were any sewers and other contaminates like oil etc got right into the water. Then there's La Guardia Airport that has had a couple fuel spills and all the de-icing fluid that is used has gone into the bay.There is also industrial pollution from cement companies that wash out the trucks and it all goes into the water.

Members of the Dragon boat teams are really concerned because they practice in the bay. One guy said that the joke on the team is that if you get sick once you are good for the rest of the season. Others said they throw their clothes away rather than washing them. They joked about seeing jelly fish but it was condoms floating by.

This is another example of piss poor city planning. With all the building of high density housing the problem will only get worse. NYC is violating the Clean Water Act and Riverkeeper says they sued the city back in 1992 but these things take a long time in the courts.

There was only one Asian guy there from a Dragon boat team and he claimed that fish and crabs from the bay are being sold on Main St.Fish and crabs are not considered safe to eat according to Riverkeeper."

- Anonymous

MTA fails to protect newest cars

"The R188 cars on the 7 are being ruined by scratchiti. This photo is an example. Other, older cars have been protected by a sacrificial protective film. The MTA dropped the ball on this one." - Anonymous

Coalition wants to end 421-a loophole

From Capital New York:

A coalition of tenant advocates plan to call for the end of a major tax abatement program that is both coveted by developers and seen as an important piece of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s affordable housing plan.

The groups do not want the program, known as 421-a, to be renewed after its expiration in June because they believe it is an old and inefficient way to provide affordable housing. It made sense when it was created in the 1970s, the groups said, because New York City’s population was shrinking and needed all the new construction that could be mustered. Today, they claim, it’s just a perk for moguls building apartments for millionaires and billionaires.

“This luxury housing produced through 421-a fuels gentrification and displacement,” the groups say in an attack piece that will be circulated next week. “It inflates real-estate prices and creates market pressure that leads to higher rents and pushes out residents in neighborhoods like downtown Brooklyn, western Queens and Harlem, where many new luxury condos have been built.”

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Maybe the code should be changed

From WPIX:

Crews were still on the scene Friday morning putting out hot spots. The biggest obstacle to controlling the blaze was the building itself, made of lightweight wood construction.

“You have a lot of open voids, open spaces, fire spreading quickly through the walls and floors, leading to collapses. In fact, a complex built here by the same company of the same materials burnt to the ground in 2000, while still under construction,” Fire Chief Thomas Jacobson said.

The chief added that the inexpensive material, which is now commonly used in new construction, is up to code in New Jersey.

How many of these firetraps are in Queens?

Katz thinks basement apartments are great

From the Times Ledger:

Two days before she was to give her first State of the Borough address Thursday, Melinda Katz said Queens needs more schools, more affordable housing and more quality jobs, among other priorities, while calling on the city to consider creating new zoning districts for basement apartments.

“Illegal conversions lack safety,” Katz said at a news briefing in Borough Hall Tuesday. “The problem is that we have no more housing and we need to live, and we need to make these converted spaces safe.”

She said Queens has a 46 percent of foreign-born population, and in this growing borough, “we can’t build fast enough, although this is a good problem to have as long as we can catch up.”

The borough president will ask the city Department of Buildings to look at the possibility of legalizing more basement apartments, “creating new areas for conversions.”

We're number 1!

From the Queens Chronicle:

A new report by the Migration Policy Institute found that New York City is home to more than a half-million undocumented immigrants, with the largest concentration of that population living in Queens.

“I think that Queens, to many people, symbolizes opportunity,” said Congresswoman Grace Meng (D-Bayside), who was unsurprised to learn of the figure. She cited the large amount of small businesses in Queens, many of them immigrant-owned, as a potential reason.

State Sen. Jose Peralta (D-East Elmhurst) echoed Meng’s sentiments.

“Queens is the center of this promise of the American Dream,” he said. “It’s a wonderful mix of diversity. In my district, you can practically walk into another country as you move between different enclaves.”

Peralta sees the new data as an opportunity, highlighting the potential these immigrants represent if they can be properly naturalized and brought into the taxpaying workforce.

According to the MPI report, Queens is home to an estimated 246,000 of the city’s 643,000 illegal immigrants, with 91,000 of them eligible for President Obama’s deferred deportation programs, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals and the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents.

Chop, chop!

From the Queens Courier:

“X” marks the spot to chop.

The Parks Department has come into Howard Beach for a second round of tree removal.

This is a continuation of the previous tree removal process that took place in September. All Sandy-stricken trees that the Parks Department feels are too far gone and not likely to survive will be cut down and replaced, according to the agency. There is still not an exact number for how many trees will be cut as the agency is still surveying the area.

“The trees marked with an ‘X’ are indeed part of the Sandy removal and replacement efforts, and are scheduled to be removed and replaced over the next year,” a Parks spokeswomen said. “The total number of trees is still evolving and continues to do so as we mark additional trees.”

The Parks Department is still in the process of replanting the ones they took down in September.

City sues owner of illegal hotel

From the Epoch Times:

The online listing boasted apartments with the amenities of a midtown Manhattan hotel: coffee in the lobby, luggage storage, a 15-minute walk to Times Square.

But the arrangement was illegal, the city said in a lawsuit this week accusing the building’s owners and operators of turning an apartment house into a hotel. The suit — one of three the city has filed amid a short-term rental boom in recent years — was filed Wednesday, a day after a City Council hearing spotlighted concerns about homes being rented out like hotel rooms.

“Where the health and safety of New Yorkers and people visiting our city are put in jeopardy, we vigorously pursue enforcement,” Elan Parra, the acting director of the Mayor’s Office of Special Enforcement, said in a statement Thursday. The office fields illegal-hotel complaints, which rose 62 percent last year to 1,150.

The building’s management company, identified in the suit as U.S. Suite Management LLC and also known as Metro Apartments, said no one was immediately available Thursday to comment. A call to a man identified in court papers as a principal in the company wasn’t immediately returned.

Friday, January 23, 2015

What about a hospital for Queens?

From Capital New York:

State officials are considering using hundreds of millions of dollars to construct a new hospital in Brooklyn that could replace the perennially troubled Brookdale Hospital, according to a person familiar with conversations about the funding.

The money would come from a $700 million pot set aside in Governor Andrew Cuomo's budget proposal for capital construction in east or central Brooklyn.

A new hospital would make sense for Brooklyn, said Stephen Berger, an investment banker who chaired the New York State Commission on Health Care Facilities in the 21st Century, a panel formed in 2005 to study the changing state of New York's health care delivery system.

The commission predicted that some New York City hospitals would close in future years because of high overhead and infrastructure costs and changing national trends in health care delivery.

Berger has previously called for closing some Brooklyn hospitals and consolidating others, but a new hospital in the borough would be a good idea, provided that it differed from the 20th century notion of a hospital.

"It can’t just be a 12-story building with lots of beds," Berger said. "Rather, it must be the center of a health network that provides for emergency and acute care while also embracing an ambulatory care model that focuses on managing population health and keeping people from having to use the acute care portion of the building."

Landlords may foot bill for tenant displacement

From DNA Info:

Landlords of unsafe buildings could be forced to pay for displaced tenants' temporary housing while their apartments are being fixed under proposed legislation in the City Council.

Councilwoman Margaret Chin is renewing her push for the bill, which was introduced last year, in the hopes of making it easier for New Yorkers to find temporary housing after their homes are vacated by the city for falling into disrepair.

Chin hopes that shifting the burden of temporary housing onto landlords will prevent the Department of Housing Preservation and Development from passing stringent new rules governing applications for temporary housing, which she said would make it more difficult for tenants to apply and receive help.

Chin's measure would allow the city to require landlords to keep 10 percent of the building's rent roll in escrow, and the city would be able to seize five years' worth of that money if the building is vacated because of safety violations. HPD would then use that money to cover the cost of temporarily housing the displaced tenants.

Film industry unhappy with being asked to disclose info

From AMNY:

Moviemakers and the de Blasio administration gave thumbs down Wednesday to a City Council bill meant to let the public know more about the productions that take over their neighborhoods.

The legislation, sponsored by Councilman Stephen Levin (D-Brooklyn), would require the city to post monthly reports of information such as where a film shoot occurred, how long the filming lasted, whether the public lost on-street parking and, if so, how much.

Under the current system, there is no central place for the public to find such information, meaning critics must rely on anecdotes when complaining their neighborhoods are overburdened by productions.

A more controversial provision of the legislation seeks more from the industry such as how many people the industry employs, their salaries, and other demographic information about workers like age, race, sex and borough of residence.

"It's very small-minded. No offense. But it's really about local people's parking concerns," Stuart Match Suna, president of Silvercup Studios in Long Island City, said in testimony at the end of the nearly three-hour-long hearing.

Officials from the Mayor's Office of Media and Entertainment said the disclosure requirements were particularly onerous by requiring producers to disclosure information they consider proprietary, like their costs of doing business. Such red tape, the officials said, could encourage makers of television shows, movies and commercials to go elsewhere.

Supporters of the bill want a tool to show when neighborhoods are chosen for film shoots, reflecting a common complaint that some locations favored by filmmakers face far more frequent such disruption than others. Advocates also say the data disclosure would help show how beneficial the industry is or isn't to the city.

They would be SO offended at having to provide this info that they would give up their million dollar tax breaks and instead film in Toronto? Really?

Facility for juvenile delinquents not welcome in S.Ozone Park

From the Queens Chronicle:

What was billed as a way for South Ozone Park residents to get answers from officials seeking to operate a residence for juvenile delinquents in the community quickly dissolved into more than 100 people shouting with frustration on Tuesday.

“We don’t want it here,” several residents yelled at a meeting of the South Ozone Park Civic Association West. “Put it somewhere else.”

The city Administration for Children’s Services leased a property at 133-23 127 St. to house 18 criminal offenders between the ages of 14 and 17. The program, entitled “Close to Home,” was passed as part of the 2012 state budget and seeks to hold juvenile criminals in residences closer to where they live, rather than in upstate prison facilities.

But several of the residents blasted officials from ACS and the organization that will oversee the teens or youths in the property —Episcopal Social Services — for no prior notice about the new residence, its proximity to two other similar shelters and a lack of answers.

Somehow, this is not surprising.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Shelly's chickens coming home to roost

From the Daily News:

In a move bound to rock the state Capitol, longtime Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver reportedly will be arrested Thursday on corruption charges.

The arrest of Silver, who has been one of most powerful men in Albany for more than two decades, was reported overnight by The New York Times.

While it’s unclear exactly what charges Silver could be facing, The Times reported they are linked to payments the powerful Manhattan Democrat received from New York City law Goldberg & Iryami that he did not disclose publicly as required by law.

A spokesman for U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara had no comment.

UPDATE: This guy allegedly hid A LOT of money.

Big Flushing River parcel for sale

From Brownstoner Queens:

River Park Place, a waterfront parcel across from Sky View Parc in Flushing, is now up for grabs. New York YIMBY reports that LEV Group is trying to sell the site after purchasing it for $26,000,000 in 2006. Nothing’s built yet, but there are approved plans for a mixed-use development with four towers, 457 apartments, office space and a day care. (There’s potential to build up to a FAR of 4.8 if the developer also decides to include a community facility here.) The current plan was designed by architect Ismael Leyva.

More 4-family craphouses coming to Elmhurst

From DNA Info:

Developers are planning to build multi-family homes on an empty lot near new "luxury" apartments in the former St. John's Hospital, according to papers filed with the Department of Buildings.

The plot of land by Queens Boulevard sold in October 2014 to Hoffman Drive Realty LLC for $2.75 million, according to city records.

Tan Architects — who also built Elm East on Queens Boulevard, and are developing Elm West across the street — filed plans on Jan. 14 to build four homes at 57-34 Hoffman Dr. through 57-28 Hoffman Dr., off 57th Road, according to the Department of Buildings.

The homes will be four-family.

Those plans are awaiting approval by the DOB, according to an employee at Tan Architects who declined to give her name.