Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Construction firms' de Blasio donors are under the microscope

From DNA Info:

City investigators are looking into $45,000 in donations that workers from two related construction firms made to Mayor Bill de Blasio's 2013 campaign, city records show.

DNAinfo New York first reported in October that the Department of Investigation opened a probe into de Blasio fundraiser Husam Ahmad and his construction companies, HAKS and SIMCO Engineering.

DNAinfo reported at the time that both HAKS and SIMCO — which each have city contracts worth tens of millions of dollars — said in disclosures to the Mayor's Office of Contract Services that DOI investigators executed search warrants on their offices on Aug. 17.

Neither the firms nor the DOI, however, would tell DNAinfo what the probe was about.

But in a recent disclosure to the city, HAKS said the search warrant sought information on campaign donations.

Ahmad, the co-founder, chairman and CEO of HAKS, personally bundled $6,400 in contributions from HAKS employees to de Blasio's 2013 mayoral run, campaign finance records show.

HAKS employees donated an additional $32,900 that was not bundled by Ahmad to de Blasio's 2013 campaign and transition team. SIMCO employees gave $5,800 in donations to de Blasio's 2013 campaign, records show.

Ahmad did not donate directly to de Blasio — principals of firms that do business with the city can only give a maximum of $400 to a city candidate per election cycle. But Ahmad's wife, Uzma, has given a total of $13,450 to de Blasio's 2013 and 2017 campaigns.

In June 2014, de Blasio appointed Ahmad to the board of advisors of the Mayor's Fund to Advance New York City, a nonprofit that solicits donations to promote city causes. Records show that HAKS donated between $20,000 and $59,000 to the Mayor's Fund in 2015.

The mayor also appointed Ahmad to his Workforce Development Board, which consists of leaders from the private sector, public agencies and unions who advise the city on its policies about job seekers, employers and adult learners.

While HAKS does not have the disadvantaged business enterprise designation, SIMCO does.

Glendale plaza construction hurts small businesses

From the Queens Chronicle:

The city, area elected officials and community leaders have reached a deal they hope will alleviate some of the burden pedestrian plaza work had placed on a number of Glendale businesses.

According to Department of Design and Construction representative Ian Michaels and Community Board 5 Chairman Vincent Arcuri Jr., the project at Myrtle and Cooper avenues hit a snag recently, as it was discovered underground Verizon infrastructure had to be moved in order for the project to continue.

But even before the issue with Verizon occurred, a number of area stores had said the restricting of traffic flow and the loss of parking in the area was resulting in declines in sales and customers.

Bill gets an unfriendly welcome in Albany

From CBS 2:

Mayor Bill de Blasio traveled to Albany Monday, where lawmakers turned his annual budget hearing into a fiery showdown.

As CBS2 Political Reporter Marcia Kramer reported, the mayor defended himself against questions surrounding his performance.

De Blasio was on a charm offensive on steroid as he shook hands and exchanged hugs and kisses at the start of his annual attempt to get funding from Albany. But it did not take long before he found himself on the ropes – with two grand jury investigations front and center.

“What should be of grave concern to every single person in this room is the two sitting grand juries; is the $11 million you’re asking the taxpayers to pay for representation for you and your administration’s legal fees,” said state Sen. Terrence Murphy (R-Shrub Oak).

Murphy was questioning why de Blasio deserves a three-year extension of mayoral control of the schools.

Monday, January 30, 2017

De Blasio thinks undocumented drunk drivers should be protected from deportation

According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving, nearly 10,000 Americans are killed each year as a result of drunk driving, or 27 people per day.

Nolan comes out against EDC development plan over LIC tracks

From DNA Info:

Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan said the Economic Development Corporation's call for a developer to build apartments and retail on top of the Long Island Rail Road storage yard at 11-24 Jackson Ave. is "poorly planned" and that it has the potential to be "outsized and not right" for the neighborhood.

The EDC and the MTA issued a Request for Proposals Monday for a company to develop the site, which would require building over the 58,000-square-foot rail yard located between 21st Street, Jackson and 49th avenues.

"Considering the size of the site and its proximity to other large scale development in Long Island City there must be a better plan to increase basic services before such large scale development is considered,” Nolan said in a statement Tuesday.

The area's existing infrastructure is already strained, including crowded schools, subways and a sewage system that leaks waste into Newtown Creek when it rains, she said.

"I feel that we are now playing catch-up," Nolan said. "Our schools remain the most overcrowded in the city and every subway rider knows the daily overcrowded conditions on the 7, E, F, M, N, Q and R."

421a didn't do what it was supposed to do

From the Daily News:

The city lost out on as much as $2.8 billion in wasted tax breaks for condos under a program meant to spur housing development, according to a new study by a budget watchdog group.

The Independent Budget Office estimates that $2.5 to $2.8 billion of the property tax breaks given out over a decade as part of the 421-a program were wasted because they benefited homeowners rather than advancing the program’s stated goal of encouraging housing development.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Ozone Park drop in center is moving forward

From the Queens Chronicle:

After looking at alternative sites, Breaking Ground and the Department of Social Services, which oversees the Department of Homeless Services, have decided to slowly phase homeless people into a drop-in, transitional shelter on Atlantic Avenue, leaders for both groups told Community Board 9’s executive committee members Tuesday.

Claire Sheedy, vice president of Breaking Ground’s housing operations, said the group looked at one promising alternative site — and several less promising ones — but the owner of it was not interested in leasing it for the use of providing services to homeless people. The shelter will only see 10 homeless people per day until next year, when that will go up to 50 and ultimately 125. Responding to requests from the community, it will not provide services to registered sex offenders. The site is less than 200 feet from a public high school.

Architect draws up better plan for Astoria Park diving pool

From DNA Info:

The Parks Department has planned for years to pave over the shuttered pool and turn it into a performance space, a proposal approved by Community Board 1 and the Landmarks Preservation Commission in 2013.

But the plan has drawn criticism from some residents who would rather see the pool restored to its original use.

Andrew Tesoro, who runs the Manhattan firm Tesoro Architects, says he's come up with a design for the space that would keep it functional all year-round. He submitted it to the Parks Department earlier this month.

"As an architect, I object somewhat to the plans of the Parks Department," he said.

The diving pool should retain an "aquatic function" rather than be filled in, he added. "It should have at least other uses."

Tesoro envisions restoring Astoria Park's diving pool for swimming and using it as an ice rink in the winter, then adding a deck-like stage opposite the diving boards to use for events and performances.

He came up with the idea after being approached by Kathleen Springer, an Astoria resident who's spearheaded a campaign to get the pool reopened, Tesoro said, noting the "spectacular design" of the Astoria Park Pool complex.

"It's important to take this precious resource and do as much as we can with it," Tesoro said.

Tesoro doesn't have an exact figure for how much the plan would cost to implement, but thinks it could possibly be cheaper or close in cost to the Parks Department's current plan for the site.

"Filling a 17-foot basin with gravel and then paving over half an acre of that with attractive material — that's not inexpensive activity," he said.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Council candidate calls for investigation of Katz

From the Queens Chronicle:

Queens Borough President Melinda Katz in her State of the Borough address Friday proposed the placement of a soccer and hockey arena at Willets Point, as well as a school, economic recreation center and a parking facility at the 62-acre site.

Katz, in her address, said, “… as we await the outcome of the lawsuit, let’s ponder additional options.”

“We should be unafraid we should think bigger, bolder and more comprehensively,” she later said. “We need to review positioning ourselves for success by thinking creatively about further options that address our changing borough’s needs — a new school, an eco-recreation center, more parking to accommodate simultaneous big events that we have there now, because all those big events that we have now are wreaking havoc on the soccer fields and grass in Flushing Meadows for parking.

“And to help pay for it, let's consider a soccer stadium, let's consider a hockey stadium” she said. “Just imagine if we, the World’s Borough, hosted the World Cup or the Stanley Cup.”

One opponent of the mall project quickly criticized the borough president’s proposal.

"Borough President Katz's push for yet another stadium in Willets Point on property that was essentially stolen from small businesses for the supposed use of creating a new affordable residential community — a plan that she herself negotiated in 2008 as the Land Use Chair on the City Council! — would be almost comical if it weren't so disturbing,” said Paul Graziano, an urban planning consultant, plaintiff in the lawsuit and City Council hopeful.

“Law enforcement officials should look very carefully at possible collusion between the Borough President's office and the developers in question, as this seems to be yet another attempt at grabbing our city's public property in order to further enrich a few very already wealthy individuals at our expense," Graziano, who is running as a primary opponent against Councilman Paul Vallone (D-Bayside) in September, continued.

Steinway Street hotels will be quite large

From DNA Info:

Construction will start later this year on a 289-room hotel planned for the corner of Steinway Street and Northern Boulevard, on the site of the now-shuttered Western Beef supermarket, according to the developer.

JMH Development and Mettle Property Group will build the five-story project at 36-20 Steinway St., in what will be a "dual branded" hotel featuring a Homewood Suites on one side and a Hampton Inn on the other, according to a press release.

And you can bet that they'll both end up with homeless in them!

DeBlasio and Preet to meet

From NBC:

NBC 4 has learned Mayor DeBlasio has agreed to discuss a corruption probe with federal prosecutors. Melissa Russo reports.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Illegally parked trucks are a menace to South Ozone Park


I live in Queens and for a few years trucks have been illegally parking in my residential neighborhood, and nothing is being done about it.

Commercial trucks can’t stay on city roads between 9 p.m. and 5 a.m according to city law. I have gone to meetings at the police precinct, spoken to my community board and still nothing is being done, there are about 8-12 trucks that park over here daily.
They park in an intersection blocking a lane, they park on the sidewalk. But the most dangerous one of them all is they park right next to a school. Here are pictures of one that was parked for 4 days with out moving parked illegally next to a school blocking a fire hydrant, and bus stop for days I did a few different 311 complaints over the weekend and it's very alarming how nothing was done.
This truck was parked on 130th street and 150th ave next to an elementary school.
Those are a few 311 complaints where the police department determined police action was not necessary and the last pic is of a truck blocking and intersection on South Conduit Ave and you cannot see the oncoming traffic.

- Anonymous

Hefty bill for de Blasio defense

From the NY Times:

The bill for defending Mayor Bill de Blasio and other city officials in state and federal criminal investigations into fund-raising practices has grown, with six city contracts for outside law firms now totaling more than $11.6 million.

The contracts, filed with the city comptroller’s office and obtained by The New York Times through a request under the state’s Freedom of Information Law, provide the bare minimum of detail as to their purpose other than representing city employees in possible grand jury hearings related to what the Law Department calls, in its paperwork, the “John Doe Investigation.”

Taken together, the contracts contain a constellation of white-collar criminal defense and trial lawyers from law firms big and small, as well as the maximum they can bill in the city’s defense: Debevoise & Plimpton, $10 million; Carter Ledyard & Millburn, $750,000; Walden Macht & Haran, $350,000; Lankler Siffert & Wohl, $250,000; Cunningham Levy Muse, $200,000; and Paul B. Bergman, P.C., $99,000.

Lawyers from the firms, all of which declined to comment on the contracts, are tasked with preparing witnesses who may be subpoenaed or asked to give testimony to a grand jury. State and federal grand juries have begun hearing evidence from prosecutors, according to people familiar with the matter.

Another attempt to revitalize Jamaica

From Crains:

The city selected a developer to turn a former NYPD parking garage in Jamaica, Queens, into a large, mixed-use complex with more than 350 affordable apartments, officials announced Thursday.

The building, which will be developed by Omni New York, is a key component of the de Blasio administration's 2015 economic development initiative called the Jamaica NOW Action Plan, which aims to spur job growth and retail development in the neighborhood.

"[This] proposal builds on southeast Queens' strengths as a commercial and transit hub," said Maria Torres-Springer, president of the city's Economic Development Corp.

A request for proposals for the site was issued in February 2015, with Manhattan-based Omni submitting the winning bid. All of the units in the new building, located on 168th Street between Jamaica and 93rd avenues, will be enrolled in the city's affordable-housing program, and a portion of the parking in the building will be dedicated for NYPD use.

The project, which will also include ground-floor retail, is the first milestone of a larger effort to foster job growth in Jamaica, which is served by four subway lines, a major Long Island Rail Road junction and the Airtrain to John F. Kennedy International Airport. Yet, despite those existing transit advantages and a 2007 rezoning that allowed for the construction of ample commercial office space and hotels, job growth and economic activity have declined during the past decade, according to the city.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Landlords given subsidies are eviction leaders

From DNA Info:

Much of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s affordable housing plan hinges on the preservation of existing affordable units.

But advocates worry that some landlords who get city subsidies to preserve affordable housing are the very same landlords who have the highest rates attempting to evict tenants from rent stabilized homes — and are therefore contributing to the loss of affordable housing.

One of the prime examples, they say, is A&E Real Estate Holdings.

A&E, which is believed to be the fifth biggest landlord in the city, inked a $201 million deal in 2015 to buy Harlem’s Riverton complex and pledged to keep its nearly 1,000 units affordable over the next 30-plus years in exchange for $100 million worth of tax breaks and incentives from the city, according to reports.

James Patchett, the incoming head of the city’s Economic Development Corporation who previously served as chief of staff to Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen, the mayor's point person for affordable housing, recently highlighted that deal, which he brokered, as a source of pride in reaching the administration’s housing goals.

But A&E was also responsible for filing more than 2,230 evictions cases between January 2013 and June 2015, according to an analysis by Rentlogic, a rental listings platform that aims to empower tenants by using open source data to grade landlords on things like vermin infestations, mold problems and construction violations.

Peralta joins the IDC

From NY1:

The breakaway Independent Democratic Conference, or IDC, will now have eight members with its newest addition, state Senator Jose Peralta of Queens.

"Look, this is a process. Like I said, I've been doing a lot of soul searching. And I reached that crossroads," Peralta said.

Despite holding a numeric majority, Democrats do not run the state Senate. The Republicans do, with a power-sharing arrangement with the IDC. That means both members of the IDC and Senate Republicans control the legislative agenda in the upper house.

By party registration, Democrats actually outnumber Republicans by 32 to 31 seats. But in practice, it's much different. Mainline Democrats now have 23 seats, Republicans 31 and the IDC 8. And Brooklyn Democrat Simcha Felder caucuses with the Republicans.

Peralta says joining the IDC is the best way to deliver for his Queens constituents.

Main Street fire was massive

From CBS 2:

Crews remain on the scene Thursday of a massive fire in Queens that destroyed more than a dozen businesses and disrupted subway service.

Flames and thick black smoke from the 4-alarm fire rose above Roosevelt Avenue Wednesday afternoon as the blaze spread.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Why ticket quotas aren't a good idea

From the NY Post:

The city will shell out $75 million to settle a class-action lawsuit involving nearly 1 million bogus NYPD summonses allegedly issued to meet quotas, officials said Monday.

The massive payout comes six years after a lawsuit filed in Manhattan federal court claimed that cops were forced to issue the tickets for quality-of-life offenses to meet targeted numbers, “regardless of whether any crime or violation” occurred.

The court case involved more than 900,000 summonses that were issued between 2007 and 2015 and eventually dismissed for lack of probable cause.

The people who were ticketed may now be eligible for compensation to the tune of $150 per summons. They will be notified about the claims process in order to get the cash, officials said.

De Blasio fundraiser asked for zoning change

From DNA Info:

The night club impresario and beauty product wholesaler whose employees made suspicious donations to Bill de Blasio's campaign threw a fundraiser in 2013 for the future mayor under a bogus name and two years later met with City Hall officials about rezoning a Queens property that he wanted to turn into a hotel, DNAinfo New York has learned.

Sm-Ali "Alex" Amanollahi — whom DNAinfo wrote about last spring for his connection to possible straw donations and for losing money to accused fraudster Hamlet Peralta — co-hosted a fundraiser in October 2013 at a club under the name Alex Amano, sources said. In total Amanollahi, his employees, family and friends gave at least $55,000 to de Blasio's campaign and transition committee in 2013, records show.

Two years after the fundraiser, Amanollahi hit up City Hall officials with help in rezoning his property at 23-04 94th St. in East Elmhurst, sources said.

The rezoning discussions took place in 2015 and 2016. The talks involved Amanollahi, who was going by Alex Amano, meeting with deputy mayor Alicia Glen's chief of staff, James Patchett, and one of her senior advisors, Steven Caputo, at City Hall, according to sources.

However, in April 2016, Amanollahi decided not to move forward with the rezoning because of the costs involved, including hiring a lobbyist to interact with the local community, legal fees and producing an environmental impact study, sources said.

Amanollahi's decision to scrap his hotel plan also came around the time that the media began reporting about federal investigators looking into possible pay-for-favor schemes involving the NYPD and de Blasio's fundraising.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

City admits that overdevelopment to blame for sewer problems

From the Daily News:

The city Department of Environmental Protection sends repair teams to that block — and other spots with scores of complaints — but the flooding persists, residents say.

****All told, four of the five spots with the most 311 complaints are in Queens, where city officials say commercial and residential development outpaced the buildout of critical support infrastructure, including catch basins and storm sewers.****

Seeking to fix the longstanding watery mess, the de Blasio administration has set aside $1.7 billion over the next 10 years to build out the city’s storm sewer system.

The planned “sewer buildout” will “resolve longstanding flooding conditions that affect over 400,000 city residents in southeast Queens,” First Deputy Mayor Anthony Shorris told reporters in April 2015.

Property tax structure may be illegal

From Crains:

The mayor cannot possibly relate to the struggles of Bay Ridge homeowners. As a result of current assessment policy, his house is assessed at just 1.2% of its city-­estimated market value. However, in Bay Ridge, the median assessment is 4.3% percent. For homeowners in Queens (just under 5%), the Bronx (5.2%), and Staten Island (5.3%), it is even ­higher.

The mayor pays about $3,600 in annual property taxes for a house that the city estimates is worth $1.4 million.

In Bay Ridge, the median tax burden for homeowners is about $6,200, even though the city estimates that the median home in the neighborhood is worth only $785,000. If Bay Ridge homeowners paid the same effective tax rate as the mayor, their median tax burden would be less than $1,900. (The discrepancies can stem from a variety of factors, but it’s not clear which ones explain the mayor’s low rate.)

Although city officials argue that these inequities can be fixed only if Albany changes the law, the solution is simple and can be implemented immediately. The mayor should ensure that all assessments for homeowners in the city are uniform. That means lowering their ratio to that of the mayor’s house: 1.2%.

The decision is not only within the city’s control, it is legally required. The Real Property Tax law provides that all assessments must be uniform within each tax class—uniformity is the sine qua non of the property-tax system.

For a mayor whose political mantra includes a commitment to eradicating inequality, not addressing the blatant inequities in the property-tax system from which he benefits, and for which the solutions are solely within his control, is iniquitous. There are solutions. The mayor just needs the will to implement them.

Well that took a while

From the Times Ledger:

Former mayoral candidate John Liu, who began his political career as a city councilman representing northeast Queens, was fined more than $15,000 for violations related to his successful 2009 run for New York City comptroller by the city’s Campaign Finance Board.

Liu’s campaign was fined for accepting 31 over-the-limit contributions, as well as five corporate contributions, eight contributions from unregistered political committees and 16 over-the-limit “Doing Business” contributions. The latter refers to contributions from individuals who have some sort of business with New York City, which the Campaign Finance Board restricts more heavily.

He had received more than $1.3 million in public funds for his 2009 comptroller race, according to the CFB. Liu’s 2009 campaign has a remaining balance of $28,315, according to the CFB’s site.

City wants development over LIC train tracks

From DNA Info:

The city is looking for a developer to construct housing, retail and open space above a rail yard in Long Island City, according to a Request for Proposals published Monday.

The city's Economic Development Corporation, along with the MTA, is seeking a third party to develop the 58,000-square-foot parcel at 11-24 Jackson Ave. bordered by 21st Street, Jackson and 49th avenues.

The city owns the air rights to the site, which is currently used by the LIRR for storage. Any development would need to be built over the existing rail yard, similar to the Hudson Yards development in Manhattan which is being built above the West Side Yard.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Water's Edge development is falling apart

From The Wave:

On Friday, Jan. 13, owners of the condominiums, Water’s Edge in Arverne stood in front of their ‘shoddily constructed’ city-financed dream of first-time homeownership for low and moderate income people and proclaimed it a nightmare.

Council Member Donovan Richards stood in solidarity with the homeowners, asking the Briarwood Organization for one simple thing.

“Just do the right thing,” said Richards. “One of the many dreams we have in life is to become the owner of our very own home. Many people, particularly in our city, never get that opportunity, never mind an affordable home. Unfortunately, for many of the residents here, that dream turned into a reality and then a nightmare. Briarwood needs to make this right and if they don’t, we are calling on HPD to refuse to work with their organization on any subsidized projects.”

On Sept. 1, 2016, the condominium board sued the Briarwood Organization Arverne /Briarwood II, LLC, its principals, Vincent L. Riso, Raymond Riso, James Riso, Howard Goodman, and Briarwood Properties, Inc. who built the 130-unit complex consisting of 65 two-story buildings, with a condo unit on each floor after winning the bid of the Request For Proposal (RFP) issued by the Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) during the Bloomberg administration.

Whitestone parcel eyed as parkland

From the Queens Chronicle:

A northeast Queens lawmaker wants new greenery to be planted at an abandoned lot in Whitestone.

State Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) made the pitch in a letter to the Parks Department and Tower Capital Management — a company that hired an attorney to force a sale of the property after the city hired it to manage the lot’s lien and collect taxes owed on the site. He requested that the 7,1000-square-foot derelict site at 24-19 Francis Lewis Blvd. be transformed under the city’s Greenstreets initiative, which would result in it being changed into a green space with shrubs, trees and ground cover made for capturing stormwater.

The site, which is owned by the New York City Tax Lien Trust, did not sell at an auction in September, though it will be available again on Jan. 20.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

CB2's land use committee rejects Woodside megachurch


WOODSIDE, QUEENS -- In a major victory for the residents and businesses of Woodside, Community Board 2’s Land Use Committee voted unanimously on the evening of January 18 to reject the application of developers to expand and build a six-story 2,000-person capacity megachurch and parking lot. The expansion of the church would include a gym, a spa, television studios, and private apartments with retractable roofs, private roof terraces and balconies for the enjoyment of church leaders.

The megachurch developers have repeatedly failed to make the case as to why the community should support their request for special rights and permission to build this community-killing project that violates the existing zoning code for the land. The developers have presented no meaningful plan to address reasonable concerns that businesses would not survive the disruption to customer traffic as a result road closures from cranes, dumpsters, and other construction measures. The developers also failed to guarantee that they would employ union labor. The unanimous vote by the Land Use Committee is a result of tremendous community organizing and canvassing and demonstrates the kind of power the Woodside community can build when we organize and make our presence known at spaces where decisions are often made without our input.

The Coalition to Defend Woodside and Little Manila is calling on members of the community to attend the full Community Board 2 meeting on Thursday, February 2, 6:30 pm at Sunnyside Community Services 43-31 39th Street. The community board’s vote is advisory. It is then anticipated that the application will go to the Queens Borough President Melinda Katz for a Land Use hearing, where the borough president will make an advisory recommendation. The New York Board of Standards and Appeals is then expected to hold a hearing on the application and will make the final determination to the church’s application to break the zoning rules that everyone else in the community has followed. The coalition is also calling on Majority Leader Jimmy Van Bramer and Queens Borough President Melinda Katz to oppose the application.

The Land Use Committee voted against recommending the project for approval by the full Community Board by noting that it fails to meet four out of five criteria as defined by Section 72-21 of the zoning resolution. The Land Use Committee found that the plan was out of character with Little Manila, that the hardship the church leaders claimed was of their own creation, that the configuration did not meet the zoning variance regulations, and it was not the smallest possible exception to the rules the church needed to continue their operations.

- Coalition to Defend Woodside & Little Manila

Astoria housing development is a-hummin'


I've been enjoying Ye Olde Queens Crap blog for some time now. I've been a Queens homeowner and resident for 17 years on 30th Rd, and that still makes me a "new guy" on this block!

I'm writing you regarding a particularly polished turd that just went up here. While it is well....crappy, that's not really the worst of it. If I just had to look at it, and accept it...well that's not too bad. But sadly that isn't the case. These folks have installed an enormous HVAC system on the roof that is bombarding an entire block with a low frequency droning sound - 24 hours a day!

So, we've reached out to them (this neighborhood is still local enough that through mutual friends I was able to contact them directly) - they were very nice - but ultimately completely dismissive towards us.

I know ZERO about posting something on a blog or anything like that. Might you be interested in helping? I mean this piece of junk deserves a spot on Queens Crap if only for its transparent co-opting of the Welling Court Mural Project - but then to shrug off the complaints of the neighborhood (including my neighbor who has been here since 1952!!) So much more to tell, but I won't waste any more of your time (unless you ask).

How do you spell dreck? This website will tell you."

- Anonymous

"P.S. They are spending far more on the appliances for their outdoor rooftop kitchen than whatever the cost may be of a properly designed noise enclosure.

Thanks for taking the time to read this!"

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Broadway-Flushing wary of construction plans

(This WAS a nice house!)

From the Queens Chronicle:

According to Broadway-Flushing Homeowners Association President Janet McCreesh, the issue of Airbnb home sharers using houses in the neighborhood — much of which has a restrictive covenant limiting houses to single-family usage — is largely over.

“We have managed to get all of the homes, I think, on the Airbnb website,” she told the Chronicle. “We initiated lawsuits.”

But Broadway-Flushing is not without other home-related problems. McCreesh estimates that 10 percent of the Flushing subneighborhood’s houses are illegally used for single-room occupancies or hotels.

In Broadway-Flushing, two houses with unusual aspects of their interiors are being built — though no one publicly contends any illegality could be afoot. Ten bathrooms and eight bedrooms are planned at 33-05 157 St.; seven bathrooms and seven bedrooms are planned at 33-62 159 St. Both buildings’ plans have been approved by the Department of Buildings.

“That is not the layout of your typical Queens single-family home,” McCreesh said, referring to the properties. “The law needs to change for this type of situation. This is not a 10-acre estate. This is a plot of land in Queens.”

“The DOB does not limit how many bathrooms you can have in a house,” she continued. “There’s nothing in terms of protection for architectural design.”

Construction is happening now at both of the locations. According to McCreesh, both of the properties are under the jurisdiction of the restrictive Rickert-Finlay Covenant of 1906, which requires that homes only be used by single families and covers much of Broadway-Flushing.

And the homeowners association president does not necessarily believe that the locations on 159th Street and 157th Street will be used for any other purpose, although she is very concerned.

Chinese spy headed to prison

From Metro:

A former FBI employee in New York was sentenced to two years in prison on Friday after admitting that he illegally acted at the direction of a Chinese official to gather sensitive information.

Kun Shan Chun, also known as Joey Chun, was also ordered by U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero in Manhattan to pay $10,000 after pleading guilty in August to having illegally acted as an agent of a foreign government.

"I'm so sorry," a tearful Chun said in court. "I take full responsibility."

Chun, a U.S. citizen who was born in China, was arrested in March in connection with what prosecutors called a duplicitous betrayal of the FBI, which had employed him in its New York field office since 1997.

Prosecutors said that beginning in 2005, Chinese individuals claiming to be affiliated with a China-based printer products manufacturer called Zhuhai Kolion Technology Company Ltd solicited an investment from one of Chun's parents.

Chun, 47, first met purported Kolion associates during a 2005 trip, and met them abroad at several other times, eventually meeting a Chinese official who asked him about the FBI and surveillance practices and targets, prosecutors said.

In turn, Chun provided the official an FBI organizational chart and photographs related to surveillance technologies, prosecutors said.

In exchange, Chun's associates paid for him to go on international trips, and they sometimes also paid for prostitutes for him while he was abroad, prosecutors said.

Inaugural bible came from Queens church

From CBS:

Something President Donald Trump has held onto for decades was with him as he took the oath of office on Friday.

It came from Jamaica, Queens when he was a young boy.

As CBS2’s Erin Logan reported, there’s one bible that President Trump has referred back to since he got it from a Jamaica, Queens church in 1955.

“He had it with him. He showed me the copy,” Rev. Patrick Hugh O’Connor said.

The president had it with him while he was sworn in as the nation’s 45th president. Rev. O’Connor — of the 325-year-old Presbyterian church — said he heard all about the bible that the president got while in Sunday school. The two met for the first time in person on Wednesday at Trump’s office.

“He shared how fundamental his time at the church was,” O’Connor said.

Not only was the reverend impressed that President Trump kept the bible from the church for over 60 years, he’s also happy to hear that someone from the church made such an impact on him.

“The Sunday school teacher who is now 96-years-old, who had helped to shape his journey,” O’Connor said.

He even had a letter for her.

“The letter said simply to her, ‘thank you very much for your support,” he said.

The reverend described his meeting with the president as pleasant. The main purpose was to pray with him as he took on the most powerful role.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Is it time for Newtown Playground to be recognized as a burial ground?

From the Queens Chronicle:

Lifelong Elmhurst resident Marialena Giampino grew up hearing stories about the neighborhood’s settlers and how they are buried underneath Newtown Playground at the intersection of 56th Avenue and 92nd Street.

She thinks it’s about time the city and community officially recognize the history below the slides and climbing equipment.

“The goal is to get some type of memorial or plaque commemorating the people buried there,” Giampino said. “To the normal person who maybe isn’t from Elmhurst, they don’t know what’s there.”

According to a 1932 city report on cemeteries, provided to the Chronicle by Giampino, at least 86 people were buried at what was called Old Newtown Cemetery.

The first funeral took place in 1729, about 75 years after the neighborhood was founded and more than four decades prior to the American Revolution.

Some of the neighborhood’s most prominent residents were buried there, with entire families interred alongside each other on the site.

Eventually, the cemetery served as a potter’s field — the final resting place for unknown or indigent residents — until about 1880, with the Parks Department taking over the location in 1917.

A decade later, the surviving headstones were all laid flat and covered with soil so playground equipment and a drinking fountain could be installed.

Giampino brought up the site’s history to Community Board 4, of which she is a member, last week, saying now would be the perfect time to memorialize those who are buried there.

Woodhaven: historic but overcrowded

From AM-NY:

As its name implies, Woodhaven is truly an escape in the urban jungle.

The Queens neighborhood is probably one of the few places in the city where you can get off the train, take a stroll through a forest, grab a bite to eat from a Latin restaurant and head home to a house that was built a century ago.

“It’s always been a place where people come in and bring their experiences to the community,” said Ed Wendell, a lifelong resident and the executive director of the Woodhaven Cultural & Historical Society.

Jamaica Avenue is a bustling corridor stocked with mom-and-pop stores and restaurants that reflect the diverse population in the neighborhood, according to Wendell.

“People ask how many businesses have been around for more than 100 years and there are like seven or eight,” Wendell said of the avenue. “We are proud of our history.”

Meanwhile, the one- and two-family homes south of the avenue have kept their Victorian look from the early 1900s. Most also come with backyards.

“It’s an actual community. People get to know each other and help everyone out,” noted Vickie Messina, 67, who has lived in Woodhaven with her husband in their two-story house for 40 years.

But Woodhaven is becoming less of a hidden gem, and some locals said there are concerns about overcrowding.

For example, there have been complaints about illegal conversions that pack too many tenants into basements and other spaces, Wendell said.

“If you walk around the streets of our neighborhood and you look around what you see is a two-family house that has six satellite dishes or four doorbells,” he said.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Union blaming de Blasio for construction deaths

From the Commercial Observer:

Thirty-one members of the Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York were arrested as part of a planned construction safety demonstration today—hours before the City Council introduced a package of 18 bills aimed at curbing the high number of jobsite deaths in the last two years.

Hundreds of union members and supporters filled a stretch of Park Row outside of City Hall to raise awareness for the 30 workers who have been killed in New York City over the last 24 months. (The extra arrestee was for the next worker to die, according to a spokesman for the union.)

Chanting “How many more must die?” in English and Spanish, some members carried ceremonial black coffins on their shoulders and a prop of the grim reaper. The coordinated arrest occurred after union protesters, wearing a number on their sweatshirt for each of those killed, blocked a section of the Lower Manhattan street while holding up signs.

“The first step to solving the problem is admitting you have one,” James Mahoney, the president of the New York State Iron Workers District Council, told Commercial Observer at the rally this morning. “Mayor de Blasio, you have one. People are dying; there’s blood on his hands.”

Like rats fleeing a sinking ship

From DNA Info:

Within a week of Mayor Bill de Blasio's administration announcing record-breaking achievements in affordable housing, the top two officials responsible for his housing initiatives are stepping down.

Department of City Planning Director and City Planning Commission Chair Carl Weisbrod is stepping down to chair the Trust for Governors Island, and Department of Housing Preservation and Development Commissioner Vicki Been will return to her previous job teaching at New York University and directing NYU's Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy.

Weisbrod will be replaced by Marisa Lago, currently the U.S. Department of the Treasury's Assistant Secretary for International Markets and Development.

Been will be replaced by Economic Development Corporation president and CEO Maria Torres-Springer, de Blasio announced Tuesday.

James Patchett, chief of staff to Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen, will succeed Torres-Springer at EDC, an agency which Glen oversees.

Sampson sent up the river

From AM-NY:

Former New York State Senate leader John Sampson was sentenced to 5 years in prison Wednesday for lying and obstructing justice to cover up his misuse of escrow money as a private lawyer.

Brooklyn U.S. District Judge Dora Irizarry also imposed a $75,000 fine on the former Democratic leader from Canarsie whose 2015 conviction was one in a string of corruption cases that have rocked Albany.

Sampson, 51, had allegedly misused $440,000 in escrow money to help finance a political campaign for district attorney in Brooklyn, then did favors for Edul Ahmad, a local businessman who gave him $188,000 to help cover up the misuse of funds.

He was not convicted of those charges but was convicted of lying to the FBI and recruiting a childhood friend, Sam Noel, who worked for the Brooklyn U.S. attorney’s office, as a mole to keep track of an investigation of Ahmad, who he feared might become an informant.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

BdB keeping it small

From the NY Times:

It is particularly important for the mayor to demonstrate success in soliciting small donations. Cut off from some of his familiar sources by federal and state inquiries into his fund-raising practices, Mr. de Blasio, a Democrat, and his campaign have been pounding the pavement for such contributions, and have leaned on some of the mayor’s celebrity backers like the actors Cynthia Nixon, Mark Ruffalo and Steve Buscemi.

Last week, prominent supporters implored fellow admirers of his administration to make small donations to the mayor’s re-election effort, a last-minute push to raise money before the deadline.

On Monday, the mayor’s campaign said it would report more than $1 million in contributions raised over the last half of 2016 from roughly 3,800 contributors, a majority of whom gave less than $100. (A campaign spokesman could not say if the total raised exceeded the $1.1 million brought in during the first half of 2016.)

The official results must be made public by Tuesday.

The mayoral race, especially on the Democratic side, has not really materialized, but that would change significantly if the investigations, now in their grand jury phase, led to an indictment of a city official.

Mr. de Blasio has denied any wrongdoing.

Kew Gardens has worst streets in the city

From the Daily News:

If you want to avoid potholes, choppy roads and flat tires, you may want to steer clear of Kew Gardens, Queens.

The neighborhood’s streets are in the worst shape of all the roads in the five boroughs, according to a report the city Independent Budget Office released Tuesday.

The report tracked city Department of Transportation street-condition assessments from 2014 and 2015 across the city and found that only 28.2% of streets in Kew Gardens are listed in “good” condition.

The neighborhood had 66.4% of its roads listed in “fair” condition and 5.4% in “poor” condition.

It landed at the bottom — No. 188 — in the citywide rankings of neighborhoods.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Forest Hills taxi stand is pissing people off

From NY1:

Our Queens Bureau Reporter Shannan Ferry sat down with anchor Kristen Shaugnessy to talk about a cab stand on Queens Boulevard that has some neighbors up in arms. They say allowing cabs to park on both sides of the street trolling for fares causes traffic congestion and noise. One neighbor, who lives in a nearby condominium, started an online petition asking the city to take action and the local Councilwoman has said she supports an effort to address her constituents' concerns.

Senior seeking reimbursement from landlord

From DNA Info:

Ronald Peters has not seen his wife since Dec. 7, the day the elevator in his 6-story building on Austin Street, near 84th Road, in Kew Gardens was shut down for a major repair.

The 82-year old Korean War veteran, who needs a walker to move around and is unable to climb stairs, was forced to temporarily relocate to a Holiday Inn near the Veterans Hospital in Brooklyn where he had a number of appointments scheduled for December and January, he said.

His wife Virginia, 80, who also can't climb stairs, stayed in their apartment on the top floor.

Peters, who said he has been unable to get in touch with his landlord, PSRS Realty Group, since early December, already paid more than $7,000 for his stay at the hotel, according to the bills he shared with DNAinfo New York.

Now, he wants the landlord to pay him back, he said.

“They should reimburse me because what do they want me to do? Go up these steps?" said Peters, who has a pacemaker and suffers from diabetes and high blood pressure, among other illnesses. "I can’t go up six flights.”

“It’s so aggravating," he said, adding that if the landlord does not reimburse him, he will consider legal action.

PSRS Realty Group did not return multiple phone calls from DNAinfo seeking comment.

Rash of car fires in Woodside

From CBS 2:

Some Queens residents woke on Monday, to find their vehicles on fire.

As CBS2’s Alice Gainer reported, just after midnight a van was set on fire at 56th Street and Queens Boulevard in Woodside.

Police and firefighters responded and put out the flames.

Nearly 3 hours later they were back after a car parked nearby also caught fire.

It’s unclear how the fires were started and whether or not an accelerent was used.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Bird strikes went up after goose killings started

From the Daily News:

An Associated Press analysis of bird-killing programs at the New York City area's three major airports found that nearly 70,000 gulls, starling, geese and other birds have been slaughtered, mostly by shooting and trapping, since the 2009 accident, and it is not clear whether those killings have made the skies safer.

Federal data show that in the years after bird-killing programs LaGuardia and Newark airports ramped up in response to the gutsy landing, the number of recorded bird strikes involving those airports actually went up.

Combined, the two airports went from an average of 158 strikes per year in the five years before the accident to an average of 299 per year in the six years after it, though that could be due to more diligent reporting of such incidents.

Self-storage resistant to de Blasio legislation

From Crains:

More than a year ago, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a 10-point plan to spur the city's manufacturing sector. Point No. 2 was to limit the number of hotels and self-storage facilities in designated industrial business zones (IBZs).

The plan has made few headlines since, largely because the administration is still working on a bill that insiders expected months ago. But self-storage operators have been gearing up for a fight, and for good reason: City Hall is backed by manufacturers and advocates who frown on self-storage because, they say, it occupies large buildings on key sites, creates few jobs and pays low wages. Moreover, the industry is growing.

Owners of storage businesses argue that they have become scapegoats for a manufacturing exodus that will continue regardless.

The mayor's legislation is likely to require self-storage facilities to obtain special permits to open in IBZs, a costly and time-consuming obstacle intended to preserve sites for manufacturers.

New traffic pattern for LIE

From CBS 2:

Commuters on the Long Island Expressway in Queens can expect some major traffic changes starting this week.

According to the New York City Department of Transportation, traffic patterns in both directions on the LIE between exits 22A and 22C in Queens will shift starting at 10 p.m. Monday, if weather permits.

The DOT says the new traffic pattern will be in effect for 24 weeks.

The new traffic pattern is as follows:

  • Eastbound traffic on the Long Island Expressway service road will be shifted towards the right, will all lanes together on the new bridge deck.

  • Two lanes on the westbound side of the service road between exits 22A and 22B will be to the left of the concrete barrier, with one lane to the right. Drivers who wish to exit at 22B will have to be in the right lane.

  • Eastbound traffic on the Long Island Expressway main highway between exits 22A and 22C will be split, with one lane left of the concrete barrier and two lanes to the right.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Van Wyck widening & SBS don't mix

From the Queens Chronicle:

While the Department of Transportation sees no problem with the governor’s proposal to widen the Van Wyck Expressway — as part of his plan to transform John F. Kennedy International Airport — some believe it could conflict with the agency’s plan for Select Bus Service on Woodhaven and Cross Bay boulevards.

“Maybe, it might be a good idea to hold off on it,” Betty Braton, chairwoman of Community Board 10, said last Thursday.

As Braton pointed out, the Van Wyck Expressway and Woodhaven and Cross Bay boulevards are both major north-south corridors. The DOT is planning to redo parts of the boulevards as part of SBS — putting a dedicated bus lane in some parts.

Meanwhile, the governor last Wednesday announced a $2 billion plan to widen the Van Wyck in both directions from three lanes to four and the connector ramps at the Kew Gardens Interchange from two to three.

Cuomo said the changes will alleviate bottlenecks along the thoroughfare and save motorists a combined travel time of 7.4 million hours annually.

Braton said it’s her board’s belief that SBS will increase congestion and that the Van Wyck project could add to that.

Flushing Bay dredging to commence

From Curbed:

The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) announced the projected $34 million cleanup which is to be completed in phases that will likely carry on for decades. In fact, could take as long as until 2042 to complete if things go according to the DEP’s plan.

The first phase will focus on decommissioning the ten sewage outflows that spill into the bay. Next, the DEP plans to create a three acre marsh and mudflat area to help filter the water. Ultimately, the goal is to build a 2.5 mile tunnel and “dewatering” station that would divert sewage away from the bay and into a pumping system for processing but that could cost as much as $5.7 billion and has not received approval from the state.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Safety bills to come before council

From Crains:

City Council members will introduce a slew of bills next week in response to an increase in construction deaths and injuries during the city's building boom.

The package includes 18 pieces of legislation that could have sweeping consequences for the industry.

Crane operation and licensing would be more strictly monitored, while smaller construction sites where accidents have been more prevalent would be required to boost oversight. Several proposals would require the city to more closely track troubled actors in the industry and increase the penalties for flouting laws.

The legislation, called the Construction Safety Act, is led by Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, but some elements could face resistance from Mayor Bill de Blasio, who has ambitious goals for housing development and has clashed with construction-worker unions. The mayor has already expressed skepticism with one of the council measures, a bill to require training programs for construction workers.

Ramp removal planned on Clearview

From the Queens Chronicle:

The New York State Department of Transportation plans on closing the two pedestrian ramps under the Long Island Rail Road trestles on the east and west sides of the Clearview Expressway in Bayside.

“The ramps are underutilized and in poor condition,” the agency said in an advisory. “A recent inspection of these ramps has indicated that they have exceeded their service life.” They will be closed on Friday and removed at an undetermined date.

According to Auburndale Improvement Association First Vice President Henry Euler, who heard about the plan at a Community Board 11 meeting, the agency should have reached out to community members before making any decision.

“They said, ‘Oh, people could walk to Corporal Kennedy Street or Francis Lewis Boulevard,’” he told the Chronicle. “Well, that’s kind of a far trek to take to get from one side of the tracks to the other. In our community they should have things available for people for their convenience.”

A dubious distinction

From the Times Ledger:

New York’s foreclosures hit a height in 2016 not seen since the two years immediately following the 2008 market crash, according to a new report from property research specialists PropertyShark. Queens was the site of the most foreclosures by a significant margin, with southeast Queens particularly hard hit in 2016.

PropertyShark examined foreclosed properties that had been scheduled for auction for the first time in 2016 and the report stated the properties were single-family or two-family homes, or condo or co-op units.

The analysis found that 933 of the 2,202 first-time foreclosures in New York City were in Queens. The number of foreclosures increased from 804 in the borough in 2015, and the 2016 total marks the highest scheduled number of foreclosures since 2010, in which 1,404 foreclosures were scheduled. In total, 42 percent of first-time auctions in the city last year were located in Queens.

Friday, January 13, 2017

CB7 approves huge Whitestone development project

From the Queens Tribune:

Community Board 7 approved a plan to build 21 single-family homes fronting on a street not legally mapped by the city, which will be built by developer Tim O’Sullivan as part of the project.

The project is located on the plot of land between Powell’s Cove Boulevard, 150th Street, 5th Avenue and 6th Avenue—part of the land that once held the Cresthaven Country Club, which closed in 1989. O’Sullivan purchased the six-acre plot in 2015. The project, called The Bridges at Whitestone, calls for 45 single-family homes. The homes are all in keeping with the zoning of the neighborhood, but part of the project places 21 of those homes along Sullivan Drive—a street not mapped by the city that will be built by O’Sullivan through the middle of the site. That element of the project needed to be approved by the Board of Standards and Appeals, which includes the community board’s opinion in its decision. On Monday night, Community Board 7 voted unanimously to approve the project, setting the stage for its completion.

Approval from the community board has been pending since September, when the proposal was first introduced at a meeting. As part of the Board of Standards and Appeals process, O’Sullivan needed the street to be approved by a number of entities, including the community board, the fire department and the Department of Transportation (DOT).

Bag tax coming back

From the Queens Chronicle:

One of the hottest stories last spring was the City Council’s close and contentious vote to charge customers five cents for almost every paper or plastic grocery bag they use while food shopping.

Originally set to be implemented last October, the fee was pushed back to Feb. 15 when the state Legislature threatened to ban such fees. The issue faded into obscurity under things like the presidential election.

That could change once the new session of the state Legislature goes into high gear in the coming weeks.

Three state senators from Queens — all of whom opposed the Council measure — told the Chronicle that Albany could well be reviving the bag bill ban.

Landlords and National Grid employees pinched for bribery

From CBS2:

Dozens of Brooklyn landlords and National Grid employees have been accused of illegally installing gas meters to put money in their own pockets.

CBS2’s Ali Bauman had exclusive access as many of the suspects turned themselves in on Thursday morning. Many of the suspects didn’t have criminal records, but some now face years in state prison.

The 37 people were accused of working hand in hand to bypass city regulations and make a quick buck, many now face charges of bribery, falsifying records, and the highest felony charge — enterprise corruption