Saturday, February 28, 2015

Nolan hires lawyer for Sunnyside Yards project

From the Times Ledger:

As Mayor de Blasio pushes his Sunnyside Yards affordable housing megaproject forward, one elected official is warning that “this is a critical time for our neighborhoods in western Queens.” State Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan (D-Ridgewood) announced Feb. 19 that Ira Greenberg, an attorney from Sunnyside Gardens, has joined her staff to work on transportation, housing and zoning issues related to the threat of over-development in western Queens.

“I look forward to having Ira Greenberg as a part-time counsel in my office as we face the challenges in preserving our communities,” Nolan said. “Keeping our neighborhoods strong in the face of ongoing development pressures is a priority of mine. Having someone with Ira Greenberg’s skills and experience will help my office and our community.”

Nolan said Greenberg would work with agencies, residents and all parties to make sure our local voice is heard. She pointed out Greenberg will be in the office to respond to any new proposals while she is at work in Albany.

Greenberg, who has lived in Sunnyside or Woodside his whole life, and currently lives in Sunnyside Gardens with his wife and two children, is keenly aware of the rising level of anxiety in the neighborhood. One community activist, Patricia Dorfman of the Sunnyside Chamber of Commerce, is planning to make T-shirts that say “Queens Lives Matter” to capture the sense of unease that is coarsing through the neighborhood. “It may seem insensitive to those with life and death grievances, but “Queens Lives Matter’ sums up the problem for me,” Dorfman said.

Greenberg, who was president of the chamber for three years, said, “People are nervous despite the fact that construction would be many years away. One thing I do know is if they spend an exorbitant amount of money just to build a deck over the yards, they’re going to have to get their money back and that means thousands more units in much bigger buildings. And let’s remember, Amtrak and the MTA aren’t just going to give that land away for free.”

City wants large lot developed

From the Observer:

The city is looking for a developer to purchase a fee interest or a long-term lease and then redevelop a seven-acre parcel along the south side of Rockaway Boulevard near John F. Kennedy International Airport.

“This is an ideal location for businesses that benefit from the proximity to JFK International Airport,” according to the New York City Economic Development Corp.‘s recent request for expressions of interest, or RFEI.

The city-owned irregularly-shaped vacant lot is bound to the north by Rockaway Boulevard, to the south by Nassau Expressway and to the west by the Federal Aviation Administration office building, in Springfield Gardens, Queens. The area is home to one of the air cargo industry’s largest concentrations of customs brokers and freight forwarders, other airport-related industrial facilities, residences and retail uses.

Activists don't like Melissa's cop plan

From the Daily News:

Police reform activists slammed on Thursday a push by the City Council and Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito to add 1,000 new cops to the NYPD.

Mark-Viverito has made a headcount hike a top priority and plans to include it in the Council’s budget proposal, though it was left out of Mayor de Blasio’s latest plan.

“We don’t think that the largest police force in the country needs another thousand cops,” said Monica Novoa of the Coalition to End Broken Windows, among groups that rallied outside City Hall Thursday. “We don’t need more officers implementing broken windows policing.”

She said she was puzzled to see Mark-Viverito, a leading progressive, pushing the $90 million a year plan.

Parkway Hospital is now a famous TV location

"Did you happen to notice the veiled reference to Parkway Hospital on Law & Order SVU? The 2/18 episode had to do with sex trafficking and trying to find a girl a pimp was hiding in his secret torture lair.

I couldn't help but laugh when the location was revealed on screen as "Basement of abandoned hospital, 70-33 113th St, Forest Hills, Queens"


DHS at it again in Williamsburg

From Brownstoner:

We found this very interesting rendering on the fence at 14 Olive Street in East Williamsburg that seems to show an old stable and factory building — but it actually appears to be a controversial homeless shelter that will be nine stories tall! (Apologies for the not-very-clear photo — the rendering was posted high up on the fence.)

In front is what looks like a circa-1900 Brooklyn stable building, with a commercial or factory building from the early 20th century or even earlier rising behind it. (We’d say the building in the back almost looks like an Jacobean country house!)

A sign above the quaint stable-style door says “Joseph & Son Restoration Inc.” Our first thought was that a salvage-architectural-design firm was putting up a new commercial building in its working style. Googling revealed Joseph & Son Restoration may be a smoke damage repair service.

The site is currently an empty lot, and the new-building permit is for a nine-story, 30-unit dormitory or hotel. The second floor will house a “community facility” described as an “ambulatory diagnostic and treatment health care facility” on the Schedule A.

We don’t see any specific mention of what might be the smoke restoration business. (The first floor will include a “warehouse,” parking for six cars, a lobby, trash compactor room and janitor’s closet.) We’re wondering, though, if it might employ some formerly homeless people living at the facility? The owner listed on the permit is Jozef Birnbach and the architect of record is Victor Filletti.

There is a Facebook page dedicated to “stopping the proposed huge nine-story homeless shelter at 14 Olive Street,” in its words. The page has not been updated since 2013. A petition from the group raises concerns about a nearby church and school, among other things.

Friday, February 27, 2015

A city run by radicals

From City Journal:

Even by the standards of New York City politics, Mark-Viverito stands on the left-wing fringe. During her first seven years on the council, she stood for, but did not recite, the Pledge of Allegiance. (Her spokesperson claimed that, having grown up in Puerto Rico, Mark-Viverito was “unfamiliar” with the one-sentence pledge.) In 2010, the future speaker circulated a petition calling for the release of Oscar López Rivera, who was convicted of seditious conspiracy for his leadership role in FALN, the Puerto Rican paramilitary group that bombed Fraunces Tavern in lower Manhattan, among other targets, in the 1970s. Mark-Viverito counts among her friends Evo Morales, the socialist president of Bolivia, whom she visited in 2008. She also participated in the protest movement to expel the U.S. Navy from Vieques in Puerto Rico, where she was arrested, along with other prominent progressives such as Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and Al Sharpton. Mark-Viverito’s family owns a 12-acre estate abutting the former Roosevelt Roads Naval Station, from which the Naval Forces Southern Command oversaw the controversial bombing tests. Perhaps the council speaker enjoyed sunbathing in peace.

New York City Democratic politics are largely shaped by organized labor. Almost every liberal leader in New York City—including the mayor and city council speaker—owes some measure of allegiance to the radical-leftist Working Families Party, which grew out of an alliance between labor unions and activist groups, such as the scandal-plagued Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (Acorn), which applied the union-organizing model to public housing complexes. WFP-backed candidates (like Mark-Viverito) are usually endorsed by the city’s most powerful unions: 1199 SEIU, which represents health-care and hospital workers; 32BJ, a union for property-service workers; the Transit Workers Union Local 100; and the United Federation of Teachers, which represents New York City’s public school teachers. Mark-Viverito worked as an organizer for 1199, and the powerful union steered her to move to East Harlem to seek political office there.

The WFP runs pro-labor candidates with the goal of forcing mainstream Democrats and incumbents further left. Though it has national aspirations, the party thrives mainly in New York, where “fusion” voting rules allow candidates to seek office on multiple ballot lines. In 2010, a group of WFP-backed council members, led by Mark-Viverito and Brad Lander—who succeeded de Blasio in his Park Slope district after the future mayor became public advocate—formed the Progressive Caucus. Including Mark-Viverito as speaker, the caucus, with 18 seats, now makes up more than one-third of the 51-member council and dominates the council politically, holding all leadership posts and most key committee chairmanships. Its members are unremittingly left-wing.

The entire thing is worth a read to understand just what a bunch of loons are running city hall these days.

Borough Hall parking garage won't be replaced any time soon

From the Queens Courier:

The city is planning to complete the demolition and replacement of a vital public garage near Queens Borough Hall by 2017 as members of the community complain about traffic nightmares and a constant battle for parking while they wait.

The city’s abrupt decision to close an essential parking garage in a congested area was described as irresponsible and unfair by local politicians back in September. City officials said the decision was made because of impending dangers from the building’s crumbling structure.

While the Department of Transportation attempts to hasten a usually long process, residents and commuters are stuck with heavy traffic and a lack of parking.

The decision to close the 500-space parking garage triggered a slew of community problems, including increased traffic from drivers looking for an extremely limited supply of parking spaces on the streets.

According to city documents, a new garage is set to be completed in 2017 under an “expedited process.”

Avella vs. Weprin on congestion pricing

From the Observer:

Tony Avella wants an apology from Mark Weprin–and he isn’t getting one.

Mr. Avella, a Queens state senator, lashed out today at Mr. Weprin, a Queens councilman from an overlapping northeast Queens district, for defending a new congestion pricing proposal on NY1 by saying that most people who drive for free over East River bridges are “rich.” Mr. Avella demanded an apology and blasted Mr. Weprin on Twitter.

“I demand an apology from Council Member Mark Weprin for his outrageous comment made last night on NY1’s Inside City Hall,” Mr. Avella said in a statement. “In arguing his support of congestion pricing, he stated that the East River bridges are used by ‘rich people’ who can afford to drive.”

“This statement completely ignores the small businesses and commuters of all income levels who utilize these bridges on a daily basis and for whom added tolls would be a hardship,” he added.

Longer flights out of LGA

From Wall Street Journal:

Regulators are considering lifting the decades-old restriction on flights longer than 1,500 miles from New York’s La Guardia Airport, a move that likely would trigger a scramble by airlines to launch lucrative new long-haul flights to California and other destinations in the U.S. West.

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which controls New York City’s three major airports, said it is studying the so-called perimeter rule “to determine whether it remains in the best interest of the region’s air travelers.” The authority said any change would occur only after thorough analysis and consultation “with all interested parties in a public and transparent manner.”

Lifting the rule, formally in place since 1984, would pave the way for new transcontinental flights between La Guardia and cities such as Los Angeles, San Francisco, Las Vegas and Seattle—now served only by New York’s other two major airports, both of which are farther from Manhattan. Because airlines’ slots at New York’s airports are limited, new service would come at the expense of existing flights—almost certainly to smaller cities, industry officials said.

Bayside housekeeper tortured by employers

From the Queens Courier:

A cleaning woman was kidnapped, beaten and burned by the Bayside couple she worked for as they accused her of stealing money and jewels from their home and threatened to kill her if she didn’t return the goods, police said.

The 54-year-old victim’s employers, Devanand and Ambar Lachman, and a third unknown person confronted her inside the couple’s 217th Street residence at about 1 p.m. on Feb 13, claiming that she took their money and jewelry.

In an apparent attempt to make the woman confess, they burned her eyebrows and leg with what was possibly a plumber’s torch, and also beat her repeatedly with the object, police said.

The wife then went to the woman’s Port Washington, Long Island home to search for the stolen goods, but came up empty handed, authorities said. She then returned to her Bayside home and all four went back to the cleaning woman’s Port Washington residence around 9 p.m. They told the cleaning woman to get them the cash and jewelry or they would kill her and then left.

Once they were gone, the cleaning woman called the cops and her employers were arrested at their home.

Devanand Lachman, 32, and Ambar Lachman, 31, have both been charged with felony assault, kidnapping and unlawful imprisonment.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Koo pushing for expanded developer air rights

From Crains:

A group of City Council members sent Mayor Bill de Blasio a letter this week urging him to allow owners of landmarked nonprofits to sell a combined 25 million square feet of their air rights, which would then be used by developers in a few selected areas across the city to build taller buildings.

Democratic Councilmen Peter Koo of Queens and Ritchie Torres and Fernando Cabrera of the Bronx argued in the Feb. 24 letter that such a system would allow 180 landmarked nonprofit institutions to cash in on their full property values. Under current rules, those unused rights can be transferred only to sites close by.

"As you know, many religious and nonprofit institutions housed in individually designated landmarked structures struggle to maintain their buildings while providing services to further their mission," the letter stated. Mr. Koo is chair of the Committee on Landmarks, Public Siting and Maritime Uses and Mr. Torres is deputy leader of the council.

The trio used concepts and numbers contained in a proposal advanced by a group called Iconplans, which is led by former real estate broker and grocery store executive Lawrence Daitch, and real estate investor Michael Lipstein. The duo first floated their idea years ago, during the Bloomberg administration.

Tear Queensbridge down in order to save it?

From LICTalk:

Since Mayor de Blasio fantasizes to the press about covering Sunnyside Yards and building affordable housing on top of it, I have decided to put forth a more pragmatic housing solution that focuses on the original intent of government. Raze Queensbridge and put up brand new towers for both the poor and whomever qualifies for ‘affordable housing’ in NYC in 2015.

Well the Queensbridge Houses, the largest public housing development in North America, are a relic in all respects. The housing is antiquated and dilapidated. It’s completely isolated with a bridge on the south, a river to the west, and warehouses and autobody shops to it’s east and north. Any occasional talk/press about it’s being a vibrant community, is completely negated by the fact that it’s too dangerous to be outside of at night.

But guess what else Queensbridge is? Low density and extremely close to the city. All the buildings are only six stories high, there’s a namesake station on its eastern border that’s two stops from Manhattan, and the Queensboro Plaza station four blocks from there has multiple lines just one stop into Midtown.

So here’s the plan.

1. Knock down the existing 3,000+ units

2. Rezone to allow 30-story buildings = 15,000 units

3. Sell the property to a developer with two stipulations 1) 4,500 units are controlled by NYCHA (the NYC public housing agency). 2) the other 10,500 apartments are market rate but rent-stabilized, just like Linc LIC and Gantry Park Landing are.

3 Brooklynites charged with terror plot

From NBC:

Three Brooklyn men who allegedly plotted to travel to Syria to join ISIS and posted online messages about planting a bomb on Coney Island and shooting police officers were taken into custody during FBI and NYPD terror raids Wednesday, law enforcement officials tell NBC 4 New York.

The men, 24- and 30-year-old Uzbekistan citizens and a 19-year-old Kazakhstan citizen who all lived in Brooklyn, allegedly planned to return to New York to commit a domestic act of terror if they failed to join the group overseas, law enforcement officials said.

The youngest man, identified in a criminal complaint as Akhror Saidakhmetov, allegedly posted on an Uzbek-language website in the last six months that he would buy a machine gun and shoot police officers and FBI agents if his plan to join ISIS was thwarted. In August, 24-year-old suspect Abdurasul Hasanofvich Juraboev posted on the board that he would kill President Obama if ISIS asked him to and asked for help getting weapons, according to the complaint.

He also said he would plant a bomb on Coney Island if the terror group asked, the complaint said.

Getting busted is not really a big deal at DOB

I suggest reading this short Daily News piece about the expediter brothers who were arrested in the DOB bust a little while ago. It's quite interesting how easy it is to be a repeat offender and get away with wrist slaps over a long period of time.

How much will Fresh Direct pay back?

From the Queens Courier:

As online grocer FreshDirect is getting ready to pack up and exit Long Island City, the company is listing its massive Queens waterfront facility for sale.

FreshDirect has hired Cushman & Wakefield to sell its facility at 23-30 Borden Ave. ahead of its move to the South Bronx, which was approved last year.

Based on this article, it seems that Fresh Direct is trying to sell before they even have the rest of their subsidies in hand and opposition growing.

They agreed to stay till 2025, and the NYCIDA is supposed to have been monitoring them every year.

Funny how in 1999 in their application to IDA, they claimed more full time jobs than what's currently listed in their NYS ESD application for the $10 million.

So, will FD have to pay back the subsidies they got to fix up that space?

Fresh Direct Inc. f/k/a Gourmet Holdings, LLC
ID: 92407
Awarding Agency: IDA
Address: 23-30 Borden Avenue
Borough: Queens
Block: 68
Lot: 38
Subsidy Program: Industrial Incentive
Start Date: 12/08/1999
End Date: 06/30/2025
Jobs at the start of the deal: -
Jobs projected: 160
Current jobs FTE: 2650
Part-time permanent jobs: 76
Part-time temp. jobs: 0
Full-time permanent jobs: 2612
Full-time temp. jobs: 0
Contract employees: 0
Construction jobs: 0
Health Benefit full-time?: Y
Health Benefit part-time?: N
Percent of employees living in NYC: 78
Total value of subsidy: $5,214,191
Amount used to date: $3,149,480
Recapture amount: $0
Penalty: 0.00
Data source fiscal year: 2013
Bond Issuance: $69473
Value of Energy Benefit FY 11: $0.00
REAP FY 11: $0.00
CEP FY 11: $0.00

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Cemusa, DSNY not cleaning bus stops

"Hi Crappie, I don't know how it is in other parts of Queens but the bus stops on Grand Ave. in Maspeth have not been cleared since the first snowfall and are all ice making getting on and off the bus very tricky.

You just ran a story about Sen. Avella wants to make the Sanitation responsible for clearing snow from fire hydrants but who is responsible for bus stops? the city or building owners?" - anonymous

The answer:

"CEMUSA is responsible for removing snow at the bus shelters. CEMUSA must remove snow from the end of the bus shelters and three feet around them."

Agencies responsible for snow removal:
• Department of Sanitation – crosswalks, bus stops without shelters, roads, and pedestrian ramps
• Department of Parks – sidewalks and crosswalks near and in parks
• Department of Transportation – bridges and overpasses
• CEMUSA – bus shelters
• MTA – entrances to subways

Subway service on the decline

From the NY Post:

There is a lot of unwanted intimacy underground these days.

Subway riders are being squashed together on increasingly crowded trains, new data revealed Monday — and lack of basic manners getting in and out of cars is contributing to a spike in delays.

Weekday trains experienced overcrowding delays a staggering 14,843 times in December — the most recent month for which data were available.
That is a 113 percent increase from a year earlier.

There's also more trash.

Queens may claim oldest bar in city

From the Daily News:

The oldest gin joint in the city is located in the middle of a quiet Queens neighborhood, according to a borough historian.

Neir’s Tavern in Woodhaven opened in 1829, almost 30 years before the fabled McSorley’s Old Ale House was constructed, said Richard Hourahan of the Queens Historical Society.

Hourahan said he conducted the research with a Neir’s owner, Loycent Gordon, to try to sort out fact from fiction about city bars. They were also exploring whether Neir’s can be included on the National Register of Historic Places.

They needed to take a poll?

From the Daily News:

A whopping 92% of New Yorkers believe state government corruption is a serious problem, according to a Siena College poll released Tuesday.

“People are obviously upset about corruption and think it’s a major problem,” said Siena College pollster Steven Greenberg. “They clearly think we need to change the way the Legislature operates.”

The poll found that 58% of voters support keeping the Legislature part-time as long as lawmakers are forced to publicly reveal all their outside income, where it comes from, and who they work for — compared with 40% who would prefer to create a full-time Legislature where outside employment is banned.

Communities beg Katz for more schools

From the Queens Courier:

It turns out that it’s not just western Queens that has a problem with overcrowded schools.

Community leaders from across the borough urged Borough President Melinda Katz to push for school expansions during a budget meeting on Monday. Katz is in the process of developing the Queens budget for 2016, and she invited the public to comment on what mattered to them and their priorities for 2016.

“We’re experiencing a huge influx of children and we just don’t have the space,” said Karyn Petersen, Community Board 10 district manager. “We could use more schools or expand the schools we have. Both would be preferable.”

Petersen’s wishes were echoed by many others. Across the borough, people are reporting an increase in population and a swelling number of school children. In Woodside and Sunnyside, parents petitioned the city to create a new middle school. In the Jackson Heights area, Giovanna Reid bemoaned the fact that a new high school hadn’t been created in decades.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

RIP Senator Onorato

From the Queens Gazette:

Lifelong Queens resident and former state Senator George Onorato, who served the 12th Senate District in western Queens for over two decades, died on Saturday. He was 86.

Onorato began serving the district, which encompasses Astoria, Long Island City, Sunnyside and parts of Woodside and Maspeth, in 1983 until he announced his retirement in 2010. He was succeeded by state Senator Michael Gianaris, who currently holds the position.

Water main break causes problem in Hamilton Beach

Joe Thompson
From the Queens Courier:

A continuous stream of water has been flowing onto one Hamilton Beach street for over six days due to a water main break, causing flooding along the thoroughfare that turns into sheets of ice when temperatures dip below freezing.

“It’s been six days,” said Roger Gendron, president of the Hamilton Beach Civic Association. “I don’t understand why it is taking so long to fix. In all honesty I just feel like this is the way the city treats Hamilton Beach.”

On Feb. 23, water from the break, which is located directly in the middle of the First Street in Hamilton Beach, was gushing from cracks in the asphalt down toward 104th Street and into a catch basin. But now with temperatures set to plunge well below freezing again Monday night, Gendron is concerned about potentially hazardous conditions if the city doesn’t fix the problem.

The break was first noticed on Feb. 17 by Joe Thompson of the Howard Beach Civilian Observation Patrol during his nightly tour. He observed the water coming out of the ground and turning into ice due to the cold weather that night. He immediately filed a 311 report but the only response from the city, up to this point, was a sanitation truck dispatched on Feb. 18 to salt the road in order to break up some of the ice.

What a tangled webs she weaves

From Brownstoner Queens:

Last week, Council Member Julissa Ferreras delivered her State of the District address — the Council Member represents District 21 which covers Elmhurst, East Elmhurst, Corona and Jackson Heights. part of the Willets Point deal Council Member Ferreras helped negotiated in 2013, there’s a new affordable housing development slated for Corona. The 67-unit rental building will be located 54-25 101st Street and will house low-income seniors. Amenities include a garden, community area and medical referral services, and there will be an early childhood development center on the ground floor. Construction should begin at the end of 2015 and is expected to last 18 months.

As part of the Willets Point deal, 67 units of affordable housing is to be built off-site? Wow, this makes the lengthy delay all worth it. Does this mean that no on-site affordable housing is planned?

The push to establish a Flushing Meadows Corona Park Alliance is also making headway. According to the Council Member, she “plans to hold the Mayor’s Office to its promise of establishing [the alliance] by spring.” An alliance would serve to protect the park’s historical significance and green space and establish more community programming.

Hmmm...the mayor's office is establishing the alliance? I thought the USTA and other stakeholders were. This gets better and better.

Rent stabilized tenants cannot profit from AirBnB

From Crains:

A Manhattan Housing Court judge has ruled that rent-stabilized tenants can’t double-dip — or get a financial break and turn around and make money peddling their pads to tourists on websites such as Airbnb.

The ruling is the first to outright evict a tenant under rent controls without giving him a second chance, said Frank Ricci of the Rent Stabilization Association, which represents more than 25,000 landlords.

And the decision lays down the law for most of the 35,354 Airbnb listings in the city, whose hosts make about $304 million in revenue, said state Sen. Liz Krueger, an opponent of the site.

While Justice Jack Stoller’s decision is not considered case law, it can be cited in rulings to thwart would-be Airbnb users.

Stoller was incensed over a subletting scheme by Hell’s Kitchen tenant Henry Ikezi and ordered him evicted from his discounted two-bedroom penthouse by the end of the month.

What's applies to the legislature should apply to Cuomo

From the Daily News:

State legislators say they are willing to enact a number of new ethics reforms, but they argue Gov. Cuomo should subject himself to more public disclosure as well.

Republican and Democratic legislative sources say that while Cuomo has attacked lawmakers on the issue of outside income, the governor is making as much as $900,000 from HarperCollins for his recent memoir, which only sold a few thousand copies.

They also say that perhaps there should be a ban on governors giving paid outside speeches. While Cuomo during his first four years has not given such speeches, former Govs. Mario Cuomo and George Pataki did.

New Jersey bars governors from receiving “directly or indirectly” any compensation, salary, honorarium, fee or any other form of income on top of their regular taxpayer-funded salary.

An official in the New York Legislature argued there should be more public disclosure on what guests, if any, are staying at the governor’s Albany mansion.

And, in perhaps the most contentious suggestion, a number of legislative sources say Cuomo’s longtime live-in celebrity chef girlfriend, Sandra Lee, should be required to publicly disclose her income, investments and other financial information that the spouses of public officials are already mandated to reveal.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Paul Vallone had a great vacation

From the Daily News:

Flip-flopping City Councilman Paul Vallone had little explanation Sunday for his inconsistent position on Mayor de Blasio's proposed horse carriage ban.

"We are listening to the horse drivers, seeing both sides. It's very important. I want to make sure we can see the final bill before I make a vote. I think, after meeting everybody, it's been very, you know, informing of both sides," the Queens pol said in San Juan at the conclusion of a Caribbean cruise with family.

The Daily News caught the councilman as he got off the luxurious cruise liner and prepared to return to New York City.

"You are going to have to wait till I get home, my dear," Vallone told a reporter asking why he'd reversed his position on horse carriages. He did confirm the vacation had been delightful.

What the News failed to report is that Mr. V was on the cruise with a developer friend of his...

Flushing Commons still a safety hazard

From the Queens Tribune:

Traffic issues around the Flushing Commons construction site have yet to cease, despite an amended stipulation with the Dept. of Transportation, made last December, requiring the placement of traffic control agents around the site during the duration of the construction.

However, according to State Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside), developers with TDC Development, the Rockefeller Group Development Corporation and AECOM Capital hired a couple of flagmen to direct traffic, instead of complying with the agreement.

One of the main reasons for the congestion was a closed sidewalk along Union Street, between 37th and 39th avenues. But after repeated complaints, the DOT agreed to provide a temporary pedestrian walkway on Union Street, to create a safe walking area.

While the DOT held up its end of the agreement, Avella said the developers failed to act responsibly by not fulfilling their commitment. On Feb. 19, Avella held a press conference to call on the developers to provide on-duty traffic control agents around the site.

Another reason for the congestion is a blocked lane along 39th Ave., between 138th Street and Union Street. Apart from increasing traffic jams, the closed lane limits room for the Q13, Q16 and Q28 busses to pickup and drop off passengers.

According to Avella, police in the 109th Precinct – located only a few blocks away from the construction site – and the local Fire Department complain that emergency responders are also having a tough time trying to get down the narrowed street.

DeBlasio believes key to affordable housing is bigger buildings

Housing New York: Zoning for Quality and Affordability

From Crains:

The city released a sweeping proposal Friday that would dramatically alter the way buildings look in New York City, possibly ushering in a new generation of buildings that look more like the varied structures of yore while making it easier and cheaper to create affordable housing units. The changes will allow developers to build several stories taller than current norms in some cases, as long as the overall square footage is held steady. In others, the new rules would give developers more flexibility with the shape of a property's façade, all while maintaining existing square-footage limits.

The proposal, which must go through the labyrinthine public review process, is one of the biggest shifts to zoning laws that govern the shape of buildings since 1987, when the code was last updated. The guiding idea is to give developers more flexibility on what their building will look like and what they can put in it, rather than literally forcing them into a box.

The problem that the city is hoping to resolve is that as construction methods have changed, zoning regulations have not kept pace. And it has become more difficult for architects and developers to squeeze all of the residential square footage they are allowed into a building’s shape, which is strictly governed by these laws. As a result, architects have been forced to shrink ceiling heights or excise entire floors from the designs. In many cases, developers end up building monolithic boxes to ensure everything fits.

And in situations where developers are given the option to build bigger if affordable apartments are included, the height restrictions have been too short to fit everything into the building, and have caused many to turn down the deal and build only market-rate.

The added height in many neighborhoods is sure to rankle anti-development groups across the city. In mid- to high-density areas, the additional allowance will usher in a generation of buildings up to 15 feet taller than previous limits.

What's more, in cases where developers are allowed to build bigger buildings in return for providing affordable or senior housing, the allowances could lead to as much as four stories of extra height in high-density neighborhoods.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Reporter murders Ridgewood history

I had the misfortune of watching this last night. Toni Senecal really needs new researchers because she got just about every fact about Ridgewood wrong.  You can watch the entire disaster here.

  • Ridgewood was never part of Brooklyn. Yes, there is a section of Bushwick that locals refer to as "Ridgewood" but the Queens section has never, ever been located in Brooklyn.
  • Note the way she pronounces "Arbitration Rock"...
  • She visits 2 foodie locations that are just barely in Ridgewood and considers a third one to be Ridgewood although it's most definitely in Bushwick.
  • The "English" did not "name it Ridgewood after the area's green and hilly terrain". The area was named after the Ridgewood Reservoir, which itself was named after its sourcewater in Massapequa.

How do you "tour" Ridgewood without hitting Myrtle Ave, Forest Ave or Fresh Pond Road?

If you want to do a Bushwick piece, do a Bushwick piece.

Someone please make these people stop.

Deep freeze affecting transportation

From WPIX:

By land and by sea, the weather has been interrupting any trip around New York City for the past few days.

Most subway work is continuing through the weekend. Check for status updates.

The East River Ferry suspended rides again on Saturday due to ice in the river.

Happy birthday, Mr. Washington

Washington's Farewell Address (issued as a public letter in 1796) was one of the most influential statements of republicanism. Drafted primarily by Washington himself, with help from Hamilton, it gives advice on the necessity and importance of national union, the value of the Constitution and the rule of law, the evils of political parties, and the proper virtues of a republican people. He called morality "a necessary spring of popular government". He said, "Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle."

And here is the text.

City seeks consultant for Sunnyside Railyard study

Photo from the Real Deal
From the Daily News:

Despite opposition from Gov. Cuomo, Mayor de Blasio is going full steam ahead with his plan to convert a Queens rail yard into affordable housing.

The city on Friday asked for consultants to bid on conducting a “feasibility study” on the Sunnyside Yards project.

De Blasio — who has vowed to create 200,000 units of affordable housing over 10 years — wants to build a Stuyvesant Town-style affordable housing complex on the roughly 200-acre site. It would be a mix of city, state and Amtrak-owned land, with 11,250 units.

Hours after the mayor announced the proposal last month, Cuomo said the state land wasn’t up for grabs because it’s used by the MTA.

The feasibility study the city plans will initially examine only the city and Amtrak-owned sections, but the document is written to include the state-owned parts of the land if Cuomo changes his mind.

At the moment, it doesn’t appear he will.

Folks, these projects are always about getting consultants paid and nothing more. I suspect that's the case here as well.

Drugs sold out of illegal cellar apartment beneath daycare center

From Eyewitness News:

A man was arrested for allegedly dealing drugs out of the basement of a Queens building that also houses his father's day care.

Police sources say 24-year-old Michael Gomez and his associate, 23-year-old Selestino Rodriguez, were taken into custody during a raid at the building on 88th Avenue in Woodhaven around 5 a.m. Thursday.

Detectives learned that Gomez was selling the drugs out of his basement apartment, below where his father operates a licensed day care, My Precious Moments Daycare, on the upper floors.

Undercover officers had made numerous drug buys in the basement apartment before making the arrests.

Marijuana, Molly, ecstasy pills and more than $2,500 in cash were seized.

(Correction: He was selling drugs out of his illegal cellar apartment which has had a vacate order since 2008.)

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Proposal to paint hydrant & bus stop curbs

From Queens Gazette:

A city lawmaker is proposing a measure that would require the city to paint curbs near fire hydrants and bus stops with red paint to clarify them as no parking zones.

Brooklyn City Councilmember Vincent Gentile will introduce the bill to the council this week in an effort to spare motorists from receiving tickets issued when they park too close to hydrants and bus stops throughout the city.

Motorists face a $115 fine if they are caught parking within 15-feet on either side of a hydrant or between a bus stop sign and the closest no parking sign on the same block, authorities said.

Gentile said the red paint would stand out and eliminate any question as to whether or not motorists are parked in no parking zones.

Can't get a pre-K seat in District 24

From DNA Info:

The Department of Education is short "hundreds" of universal pre-k seats for the next school year in Corona and Jackson Heights and has asked a local politician for help in finding space, she said.

Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras said in her State of the District speech on Feb. 18 that the DOE needed to find space for hundreds of kids who will start universal pre-k in September.

She urged "non-traditional" spaces and nonprofits to come forward if they have accommodations that can be made available for the program.

District 24, which encompasses parts of Corona, Elmhurst, Ridgewood and Middle Village, is the most overcrowded in the city.

Last June, 70 percent of applicants in the district were denied their first choice of programs and kids were waitlisted for other programs as more seats opened up.

Some neighborhoods are being aggressive with illegal conversions

From Brooklyn Daily:

Residents of Dyker Heights are declaring war on illegal home conversions, and now local politicians are joining the fray with proposed laws to give the city more weapons for fighting the residential scourge.

Two civic groups are holding a town hall meeting on illegal conversions in Dyker Heights on Feb. 26. The practice of dicing one- and two-family homes into multi-family apartments is pervasive in Southern Brooklyn, locals say. The illegally altered buildings can lack light, fresh air, and safe exits — putting residents and firefighters in harm’s way. Because the subdivided homes increase a neighborhood’s population, they also tax city services and can contribute to school overcrowding.

State and local politicians have introduced several bills to help combat what they have characterized as “an epidemic,” and we have boiled them down for you ahead of next Thursday’s town hall.

Click the link to read about the legislation proposed.

Pelham Parkway project continues to be a disaster

From NBC:

A rule change to construction standards on city roadways has residents of one of Bronx community concerned that fire trucks won't be able to help them in an emergency.

The city Department of Transportation changed its rules regarding fire truck access around the same time construction began on a $40 million road project that included the narrowing of a Bronx street, the I-Team has learned.

Home video recorded by a neighbor shows an FDNY fire truck having difficulty turning onto Pelham Parkway South, one of the newly redesigned roads, during a joint FDNY and DOT test to determine if emergency vehicles could negotiate turns on and off of the street.

In 2009, the city Department of Design and Construction submitted a final design for the Pelham Parkway reconstruction project. In the summer of 2010, construction began on the new, narrower, Pelham Parkway South. That same summer, the DOT amended its Street Design Manual.

The manual originally read, “…all street designs must meet FDNY, other emergency vehicle, and sanitation vehicle access needs.”

But on July 9, 2010 the guidelines were changed to read, “…all street designs must consider FDNY, other emergency vehicle, and sanitation vehicle access needs.” The difference between "must meet" and "must consider" emergency vehicles means a lot to those who live and work on Pelham Parkway South.

You can read previous stories about this here. $40M of our tax money for this...

East Elmhurst construction center renderings published

From Brownstoner Queens:

New York YIMBY snatched up shiny new renderings of the gigantic convention center planned across from Citi Field and Willets Point, at 112-21 Northern Boulevard. This building will hold a lot: a 105,964-square-foot convention center, 97,180 square feet of retail, 11,300 square feet of restaurants, 292 hotel rooms and 208 apartments. The whole shebang, to be called the La Guardia Convention Center, will be LEED Gold Certified.

The developer, Fleet Financial Group, purchased the former Ford dealership in 2013 for $17 million. Construction was supposed to start last summer but it looks like nothing’s happened yet, and we’re unsure of a construction timeline.

Friday, February 20, 2015

LaGuardia revamp won't happen soon

From the Wall Street Journal:

A long-awaited project to overhaul a terminal at La Guardia Airport has been further delayed as its operator weighs contest submissions to redesign it and other aviation facilities.

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which runs the aging airport, won’t select a development team to remake its Central Terminal Building—Terminal B to travelers—while it awaits the outcome of a broader design competition for New York airports, said John Degnan, the authority’s chairman.

“We simply decided it would be prudent to see what the conceptual design is before proceeding with the process,” Mr. Degnan said in an interview.

That a construction project is being delayed by a redesign competition is the latest bump in the Port Authority’s multiyear effort to replace the terminal, which was built in 1964.

Macedonia AME Church may be torn down

From the Queens Courier:

A historic 19th-century Queens church that once served as a stop on the Underground Railroad could be facing the wrecking ball as leaders in the Flushing congregation consider a proposal to replace the aging structure with a new sanctuary.

The African Methodist Episcopal Church on Union Street dates back to the 1800s and today remains one of the borough’s two surviving stops on the Underground Railroad, a network of people and buildings used to shuttle slaves out of the South before the Civil War.

Flushing’s John Bowne House is the borough’s other surviving remnant of the network that brought an estimated 100,000 slaves to freedom in northern states and Canada.

But church officials, concerned about structural problems in the building, are considering building a new church on the site.

Revered McEachern confirmed that they are in the “developing stage” of tearing down the church so that a new worship site could be built. He said that the various historic elements of the building, like the church’s vaulted roof, would be preserved and used in the new building. But he declined to comment on the decision, which was made by the church’s board of trustees.

Crackdown on the greedy

From the Daily News:

City and state officials are set to launch a coordinated crackdown on greedy landlords accused of trying to harass tenants from their rent-stabilized apartments.

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and Mayor de Blasio will announce on Thursday an aggressive new effort to go after property owners who use illegal tactics to force out tenants paying lower rent.

The campaign comes in response to “a significant uptick in complaints regarding tenant harassment” — especially in gentrifying neighborhoods, officials said.

Schneiderman has opened 10 investigations into allegations of landlord harassment in the last year — triple what his office had done in any prior year, officials said. In the last 18 months alone, the AG has fielded more than 200 complaints of “systematic harassment” by landlords, mostly in Brooklyn, Manhattan and the Bronx.

Protesting tax abatements for luxury developments

From WPIX:

Some of the highest priced buildings in New York reap tax benefits paid for by middle-class workers. That’s one reason some of those workers took to the streets on Wednesday. Another was anger by union construction workers over a major developer choosing to not use organized labor to build the country’s tallest residential building.

It’s 111 West 57th Street, between 6th and 7th Avenue. In front of its construction site at noon Wednesday, a couple hundred construction workers gathered for a rally against the building’s developer, JDS Development Corporation. It has stated publicly that it does not intend to build its iconic structure with union labor.

At the rally, workers said that while they felt buoyed by a recent statement by the city’s public advocate calling for JDS to use union pay scales in order to compensate workers for the project, they were still angry that it was not binding, and that such a high profile project was able to proceed without using organized labor.

The 421-a program will be up for review in Albany in June. At that time, the state legislature has to choose if it will renew the program as it is, revise it, or scrap it altogether.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

A real horse's ass

From the Daily News:

A day after calling for a “compromise” that would save hundreds of jobs in the embattled horse carriage industry, Queens Councilman Paul Vallone was acting like a jittery thoroughbred — issuing a statement reiterating his loyalty to the animal rights group NYCLASS — and saying he would in fact vote for a ban.

“While reaching a compromise would be ideal, if it came down to an all-or-nothing decision I would ultimately side with NYCLASS and support the bill,” Vallone, who is on a cruise, told the Daily News in an email.

It’s a walk-back from his earlier statements, in which he blasted the mayor for refusing to consider a solution that would make both sides happy, and claimed that more regulations would eliminate the need for a ban.

“At this point, he’d like to see a compromise, and prevent the loss of jobs,” his spokesman, Lionel Morales had said on Monday.

And in an earlier interview in the Times Ledger of Queens, which was published on Monday, Vallone said he’d learned a lot talking to drivers recently, and felt the industry could be saved.

“I think the best thing to do is to put in more restrictions and further regulate the industry,” said Vallone. “And then you will have the best regulated industry as oppose to eliminating it.”

Vallone could not be reached for further comment because he is out of town on a Caribbean vacation.

His recommitment to the politically connected NYCLASS — which endorsed him in 2013 and paid over $8,000 for campaign literature championing him — infuriated members of the horse carriage industry.

I like it when the newspapers do the Photoshops for me.

You can't reserve street parking

From WPIX:

In short, even if you spend five hours digging out that treasured street space in front of your home, New Yorkers should not expect that space to be available to them when they get home that evening.

In Chicago, city workers preparing for a “Dibs” round up, to collect all of the personal markers; cones, furniture, and the like, off the street

Back here in New York City, the law is clear. Section 4-08 of the city’s parking rule; “Unofficial Reserving of Parking Space,” states “It shall be unlawful for any person to reserve or attempt to reserve a parking space, or prevent any vehicle from parking on a public street through his/her presence in the roadway, the use of hand-signals, or by placing any box, can, crate, handcart, dolly or any other device…”

Silver failed to disclose all his income

From the Daily News:

Already facing federal corruption charges, former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver is now being fined for violating state ethics laws for not properly disclosing all his outside income.

The Joint Commission on Public Ethics — the state’s top ethics watchdog agency —notified Silver that he faces up to $120,000 in fines for filing inadequate financial disclosure statements in 2011, 2012 and 2013.

Destroyer of looted possessions faces no charges

From the Daily News:

A 70-year-old woman whose Queens house was stolen out from under her is dismayed that no one will face charges for stealing the $400,000 worth of goods missing from the home.

Jennifer Merin, 70, said that police told her they have closed the investigation into the furniture and other valuables that disappeared from the home around the time it was out of her possession.

Darrell Beatty, 49, faces grand larceny charges for allegedly forging the deed to Merin’s Laurelton home.

Merin said her family’s antique furniture collection, including a 17th-Century Chinese porcelain vase, a rare crystal and brass chandelier, and a turn of the century wood bedroom set are all missing.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

End of an era

From LIC Post:

The Waterfront Crab House, one of the last vestiges of Long Island City, closed for good Sunday.

The closure comes just three weeks after the owner of the long-time establishment Tony Mazzarella passed away. He had owned the Crab House, located at 2-03 Borden Avenue, for decades.

The Waterfront Crab House first opened its doors at in 1977 and Mazzarella quickly filled it with boxing and historic memorabilia dating back to the early 1900s. On Monday, the sporting memorabilia still hung from the walls.

A sign was placed on the front door of the Crab House Sunday that read: “It is with deep regret and heavy hearts that we inform you that due to the passing of Tony Mazzarella we must close the Waterfront Crabhouse.”

One of Mazzarella’s children was at the restaurant Monday but did not want to discuss what his plans are for the restaurant or the real estate.

Queens Museum wants to host bank robber's art

From the NY Post:

He robbed banks, saying it was for “art” — and now the curator of the taxpayer-funded Queens Museum wants to honor him.

Nutty Professor Joe Gibbons — who videotaped himself ripping off banks as part of a bizarre “art project” — has snagged the prestigious invitation from the Queens Museum to show off his felonious film project.

The curator of the institution — which used $57.5 million in public money to expand — can’t wait to give a forum to this alleged public enemy, who is facing serious robbery charges.

“Once he is released, I hope to help him by extending an invitation to screen his work at the Queens Museum,” curator Larissa Harris gushed in a letter to a Manhattan judge. “This would be an enormous honor for us.”

New congestion tax proposed

From the Daily News:

The “Move NY” plan would put $8 tolls — or $5.54 with E-ZPass — on the four East River bridges, and charge drivers the same amount to cross 60th St. in Manhattan in either direction.

But unlike the congestion pricing plan that failed under former Mayor Michael Bloomberg, it would also cut outer borough drivers a break by cutting tolls by $2.50 on the Verrazano, Triborough, Whitestone and Throgs Neck bridges, and $1 on the Henry Hudson, Cross Bay and Marine Parkway bridges.

Backers say the plan will generate $1.5 billion a year in new cash.

One LIC ferry dock just isn't enough

From the Queens Courier:

The city plans to build a second ferry dock on the Long Island City waterfront to cope with the overwhelmed 7 train and a projected flood of new residents to the neighborhood in years to come.

The new stop will be a completely new dock separate from the existing Hunters Point terminal, which is part of the East River Ferry network, but will be necessary as thousands of new housing units are completed in the area.

The proposed citywide ferry system Mayor de Blasio unveiled earlier this year shows the new ferry stop, called Long Island City – North, which is already receiving cheers from residents and experts, although it won’t be operational until 2017.

It will be beneficial for future residents, especially since the population will balloon in coming years.

More than 10,500 residential units will be built by 2018 around the proposed Long Island City – North ferry landing, according to the Citywide Ferry Study.

New hotels poppin' up all over Jamaica

From DNA Info:

Jamaica is on its way to become the new epicenter of a Queens hotel boom.

Seven new lodgings, which are planned for the downtown area, are slated to bring about 1,000 rooms, nearly quadrupling the number of hotel rooms in the area.

Experts say that Jamaica has become the new focus of hotel developers, after two other hotel hubs in Queens — Long Island City and Flushing — have become saturated.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

John Ciafone has left the building

Hmm. It appears Mr. Ciafone has removed his visage from this Brooklyn apartment building.
He's still present on other residential properties, however.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Mystery of the missing money

From the NY Post:

Teachers and parents at William Cullen Bryant HS in Queens are demanding an accounting of more than $195,000 collected from students for gym uniforms, paddle locks and food.

In response to a Freedom of Information request, the city Department of Education said it could find no receipts for such purchases from the school store from 2011 to 2013 — and only some from 2014.

Gym teacher Peter Maliarakis said Principal Namita Dwarka has refused to account for the sales — the profits from which are supposed to pay for student activities and phys-ed equipment.

Bleachers in a school gym are cracked and missing sections, and mats for wrestling and gymnastics are mildewed and peeling, Maliarakis said.

Council members take paid trip to Israel

From Capital New York:

City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and a delegation of 14 council members will travel to Israel on Sunday evening for an eight-day visit to the Jewish State.

The trip will be paid for by the Jewish Community Relations Council and the UJA Federation of New York.

Aides to Mark-Viverito said the delegation will meet with political leaders including the president of Israel, Jerusalem city council members and the deputy minister for foreign affairs, as well as mayors of various cities.

Other members of the delegation traveling to Israel are Mark Treyger, Brad Lander, Antonio Reynoso, David Greenfield, Rafael Espinal and Darlene Mealy of Brooklyn; Mark Levine, Helen Rosenthal and Corey Johnson of Manhattan; Ritchie Torres and Andy Cohen of the Bronx; and Donovan Richards, Eric Ulrich and Jimmy Van Bramer of Queens.