Monday, November 30, 2015

149th St Bridge may actually be repaired soon

From the Queens Chronicle:

Officials announced Thursday that the long-awaited reconstruction of the 149th Street Bridge in Flushing will soon begin.

The deck on the newly built but unsafe bridge needs replacing, and that will cost the city $1.6 million, Department of Transportation Queens Borough Commissioner Nicole Garcia said Thursday.

In the meantime, while the city is chipping in those additional costs, it is also suing Gandhi Engineering, the firm responsible for what Garcia referred to as the bridge’s “poor design,” and is hoping to retrieve back $4.2 million.

Perfetto Contracting Co. has been selected as the new contractor, and the preliminary work like applying for permits is set to start Nov. 30, Garcia said.

Parkway Hospital is open and unguarded

From DNA Info:

A long-vacant hospital building which sits near one of the most coveted elementary schools in Forest Hills poses a potential danger to local children, some parents said.

The former Parkway Hospital, at 70-35 113th St., has been an empty eyesore with its windows boarded up since it closed in 2008.

The building is usually covered with graffiti, people are able to go in and out, and, on Oct. 20, a suspicious fire broke out inside, parents said.

Since the hospital closed, the property has been in and out of auction. Last year, Jasper Venture Group, a New York-based real estate investment firm, which holds the mortgage on the building, said that it was considering replacing the former medical facility with a residential tower. But earlier this year, the company announced that the property was up for sale again.

Local parents and elected officials were hoping to convert the building into a school to alleviate overcrowding in the area, but the Department of Education didn't find the proposal feasible.

Developer walks away from project

"FYI, the front construction fence around this house has (finally) been taken down, and there is activity (people going in and out):


Last Thanksgiving's exploded house still not repaired

From the Queens Chronicle:

Almost a year after an explosion blew a gaping hole in the rear of a house in South Ozone Park last Thanksgiving, a full-vacate order is still placed on it and there have been complaints of illegal construction going on there, according to city Department of Buildings records.

The house, located at 107-55 108 St., was the scene of an explosion due to the misuse of a stove in an “illegally renovated setback apartment,” FDNY officials told the Queens Chronicle last December.

A full-vacate order was immediately placed on the property by the DOB, due to the structural stability being affected, which at press time on Nov. 24 was still effective.

A Chronicle reporter saw last Friday that the hole in the back of the house had been fixed, though any work done to the house may not have been done lawfully.

There have been two complaints of illegal construction on the house, city records state, the first of which stated there was no building permit posted on March 17.

Fool me once...

From the Brooklyn Paper:

The city must ensure developers can’t weasel out of a proposal that would require them to create below-market-rate housing when building on rezoned land, says a panel of Bushwickians that tentatively okayed the scheme on Wednesday night.

Locals are still angry after the developers of the derelict Rheingold brewery on Flushing Avenue were able to blow off a promise to include below-market units in the property with no consequences, and said they don’t want to see that happen again.

“The Rheingold is such a terrible precedent,” said Anne Guiney, a member the Community Board 4’s housing and land use committee, who voted to support the plan. “I think that has made everybody very, very cautious and concerned, specifically about enforcement.”

Board members voted 17–11 to approve Mayor DeBlasio’s so-called Mandatory Inclusionary Housing scheme — which would require developers looking to rezone land so they can erect big buildings to set aside at least 25 percent of units for so-called “affordable” housing — but on the condition that the city find an air-tight way to police the program to prevent fiascos like the Rheingold redevelopment.

In that case, the city agreed to rezone the old brewery site for residential high-rises in 2013, after owner Read Property Group signed a pledge to include hundreds of below-market units in the new towers there. But Read then sold land to two other real estate companies earlier this year, both of which have refused to make the same commitment and aren’t beholden to the original agreement.

City reps claimed that they are already working on an enforcement strategy and will have one set in stone by the time the new rule takes effect, or not long after.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Murdered developer's project vacated by DOB

From PIX11:

It's a high-rent building that was constructed by a developer who was murdered last year. Now, the building he built has suddenly been condemned, just in time for the holiday season. The ordeal has left dozens of residents without homes in the latest chapter in a story with many twists and turns.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Arsonists didn't just damage homes under construction

Legislation would protect homeowners from sidewalk fines

From the Queens Gazette:

Assemblyman Michael DenDekker was joined by state Senator Tony Avella to host a press conference announcing new legislation on damaged sidewalk repair. Assemblyman DenDekker and Senator Avella’s bill will remove the burden of paying for damaged sidewalks away from property owners and hold the City of New York accountable.

“Oftentimes, homeowners are not responsible for damage to sidewalks in front of their homes, however, are forced to pay massive fines for repairs. This is unfair to the hardworking taxpayers of New York City, and we would like to make a change. That is why we have introduced new legislation regarding sidewalk repair: to protect homeowners, small business owners, and non-profits throughout the City of New York” said DenDekker.

The Assemblyman also pointed out that this policy is most harmful to some of the city’s most vulnerable residents: “The fines for these repairs often run in the thousands of dollars. This is an absolutely devastating fine for a senior citizen on a fixed income or a working class New Yorker. This administration has placed a huge amount of emphasis on income inequality, and this bill will allow the city to ease an undue burden.”

CB7 wants Waterpointe property rezoned

From the Times Ledger:

Community Board 7 is looking to rezone the Waterpointe site in Whitestone because it contends the developer did not provide a deed restriction ensuring that only homes are built at the site. The developer maintains that it has provided the board with everything it has requested.

At its monthly board meeting Nov. 9 at the Union Care Plaza Center at 33-23 Union St. in Flushing, the board recommended that the 18-acre site, on which 52 single-family homes will be built, be downzoned specifically for residential family homes.

Gene Kelty, CB 7’s chairman, said the developer, Edgestone Group, did not provide a deed restriction for the site at 151-45 Sixth Road.

“Now that they didn’t do what we asked them to do, which was a deed restriction, and we’re not positive they’re going to build exactly what they said they were going to build, that’s why we want to change the zoning,” Kelty said.

Joseph Sultana, an architect who represented Edgestone Group at the CB 7 board meeting, said that when they met with the board early in October, the board asked them to provide a notarized letter from the property owner stating that the developer will put in place a deed restriction.

He said the board promised to vote on the special permit for the property in return.

The developer sent the letter to the board for approval but did not hear back. The board then decided to table a decision and told Edgestone that it wanted a deed restriction, he said. Sultana said the developer e-mailed the board a copy of the deed restriction it requested Nov. 4 but at the Nov. 9 meeting, they were told that the deed restriction was not good enough.

Consultants may be considered lobbyists soon

From the Daily News:

A slew of prominent communications firms may be forced to register as lobbyists under a proposal by the state ethics commission.

The plan would force private consulting groups that have helped craft messages for lobbying efforts to register with the state. Until now, their activities have not been considered lobbying.

Under a proposed advisory opinion by the Joint Commission on Public Ethics, a person or firm would be required to publicly disclose their activities with the state if they helped set up a meeting with a public official, had direct interaction with an official in connection with an advocacy campaign, or provided substantive or strategic input on both the content and delivery of a message.

The Joint Public Commission on Public Ethics is seeking comments through Dec. 4 on its proposal. At some point after that, the commission will decide whether to approve it.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Jackson Theater a goner

From the Queens Gazette:

The end is near for the historic Jackson Theater. The property, located at 40-31 82nd St. in Jackson Heights, is currently owned by Sona Realty Corp. and is under contract with Sun Equity Partners. According to David Alani of Inline Realty, which is brokering the deal, Sun Equity Partners plans to demolish the 80-years-plus theater and rebuild and lease the space.

People with high incomes living in public housing

From PIX11:

PIX11 Investigates has found over 1,500 households earning six-figure salaries while living in New York City Housing Authority apartments.

The more things change, the more they stay the same

New zoning code?
Small houses raised for towers?
People thinking their neighborhoods were just fine without government intervention?
Familiar story.

Unfortunately, this time around, our electeds are most likely out to screw us.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Yet another Forest Hills fire

From the Daily News:

A two-story home in Queens was destroyed by fire late Wednesday — the latest in a string of suspicious fires to come under investigation, firefighters said.

Firefighters received a call around 11:21 p.m. for a fire on 67th Dr. near 108th St. in Forest Hills, according to an FDNY spokesman. The fire became a second alarm within three minutes and took about an hour to bring under control.

Wednesday’s fire was the third to strike the neighborhood in the last three weeks.

Happy Thanksgiving from Queens Crap (and a real turkey)!

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

DOE withdraws purchase of school site that Vallone said couldn't be stopped

From the Times Ledger:

The city School Construction Authority has announced it would rescind its contract to purchase the Bayside Jewish Center along with its plans to build a 739-seat high school on the site, ending a controversy over which has been growing for months.

SCA President and CEO Lorraine Grillo issued a statement Tuesday making the announcement:

“In addition to building great schools that foster a welcoming environment for our students and families, we are laser focused on identifying appropriate locations to increase capacity in a city where space is at a premium,” Grillo said. “Unfortunat­ely, we have been unable to reach a consensus with Bayside residents and local elected officials on our proposed development site for a new high school in their neighborhood. The proposal will not be moving forward; however, we remain committed to addressing overcrowding communities face.”

This comes after Councilman Paul Vallone (D-Bayside) wrote a letter Friday, asking the SCA to halt its proposal before it went to the City Council for a vote. State Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) held a rally Saturday calling on Mayor Bill de Blasio to put a stop to the contract. But ultimately Grillo caved in to mounting community concerns.

Wasn't it Vallone who said this process couldn't be stopped?

"Ninja" set Forest Hills fires?

From DNA Info:

Investigators probing a recent rash of suspicious fires in Forest Hills reportedly have surveillance video showing a man “looking like a ninja,” entering a construction site where one of the blazes broke out, police sources said.

The man wearing all black is seen scaling a wall at 108-49 66th Ave., where the fire erupted on Nov. 17 and spread to two nearby homes, sources said.

The suspect carried a backpack which investigators suspect may have contained incendiary materials used to start the fire, sources said.

According to the 112th Precinct, which covers the area, six of the seven recent fires in the area have been deemed suspicious.

All the suspicious fires broke out at vacant buildings that were being renovated or under construction.

Reynoso proposes relaxed rules for cyclists

From the Daily News:

Big Apple bicyclists would be allowed to cruise through red lights and stop signs after merely slowing down and looking both ways, under a proposed bill by a city councilman.

The measure, introduced by Antonio Reynoso — who represents bike-crazy Williamsburg — would lift the requirement that cyclists follow the same traffic-light rules as motor-vehicle drivers.

The proposal comes as Mayor de Blasio struggles with his Vision Zero plan to lower pedestrian fatalities and cops are trying to crack down on rogue drivers, cyclists and jaywalkers.

City records show 4,463 cyclists were injured in crashes last year.

But Reynoso defended the proposal, noting how stopping is difficult for cyclists at full speed.

“Riding a bike is not like driving a vehicle. A bike’s motor is the human body, and there is the issue of losing momentum,” said Reynoso, who loves biking so much, he sold his car to raise money for his 2013 campaign.

“It is not sensible to have to stop and go at every stop sign.”

Reynoso, who admits he sometimes blows stop signs and red lights “when appropriate,” believes his plan could improve traffic safety in general by speeding up the time it takes everyone to get through an intersection.

Data to be more readily available

From the Daily News:

The City Council passed a package of bills to help New Yorkers get ahold of city data online.

One piece of legislation will require plain language dictionaries on the city’s open data portal to explain tongue-twisting terms like “carbonaceous biochemical oxygen demand.”

Another bill will require that when city agencies update their own websites, they also quickly add the information to the open data portal. And the city will have to preserve more data instead of erasing it when stats change.

Paragon building to be developed into condos

From LIC Post:

The owners of the Paragon Paint building are seeking a zoning variance so they can develop three residential buildings alongside the well-known factory that would in total create 334 apartments, about 14,000-square-feet of retail space and a public park.

The owners, Brent Carrier and Simon Baron Development, filed an application with the New York City Board of Standards and Appeals on Oct. 2, as they aim to get permission to build the dwelling units on property zoned for manufacturing. The application is currently being reviewed by Community Board 2.

The developers plan to keep the front section of the Paragon Paint building, located at 45-40 Vernon Blvd., and add three additional buildings of varying heights across three contiguous parcels they own.

One building would be 28 stories and would be attached to the existing Paragon Paint building, while the two others would be 13 stories and eight stories respectively. They are also requesting variances for height.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

MTA won't stick to sound barrier promise

From Sunnyside Post:

The MTA is reneging on its promise to put up noise mitigating plants next to the railroad tracks on Barnett Avenue, according to community leaders.

Two MTA representatives spoke to members of Community Board 2’s Land Use committee Wednesday and said that the plants were no longer part of East Side Access project.

Eric Zaretsky, director of community outreach for the MTA East Side Access Project, said that once the retaining walls were built there was nowhere for any plantings to be rooted.

“There is no soil, it’s all rock,” Zaretsky said. “There’s no irrigation… and there is no budget to maintain it.”

Lisa Deller, chair of the Land Use Committee, said that there are constant complaints about noise stemming from the railway line and that this was promised when the MTA took on the task to build the $10 billion East Side Access, which will connect LIRR riders to Grand Central.

Hunters Point South phase 2 breaks ground

From the Daily News:

City officials broke ground Monday on the latest phase of a massive affordable housing complex on a former industrial site in Long Island City.

Hunter’s Point South II will feature 3,000 new apartments on some of the priciest real estate in New York City. But Mayor de Blasio said at least 60% of the units will be set aside for low, moderate and middle-income families.

The completed project — which includes several buildings under phase one — is expected to create 5,000 units of housing.

“This will make it the largest affordable housing development to be built in New York City since the 1970s,” said de Blasio, who attended the ceremonial groundbreaking. “People want to see big solutions, it doesn’t get bigger than Hunter’s Point South.”

The development was started during the Bloomberg Administration and will include new commercial space and parkland along a stretch of East River waterfront once dominated by factories and warehouses.

His lips are sealed

From DNA Info:

The teenage victim of a stabbing in Rego Park earlier this month is being uncooperative in the investigation, officials said.

The 17-year old was standing on the corner of 63rd Road and 97th Street, in a busy area near the Rego Center Mall, around 1 p.m. when two men riding bicycles attacked him, police said.

He was stabbed in the abdomen, and an 18-year-old who tried to help his friend was was also stabbed in the arm, police said.

He doesn't live in the neighborhood and has possible ties with the Latin Kings gang, police sources said.

Is windfarming in our future?

From Crains:

Some 20 miles off the coast of the Rockaways, the wind roars on the open ocean with enough force to power a large swath of New York City. And that is just how Clint Plummer likes it.

Deepwater Wind, where Plummer is vice president of development, is a Providence, R.I.-based wind-power company in the business of harnessing that force. The Rockaways are where he aims to build what could become the largest offshore wind farm in the U.S., with turbines that would reach as high as 500 feet and have wingspans wider than three Airbus A380s.

In its first phase, the project could generate enough electricity for a quarter of the state of Delaware. Eventually, it could include 500 turbines or more, with the capacity to produce a quarter of the city’s power.

Although a windmill-powered future may seem far off, it can’t come soon enough for Plummer, who is based in New York. Many of the Northeast’s power plants are at least 40 years old and nearing replacement, creating what Plummer says is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to transition the power grid from carbon-belching plants to green infrastructure.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Proposal to make LaGuardia shuttle free

From the Daily News:

Transit advocates on Monday will propose rebranding a Queens bus route as the Free LaGuardia Subway Shuttle.

The existing Q70 charges a standard $2.75 fare. Thousands of additional flyers would use it if it were free, according to the advocacy groups Riders Alliance and Global Gateway Alliance.

Don't be a victim

From DNA Info:

Thieves are targeting mothers shopping at the Rego Center Mall and stealing things they leave on top of their strollers as they walk around stores, police said.

At least two such cases have been recently reported, including one at Marshalls, according to Judith Harrison, the commanding officer of the 112th Precinct, which covers Forest Hills and Rego Park.

“This is particularly important because the holiday season is coming,” Harrison said at a community council meeting earlier this week.

Harrison said the suspects wait for the victims to leave strollers.

“They are walking away from their purses and they are walking away from the child that is sitting in that stroller,” she said.

With security like this...

From the Daily News:

Airline and security officials at Kennedy Airport let 150 passengers arriving from an international flight leave the airport without going through customs, the Daily News has learned.

American Airlines Flight 1671 arrived at JFK from Cancun, Mexico, at 8:50 p.m. Friday.

When the plane landed, passengers walked out of the airport without having their passports or bags checked by Customs and Border Protection, sources told The News.

A source familiar with the matter said passengers disembarking the plane “just followed” a gate agent. The security snafu came just two days after ISIS released a video threatening New York City with a terrorist attack.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

The great walls of history

The Wailing Wall
The Great Wall
The Berlin Wall
The Wall of Astoria

Courtesy of George the Atheist

Nothing illegal about hanging dead fish outside

From CBS 2:

Something fishy is going on in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn – and some residents say it stinks so much they have been calling 311 to complain.

As CBS2’s Alice Gainer reported Friday, a line of half-wrapped dead fish is hanging on the roof of a home in the neighborhood, and many neighbors are not pleased.

“Sure it smells — especially at that time when they hang it in the back, so I tell them all the time, but they don’t listen to nobody,” said neighbor Sal Felse.

CBS2’s Gainer did not smell anything on Friday. But neighbors along the stretch of 64th Street said it is worse when the weather is warmer.

But the stench is not the biggest concern.

“Rodents and insects — it’s very unsanitary,” one neighbor said.

“That side — they used to get mice,” another said. “I don’t know if they still do.”

Neighbors said the residents have been hanging fish on the roof for a long time. CBS2 caught up with the homeowner outside, who rents out the two apartments inside.

When asked if she would take the fish down, the woman said, “I don’t know.” But she does not speak much English, so CBS2 went to another neighbor’s house to translate.

“She says she doesn’t want to talk about it,” the neighbor said.

More kids in classrooms

From the Daily News:

More young city students have been forced to learn in packed classes of 30 or more this school year, a sharp increase over recent years, a new analysis of city education department data reveals.

The study, by nonprofit Class Size Matters, shows that as of Oct. 30 a whopping 48,440 kids in kindergarten through third grade were enrolled in outsized classes.

That’s up from 45,442 kids in enrolled oversize classes on the same date in 2014, 45,242 kids in 2013 and 35,137 kids in 2012, according to the analysis.

That’s a 38% increase in just three years.

Class Size Matters founder Leonie Haimson said those growing numbers mean more public school kids in the Big Apple won’t get a shot a decent education.

What happened to Forest Park's lake?

I came across this photo labelled "Forest Park Lake, Queens, 1936" and figured this must have been a mistake, because there's no place in Forest Park that looks like this. A sailboat pond with a walkway around it? No way.
So I started sleuthing via old maps. This 1951 aerial shot of the park does seem to show a body of water with a sidewalk around it just east of Woodhaven Blvd. So what happened to it?
Buildings. Lots of buildings.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

RIP Jamaica Renaissance: 2013-2015

George the Atheist reports that City Rib, a restaurant that was supposed to help spur the revitalization of Jamaica, has closed. Joe Moretti has more on its demise.

Homelessness down nationwide, up in NYC

From the NY Times:

The federal government’s annual homelessness count showed an increase in New Yorkers living on the streets or in shelters, even as the number of homeless people nationwide dipped slightly compared with the previous year.

The results of the count, released on Thursday by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, confirmed what many New Yorkers had already recognized, particularly in recent months — that homelessness was rising and that more government action was needed.

New York, with a population of over eight million, has about 14 percent of all homeless people in the United States, or 75,323 people, the count found.

There's no place like home

From the Daily News:

I was 10 years old when I crossed over the border into Arizona with my parents in 2005.

We moved to Jackson Heights. My parents, Roberta and Salvador Alarcon, left my younger brother with my grandparents in Veracruz.

In New York, my mother worked at a Laundromat and my dad got a job in construction. He built and demolished houses in Manhattan and Queens. His boss exploited him. My father worked for 12 to 14 hours a day for $80. He had no idea you could sue for lost wages. He was always afraid of being deported.

In 2011, the family was forced to move from a two-bedroom apartment to a one-bedroom. At one point, my father injured his ankle. He was afraid to go to a hospital. In 2012, my grandmother passed away from cancer. My parents decided to go back.

My parents now have a small store in the town. My father is now working on farming and my mother is taking care of the store.

They are happy. But obviously, it’s not the same. Over here, they had cell phones and money to go to restaurants once a month. Now, they don’t have the money and have to work harder to get those things.

I don't understand how they had money for cell phones and restaurants with mom working off the books at a laundromat and dad raking in $80/day. Sounds like Mexico was a better option. And in fact, more Mexicans are returning than arriving these days.

Possible SRO created in Brooklyn

From Crains:

The city will inspect a 19-person co-living space in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, operated by Common, a startup that aims to shake up the rental market and has amassed $7.35 million in venture-capital funding.

The Department of Buildings said it will pay a visit to the townhouse, located at 1162 Pacific St. near Bedford Avenue in Crown Heights, in response to an Oct. 29 complaint that Common had illegally converted the four-story home into a single-room occupancy residence where rooms rent for $1,800 to $1,950 per month.

"We are looking forward to working with [the Department of Buildings] to resolve this," said Brad Hargreaves, the founder of Common, which is working on launching its second co-living building.

In single-room occupancy buildings, residents typically rent an individual bedroom and share a kitchen or bathroom. In the 1950s, a law was enacted prohibiting the creation of new SROs. As a result, strangers renting a multibedroom apartment are required to co-sign a single lease for the entire unit.

Hargreaves insists that his building is not an SRO, and that Common actually functions a lot like any other landlord who rents an apartment to roommates: At 1162 Pacific St., there are four apartments divided into 19 furnished rooms. Tenants must stay for at least 30 days—to ensure the building is not classified as a hotel—and the roommates in each apartment must together sign a lease with Common.

Pan Am shelter resident assaults old man

From DNA Info:

A resident of the homeless shelter at the former Pan Am hotel was arrested Wednesday for assault after pushing a man outside a school in October, telling police he was trying to protect his family.

David McLean, 39, allegedly pushed the 69-year-old victim on the corner of 52nd and Van Horn streets, near P.S. 102, at 3:15 p.m. on Oct. 28, according to police.

The victim was taken to the hospital for spine fractures and a compression to the spine, according to the criminal complaint.

McLean was arrested and arraigned Nov. 18, and charged with a third-degree felony. A temporary order of protection was issued, and he was released.

He's due back in court Jan. 21.

It's not clear how long he's lived at the Boulevard Family Shelter, inside the former Pan Am Hotel.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Van Bramer angry about AirBnB in affordable housing

From LIC Post:

Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer is working on legislation that would penalize New Yorkers who exploit their subsidized apartments for profit on Airbnb, his office announced Thursday.

The announcement follows an LIC Post report on multiple residents at the affordable Hunters Point South development who were renting out their tax-subsidized homes for as much as $500 per night.

Van Bramer’s legislation would establish penalties for renters who “are found guilty of taking advantage of rent stabilized and/or rent controlled units for profit as illegal hotels on sites like Airbnb,” his office said.

The Councilman also wants the City to respond to Airbnb abuse at Hunters Point South and other instances in rent regulated/controlled buildings.

He has requested an investigation into illegal hotels in rent regulated and rent stabilized buildings from the Mayor’s Office of Special Enforcement, as well as hearings at the City Council’s Committee on Housing and Buildings specifically focused on the proliferation of Airbnb in these buildings.

State law already prohibits tenants in apartment buildings with three or more units from renting out to transient visitors for less than 30 days. City law sets fines of $1,600 and up for illegal hotels in residential apartments; Councilwoman Helen Rosenthal has introduced legislation to increase these penalties.

Hoverboards not legal

From the Daily News:

An NYPD spokeswoman told the Daily News that according to sections 401-a and 401-b under New York State Law’s Article 14, NY Vehicle and Traffic Law, hoverboards are prohibited since they are considered motor vehicles that cannot be registered with the Department of Motor Vehicles.

If someone were to get caught riding a hoverboard in the street, highway, parking lot or even sidewalk, they could potentially face a fine of up to $200. So just to be on the safe side, it's better to keep using hoverboards at the park and at home — or the office if your boss is cool with it.

Koo not sold on Flushing West project

From the Queens Tribune:

At a public scoping meeting on Tuesday, Councilman Peter Koo (D-Flushing) said the pollution of Flushing Creek was a huge concern for the Flushing West Rezoning Proposal.

The Department of City Planning is proposing zoning changes to a portion of Downtown Flushing along Flushing Creek, which they say will increase affordable housing and create a pedestrian-friendly waterfront.

But Koo said he feared no one would want to live in the area, or utilize the waterfront for recreational purposes, if the creek was not cleaned up.

“As we know, the creek is basically a cesspool that fills up whenever it rains. No one wants to go near it, because it stinks. I still haven’t heard a real solution for a sustainable creek. I expected Flushing West will change that, otherwise, who wants to live there?” he said.

Currently, the Tallman Island Wastewater Treatment Plant handles Flushing’s sewage. But the facility works over capacity, so when rainstorms flood the City’s sewer lines, the combined sewage and run-off from city streets is dumped straight into the Creek without being treated.

Koo said city planners had to address the root of the problem.

“The ongoing dredging of the Creek is great, but it’s only a temporary fix to an ongoing problem. The entire creek must be dredged, and more importantly, new capacity must be built,” he said. “We need to be sure that the department of environmental protection and the army core of engineers are involved in the planning and implementation of Flushing West.”

He also cautioned against overly sweet deals for developers, who would already be attracted to the area. “The challenge here is not getting the market to invest, but to make sure the investments meet the needs of the community,” he said.

More skimming going on

From NBC:

Identity thieves stealing information through ATM skimming devices are increasingly preying on customers in Queens, with reports of skimming incidents quadrupling in a 10-week time period this year compared to last, police say.

The NYPD is posting warning fliers on ATMs in East Elmhurst, Jackson Heights and North Corona, showing customers how to spot a skimming device. Skimmers have been found in ATMs at gas stations and convenience stores, and the high-tech devices resemble real cardreaders.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

DeBlasio announces $2.6B homeless plan

From the Observer:

After squabbling with Gov. Andrew Cuomo over funding for supportive housing, Mayor Bill de Blasio today announced plans to move ahead on his own, launching a $2.6 billion program that will build 15,000 units of housing for the homeless.

“The City of New York is acting. We’re acting decisively. We are not waiting on Albany,” Mr. de Blasio said today at a press conference in the lobby of a supportive housing building.

Mr. de Blasio’s press conference today took on the tone of a campaign rally, with advocates for the homeless, mentally ill, substance abusers and veterans cheering him on as he discussed the need for housing that could help those vulnerable individuals get back on their feet. If there was an opponent to run against, it seemed it might be Mr. Cuomo, Mr. de Blasio’s most prominent political enemy despite their shared party.

The governor and the mayor have been fighting for months over the funding for the NY/NY program, which has seen the city and the state work together to provide supportive housing for the homeless. Mr. de Blasio went to Albany to ask for 12,000 units to be built over 10 years, but the state responded with an offer of 3,900 units over seven years, something the city deemed insufficient. But perhaps the bigger disconnect was over how much of the tab for operating costs each government should pick up—the city wanted to contribute just 20 percent to the state’s 80 percent, as it has in the past, while the state was calling for a 50/50 split.

Mr. de Blasio will now pick up the full cost of his own 15-year program to build 15,000 units, but he and others standing alongside him repeatedly called on the state to do more. That comes after Mr. Cuomo said the same of the city earlier this year. “I think the city should spend more,” he said.

The plan calls for about 7,500 newly constructed apartment buildings and 7,500 “scattered site units.” It will cost $2.6 billion in capital funds over 15 years, of which $1 billion will be a city cost. Of that, all but $380 million has already been budgeted through the mayor’s affordable housing plan, which includes funding for supportive housing. The remaining $1.6 billion in capital funds will be offset by low-income tax credits and other private sources, which the mayor’s budget director said today will largely be costs paid by developers. The city will also pay operating costs of $96 million through fiscal year 2019, starting with $8.8 million the first year and ramping up from there.

DeBlasio's zoning proposals tank at Borough Board

From Progress Queens:

In a brief meeting of the Queens Borough Board, chaired by Borough President Melinda Katz (D-Queens), the members voted overwhelmingly to reject two City Hall rezoning proposals being considered city-wide.

The Zoning for Quality and Affordability, or ZQA, would essentially allow developers to build larger buildings to accommodate affordable housing. The proposal to create Mandatory Inclusionary Housing zoning, or MIH, would require affordable housing as part of any new development over 10 units. The ZQA and MIH proposals are central to the affordable housing plan put forth by Mayor Bill de Blasio (D-New York City) to build or preserve 200,000 units of affordable housing over a span of ten (10) years.

In prior meetings of the Community Boards of Queens, the Community Boards had overwhelmingly rejected the proposals. Going into Monday evening's Queens Borough Board meeting, the outcome was never in doubt.

After the votes were taken by simple voice votes and the Borough Board meeting came to a conclusion, Borough President Katz made statements to the press.

"The next step is the Borough Board has voted to disapprove both amendments. And we look forward to discussing with the administration how we can improve these amendments, so that we can provide sufficient affordable housing in the City of New York."

Sound like Melinda is going to vote yes eventually.

Small number of building use a whole lot of energy

From AM-NY:

Two percent of the city's buildings use 45% of the city's energy, according to a new report by Climate Works For All.

The organization, part of The Alliance for a Greater New York (ALIGN) and focused on combating climate change while creating jobs, used data that is publicly available through the city's energy consumption reporting requirements, enacted as part of the Greener, Greater Buildings (GGBP) laws.

ALIGN claims that among the worst offenders are luxury residential buildings that, through outsize amenities, end up consuming much more energy than the majority of other residential buildings in the city.

On Tuesday, members of the group, along with representatives from New York Communities for Change and other associations, held a rally at the corner of West 57th street and Sixth Avenue, on so-called "billionaire's row."

Between leading chants through a megaphone, Josh Kellermann, a senior analyst for ALIGN, said that the organization wants to work with the City Council to expand the energy regulations governing city buildings.

Existing GGBP laws, which apply to buildings of over 50,000 feet, do not go far enough and rely too heavily on participation in voluntary programs, according to the organization. Currently, buildings receive energy audits but are not necessarily required to follow recommendations.

New FMCP conservancy a total sham and a total shame

From The Observer:

Mayor Bill de Blasio rebuffed attacks from a Queens city councilman that a new nonprofit set up to raise funds for Flushing Meadows-Corona Park “plays politics” by only granting a councilwoman aligned with his liberal agenda an appointee on the conservancy’s board—and leaves Mr. Lancman and his constituents without a voice.

Shortly before Mr. de Blasio joined Queens Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras-Copeland—a member of the Council’s Progressive Caucus and chairwoman of its powerful Committee on Finance—to announce the creation of the park’s new funder and caretaker, Councilman Rory Lancman, a fellow Democrat, sent out a press release entitled “Mayor de Blasio Plays Politics With ‘Flushing Meadows-Corona Park Alliance’ and Disenfranchises Hundreds of Thousands of Park Users.” Mr. Lancman, whose district covers the southern end of the park, argued only granting Ms. Ferreras-Copeland a representative on the Alliance board was part of a pattern for the mayor—pointing out that both of the mayor’s only town halls while in office have been in the districts of Progressive Caucus members.

“The mayor can’t just have town hall meetings in disticts with council members that are his core allies. He can’t dole out appointments to oversee spending of money in public parks just to his allies,” Mr. Lancman told the Observer in a phone interview, claiming the administration refused to meet with him for months to discuss the Alliance’s creation. “I think there are a lot of communities in this city who look at mayor and ask themselves: Is he really representing us? People here feel he’s not representing them. This decision just reinforces that.”

When asked about the apparent imbalance today, Mr. de Blasio made the disputable assertion that Ms. Ferreras-Copeland’s district “covers the vast majority of this park,” and said that the Alliance board would engage with all stakeholders. He also said that, since he has held just two town halls, it was too early to claim he was only holding them in the districts of political allies.

From Capital New York:

“This is something to invest in!” said de Blasio, speaking to reporters and park advocates at a press conference sandwiched between the Queens Museum and the Unisphere, a steel relic from the 1964-1965 World’s Fair.

Nearly two and a half years after the United States Tennis Association agreed (under duress) to invest a total of $10.05 million into a conservancy to help maintain the park it occupies, de Blasio announced the conservancy’s formal creation.

Parks may be a public and publicly-owned good, but de Blasio, a self-defined progressive, argued, “[T]here are limits to what public funding can achieve."

Today, the city is investing some $20 million into capital projects in the park, he said.

But, he added, "I think it’s wise to get additional funding in for the parks that have the ability to do that."

From the Forum:

“This deal is a sham,” said Geoffrey Croft of NYC Park Advocates. “This entire Alliance initiative and model is based on businesses commercially exploiting Flushing Meadows Corona Park, including taking parkland away from the public. Instead of the city properly investing in the park, as they are legally required to do, the administration is championing this plan in exchange for money. They should be ashamed of themselves. This is certainly not ‘progressive.’

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

DOI arrests inspector for filing false report

From PIX11:

A city building engineer was charged with deeming a West End Avenue building façade safe -- where a 2-year-old girl was fatally struck by falling bricks in May 2015.

Officials with the Department of Investigation say Maqsoon Faruqi, 55, of Jackson, N.J., falsely filing a façade inspection report of a West End Avenue apartment when he had actually never visited the building.

The 2-year-old girl, Greta Greene, died after being struck in the head by chunks of brick that fell from the eighth floor of a luxury nursing home -- The Esplanade -- as she sat with her grandmother on a bench outside.

The grandmother, Susan Frierson, 60, suffered leg injuries.

The New York City Department of Buildings immediately hit the owners of The Esplanade with two complaints -- after the incident -- for failing “to maintain the property in a safe and code-compliant manner.”

The owners did file a façade inspection report, as required by law, with the Department of Buildings in 2011. At the time, Faruqi, who conducted the inspection, pronounced the conditions safe.

Faruqi filed his inspection report stating that he directly supervised the inspection and reviewed the proper documents to assess the façade’s structural integrity, writing, “All conditions identified in previous reports as requiring repairs have been corrected.”

The DOI later discovered that Faruqi never visited the site nor had he seen The Esplanade's maintenance records or inspection reports.

Affordable LIC housing used as AirBnB rental

From LIC Post:

The Hunters Point South development, which tax-subsidized residents started moving into in May, is already being gamed for profit by renters using Airbnb.

Lottery recipients who received luxury Manhattan-view waterfront apartments, with the help of taxpayer subsidies, are now renting them out for as much as $500 a night.

A unit in one of the two Hunters Point South affordable buildings was highly sought after last year. More than 92,700 people applied to snag one of the 925 units that were on offer. The chance to win was 1 in 100.

“This is the best apartment deal in New York City,” Frank Monterisi, the senior vice president of the Related Companies that developed the building, said at a meeting last year.

The development contains amenities such as an outdoor roof deck, rooftop garden, a fitness center and a children’s playroom.

Three residents were found to be cashing in on their affordable apartment deal on the controversial Airbnb site earlier this week.

One tenant, who went by the name Nathalye, advertized her two-bedroom apartment for $500 per night, with the headline “Luxury Apartment with great Manhattan views.” With a cleaning and service fee, a five-night stay comes to $2,809.

The apartment is located at 1-55 Borden Ave. and can sleep up to six guests, according to the ad. The Venezuelan native, who moved to the U.S. three years ago, has two reviews, according to her profile.

It's Forest Hills house burning season

From NBC:

A large fire engulfed a house being built in an affluent Queens neighborhood Tuesday evening, leaving behind a charred frame of a home three months into construction.

The two-alarm fire broke out at the house at 66th Avenue and 108th Street in Forest Hills, shortly after a construction crew left the site, according to the construction manager.

Video from the scene showed intense flames shooting from the site, sending up thick up plumes of smoke.

The house was being built by a Queens millionaire for his son, according to authorities. The home was three months into construction.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Putain de merde!

Can you find the elected official in this picture taken at a vigil for the Paris bombing victims?

Stumped? Click here for the answer.

Special Enforcement to go after illegal hotels

From the Daily News:

The battle to shut down illegal hotels in New York City — which officials say are draining the already dwindling stock of affordable housing — is getting a $10 million budget boost.

The de Blasio administration is giving the money — which will be spread out over the next three years — to its newly beefed-up Mayor’s Office of Special Enforcement, which goes after illegal hotels that advertise on sites like Airbnb.

The money will go toward hiring five new staffers, state-of-the-art data to find illegal operators and a public awareness campaign to inform people what their rights are under New York’s strict hotel occupancy law.

New call for landmarking Cornell Farm

From the Times Ledger:

Several civic organizations have joined state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) in calling on the city Landmarks Preservation Commission to grant historic preservation status to the 200-year-old William Cornell Farmhouse in Little Neck.

Avella and the groups claim they have been submitting applications to the LPC to landmark the site for about a decade, but it has never approved them.

The property was purchased for $2 million in 2014 by the Harvest Church of New York, which has since razed the greenhouse adjacent to the farmhouse that it plans to modify to use as a rectory, and has proposed building a house of worship on the property’s front lawn.

I wonder what happened to this plan to buy it.

Issuing fines easy; collecting is not

From Capital New York:

City Hall is owed nearly $1.6 billion in uncollected debt from fines and tickets, nearly half of which comes from related penalties and not the actual summonses themselves, a new report reveals.

The initial fines adjudicated by the Environmental Control Board, which handles summonses for 13 city agencies, amount to close to $483 million. Default penalties for failing to attend subsequent judicial hearings top $709 million, and interest totals more than $386 million.

Those figures are laid out in a recent, first-of-its-kind report from the city Department of Finance, which unveiled extensive details about the potential revenue that has long eluded city coffers.

The total of $1.58 billion the city has yet to collect stems from 1,456,919 tickets that were never paid.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Leaf blowing blows!

"I wrote to you five years ago about a problem that we had with the constant use of leaf blowers at Maurice A. Fitzgerald Playground on Atlantic Avenue & 106 Street in Ozone Park. This is a situation that we’ve been trying to correct since 2003. Unfortunately, the problem not only still exists, but has gotten worse! Filing complaints via 311 have been completely useless.
A recent complaint that I filed about their daily usage (which, this year, started in April) elicited a letter from Queens Parks Commissioner Dorothy Lewandowski in which she apologized “for the noise and inconvenience however, leaf blowers are a necessary tool”. “Inconvenience”??? How about a daily noisy nuisance that we are forced to endure for hours? Last year, they even used them on Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving!! The Parks Dept. couldn’t have given us or their workers a break from this nonsense for even one day?? As for “necessary tool” leaf blowers are nothing if not inefficient and ineffective. In fact, leaf blowers were banned in parts of California back in 2013 because of the noise and air pollution that they produce, for their “trespass” in homes and the adverse effect they have on one’s health.
What’s crazy is that even in the rain workers are out there with the leaf blowers. At that point they become giant hair dryers that must dry the leaves before they can move them with the device. On top of that, even after being tormented for six hours with the noise, the storm drains around the park still aren’t cleaned. I guess that is better than last year when they blew all of the leaves from the sidewalk and curb across the street so that their job became ours. Better still is after they blow the leaves in a pile, they don’t collect them but leave the there for the wind to disperse them so that the cycle can start anew the next day!

To add to the insanity is the park’s workers using leaf blowers as toys. Last summer two workers were using them to play air hockey with a wadded-up lump of paper. Another sat on a park bench with her cell phone in one hand and a leaf blower in the other. She had it pointing skywards as it it were a Star Wars light saber and just sat there revving the damned engine while she texted.
We are forced to suffer many quality of life problems from the Maurice A. Fitzgerald Playground such as the constant aroma of pot, loud music from the cars that cruise or hang around the park, firecrackers shot off at night year-round and basketball at 4 AM (the park is kept open for our “benefit”)… The daily use of the leaf blowers is adding insult to injury and demonstrates a complete disregard for all of the park’s neighbors. The solution is very simple: stop using them NOW. Commissioner Lewandowski has the authority and obligation to make this happen. I’m certain that she wouldn’t want to be subjected to this daily abuse, so why the hell should we??

Parks are supposed to provide us a bit of relief from our daily stress, not add significantly to it. “inconvenience”? how dare you be so condescending to us, Ms. Lewandowski? The daily din from these leaf blowers is an unnecessary obtrusive aggravation. Their usage needs to be ceased. Use a rake and broom – and lock up the place at night!!!" - Karl