Sunday, July 31, 2016

Firefighter and wife lied about Sandy damage

From CBS:

An FDNY firefighter and his wife stood accused Monday of lying to the Federal Emergency Management Agency to collect thousands of dollars in Superstorm Sandy benefits.

As CBS2’s Ali Bauman reported, 12-year FDNY veteran Christopher Poje, 43, and his wife, Margaret, 39, walked out of court in Queens after their arraignment Monday afternoon,

Christopher and Margaret Poje both face grand larceny charges, while Margaret Poje also faces forgery charges.

Serial bank robbers caught

From the Daily News:

Three men — including the son of a slain Gambino foot soldier — were arrested Tuesday morning for brazenly raiding $5 million in cash and valuables from several New York City bank vaults, officials said.

The crew — composed of Michael Mazzara, 44, Charles Kerrigan, 40, and Anthony Mascuzzio, 36 — used a gas welding torch to cut through the banks’ roofs and vaults.

The burglars pocketed money and items such as jewelry and baseball cards, many of which were heirlooms Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara's office said in a criminal complaint.

Elmhurst-Jackson Heights cell phone thief on the loose

From PIX11:

Police are searching for an elusive thief who travels by bike and has stolen 11 cellphones over the past month.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Judges leaving defendants in the clink

From NBC:

Over the course of about a month, I-Team cameras caught courthouse doors locking well before the official 1 a.m. closing time. In one case, doors locked at 11:27 p.m. On another night they locked at 11:15 p.m. On yet another night, court officers closed the building at 10:58 p.m. The judge adjourned court and went home before 10 p.m.

The New York State Office of Court Administration confirmed that for about the last six years, night court judges in Queens have been given the discretion to adjourn early on Sunday, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday nights when the flow of defendants is lightest.

"In Queens County it typically takes about three and one-half hours to arraign a case after the case is docketed – a 5 percent reduction from last year," Chalfen wrote in an email to the I-Team.

Despite that statistic, Helen Weinstein, who chairs the NY Assembly Committee on the Judiciary, said she is asking court administrators to review the go-home-early policy.

"No judge should be leaving the bench early if there's somebody who could be arraigned that night," Weinstein said. "In probably the overwhelming majority of cases, the person is going to be arraigned and sent home."

Developer plans to preserve Child Restaurant exterior

Via Facebook:

A G.A.H.S. Exclusive!

"At long last, attached, please find the rendering for project at 36-01 Broadway in Astoria.

"As you will see, all the architectural detail is being preserved. Additionally, I am proud to announce that we will be installing same limestone above the current DII Store at 3611 Broadway so that the fa├žade appears unified.

"I would like to thank our architect Mr Walter Marin and his team for working hard and fast to prepare these drawings. I would also like to acknowledge the building owner for her cooperation and her guidance in satisfying the requests of the neighborhood.

"As stated previously, we at DII Stores are committed to the local Community and residents of Astoria and aspire to meet their wishes to preserve its history and culture. We are confident that our investment of time and money will be rewarded with increased patronage and continued loyalty. DII has been part of the Astoria Community for over 35 years, and we look forward to serving Astoria for generations to come.

"Please feel free to reach out with any questions or comments."

Morris Dweck, DII Stores

Friday, July 29, 2016

Woman insists she is legal guardian for 25 kids

From the Queens Chronicle:

Shu-Jing Cao, the legal guardian of the group of children that lives at her home at 202-12 32 Ave. in Bayside, says they are well taken-care-of.

“They call me mother,” she said. “I treat them like my own children.”

When asked, Cao did not confirm or deny that 25 children are living at the house, an allegation raised by a civic activist concerned about conditions there and their impact on the neighborhood. But there are two other adults at the property, she said, who also look after the children.

The children attend schools in District 26, one of the best and most overcrowded districts in the entire city.

“They are innocent children,” she said. “They have a right to have education in America ... They’re safe.”

Although the city has not taken any legal action against the house, land use expert Paul Graziano doubts that Cao could be the legal guardian for all the kids living there if there actually are 25.

“No way she’s guardian of 25 kids,” Graziano said in an emailed statement. “The city wouldn’t allow it.”

The land use expert also says that it would not be legal for such a number of people to be living together in the same home.

“Three unrelated persons are allowed in each unit, children or otherwise,” he added. Although the building has two units according to its most recent Certificate of Occupancy, if 25 kids are there, more than three unrelated persons would have to be living in at least one unit. “Otherwise, they would have to get a specific Certificate of Occupancy — which they couldn’t get in a 1- or 2-family zone to begin with, like an R3X zone where this house is located — that would allow them to run a business or charity taking in multiple children for residency.”

More U.S. families living with fewer bedrooms

From Curbed:

An analysis of home sizes in the country’s top 100 metro areas found that 26.4 percent of U.S. renters are in want of at least one extra bedroom. Using U.S. Census data, Trulia compared household size with the number of bedrooms in the home and found that across the U.S., homes are getting more and more crowded, with an increasing percentage of households having more family members than bedrooms. While the average size of the American home has ballooned over the years, renters are feeling more and more confined, especially in urban areas.

This "space crunch" is most evident in Los Angeles, where 29.2 percent of households have shared bedrooms—the highest proportion in the country. Roughly 67.9 of renters with children in L.A. were short on bedrooms. New York City is next, with 25.2 percent of households squeezed for space.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

NY delegation doesn't recognize Joe Crowley

Not too many people in the NY delegation are listening to Virginia Joe’s speech. Maybe he should move back home?

Smoking gun memo revealed

From Bowery Boogie:

The Department of Investigation, whose scathing report last week proved a mishandling by the de Blasio Administration in the Rivington House deed fiasco, released evidence late yesterday that the Mayor’s office deliberately covered up crucial information regarding the ongoing investigation.

Specifically, a deal memo from July 2014 that weighed the pros and cons of allowing the sale of the Rivington House nursing home and potential deed lifting that required use of the facility as a nonprofit. Take a look at “Option 2″ of the document (go to link),”transfer property to another nonprofit.” The advantage to keeping it so was listed as “maintaining property under city oversight and creates needed housing in a high value neighborhood.” But the drawback stated was “no revenue” presumably for the city.

The Allure Group purchased the Rivington House from VillageCare in 2015 for $28 million, paid the city $16.1 million to lift a restrictive deed, then sold the property to developers Slate Property Group, China Vanke Co., and Adam America Real Estate for $116 million earlier this year.

meanwhile, de Blasio was cracking jokes about it while attending the DNC.

City demolishing certain Willets Point properties

From DNA Info:

Demolition work began last week on a section of Willets Point, the first sign of progress on a multi-billion dollar overhaul from the city and private developers.

The strip of closed auto body shops along 126th Street between 38th and Roosevelt avenues was completely demolished by Tuesday morning by Tully Construction, the project's general contractor.

Workers at shops nearby that are still open said the work began about a week ago, but the main demolition started within the last two days.

The demolished shops have been empty for months, and construction fences for the project went up in April.

Demolition is expected to be completed by Aug. 31, according to the city.

Nice to see that the city is spending money when they don't even know yet what will happen with the property. Remember that pesky lawsuit that stopped the whole thing?

Maybe we should learn from China's mistakes, if not our own

From Forbes:

As the storm sewers of many of China’s cities have been pushed beyond their capacity, spewing deluges of water into the streets, many are blaming the disaster on the country’s breakneck pace of urbanization.

China has built cities faster and more extensively than any other civilization in history. In hardly 35 years, the country built over 450 new cities, urbanized 40,000 square kilometers of countryside, threw up hundreds of millions of homes, constructed a 19,000 kilometer high-speed rail network, dug 26 new subway systems, paved more than 60,000 kilometers of highways, and erected nearly a hundred new airports.

This urbanization push was backed by economic and political incentives. At the peak of China’s new city building boom urbanization was responsible for 16 to 25% of total GDP, 33% of fixed asset investment, 10% of urban employment, 15% of bank loans, and fueled 40 industries. Stimulating the local economy and complying with national urbanization goals were also core KPI criteria for the promotion of officials within the government. So China built and built, and are only now starting to realize the full impact of what they’ve created.

In this explosion of development, natural water management systems — rivers and streams, ponds and lakes, as well as the soil — have been asphyxiated with endless expanses of pavement and concrete. In Wuhan, a city that has been leveled by this year’s flooding, saw 87 lakes, two-thirds of its total, filled in or otherwise destroyed between 1949 and 2015. According to Kongjian Yu, the dean of Peking University’s College of Architecture and Landscape Architecture, heavily urbanized eastern China lost upwards of 50% of its wetlands in the past thirty years, which drastically reduces flood retention capacities.

These impermeable urban surfaces which have been replacing natural features in China’s cities at an astonishing rate prevent rainwater from finding its way into the ground below, funneling it instead into a Soviet-style system of pipes and drains, which are becoming more and more overtaxed and inadequate.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Elevator installed without permits kills worker

From DNA Info:

The small business where an employee was crushed to death by an elevator Saturday night was padlocked shut Monday — as officials look into whether the lift was installed illegally.

The shop, La Reguera Dominicana at 552 W. 182 St., where locals shopped for discounted home items and clothes, was ordered closed after Jose Fernandez, 43, was fatally pinned by the supply elevator Saturday night, sources said.

Yellow fire tape and a padlocked chain crisscrossed a fence outside the store and a pair of Buildings Department orders — in English and Spanish — announced that the property had been ordered vacated.

The Department of Buildings, which issued the vacate order, said they had no records of an elevator having been legally installed on the property.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Bharara investigating de Blasio link to sale of closed hospital

From the Daily News:

U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara is looking into Mayor de Blasio’s involvement in the sale of Long Island College Hospital in Brooklyn, the Daily News has learned.

Bharara's office recently issued a subpoena to the State University of New York, which had owned the hospital, seeking all communications between the university system and City Hall regarding the sale of LICH dating to Jan. 2, 2014, when de Blasio took office, said two sources familiar with the matter.

One source close to SUNY confirmed the subpoena and said “the clear target seems to be de Blasio.” But the specifics of what Bharara is looking into were unclear.

The subpoena specifically seeks emails and other communication from de Blasio and top aides Tony Shorris, Emma Wolfe, Dominic Williams, Avi Fink and Henry Berger, the two sources said.

It also seeks all communication regarding the hospital dating to 2013 between SUNY and de Blasio’s campaign and his fundraiser Ross Offinger, as well as various groups tied to the mayor such as the Campaign For One New York, UPKNYC, and United for Affordable NYC, the sources said.

The subpoena demands emails and other communication between SUNY and de Blasio from 2013, when he was the city’s public advocate, they said.

Flushing plagued by excessive aircraft noise

From AM-NY:

Noise levels in the Flushing, Queens, neighborhood near LaGuardia Airport exceeded federal levels on one of every three days earlier this year, elected officials and community activists said Monday.

The maximum permissible Day/Night Noise Level — or DNL — of 65 decibels was exceeded on 32 out of the 92 days from March through May on a monitor on Franklin Avenue, state Sen. Toby Ann Stavisky (D-Flushing) said at a news conference.

The Federal Aviation Administration measures on a scale that averages all community noise during a 24-hour period, with a tenfold penalty for noise occurring at night and early morning.

“With this data, we now see what we’ve always known: parts of Queens are subjected to higher levels of sound than others,” Stavisky said.

She said the current DNL standards date to the 1970s and are obsolete. She and others at the news conference said the FAA should reduce the maximum allowable DNL to 55, the standard at most airports overseas.

Cameras finally installed in Forest Park

From DNA Info:

After numerous delays owing to red tape in Albany, NYPD security cameras have finally been installed around Forest Park, nearly three years after the last assault in a string of sexual attacks that terrified parkgoers.

In total, 14 cameras were placed in seven locations around the 500-acre park last week, including at the entrances to the park, near main trails used by bicyclists and joggers, and close to playgrounds, officials said.

The equipment was installed after Assemblyman Mike Miller and State Sen. Joseph Addabbo allocated $250,000 for the cameras to be placed in the park back in 2013.

Officials said they hope the cameras will serve as a deterrent to crime and that they will also help identify suspects in the future.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Flushing West seems to be permanently dead

From the Times Ledger:

The city’s abrupt decision to withdraw its plans to rezone Flushing West, which would have brought 1,600 units of housing to the downtown area, has drawn mixed reactions from the community.

Some say it was a good move due to key infrastructural problems for which the city did not have concrete solutions, while others say it was a missed opportunity for the community.

Mayor Bill de Blasio’s proposal sought to clean up and rezone 60 acres on the Flushing waterfront and form a planned community with waterfront access for housing and commercial space.

Although State Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) was the first elected official to oppose the plan and was joined by state Assemblyman Ron Kim (D-Flushing), the project fell apart when Councilman Peter Koo (D-Flushing) asked for it to be withdrawn in a May 27 letter to City Planning Chairman Carl Weisbrod.

Koo cited the ongoing problems with airplane noise from LaGuardia Airport and the need for remediation in Flushing Creek as the key factors motivating his shift in opinion. He alsmo mentioned other issues, such as the proposed development’s proximity to the overcrowded No. 7 train.

He said the city could decide to pursue the proposal again in a year or two if tangible solutions are made to fix the problems.

“The residents would be very unhappy if they lived there, all these airplanes coming in the morning — it would drive them crazy,” he said. “Flushing Creek is so dirty. I wouldn’t want to stay there for 10 minutes, let alone 24 hours and every day.”

City Planning said it could revisit Flushing West if those issues are resolved.

And I'm sure Flushing Creek will be cleaned up and LaGuardia Airport will close soon.

Hipster hot tub roof gets even heavier

Here's an update on the hipster hot tub from a couple of years back:
"Now these aO's have added a pool to the hot tub roof, with all them people and water the loading must be 10 times what that roof was designed to hold (a couple skylights, tarpaper and tar)."

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Will this work?

From NY1:

Some elected officials and several non-profits in Queens are taking part in a new initiative aimed at helping homeowners get out of foreclosure and increasing affordable housing.

Under the "Foreclosure Buyback Pilot Program," non-profits can buy back distressed mortgages from federal government entities such as Freddie Mae and Freddie Mac, giving families the opportunity to refinance with the organization and stay in their homes.

If that's not possible, local non-profits or municipalities can bid on the distressed properties and then convert them into affordable housing.

Previously, only private equity and hedge funds could purchase these properties.

Councilors I. Daneek Miller, Ruben Wills, and Richards are involved in the program and say it is the first of its kind in the nation.

Astoria Cove: It's not gonna happen

From Politico:

A massive waterfront housing development in Astoria that required low- to moderate-income apartments prior to a citywide mandatory affordable housing policy has been scuttled. It's a disappointment for Mayor Bill de Blasio, who had boasted that the project would be a "real game changer" in affordable housing.

From the time the 2.2-million-square-foot Astoria Cove project passed the City Council in November of 2014, developers questioned the economics of the project. Several speculated the builder, Alma Realty, would have a hard time obtaining financing for a development in which 27 percent of the 1,723 planned apartments — 459 units — would be rented to people paying less than the market rate in a neighborhood that does not command top-dollar rents.

Alma had also agreed to pay union rates for construction work, which can significantly drive up the cost of any project.

One developer who has been closely following the project said his firm repeatedly looked at the financial details of the project, only to conclude it would be nearly impossible to find a lender.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Someone's dumping tires along the Clearview

From the Times Ledger:

Stacks of abandoned tires have been seen littering the side of the highway around 73rd Avenue and Clearview Expressway in recent months.

The Department of Transportation, which believes this is the work of one outfit dumping entire truckloads at once, has been regularly required to haul the garbage away. The city agency has been quick to remove the tires, diligence which was praised by City Councilman Barry Grodenchik (D-Oakland Gardens) and state Assemblyman David Weprin (D-Fresh Meadows) at a Tuesday news conference.

“The area alongside the Clearview Expressway is protected parkland, and no part of New York City, least of all our parks, is to be used as a private dump,” said Grodenchik, referring to nearby Cunningham Park. “As a community, we spend a lot of time and effort keeping our parks and neighborhoods beautiful, and this illegal tire dumping is an affront to our work.”

City Council wants deed restriction review to fall under ULURP

From DNA Info:

Local politicians say the city should make developers looking to modify deed restrictions go through the city’s thorough, months-long process for reviewing proposed zoning changes — a change they say is needed to prevent more community facilities from being turned into luxury condos after the loss of Rivington House.

Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and Councilwoman Margaret Chin on Tuesday penned a letter to the City Planning Commission asking officials to subject any deed restriction changes to the city’s Uniform Land Review Procedure (ULURP), which the letter calls “the city’s gold standard of public review.”

The officials argue that the current review process around properties saddled with deed restrictions is lax and unstructured, pointing to the Department of Investigation’s damning report on the city’s lifting of the deed restriction on Rivington House — a former nursing home for HIV/AIDS patients that is now slated for a luxury condo conversion after the city lifted a deed restriction that would have kept it a nonprofit healthcare facility.

Queens Blvd site requires remediation

From the Queens Chronicle:

A 12-story, mixed-use development is planned for Queens Boulevard across from Borough Hall, but a ton of remedial work must be done before a single drop of concrete can be poured.

The site of a former dry cleaning business that closed last year, 124-22 Queens Blvd. in Kew Gardens will be subjected to intensive environmental remediation after a state study of the location found elevated levels of contaminants in the soil.

According to the state Department of Environmental Conservation, levels of tetrachloroethylene and trichloroethylene — industrial-strength chemicals often used as cleaning agents — up to 82 parts per million were discovered, over four times the permissible limit of 19 parts per million.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Yet another stadium planned for Queens

From Bloomberg:

The New York Islanders are in talks with the owners of baseball’s New York Mets about building a hockey arena adjacent to Citi Field in Queens, people with knowledge of the discussions said.

Willets Point is emerging as a persuasive alternative to the team’s current home at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center if the Islanders’s owners and arena officials can’t agree on a series of hockey-specific improvements, said the people, who asked for anonymity because the negotiations are private.

The team’s first season at Barclays Center, which is owned by Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov, was marred by poor reviews from fans, who complained about obstructed view seats, and from players, who who said the quality of the ice was sub-par. The team’s owners also realized they couldn’t make as much money as their league counterparts, most of which play in bigger arenas.

The Islanders, who are owned by Value Retail Plc founder Scott Malkin and Jonathan Ledecky, and Sterling Equities, which owns the Mets, have been discussing a possible move to Queens for months, said the people.

What about those ramps? Affordable housing? Hmmm...

BSA Chair attends grand opening of mosque she approved

This isn't a conflict of interest or anything...

Margery Perlmutter, Chair of the Board of Standards and Appeals, which decided in favor of an oversized mosque that a Brooklyn community opposed, not only attended the grand opening of said mosque, but presented a proclamation to the congregation on behalf of the de Blasio administration.

With a track record like this, it seems the deck is stacked against those opposed to an oversized mosque in Flushing.

Paul Vallone is hiding something everything

A constituent of Paul Vallone FOILed his schedule from the last couple of years and found that he doesn't want you to know who he is meeting with most days.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

K2 profits may fund terrorism

From PIX11:

K2 traffickers import chemicals that are mixed in China, mostly receiving them in the mail, and then spray the chemicals on dried leaves and package the product in colorful bags. The fake pot, which is then rolled in paper and smoked, has been sold for years over the counter in tobacco shops and bodegas.

The profits are enormous, and that’s remained a worry for the federal government, which acknowledges that millions of dollars have been wired overseas, possibly to pay for terror training and plots.

“It’s a concern that money from some of these organizations has gone back to countries in conflict,” the DEA’s Hunt told PIX11. “Yemen. Jordan. Syria. So, anytime we see money going back to these countries, it’s a concern for law enforcement, that it could be going to fund terrorism.”

Related buying Astoria affordable housing complex

From The Real Deal:

The Related Companies is in talks to buy a 444-unit Section 8 multifamily property with development rights in Astoria for $115 million, its latest move to add to a giant affordable housing portfolio.

Related, which got its start in the 1970s buying and rehabilitating affordable housing, is negotiations with Long Island-based landlord Benjamin Properties to buy the 10-building Marine Terrace portfolio, located in the northeast corner of the Queens neighborhood.

The Stephen Ross-led firm, which is behind the Time Warner Center, Hudson Yards and 70 Vestry Street, plans to develop 53 new apartments on the Astoria site for the homeless and veterans.

Representatives for the two companies did not respond to requests for comment, but in a state application for $108 million in bond financing for the deal, Related revealed plans to invest in upgrading the apartments and adding the new units.

The state’s Housing Finance Agency plans to vote Thursday on the developer’s application.

The eight-acre development, which Benjamin constructed in the 1990s, also includes a series of garages with nearly 130 parking spaces at its northern end. Related plans to clear 100 of the spaces to make way for a pair of new rental buildings.

Peninsula Hospital sold to affordable housing developer

From DNA Info:

A real estate developer and an affordable housing corporation have teamed up to buy the former Peninsula Hospital site for $19 million, according to city records.

The Arker Companies and the Northeast Brooklyn Housing Development Corporation bought the site in May from Congregation Zichron Yitzchok Vmoshe Eliyahu, a non-profit based in Borough Park and owned by Yosef "Joseph" Brunner, records show.

They bought it under two recently-formed limited liability companies, Peninsula Rockaway Housing Development Fund Corp., affiliated with NEBHDCo; and Peninsula Rockaway Limited Partnership, affiliated with the Arker Companies, records show.

The new owners plan to build multi-family housing and commercial buildings, according to paperwork filed with the city.

The project — which applied for a mortgage tax exemption because the developers exclusively build affordable housing, according to documents — would need to go through the city's ULURP rezoning process before it could move forward.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Major construction coming to Main Street

From DNA Info:

The city is launching a nearly $8 million project to widen bustling Main Street, one of the busiest pedestrian corridors in the five boroughs, officials said.

The roadway will also be resurfaced and rebuilt, and manholes, fire hydrants, sewers and water mains will be replaced — the first overhaul in two decades, according to officials.

During the construction project — which begins Monday, July 25, and will last approximately a year — the community will experience inconveniences and changes, Councilman Peter Koo warned.

But the major revamp will have more long-term benefits to everyone, including adding as much as 8 feet of space on some sidewalks, he said.

Flooding will get worse before it gets better

From The Forum:

The low-lying south Queens communities of Old Howard Beach, Hamilton Beach, and Broad Channel are vulnerable to tidal flooding today, and the conditions are only expected to worsen with projected sea level rise, according to the Department of City Planning, which presented current planning initiatives and priorities for Queens on Monday at a joint meeting of the Borough Board and Cabinet at Borough Hall.

However, particularly in Old Howard, DCP has indicated that it is possible to maintain a strong neighborhood “by supporting resilient retrofits and through investments in street-end infrastructure upgrades.”

Hamilton Beach and Broad Channel are far more challenging, DCP noted. A lack of infrastructure solutions presents obstacles to mitigating the impacts of sea level rise.

The unique built environment of Hamilton Beach and Broad Channel – narrow lots, and narrow, low-lying streets – pose challenges for resilient retrofitting and reconstruction. Existing R2, R3-1, and R3-2 Zoning Districts do not account for narrow lot frontage in the residential areas of these communities, DCP noted. Additionally, new, higher flood elevations present physical and economic challenges to the two commercial corridors: Cross Bay Boulevard and Coleman Square.

However, City Planning pointed out that there are opportunities to identify changes to zoning, both in residential areas and business corridors; to maintain neighborhood character, facilitate customer access to businesses, and enable resilient retrofits and building.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Time to investigate FMCP shenanigans

From the Queens Chronicle:

Re “Pol: FMCP belongs to public, not politics,” July 7, multiple editions:

Parks are the lifeblood of congested urban societies. While Flushing Meadows Corona Park is the second-most used park in New York City, mostly by the underprivileged, it is also the most abused, pockmarked with all sorts of structures alien to legitimate public park use, that would never be permitted in Central Park or indeed in any other municipal park. Terrace on the Park; the Mets’ stadium and its parking lot; the USTA and its newly added, ugly dome; a previous attempt to construct a Grand Prix race track around Meadow Lake; an attempt to construct a soccer stadium; and a current attempt to build a huge mega shopping mall on the Citi Field parking lot, which is parkland.

The culprits responsible for the above are former mayors, possibly current Mayor De Blasio, former borough presidents and most of all the vast majority of City Council members, all of whom have operated as if their constituents are the real estate moguls and not the little people. An example is the attempt for a 1.4 million-square-foot shopping mall on the Citi Field parking lot, which included a raid on the city treasury and for all practical purposes the demise of the 2008 approved Willets Point redevelopment plan. The Council and its prime mover, Julissa Ferreras-Copeland, negotiated and supported a plan that gave the developers property acquired by the city, for tens of millions of dollars, for $1; plus subsidies and tax abatements. To nail the coffin shut, the developers were given the right to walk away from any obligation to construct affordable housing by forfeiting $35 million, an amount that to them is akin to the tip one gives the youngster who delivers groceries. Walk away they will.

At long last there is a breath of fresh air in City Councilman Rory Lancman, who has sued the city and the Alliance for Flushing Meadows Corona Park, which he claims was formed to funnel money from for-profit entities in exchange for the use of park resources.

The time is long overdue for a full investigation into how and why FMCP has become the dumping ground for all sorts of illegitimate public park use. I am sure the public supports and thanks Lancman to let right be done.

Benjamin M. Haber

Fraudulent contractor sent to jail

From the Times Ledger:

A Long Island building contractor has entered a guilty plea to defrauding Queens and Long Island homeowners and leaving a trail of unfinished home improvement projects, the Queens district attorney said.

“The defendant has pleaded guilty to having defrauded homeowners out of hundreds of thousands of dollars by taking money for construction and renovation work without finishing much of the work,” said DA Richard Brown.

Brown identified the defendant as Derrick Burrell, 49, also known as James Gray, of Saint Marks Avenue in Rockville Centre, LI, who worked under the name “A Team Property Service.”

He said Burrell pleaded guilty to second-degree grand larceny and scheme to defraud before Queens Supreme Court Justice Barry Kron, who said he would sentence Burrell to an indeterminate term of 1½ to 4½ years July 20.

The DA said Burrell entered into a contract with nearly a dozen Queens and Long Island residents between February 2009 and July 2015, accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars in payments and leaving residents with unfinished or never-started projects.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Fedderization along Metropolitan Avenue

This was an empty lot used primarily for parking cars. Now it's a development site.
55-35 Metropolitan Avenue is ugly as hell, Fedders and all, but its saving grace is that it is only dumping 2 more units into the mix instead of 8 or 10.
Why match the existing rowhouses on either side when you can just dump a big steaming pile in the middle and make your development stick out like a sore thumb?
Block the air and light of the tenants to the east and make sure the people living to the west are greeted by a giant wall as they exit their homes.
And why would this development qualify for an after hours variance permit? It's a standard development project.
And why do they need pile drivers?
Naturally, NY Yimby is cheering this on. (Their commenters aren't, however.)

Ciafone canopy encroaches on tree pit

Here we are at "199 Green Court" in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. That familiar sign indicates that this is a John Ciafone building.
And one of his classic canopies is in full bloom here.
And it's anchored in an interesting location.
That's right, the post likely drills right down into a tree root because the genius decided that the presence of a public street tree pit should not be a deterrent to jazzing up his private property.
This just oozes class!

Sunday, July 17, 2016

DeBlasio hires real winner to pitch BQX

From NY Magazine:

In a sign that the planned BQX rail line along the Brooklyn and Queens waterfront is chugging toward reality, the de Blasio administration has hired a streetcar czar: Adam Giambrone, sometime archaeologist, ex-Canadian politician, light-rail booster, former head of Toronto’s transit system, and, for one disastrous week in 2010, candidate for mayor of Toronto. Tall and athletic with a spiky crew cut and a Boy Scout demeanor, the 39-year-old Giambrone comes to the job with both experience and baggage — and with knowledge of New York sketchy enough that at one point during an interview he referred to the “Downtown East Side.”

Since for now the BQX remains an unfunded fantasy-in-progress, Giambrone will have to push the project past the point of no return before the next mayor can quash it. That’s a hard-earned lesson: In Toronto, he spent years working on a network of suburban streetcars called Transit City that mayor Rob Ford killed almost as soon as he took office in 2010. One element of that project, the Eglinton Crosstown line, has since been revived and is under construction, but the failure of the larger plan has left the city hobbled, says Toronto Globe and Mail architecture critic Alex Bozikovic. “The vision Giambrone was pushing made a lot of sense, and it died for political reasons.”

It’s more than a little ironic that the de Blasio administration, which has had problems with credibility and corruption in recent months, should turn to Giambrone as a trust builder, since in Canada he’s best known for an Anthony Weiner–like episode of lies and disgrace. His 2010 campaign for mayor of Toronto blew up almost before it had started, when a newspaper revealed that he’d been cheating on Sarah McQuarrie, the woman he lived with, and sent a text message describing her as a political prop. (They have since married.) After a few days of desperate dissimulating, he dropped out of politics for a while, and Torontoans elected the corrupt, clownish, boozy, drug-abusing, brawling Rob Ford.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

What can be done?

"I'm writing on behalf of my Mother.

After numerous complaints with NYC since 1959 when my parents bought their house in Queens Village, in 2006 finally the tree in front of their home was removed.

The problem since then has been no curb, a hole & damaged sidewalk which was caused by the removal.

Making a dangerous & unsanitary condition worse, there is a nursing home at the top of the block. Private Sanitation picks up their garbage, after the garbage is removed, they hose down the area to remove any waste that might have leaked, which in theory is great, but the run off produces a pond/pool in the hole in front of the house. This occurs when it rains too.

Aside from the smell, it is extremely unsanitary, unsafe and unsightly.

In April 2016, I contacted Senator Tony Avella's office, who acted quickly on our behalf and sent 3 letters on April 14th to:

1) Hon Polly Trottenberg Commissioner Dept of Transportation.....
2) Hon Mary Travis Bassett,MD Commissioner Dept of Health.....
3) Hon Mitchell Silver Commissioner of Dept of Parks.

I waited for a reply, which never came.

I contacted Senator Avella again, and he sent follow up letters to each them on June 21, 2016.

On July 7, 2016 I received a letter from Senator Avella.


The DOT informed him they will inspect the curb. The location will be added to the curb list for repair on a future curb only contract. At this time they are awaiting a curb contract. However, DOT at that time will also inspect the sidewalk for any defects.

If I understand correctly, nothing will get inspected/done until they get a contract.

To date, there has been no reply from The Dept of Health or The Dept of Parks.

Senator Avella has done all he can do.

Can you help?" - anonymous

Scary thought of the day

From the Queens Tribune:

"I tell my friends if you want to see the future, come to Flushing. Flushing is what America is and will be, and it’s a great thing."

Friday, July 15, 2016

Council Member wants Coney Island Boardwalk landmarked

From the Daily News:

The City Council threw its support behind landmarking the Coney Island Boardwalk on Thursday, passing a resolution urging the city to protect the iconic stretch.

Councilman Mark Treyger (D-Brooklyn) got unanimous support for his resolution, although the Landmarks Preservation Commission has balked at making the move.

Treyger wants the landmark status in part to stop plans to convert much of the boardwalk from traditional wood planks into concrete and fake wood.

Stop work order at day care with cellar conversion

From the Queens Chronicle:

The Department of Buildings issued a stop-work order pursuant to its intent to revoke permits and approvals for a construction project at a Happy Dragon day care center in Flushing on July 7. Its decision comes little more than two weeks after land-use expert Paul Graziano and state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) warned that the project — which includes a cellar conversion — could be dangerous for the children.

The building is located at 30-04 146 St.

In an interview last month, Graziano said he had never heard of a day care center legalizing a cellar and expressed concern that using the building’s cellar would put the children’s lives at risk.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Contractor refuses to comply with judge's order

From the NY Times:

A general contracting company that was found guilty of manslaughter in the death last year of a construction worker vowed on Wednesday to defy a judge’s order that it pay for public service announcements on worker safety.

Ronald P. Fischetti, a lawyer for the company, Harco Construction, said such a campaign would be tantamount to admitting wrongdoing and estimated it could cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. “Harco was innocent the day we walked into this courtroom,” Mr. Fischetti told Justice A. Kirke Bartley Jr. of State Supreme Court in Manhattan, “and they remain innocent today, notwithstanding your Honor’s verdict.”

“We will not obey,” Mr. Fischetti added. “We intend to appeal, and we believe the verdict in this case will be reversed.”

The company’s refusal to comply was an unexpected twist in a closely watched case related to the death of Carlos Moncayo, 22, an Ecuadorean immigrant who lived in Queens, at a site on Ninth Avenue in the meatpacking district of Manhattan, not far from the High Line.

Prosecutors with the Manhattan district attorney’s office argued that Harco had ignored repeated warnings about dangerous conditions at the site, and that the company’s negligence had contributed to the collapse on April 6, 2015, of a 14-foot trench in which Mr. Moncayo was crushed by thousands of pounds of dirt. Last month, Justice Bartley agreed with the prosecutors and found Harco guilty of second-degree manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide, both felonies, and reckless endangerment, a misdemeanor.

In response, the judge ordered that the parties return to court on Dec. 14. If Harco has not complied by then, he said, the court could impose the $10,000 fine.

Time to scrap the filming industry's tax credits?

From NY1:

The tax credt program was created so New York could compete with places like Canada and Louisiana, which were luring productions with tax incentives.

New York's credit amounts to 30 percent of most production costs, excluding actor, director and producer salaries.

The program has exploded from $25 million in credits a dozen years ago, to $420 million a year today.

Economist E.J. McMahon of the Empire Center for Public Policy believes the program should be scrapped. "This is a scam,” he says.

He argues that many productions getting credits would shoot in New York without them.

Shows like Saturday Night Live, which began in New York City 41 years ago. It is hard to envision the show being produced anywhere else. Yet it got a $12 million state tax credit for its 2013-14 season, the most recent records show.

“All of the claims about economic impacts and job creation are based on the premise that we would have nothing at all without the credit, which is simply ridiculous,” says McMahon.

Even a commission formed by Governor Cuomo in 2013 suggested scaling back the program, saying it didn't appear to pay for itself, a finding state officials dispute.

Critics like McMahon say the industry's glamour and its growing political clout help to protect the credit program.

NY1 found that giant entertainment companies like Fox and CBS have donated more than $900,000 to state political campaigns and committees in seven years. Officials argue if the tax credit goes, the studios will follow.

Scoop the poop at condo and co-op complexes

From DNA Info:

The city plans to close a loophole in its “pooper scooper” law that some say allowed negligent dog owners to avoid fines if they failed to clean up after their pooch in private common spaces — namely huge complexes like Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village.

The Department of Health and Mental Hygiene has introduced an amendment that would close a loophole in the city Health Code by making it a violation for dog owners to allow their pets to “make a nuisance” — fail to pick up after them — on privately-owned sidewalks, lawns and gardens that are used by the public.

That includes housing complexes like Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village, where property rules already require cleaning up after your pet, but where the loophole may have made it difficult to actually fine a negligent dog walker the $200 fine a dog owner could get for not cleaning up on a public sidewalk.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

More mega-towers planned for Queens Plaza

From DNA Info:

Developer Tishman Speyer released a rendering and update Monday on its massive, two-tower office and retail complex planned for Queens Plaza — a project city officials are calling a "major job generator" for the neighborhood.

The developer and investment company Qatari Diar are building the 1.1-million-square-foot project at 28-10 Queens Plaza South, next to Tishman Speyer's existing building at 2 Gotham Center, which houses offices for the city's Department of Health.

The complex will feature two, 27-story office towers connected by four stories of retail at their base, which will include a food hall, restaurant and parking garage, according to the developers.

Cat sitter caught on camera doing the nasty

From PIX11:

A woman was shocked after surveillance video captured her pet sitter getting intimate with a female visitor while she was away on vacation.

So she reached out to PIX11's Howard Thompson and he found the pet sitter, who admitted to the deed.

It all started back in May when Audrey Yang of Forest Hills went on vacation to Australia with her husband. The trip was 19 days, so they needed someone to care for their cat, Meow Meow.

This may be the funniest story ever posted on Queens Crap. Be careful who you hire.

Ridgewood Theatre rentals will cost a pretty penny


New apartments at blockbuster prices will soon be the feature presentation at the former Ridgewood Theatre.

The former moviehouse located at 55-27 Myrtle Ave. is being converted from a 2,500-seat, five-screen multiplex theater to a five-story mixed use building featuring a commercial space on the lower floor and 50 residential units on the upper floors.

What really has residents in a tizzy is the prices for the apartments. A banner on the theater’s landmarked marquee is advertising the one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments starting at $2,300. That means the smallest apartments for rent will go for $2,300, with the larger units most likely fetching increasingly more money.

This can't be. REBNY and the pols they have bought off tell us that landmarking decreases property values. The numbers in this article must be typos then.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

How long to fix a light?

From the Times Ledger:

Residents on a Queens Village street are increasingly concerned about a streetlight they claim has not worked for months after repeated inquiries to city departments and Con Edison.

“It’s very dark, it’s pitch black at night,” Miriam Schiffman, 88, said while sitting in the living room of her home on 221st Street between 89th and 90th avenues in Queens Village. “It’s become a quality-of-life issue.”

Directly across the street was the street light in question, who Miriam and her husband Norman, 93, said had been out of service since March 4. Miriam said they immediately called 311, and learned two weeks later that the issue had been referred to Con Ed. Afterwards, there were several months of back-and-forths between 311, the NYC DOT and Con Ed. Miriam Schiffman said the couple reached out to the offices of state Sen. Leroy Comrie (D-Hollis) and Councilman Barry Grodenchik (D-Oakland Gardens) for assistance.

A spokesman for Con Ed said it had contacted the DOT in April to tell the agency that the concrete foundation of the lamppost needed to be repaired before the utility could restore power. Norman Schiffman disputed the assertion, saying he believed there was no issue with the concrete.

As of Tuesday the light was still dark, but on Wednesday a DOT source said the organization was aware of the problem and the light would be inspected that evening.

You can get a different kind of charge at Wifi kiosks

From DNA Info:

The city installed at least 40 new Link NYC kiosks on the Upper East Side beginning in March, and residents say they've created a nuisance in the neighborhood due to the size and density of the machines.

While the kiosks, which stand 9-feet 6-inches tall, have so far only been installed in spots where public pay phones used to be, more are coming, with the city's goal to bring 4,550 of the machines to the city by July 2019, according to CityBridge, which operates LinkNYC.

The kiosks — which offer free access to Wi-Fi, phones, phone chargers and internet browsers — have also become spots for drug deals, according to some residents.

The NYPD did not respond to requests for more information.

Developer looking to flip LIC Clock Tower site

From Curbed:

What was once supposed to be the site of the tallest tower outside of Manhattan will be no more, at least for now. Developers Property Markets Group and the Hakim Organization want to sell their 1 million square foot parcel of land behind the clocktower building in Long Island City, The Real Deal reports. Plans here called for a 77-story building standing 914-feet tall and with 800 apartments, making it the tallest building outside of Manhattan when it was announced. That record has since gone to the JDS’ in-development supertall in Downtown Brooklyn. In Queens, a planned 964-foot tower would also have overtaken PMG and Hakim’s building, but that project still seems to be in the planning stages.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Not what we crave

This one is just over the county line in Brooklyn, but it's a pretty good example of the nutty overdevelopment going on across the city. Naturally, there is a partial stop work order.
The building here is bringing 80 units of housing where there was a fast food restaurant, which means a huge tax on infrastructure. It sits above a "major road" which is down to one lane in each direction at this particular spot. And it's going to regularly send hundreds of people onto the L train, which will be going down for an extended period of time.

What could possibly go wrong?

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Ridgewood rowhouse on steroids

What we have here is a 2-family house being "altered" into a 6 family house. A story is being added and units are being subdivided. This will no doubt look incredibly stupid when all is said and done. Plenty of complaints as well.

Hallets Point power plants off the table

From DNA Info:

The developer behind the massive Hallets Point development is scrapping plans to build a complex, stand-alone power system to service the buildings — citing the lapse of the state's 421-a program, which they say has left future phases of the project in jeopardy.

The Durst Organization originally planned to build three power plants along the Astoria waterfront to service the seven buildings in its Hallets Point project, creating its own "micro-grid" for the development, according to spokesman Jordan Barowitz.

The facilities would have provided a more efficient, stand-alone power system for the complex, powering its heat, hot water and air conditioning systems separate from Con Edison's service, he explained.

AirBnB admits to illegal hotels

From the Daily News:

Airbnb, which is under fire from state regulators, revealed on Thursday that it had taken down over 2,000 listings in the past year that might be illegal hotel rooms.

The company said it removed 2,233 listings posted by hosts who had multiple apartments for rent — a telling sign that it’s a shady landlord operating an illegal hotel.

The vast majority — 1,585 — of those listings were in Manhattan, including close to 600 in Midtown, the company said.

Critics have long said that landlords are illegally renting out rooms by the night on the site instead of offering to needy tenants, draining the already scarce city housing supply.

In announcing the removals, Airbnb seemed to acknowledge that the practice was happening.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Ghost home haunts neighbors

From the Times Ledger:

Two abandoned vehicles full of newspapers left behind by hoarders at a house in Flushing have drawn the attention of residents and state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside), who held a news conference to call upon the city to remove the fire hazard posed by the contents of the cars.

Avella said Stella Beckman, the deceased owner of the brick bungalow at 50-19 175th Place, is still receiving violation notices in the mail at the abandoned property a decade after her death. Beckman’s son, a hoarder, according to one neighbor, filled not only the house but both vehicles in the driveway with stacks of New York Times issues dating back to 1992. The newspapers are packed so tightly into the back of one of the vehicles, a Hyundai Excel, that moisture has caused them to expand and shatter the back windshield.

The house has been sealed up with concrete by authorities following a small fire in 2014, according to neighbor who has lived in the area since 1990.

“This is probably one of the best examples I’ve come across while I’ve been in government of how stupidly the city operates,” Avella said. “Here you have a situation where there were numerous violations. The owner, unfortunately, passed away, I guess it’s 11 years now. And yet, every time there’s a violation the city keeps sending the dead person notices... Anybody who walks through this block sees what a nice neighborhood this is. The homeowners pay attention to their property, they keep it nice, and yet they live next to this eyesore. The city has to step up, demolish the building, level the ground, fence it off and sell it.”

If you see something, say something

From the Observer:

In case New York City’s employees need a refresher—and it seems like many might—the Department of Investigation would like to remind them: bribery and corruption are illegal.

As the city grapples with several ethics scandals, The Department of Investigation would like to remind city employees that bribery and corruption are illegal. corruption-fighting agency is rolling out a Just-Say-No style aimed for the world of waste, fraud and corruption: plastering the sides of city buses and the radio airwaves with advertisements reminding people not to get sucked into the seemingly ever-present temptation of graft.

The campaign began this weekend with ads on the sides of city buses showing money in a mousetrap proclaiming: “Bribery & Corruption Are a Trap. Don’t Get Caught Up. Report It.” (The mouse trap is a bit of an interesting choice, given that people who report crimes are often referred to as “rats.”)