Saturday, December 31, 2016

Big bill for sidewalk repair

From PIX11:

Patrica Appelt-Coraci and her 88-year-old mom Gladys both grew up in the house Gladys still owns on 77th Road in Flushing.

About a year ago, Gladys received a notice from the city that the sidewalk in front of the house needed to be repaired. Gladys let it go.

In New York, even if the city owns the public sidewalk in front of a home, it’s the homeowner who is responsible for maintaining it.

So when Gladys ignored the notice, the city stepped in to make the repairs. Then sent her the bill.

And what a bill it was!

"$362,000 and change," according to Patricia.

$362,077 to be exact.

Kew Gardens Hills businesses destroyed by fire

From PIX11:

Three firefighters were injured and at least 14 businesses were destroyed when a massive blaze ripped through a row of stores in Queens Friday evening.

FDNY received a call about 6:30 p.m. of a fire in a store that is part of a one-story building on Vleigh Place between 77th Road and 78th Road. The fire spread to neighboring stores located in the building on the block.

By 7:30 p.m., the row of stores were up in flames, FDNY said. Fourteen stores and businesses were destroyed.

The fire has burned through the roof, causing part of it to collapse.

Three firefighters were injured. One suffered a sprain and another fainted, FDNY said.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Flushing construction project halted

From the Queens Chronicle:

The Department of Buildings issued a stop-work order on Dec. 14, which it then partially rescinded on Tuesday, for the construction site at 33-11 148 St. in Flushing.

The stop-work order was issued “after an inspection determined that the building’s chimney had partially collapsed, and that the construction site was missing a required construction fence,” a DOB spokesman told the Chronicle, adding that it was rescinded “so that the contractor can brace the partially collapsed chimney, and then safely remove the chimney. All other construction work is still prohibited under the partial stop work order.”

State Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) had written three letters to the agency’s commissioner, Rick Chandler, about the building in the past three months, notifying it of what some constituents called illegal building: erecting a two-and-a-half-story house in an R2A-zoned area, which does not permit it.

“As you should recall, residents reported that the plans filed with your agency show a ‘1-story’ horizontal and vertical enlargement to an existing ‘1-story’ home,” the letter said. “However, residents believe that this construction is not for a ‘1-story’ home, but in face for a ‘two-and-a-half-story’ home.”

Flushing resident Paul Graziano is very concerned about the building, which isn’t far from his home.

“My guess is the chimney partially collapsed because they used a machine to demolish rather than a hand demolition,” he said.

Graziano went on to say that, “without question,” more than 50 percent of the pre-construction building had been destroyed. The permit application was filed under an Alt-1 permit, which requires that at least half of the original building be retained.

To curb cut or not to curb cut?

From PIX11:

Martin Grillo can't believe after decades of serving the city, he says he now has to fight for a driveway to his home.

Grillo has been a paramedic in New York City for 38 years.

He was there on 9/11 and he helped victims who lost their homes to flood waters during Hurricane Sandy.

While he was helping, his home was being ravaged by flood waters.

Now, as part of the Build-it-Back Program, he says, the city promised him a curb-cut driveway that would flow underneath his home to his door.

"I have good and bad days. I can't always walk. I need this driveway," Grillo said.

After 9/11, he has trouble breathing and walking. A driveway would make it easier for him to get in and out if his home, and help him with parking.

"Why don't they just do what they said they would do?" Grillo said.

But after more than a year battling several city agencies, he says he is getting no action and no respect.

NYC real estate prices on downward trend

From Crains:

New York City’s real estate market is showing telltale signs of slowing after an extraordinary three-year run that saw average office rents in Manhattan jump by 20%—from just under $60 per square foot to more than $70—and the median home price in the borough climb to a record-high $1.15 million from $800,000.

The pessimism centers on residential development sites amid concerns the city is overstuffed with high-end apartments.

Among the recent string of sobering reports is news that a 10-story building in Brooklyn Heights—one of three large properties being sold by the Jehovah’s Witnesses there and in Dumbo—will fetch a price 25% below the $300 million or more for which it was initially projected to sell. The parcels are considered prime places for both residential and commercial development.

Brokers said the decrease mirrors a precipitous drop in the value of land sites in the city by 20% to 25% so far in 2016. These brokers declined to speak on the record because several are marketing such properties and don’t want to openly disparage the products they are trying to sell.

Real estate firm to pay fine for Skelos/Silver involvement

From the Daily News:

A real estate firm that played a key role in the corruption charges against disgraced ex-legislative leaders Sheldon Silver and Dean Skelos must pay a $200,000 fine for violating New York lobbying laws.

Glenwood Management, which is owned by political powerbroker Leonard Litwin, agreed to the fine as part of a settlement with the Joint Commission on Public Ethics.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Factory turned into church (and luggage storage?) in Elmhurst

This old factory at 74-16 Grand Avenue most recently has been used as a church. The problem is that they never got permits or a place of assembly to legally turn it into one. There currently are 5 active DOB violations and thousands of dollars in ECB fines. The most interesting violation has to be this one:
Not sure why large quantities of luggage are being stored on the premises. And then there's the fact that the facade is crumbling.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Too expensive a typo to fix?

"This ridiculously misspelled sign at Steinway Street and 31st Avenue has embarrassingly been there for years!" - anonymous

Residence illegally converted into synagogue

"This building's C of O is for residential use but illegally converted to be synagogue/place of worship. Worse, they now purchased the property next door 150-60 78th road, and performed major renovation work to connect the 2 buildings together, expanding the illegal usage.

Every Sunday, they hand out donated perishable food and vegetables and other types of groceries to people. I have nothing against charity, but they have crowds blocking the entrance of the common drive way and leaves rotting and unwanted food stuffs by the street tree, and stored the empty vegetable cartons outside the 150-60 garage overnight for pick up.

They did try to manage and clean up but these kind of activities does not belong to a residential neighborhood. There are tons of summonses and ECB violations but mostly were ignored and written off." - anonymous

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Lefferts stairs need repair ASAP

From Impunity City by JQLLC:

I have to wonder if Mario’s son, Governor Andy, will take his new found proactive helmetless casual Friday style down to the Dirty Southeast Of Queens and get a look at the Lefferts Blvd. station. Where it takes longer to build a pair of stairs than it is to stuff big trains into little tunnels and have big time artists take months making portraits of themselves.

This was supposed to be completed by Thanksgiving, it should be noted that the other staircase was supposed to be finished last year too and got done in fucking June. I don’t have much hope for the MTA, the worst fucking transit system in the universe, to get it done, even if they have the technology for time travel. Look at that sign taped indelicately to the partition wall.
That’s right, January 2016. That is just awfully discouraging. If only the governor makes the time to assemble a garrison of contractors down to Richmond Hill to fix this miscue.

Jamaica Estates house needs some TLC

From the Queens Chronicle:

A boarded-up, derelict house at 84-38 Charlecote Ridge in Jamaica Estates is concerning some in the neighborhood.

“I am so furious about this whole thing,” Community Board 8 Chairwoman Martha Taylor told the Chronicle. “It’s just crazy.”

Windows at the house are fragmented and trash can be found on the ground surrounding it. A vacate order was issued at the site earlier this year due to a lack of hot water, water supply and heat, missing windows and the building being in total disrepair, CB 8 said.

According to Taylor, the vacate order has likely been lifted — a hypothesis drawn from a Dec. 14 email sent from HPD to the Mayor’s Office of Community Affairs, and then to CB 8 — although it should not have been.

The email, which was provided to the Chronicle, says, “HPD was able to gain access to the above referenced property today. The building has essential services. For this reason we will not be vacating the building.”

Taylor is doubtful.

“The violations can’t be cured without them going to Buildings, getting a permit and then having master plumbers certify that they’re fixed,” she said. “As far as I know, all they have is electricity ... . They cannot cure those violations without a master plumber.”

Monday, December 26, 2016

Bayside curb repairs taking forever

From the Times Ledger:

Three years after city snow plows destroyed the curb in front of All Saints Episcopal Church in Bayside, the Department of Transportation still has no plans to repair the damage, even after the intervention of a higher power — the neighborhood’s assemblyman.

During the series of blizzards in the winter of 2013–2014, snow plows from Department of Sanitation battered the curb by the church into gravel, grinding some sections down to little more than a sliver of rough concrete. All Saints, located at 214-33 40th Ave. reached out to state Assemblyman Edward Braunstein (D–Bayside), who spoke with DOT about repairing the curbs. The agency made him wait a year for a response.

“My office contacted the NYC Department of Transportation in 2014 regarding curbs that were damaged at All Saints Church by the Department of Sanitation,” Braunstein said. “On Feb. 13, 2015, DOT notified me that All Saints Church would be added to its ‘curb database for repair under a future curb repair contract.’ In light of the fact that the curbs were damaged by a city agency, DOT should commence with the repairs as soon as possible.”

But nearly two years after committing to fix the damage, the DOT has not yet scheduled repairs.

“NYC DOT is aware of the curb condition at this location, which has been added to the agency’s curb database for repair under a future curb repair contract when resources become available,” a DOT spokeswoman said.

SI hydrant story is a real lulu

Staten Island Advance/Rachel Shapiro
From SI Live:

An oddly placed sidewalk and fire hydrant alongside a Mariners Harbor street has some residents scratching their heads over its location.

A newly built house at 235 Dixon Ave., on the corner of Granite Avenue, includes a new sidewalk surrounding it on two sides, one of which juts out into the street several feet more than the adjacent sidewalk.

Even more odd is the location of a fire hydrant in the middle of the sidewalk.

Builder James Megna of Staten Island-based Megna Home Improvement said all plans were approved by the city, including the sidewalk's location, as installed by a concrete subcontractor.

Megna said the city was supposed to relocate the fire hydrant but refused to do so.

"Everything was done legitimately," he said. "That was the way they wanted it."

But a Department of Buildings spokesman said builders are responsible for the cost associated with relocation of fire hydrants, not the city.

The builder's pavement plan for this house wasn't immediately accessible to the DOB, the spokesman said, so the department can't say whether the builder has conformed with the law.

Perhaps this fellow compared notes with the St. Saviour's developer when concocting this plan

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Santa hanging around Ridgewood

"Hi Crappie, I spotted this in Ridgewood,don’t know if Santa’s in trouble or just working out to get ready for making his worldwide journey. Merry Christmas!" - Richie

Santa's eye view of Jamaica Estates lights

From NBC:

A view of a brightly decorated holiday home at 80th Drive and Chevy Chase Street in Jamaica, Queens, as captured by Chopper 4 Monday evening. See more spectacular holiday homes in New York City!

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Kew Gardens Interchange work complete

From DNA Info:

Driving around Queens may now be a bit less frustrating, after a major phase of the lengthy Kew Gardens Interchange Project was completed six years after it started, officials said.

The state Department of Transportation just finalized the $159 million reconstruction of a large portion of the Van Wyck Expressway in Kew Gardens and Briarwood, which seeks to reduce congestion and ease traffic flow in the area, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Thursday.

That phase of the Kew Gardens Interchange project included:

► reconstructing and widening the Van Wyck Expressway between 82nd and Hillside avenues;

► reconstructing the exit ramp from the northbound Van Wyck Expressway to westbound Queens Boulevard;

► constructing several bridges over the Van Wyck Expressway, including the Queens Boulevard Bridge over Main Street;

► building an extra lane on the Van Wyck Expressway between the Grand Central Parkway and Queens Boulevard;

► constructing a dedicated exit lane on the southbound Van Wyck Expressway to Hillside Avenue.

Residents will still, however, have to wait a bit longer for a new elevator at the Briarwood subway station, which was built as part of the project, as well as for three pedestrian plazas and landscaping along Queens Boulevard planned for the Kew Gardens and Briarwood area after it was overtaken by the construction project for many years.

Music festivals not coming to FMCP next year

From the Times Ledger:

The city Parks Department Monday denied applications from three entertainment giants hoping to use Flushing Meadows Corona Park for music festivals this summer after opposition from Borough President Melinda Katz. Madison Square Garden, AEG Live and Founders Entertainment were seeking to close off large portions of the park in order to stage for-profit, multi-day events, but were denied permits for the second year in a row.

“Without a fair policy in place, I remain opposed to any applications from for-profit organizations to run paid-admission events in Flushing Meadows Corona Park,” Katz said last week. “The absence of a revised policy, including a set selection criteria and process approved by the community, renders the process arbitrary and unfair. Cutting off public access to our treasured parks flies in the face of the very principle behind our parks, which is space designated for public access and equity.”

Parks had no further comment and AEG Live could not be reached, but Tom Russell, co-founder and partner of Founders Entertainment, understood Katz’s opposition.

Hotels = shelters in de Blasio's NYC

From the Brooklyn Paper:
Six new hotels sprouting up in the industrial portion of Sunset Park are just wolves in sheep’s clothing that will end up housing homeless people instead of tourists, claims a community activist who fears the surge in hotel construction in the neighborhood is a thinly veiled attempt to shoehorn more shelters into the area.

“These are not hotels. I don’t care what they say, they’re going to be used as shelters,” said Delvis Valdes, a director with activist group the Village of Sunset Park. “It’s no coincidence that Sunset Park is suddenly the hottest neighborhood to visit — it’s not. There aren’t enough tourists to fill these hotels so the homeless do.”

Sunset Park only has one official homeless shelter — a controversial home for single men on 49th Street between Second and Third avenues — but the city’s Department of Homeless Services is renting rooms in at least five new area inns without alerting locals, according to Community Board 7 district manager Jeremy Laufer. And this paper recently discovered that the city quietly converted all 77-rooms of a Comfort Inn on 38th Street near Fourth Avenue into a shelter.

Now developers aim to build at least six new inns in sections of Sunset Park and Green-Wood Heights and residents assume they too will be claimed by the city and transformed into shelters.

Meanwhile, City Limits has the Coalition for the Homeless acting like it's ok that NYC is burdened with LI and NJ homeless:
Just over 11 percent of the people who moved in to DHS shelters in the final six months of 2016 did so from out of state, according to the agency’s latest statistics.

On the other hand, the Coalition’s website cites as a myth the view that “out-of-towners abusing the city’s right to shelter” caused the crisis. Many families categorized as non-City residents in fact lost housing on Long Island or in New Jersey and returned home to New York.

Guess what? If you're entering a NYC shelter from LI or NJ, then you're an "out-of-towner".

And finally, according to the RFP posted on the City Record, Staten Island will escape having to shelter the homeless in their hotels:
Under Master Contracts, during the commercial hotel phase out, DHS would pay vendor(s) to procure reservations at current commercial hotel in Brooklyn, Queens, Manhattan, and the Bronx, manage this emergency portfolio and address the need for emergency placements as such need may arise, and provide social services to residents at the facility and all costs associated with managing their portfolio(s).

Friday, December 23, 2016

New Elmhurst Library opens - finally!

From the Queens Tribune:

The $32.4 million, 32,000-square-foot library, which is projected to serve 1.2 million visitors annually, is now open. And to celebrate the official opening, CEO and president of Queens Library Dennis Walcott, Borough President Melinda Katz, and every civic leader and elected official within the confines of the district gathered together at the Elmhurst Community Library at noon on Tuesday for a ribbon cutting, followed by the official opening of the doors to consumers.

Originally, the Elmhurst Community Library, which had broken ground in 2011, was set to open in 2013. However the date continued to shift back. The 2013 grand opening was then set for spring 2014, followed by a set opening for spring 2015.

Assemblyman Francisco Moya (D-Jackson Heights) said the new Elmhurst Community Library is the most beautiful building he had ever seen in his life, and is “one of those buildings that will be cherished every time anyone walks by.”

This guy must not get out much if he thinks that's the most beautiful building in creation.

Removal of toll booths is in the works

From the Office of the Governor:

Open road tolling will be completed at all MTA bridges and tunnels by the end of 2017. The schedule is as follows:

Hugh L. Carey Tunnel – January 2017
Queens Midtown Tunnel – January 2017
Rockaway Bridges – Spring 2017
RFK Bridge – Summer 2017
Verrazano-Narrows Bridge – Summer 2017
Throgs Neck Bridge – Fall 2017
Bronx-Whitestone Bridge – Fall 2017

With the implementation of open road tolling, state-of-the-art sensors and cameras will be suspended over the highway on structures called "gantries" that read E-ZPass tags and take license plate images, so vehicles no longer have to stop to pay the toll. Vehicles with E-ZPass tags are automatically charged. Non-E-ZPass vehicles have their license plates recorded and a bill is mailed to the registered owner of each vehicle every 30 days.

Developer scales plan down to 72 units from 187

From the Times Ledger:

The plans to construct three additional structures on vacant green space adjacent to Bell Apartments in Bay Terrace have changed to accommodate about 36 two-family homes, according to the architect.

Bell Apartments is a five six-story building, 300-unit co-op located near Bay Terrace Shopping Center.

Anthony Colletti, chief operating officer for Cord Meyer, said the original plans were scrapped for reasons of feasibility and community opposition.

Shareholders at the presentation in January told Cord Meyer war stories about the current parking situation and that adding 187 extra households would create too much deadlock, even with a new underground garage to match the number of units. Residents were relieved when the development company reduced the plan to 36 two-family buildings, Colletti said.

“It didn’t make sense for us either,” Colletti said. “It wasn’t working out financially, so we scaled it down and [the shareholders] were thrilled.”

Since the unveiling of the initial plans, the community has been informed of all new developments, according to Colletti, who added that elected officials such as state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) and Councilman Paul Vallone (D-Bayside) were kept informed as well.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Queens Chamber of Commerce awards Steinway Mansion crappification

From George the Atheist:

The Queens Chamber of Commerce hosted their annual Building Awards dinner and networking event on Dec. 7 at Terrace on the Park in Flushing Meadows Corona Park. Michael Stoler, president of New York Real Estate TV and managing director of Madison Realty Capital, delivered the keynote address. Chamber President Mayra DiRico and Executive Director Tom Grech PRESENTED AWARDS TO INDIVIDUALS AND FIRMS WHOSE DEVELOPMENTS ACROSS QUEENS HAD A PROFOUND IMPACT ON THE BOROUGH. - Queens Courier, December 15 edition

Proudly beaming with ear-to-ear shit-eating photo grins: (left to right) Steinway Mansion "Park" architect Gerald Caliendo with Steinway Mansion "Park" owners Salvatore Lucchese and Philip Loria.

City seeks contractors to negotiate homeless hotel rates

From the Daily News:

The city is looking for contractors to rent out the thousands of hotel rooms it uses to house the homeless, in the hopes of cutting down the sky-high cost of the accommodations.

As the Daily News first reported, the city is shelling out $400,000 a night for commercial hotel rooms for the homeless, an audit by City Controller Scott Stringer found — with some rooms in Times Square costing more than $600 a night.

Now, a request for proposals set to be released Thursday seeks nonprofit vendors to enter into contracts with the city and then rent out hotel rooms on the city’s behalf. That would replace the emergency procurement process the Department of Homeless Services has been relying on.

Mayor de Blasio has vowed to stop using hotel rooms altogether, but with the homeless population continuing to surge, officials now admit that’s unlikely to happen anytime soon.

The bid expects contractors to find up to 3,900 hotel rooms, with 2,500 of them used for families with children.

The city believes the move will save money because contractors will be able to negotiate flat monthly rates, avoiding spikes in hotel room rates that happen at peak times. Officials don’t have an estimate of how much will be saved.

NYS population went down this year

From NY1:

Fewer people are living in New York State, although it may not be that noticeable.

According to the latest census figures, New York saw its population drop by about 1,900 between July 2015 and July 2016.

While that's only a decrease of .01 percent, it's the first time the state's population has fallen since 2006.

More than 191,000 people in total left the state during the year ending on July 1.

That number was offset by the fact that New York led the country in foreign immigration and had more births than deaths.

New York has also lost nearly 850,000 people over the past six years, the most of any state.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Tony Avella interview

City deed restriction lifted by donation

From DNA Info:

The city has struck a deal to build 38 affordable housing units on a formerly deed-restricted plot of land.

The area, formerly owned by the Dance Theatre of Harlem at 152nd Street and St. Nicholas Avenue, will be developed by BRP Companies.

Earlier this year, The Department of Citywide Administrative Services accepted $875,000 from the developer in exchange for lifting the deed restriction, which had been in place since 1976 and ruled it could only be used for cultural groups.

​The developer bought the lot for $3.1 million. They also made a financial contribution to one of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s political causes, the New York Times reported. BRP Companies did not respond to a request for comment.

Oh, well that's never happened before! And is 38 units really a lot?

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

They'd hold a ribbon cutting for a flea market

Only in Queens do politicians hold press conferences - podium and all - to announce that basic road repairs have been completed. A press statement would have sufficed.

From the Times Ledger

EDC picked a real winner in Staten Island

From the NY Post:

The cost of the New York Wheel project on Staten Island is nearing $600 million, more than $300 million over its original estimate.

The opening of the 630-foot Ferris wheel on the St. George waterfront, initially slated for early next year, is now scheduled for 2018.

Problems getting funding for what is expected to be the world’s tallest Ferris wheel and a major tourist attraction contributed to the delays, said a source familiar with the project.

Brooklyn homeowner repeatedly breaks the rules

From Brooklyn Daily:

The city must crack down on a Marine Parker who is repeatedly violating the rules as he builds an addition on his Kimball Street home, neighbors are demanding.

Officials have issued two stop-work orders on the home after inspectors caught the owner building bigger than he was supposed to. But work was allowed to continue once, and now neighbors fear the homeowner will continue to break the rules and get away with it.

“Before you blink this is going to be done and be a giant monstrosity. We got to get to the bottom of how this person submitted plans and got away with building something different,” said James McDonald, who lives next door and started a petition that has garnered more than 200 signatures.

The home — between Fillmore Avenue and Avenue S — is zoned for a maximum height of 35 feet. The Department of Buildings issued two stop-work orders on the home, the first in September, when inspectors found owner David Avraham was building a third story contrary to approved plans, which were only for the alteration of two existing floors. Avraham then re-submitted plans calling the third floor an attic space, and the city rescinded the stop-work order in November, according to an agency spokesman.

But inspectors ordered construction halted again a week later when they noticed work on the back of the home was larger than what was in the approved plans. The city partially rescinded the stop-work order to allow owners to make emergency repairs to the roof, but then fully reissued it on Dec. 8 once the repairs were completed, the spokesman said.

Neighbors described the structure as an eyesore and said it would set a bad tone for future construction, but they are also worried about safety.

McDonald is worried the construction is shoddy and that someone will get hurt as a result — things appear to be falling off the structure and onto his lawn, he said.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Co-op wants to mow down trees for clubhouse

From the Times Ledger:

Windsor Oaks Tenant’s Corporation is seeking approval by the Board of Standards and Appeals to amend a variance between the co-op and the neighboring housing development so they may clear a wooded area for a new clubhouse and 98 new parking spaces, according to Steve Behar, legislative council to Councilman Barry Grodenchik (D-Oakland Gardens).

The variance to maintain the 100-foot wide section of trees goes back to 1951, when the co-op was built, and serves as a buffer between the two communities.

The land where the variance is in place is between Bell Boulevard and Springfield Boulevard and as many as 15 homes border the variance.

A Community Board 11 meeting in 2015 heard strong resident opposition to the plan to clear the woodland and the co-op’s application through CB 11 to amend the variance was shot down. In 2011, the Tenant’s Corporation had secured a loan to build the 5,000-square-foot clubhouse which was refinanced four years in a row without construction moving forward.

“In our last meeting before coming in front of the community board, it was suggested that we sit down with the residents of 77th Avenue and see where we could come together,” Windsor Oaks President Ronald Kaye said in 2015. “Sadly, they wanted no part of that. They just don’t want the project at all.”

But Behar said the co-op is not backing down from its resolve to level the trees standing between them and their future amenities.

“Over the years, they’ve cut down the trees, which they weren’t supposed to be doing under the variance, and now they’re asking the BSA to eliminate the variance,” Behar said. “This is a buffer between the cooperative and the homes. These people are up in arms because they bought their homes knowing that there was a variance, that they would be protected from this big co-op. We’ve also received a lot of complaints from people who live in the co-op, but don’t want this either.”

What exactly is a clubhouse needed for anyway? What hardship is associated with this?

LIC Clock Tower owners sell parcel next door

From the NY Times:

Things are getting choppy in New York’s once-rocketing residential real estate market.

Last week, the developers of what was planned as the city’s tallest tower outside of Manhattan gave up and sold their site next to the historic clock tower building in Queens Plaza to the Durst Organization for $173.5 million.

The developers, Kevin Maloney and Kamran Hakim, spent nearly three years buying land in Long Island City for the $750 million skyscraper. But, Mr. Maloney said in an interview this week, “we didn’t have the horsepower to get it done.”

The Dursts said they would erect a rental tower that may be just as tall as Mr. Maloney had planned, 914 feet.

The sale was the latest evidence that things are getting more difficult for developers: The market for high-end condominiums and rental apartments has slowed, costs have gone up and construction loans have been harder to get as dozens of new buildings open in neighborhoods throughout the city.

Avella kicks off mayoral campaign outside controversial hotel

From WPIX:

After an unsuccessful run in 2009, State Senator Tony Avella is officially throwing his hat into the ring for New York City Mayor in 2017 -- taking on Mayor Bill de Blasio.

"It's time to stop the failed top down planning approach in this city and allow every neighborhood every resident to have a voice -- a real say in what happens to their community," Avella announced in a press conference.

The Queens democrat and State Senator of the 11th district since 2010, is often a vocal critic of the De Blasio administration -- specifically in its handling of the homeless crisis -- which is now close to exceeding 60,000 people in the city. He formed a homeless crisis task force in Albany last year.

"I believe we have reached a crossroad in the direction our City should be taking. Under Mayor de Blasio we have more homeless than ever - our taxes continue to rise and it is more expensive to live here than ever before, all of this, while our quality of life fades away," he said.

Avella kicked off his campaign at the Holiday inn express in Queens -- one of at least 69 hotels where the de Blasio administration has placed homeless people right next to paying guests.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

BSA may actually give developer a hard time

From LIC Post:

The developers of the Paragon paint building who need a zoning variance in order to construct a 28-story tower on Vernon Boulevard may well struggle to get it, according to the executive director of the Board of Standards and Appeals.

The developers, Simon Baron Development and CRE Development, must adhere to several conditions in order to be granted a variance—one of which is that the structure does not alter the character of the neighborhood.

“We told them from a staff point of view that they would have a difficult time making that argument,” Ryan Singer, the BSA executive director said. “There are not a lot of buildings in that area that are that height.”

Singer said that his staffers told the developers that their case on this point “seemed like a stretch.”

The developers are continuing to press ahead with their BSA application. On Wednesday, Brent Carrier, of CRE Development, said that they are still on track. He said that they will not be changing the design in any significant way. He wouldn’t comment beyond this, other than saying it is “an exciting project.”

De Blasio called out for saying worker deaths are their own fault

From Crains:

After a construction worker died in Williamsburg on one of the city's much-touted affordable housing projects last week, Mayor Bill de Blasio emphasized the role of human error in construction deaths and pointed to the city's building boom as a cause of the drumbeat of fatalities.

"Part of why you’ve seen a number of instances is just the sheer extent of construction in this city, which is now essentially gotten to the pre-recession level," de Blasio said at a press conference Tuesday. "The city is booming with construction."

Asked if the city should better scrutinize safety on publicly-backed projects, the mayor said he wanted to differentiate "between the things that we find that are structurally solvable versus the things that are individual," noting that "sometimes it is just plain human and individual error" that causes construction deaths.

But occupational safety expert Deborah Berkowitz, a senior fellow at the National Employment Law Project and a former senior Occupational Safety and Health Administration official, said the mayor's comments fail to capture why construction deaths happen.

“Worker injuries are caused by unsafe conditions, not by careless workers,” she said. "If you follow OSHA rules, workers don’t get killed and injured."

Dr. Grace Sembajwe, professor at the City University of New York's School of Public Health and an occupational health expert, said the mayor is wrong to draw a distinction between individual failings and issues that can be addressed systemically.

Festivals still may come to Flushing Meadows

From the Times Ledger:

Borough President Melinda Katz has launched a pre-emptive strike against the city Parks Department and three entertainment giants that are seeking to use Flushing Meadows Corona Park for paid-admission music festivals this summer. Madison Square Garden, AEG Live and Founders Entertainment have all filed applications with the city to close off large portions of the park in order to stage events.

“Without a fair policy in place, I remain opposed to any applications from for-profit organizations to run paid-admission events in Flushing Meadows Corona Park,” Katz said. “The absence of a revised policy, including a set selection criteria and process approved by the community, renders the process arbitrary and unfair. Cutting off public access to our treasured parks flies in the face of the very principle behind our parks, which is space designated for public access and equity.”

The same three companies attempted to stage music festivals in Flushing Meadows Corona Park last summer, but their applications were denied after fierce opposition from Katz and numerous civic associations. Parks Commissioner Mitchell J. Silver said he would explore new rule-making to create an appropriate framework for approving large-scale multi-day events in the park, including limits on the potential number, scale and nature of any such events so as not to have an unreasonable impact on the park and its users.

These new rules have not been established as the Parks Department reviews the applications. The city has until Dec. 19 to approve permits for the entertainment giants.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

De Blasio campaign fined for financial shenanigans

From the Observer:

The city’s Campaign Finance Board slapped Mayor Bill de Blasio this afternoon with $47,778 in penalties for an array of violations connected with his 2013 campaign—including verboten post-election expenses, travel costs for his son and “makeup services” for his family.

His biggest fine was $21,159 for making impermissible post-election expenditures. In a summary of its final determination for the de Blasio, the board said that the campaign paid Hilltop Public Solutions $168,750 for post-election services, $116,250 of which they said are improper post-election expenses.

The mayor’s campaign said that Hilltop served as its general consultant and that it was qualified to oversee the initial post-election “winding down work” as well as the “final winding down” work—and cited the hiring of Bill Hyers as contributing to the firm’s “unique” qualifications. The campaign also said the firm was paid on an as-needed basis as opposed to a standard monthly retainer so the fees paid under contract are nominal.

Hyers is one of the five infamous “agents of the city” whose email correspondence with the administration de Blasio has refused to release—even in the face of lawsuits from the press.

But the board said that the campaign failed to provide ample documentation and explanations outlining the responsibilities, work product and other services Hilltop provided.

The next biggest fine was $12,483 for accepting over-the-limit contributions, followed by $6,086 for accepting contributions from corporations, limited liability companies or partnerships and $3,200 for failing to demonstrate compliance with intermediary reporting and documentation requirements.

He was also fined for $2,087 for failing to file/late filing of daily pre-election disclosure statements and $1,000 for accepting contributions from unregistered political committees.

Other smaller penalties were $407 for failing to report transactions, $300 for failing to document transactions and $250 for commingling with campaign funds accepted for a different election.

The mayor was also fined $806 for failing to demonstrate that spending was in furtherance of the campaign. In particular, the board notes $550 spent on makeup services for de Blasio and his family on Election Night, which his campaign descried as a legitimate expense because it was meant to prepare them for their scheduled televised public campaign appearances “at a likely victory celebration.” But the board stated that using campaign funds for “personal grooming” is prohibited.

Not yet built hotels already for sale

From LoopNet:

Fair Fields Inn & Suites(Proposed Room Number 88, Buildable Area 23,118 sft.) and Court Yard(Proposed Room Number 131, Buildable Area 46,744) Franchise Agreement by Marriott Hotel Group and Certificate of Origin(C/O) are Included. Under the construction now. Zoning: R 3-2/ C 2-2. For further detail information, call the listing Broker for the information & showing.

By I-495, Long Island Express in Fresh Meadow, Queens New York.

Breaking News: Flushing overcrowded!

From The Real Deal:

Even to passing observers, the strains on the neighborhood’s infrastructure have become obvious. While both the MTA and LIRR serve the area, the streets around Flushing’s Main Street are one of the most congested in terms of vehicle and foot traffic. For motorists and business owners, the availability and price of parking is a big concern. On any given weekend, traffic slows to a crawl as frustrated drivers circle crowded parking lots.

“It’s like putting a size 7 foot in a size 6 shoe,” said Dian Yu, president of Flushing’s Business Improvement District. He fretted that major traffic congestion will discourage the very consumers new developments are aiming to woo.

George Xu, CEO of Century Development Group, which is building a 14-story mixed-use project on Farrington Street and 35th Avenue, noted that his friends have begun parking north of Northern Boulevard, the thoroughfare that marks the northern edge of Downtown Flushing, just to avoid the congestion. Xu himself confessed, “I don’t like to drive there anymore.”

The city has also acknowledged the overcrowding. The de Blasio administration recently nixed a massive rezoning plan for Flushing West, an industrial zone between the 7 subway terminal and Flushing Creek that the mayor had targeted for affordable housing. The decision came after City Councilman Peter Koo, who represents the area, wrote a letter to City Hall, saying: “Concerns arose about the sustainability of nearly every major category in the urban planning spectrum — affordable housing, public transportation, traffic, school capacity, small business and residential displacement, and environmental remediation.”

Joseph Sweeney, a chairperson on Community Board 7, which includes Flushing, said he researched the rezoning plan and agreed that it wasn’t sustainable. “We were not ready for it,” he said.

Friday, December 16, 2016

It's gone to the grand jury!

From the Daily News:

Federal and state grand juries have begun hearing testimony in criminal investigations of Mayor de Blasio’s fund-raising.

Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara is said to be presenting evidence in a probe of how de Blasio collected large sums of money for a since disbanded nonprofit organization called the Campaign for One New York.

The New York Times reported that Bharara's panel is examining whether the mayor or aides gave donors helpful city action in exchange for contributions in a half dozen matters. An explicit quid-pro-quo or excessive pressure to donate would be federal felonies.

Separately, Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance Jr. has issued subpoenas and taken witness testimony in connection with additional large sums raised by de Blasio’s team in an attempt to switch the state Senate from Republican to Democratic control through upstate elections.

Vance is focused on whether de Blasio's routing of the money constituted an end-run misdemeanor violation of the state election law.

Crowley may support rezone of IBZ property for housing

From Crains:

The owner of an eight-acre industrial complex straddling train tracks in Maspeth, Queens, wants to propose a mixed-use project on the site.

The oddly-shaped property at 57-46 56th St. is currently home to a series of buildings used by various warehouse and industrial companies, and is bisected by a set of tracks used by the Long Island Railroad. The parcel is owned by Manhattan development firm the Chetrit Group, which said Wednesday that its plans are still in the early stages, but that it would like to propose something that fits in with the low-rise housing that flanks the property.

Winning approval for a rezoning could prove difficult, as the parcel lies within one of the city's Industrial Business Zones, which the de Blasio administration pledged to protect from residential development, in keeping with a 2015 commitment. But the Chetrit Group said that the site both lies at the edge of the district, and is across the street from existing housing, which would help make the case for redevelopment.

The site has been mentioned this year by City Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley in connection with her critique of City Hall’s homeless policy.

In August, she sent a letter to the mayor encouraging him to proactively search for more opportunities to develop permanent, low-income housing, rather than rely on converting hotels to homeless shelters, which has led to vehement protests and lawsuits in her district.

"We need affordable housing, not another shelter-hotel," she wrote in the letter to the mayor. "In recent months, two real estate developers who are eager to build residential housing units in Maspeth and Woodside have approached me, looking to start a conversation about a zoning change."

Woodside homeowner arrested for attempting to bribe DOB

From QNS:

A Woodside property owner whose two-story building was deemed too hazardous for living was arrested this week for trying to bribe the city into overlooking the vacate order.

Susana Escobar-Cardena, 65, was charged on Dec. 12 and charged with third-degree bribery and second-degree reckless endangerment. Escobar-Cardena, the owner of a two-family home at 62-17 39th Ave., had illegal single room occupancies in the cellar and first and second floors of the building.

In March of this year, according to prosecutors, the Department of Buildings (DOB) issued a vacate order on the property and told the owner that no one was allowed to re-rent or live there. On Dec. 10 an investigator re-inspected the property and found two rooms on the second floor with no emergency exits and one room in the cellar with no emergency exit.

Escobar-Cardena told the investigator that she had nowhere else to go and was told that the American Red Cross could help her find a new home. She proceeded to place $200 in cash into the investigators hand. The investigator told her it was not appropriate and told his colleague who was outside, according to the criminal complaint.

The investigator and his colleague went back into the building to record the conversation with Escobar-Cardena who again tried giving the DOB employees $200.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Rockaway getting another hotel!

From On Rockaway:

For the past decade or so, visitors coming to Rockaway for a wedding or other affair, or even for a visit to the beach were told that there were no hotels in Rockaway suitable for even a short visit. Those travelling to Rockaway were often sent to hotels at Kennedy Airport or on Rockaway Turnpike in Nassau County.

Now, however, Rockaway Beach is about to get a boutique hotel designed by famous Wythe Hotel architect Morris Adjmi.

New building applications were filed Tuesday for the six-story project at 108-20 Rockaway Beach Boulevard, between 108 and 109 Streets, where Irish saloons and the famous McGuire’s Bar once stood.

According to the development Website NY NIMBY, the building would reach 86 feet high and hold 61 rooms, including seven extended-stay suites.

Hopefully it's more successful than the last "new hotel" in Rockaway.

Hotel bill for homeless is astronomical

From Metro:

New York’s Department of Homeless Services is paying nearly twice the going room rate for a night at the Waldorf Astoria to house the homeless in Times Square hotels.

The city is paying more than $600 a night to ensure that some of its homeless are taken off the streets, for a total nightly cost of about $400,000, according to a report released by city Comptroller Scott Stringer Wednesday.

The report comes after two young sisters died in “cluster housing” in the Bronx from burns caused by a burst radiator valve in their apartment. Cluster housing combines housing for homeless and non-homeless families.

In November 2015, DHS placed 324 homeless families in city hotel rooms. By October, that number had leapt to 2,069, investigators said, adding that average hotel bills rose from $163 to $194.

Stringer revealed that the city has booked 425,000 hotel rooms since last November, at a cost of more than $72.9 million. He urged the city to find “a comprehensive, transparent road map to solve this extraordinary crisis.”

As comptroller, Stringer has been a vocal critic of Mayor Bill de Blasio's administration, and appears to be positioning himself for a mayoral run in 2017.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

It's all about the "right to shelter"

From the Daily News:

We don’t know why the Ambrose family moved from Maine to New York City roughly a year ago. What we do know is that Ibanez Ambrose, 2, and Scylee Ambrose, 1, suffered terribly from severe burns before they died from exposure to radiator steam and might be alive today had their parents remained in Maine.

Did they come here for medical services for Scylee, who had a rare congenital malformation? Or was it, as their father Peter said, so the girls could grow up in a big city with big opportunities? Or was it because he knew the city must, under law, provide housing for him and his family if they couldn’t afford it?

It’s unclear how many people enter the homeless ranks only because they know New York City must, under court settlements and state regulations, provide them free housing.

Don’t get me wrong. The law is just, and I don’t oppose it. No one wants anyone, especially children, to be homeless. But given that the number of homeless people in New York City is not stabilizing despite a concerted and well-funded effort by Mayor de Blasio, city leaders should consider a public awareness campaign that lets people know that staying put, moving to a city with more affordable housing or doubling up with relatives may be a much better solution than entering a shelter system bursting at the seams.

Council seeks to limit authority of the BSA

From Crains:

The City Council is set to discuss a package of bills Wednesday that would make it harder for property owners to bend the city's zoning laws, as they typically request in order to building bigger projects than would normally be allowed.

The 10 bills target the Board of Standards and Appeals, an obscure city body where owners argue that it is impossible to make a reasonable return developing a property without surpassing limits on things like the size and shape of buildings. A property might be oddly shaped, for example, preventing projects that conform to the zoning and are big enough to justify the investment. In order to make the economics pencil out, an owner might ask the board to relax height restrictions so more revenue-generating apartments could fit on the site.

According to the Manhattan councilman sponsoring five of the bills—which are to be heard Wednesday by the Committee on Governmental Operations—the board is persuaded too frequently. In 2011, it approved 97% of applications, many of which were opposed by local community boards.

New plan for old Parkway Hospital

From DNA Info:

Developer Jasper Venture Group LLC, in partnership with Auberge Grand Central LLC, purchased the hospital's mortgages for about $6.5 million in 2012 and two years later snatched up the site with a $1 million bid during a foreclosure auction, according to published reports. Now developers plan to renovate it into affordable housing for seniors.

Builders plan to gut the original six-story hospital building, which features two basement levels, and turn it into 70 apartments for seniors, according to Michael Cohen, a spokesman for Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz. The company would also build an additional three floors atop the building to include 27 market-rate units.

The owners are also planning a 12-story tower in the parking area between the former hospital and the Grand Central Parkway that would feature 200 market-rate apartments, Cohen said.

According to DEC, the soil has "low concentrations (ppb) [parts per billion] of petroleum compounds in groundwater on the site."

"DEC is planning to request that the applicant gather more data to determine if remediation is necessary to protect the public and the environment," Kevin Frazier, a spokesman for DEC said in an email Monday.

The application, according to DEC, is currently “undergoing a 30 day public comment period.”

Comments are closed December 30. Info is here, site code is C241193

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Owner vows not to turn hotels into shelters

From the Times Ledger:

The civic associations in Fresh Meadows have been concerned about the use of three hotels, which are being built in the neighborhood. Noting what is going on in other neighborhoods of Queens, the Fresh Meadows residents have been fearful that the hotels might be turned into homeless shelters. At a meeting arranged by state Sen. Tony Avella, however, the owners of the two Marriott Hotels being built along the north side of the Long Island Expressway at 183rd Street emphatically stated that their hotels are being built as regular hotels.

Avella convened the meeting of representatives from the West Cunningham Park Civic Association, Civic Association of Utopia Estates, Fresh Meadows Homeowners Civic Association, Fresh Meadows Tenants Association, and the East West United Realty in his office. The owners of the two Marriott Hotels explained that they will not rent out to the homeless because they have learned that hotels which take in homeless residents have had vandalism with rooms destroyed. They then can’t get regular hotel guests to rent rooms and when they take in more homeless, they have more vandalism.

One of the hotels will be a Courtyard by Marriott and the other will be a Fairfield Inn. The owners have carefully thought out their plans. They plan to obtain customers from family members who have students in local colleges, family members of people in local hospitals, people passing through and from tour groups who will find it cheaper to rent out rooms in Queens rather than in hotels in New Jersey. It will be a quick ride from Fresh Meadows to Manhattan along the Long Island Expressway. They will also be close to sporting events in Flushing Meadows Corona Park.

Yes, they are all built as "regular hotels" at first. Then when they aren't successful, they are converted into shelters. If a giant name brand hotel in Maspeth, which is a hop, skip and a jump away from both Manhattan and Flushing Meadows can't attract the budget crowd, then how will one in Fresh Meadows do so?

City to reserve some spaces for shared cars

From Metro:

The city will roll out a pilot program in the spring that allows car-sharing companies such as ZipCar and Car2Go to rent out scarce public parking spaces and even metered spaces.

A shared goal of many city agencies is to minimize the number of cars in the city — on account of environmental factors, space, and traffic, among other reasons. The City Council Committee on Transportation heard testimony from the commissioner of the New York City Department of Transportation Polly Trottenberg, as well as representatives from some car sharing companies Monday that made the case that carsharing services can dramatically reduce the number of cars kept in the city.

The idea is to have a mini-fleet of cars available to more people in more locations around the city, even in the outer boroughs where parking garages and lots are fewer and farther away. For instance, several Enterprise cars could be parked around the corner from your apartment.

The proposal is based on a study conducted across five cities (Washington, San Diego, Seattle, and Vancouver and Calgary, Canada) showing that an average of nine cars were taken off the road for every ride-sharable car brought to a fleet. In Calgary, 11 cars were taken off the streets for each shared car.

The program would consider using some “underused” parking spaces designated for some subsidized residents in NYCHA housing, and senior housing and at hospitals. The pilot will designate 300 spaces in public parking facilities, and another 300 on-street spaces.

I've found that people who use these services generally don't own cars. They mostly are subway riders but avail themselves of the carshare when they have to travel to distant places or have a complicated route. We'll see just how many cars are "taken off the streets".

A crap above: Brooklyn edition

There's nothing to say here. Let's just allow the photo to speak for itself. This colossal Brooklyn crap comes to us from IMBY.

Just think, someone went to architecture school to learn how to do this.

Monday, December 12, 2016

DHS ok with making people homeless in order to house other homeless

From the Daily News:

A faith-based Queens nonprofit is trying to boot low-income renters into the street in the midst of the holiday season — in the hopes of converting their building into a homeless shelter, residents told the Daily News.

The New York School of Urban Ministries in Astoria wants tenants out of the 46th St. building as soon as possible and has been using underhanded methods to speed up the process, residents say.

Pastor Peter DeArruda, the executive vice president of the ministry, sent notices out last month informing tenants they must vacate the building by Dec. 31.

City officials said they were approached about using the site as a shelter but scuttled any plans when they realized that there were long-term tenants in the building.

“We’re absolutely, positively not using this place,” said Department of Homeless Services spokesman David Neustadt.

This DHS is something else. They lured a young couple to NYC with the promise of free lodging under "right-to-shelter" and ended up killing their young children. Now they're ok with evicting low income tenants so that they can stash their homeless there instead - until they get a phone call from a newspaper.

A streetcar named cha-ching!

From the Daily News:

The Daily News undertook a comprehensive examination of the mayor’s fund-raising tactics, interviewing officials, lobbyists and donors, as well as reviewing thousands of pages of records to determine who made donations, how they came to make their donations, their possible motivation for giving and what, if anything, they got from de Blasio.

Collectively, the findings point to a concerted City Hall effort to target those doing business with the city for checks far in excess of routine campaign donations.

Investigators looking at de Blasio’s fund-raising tactics have found evidence that donors expected something from City Hall in return for their generosity.

From the Daily News:

All aboard the mayor’s money train, a planned streetcar from Brooklyn to Queens that appears to have triggered developers with projects along the route to donate big money to his favorite causes.

First came the push to get Mayor de Blasio to back the $2.5 billion taxpayer-supported streetcar running from Sunset Park, Brooklyn, to Astoria, Queens. Supporters call it the Brooklyn Queens Connector, or BQX.

Then came the checks from seven developers, totaling $245,000, to support de Blasio’s favorite causes. The developers sent the checks to the mayor’s nonprofit Campaign for One New York.

Then came the mayor’s announcement, in his State of the City address in February, that the city would go full steam ahead with the 16-mile trolley line.

Shortly after de Blasio took office in January 2014, chief fund-raiser Ross Offinger drew up a list of business and real estate leaders from whom he planned to solicit “support” for the mayor’s newly formed Campaign for One New York.

"Made in Queens" is a big flop

From LIC Post:

A Long Island City popup shop dedicated to selling Queens-made merchandise is closing several months ahead of schedule due to weak business.

Made In Queens, located at 27-24 Queens Plaza South, was established by the Queens Economic Development Corporation in June to sell goods from local manufacturers.

The store, which was supposed to remain open until the end of March, is now closing at the end of the year since it has become “unsustainable,” said QEDC Director of Business Services Sante Antonelli.

The store was funded by a $40,000 grant from Capital One, allowing the QEDC to secure the space and cover operating costs. The makers also paid a fee to sell their products in the store, ranging from $150 per month for food products to $350 per month for non-food products.

Despite these sources of funding, the store operated at a loss, Antonelli said, largely due to lack of foot traffic in and out of the store.

Isn't foot traffic the number one thing you look at when you decide on a location to open a retail store?

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Apartment denied, deposit pilfered

From PIX11:

Demaris Morales and her mom Delia need help getting a new apartment in Queens. Why? Because they gave a $6,600 deposit to a broker they knew as “William” at Britati Realty in Woodhaven.

Demaris and her mom are Section 8 tenants. They’re housing is assisted by the federal government. But they told us “William” never permitted the Section 8 inspector to check out the Jamaica apartment they wanted. And next thing they knew, another tenant was in there.

So, of course, “William” gave them their money back, right?

Of course not. If he did the right thing I wouldn’t be involved.

Oh, and by the way, it appears “William” may actually be Anthony Ferrerosa. He’s used both names. In 2013, The NYC Commission on Human Rights found “William” and “Anthony” were the same person. And fined Ferrerosa $7,500 for discriminating against tenants with subsidies or vouchers.

Anyway, when we went over to his office, “William” wasn’t very happy to see us. First, he said there was a paper the ladies had signed that seemed to suggest he was off the hook. No such paper exists. And then he bolted out the door and then just walked away.