Friday, March 31, 2017

Historic Van Wyck house is up for sale

From Curbed:

It’s not every day that an 18th-century Dutch Colonial house in New York City hits the market, but lucky for history buffs, today is one of those few.

Dating to 1735, the Cornelius Van Wyck House in Douglaston, Queens has come to market for what appears to be the first time in nearly 40 years. Seeking $3.25 million, the house is both a New York City landmark and on the National Register of Historic Places—and for good reason.

“The history of this house is intimately connected with that of the Dutch settlers,” the property’s 1966 NYC landmark designation report reads. The report goes on to explain that Cornelius Van Wyck, the eldest son of Stephen Van Wyck who emigrated from Holland in 1660, made his home here, eventually handing it over to his son Stephen, a delegate in the Continental Congress.

Stephen added to the house—the original footprint includes the dining room, master bedroom, and living hall—before selling it in 1819 to Winant Van Zandt, who would go on to add 120 acres to the property. While those 120 acres are no longer appended, the house still maintains an impressive swath of land along Little Neck Bay, making it one of the largest waterfront properties in Queens.

Queensboro Bridge to have some work done

From DNA Info:

The Queensboro Bridge is getting the lion's share of capital funding for major repairs planned for the city's East River bridges over the next three years.

Mayor Bill de Blasio's 2017 Capital Commitment Plan through 2020 parcels out $110 million for the bridge, bringing the total planned funding for the project to $392 million — the most of what's been allotted for the East River Bridges, according to the city's Independent Budget Office.

The Department of Transportation is planning a $353 million replacement of the upper level of the Queensboro Bridge. Remaining funds will go toward adding hazard mitigation to protect the bridge against natural disasters or other threats, like structural hardening, fire-suppression systems and security cameras, according to officials.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

BDB's legal defense fund is handcuffed

From the NY Post:

The city’s Conflicts of Interest Board dealt a costly blow to Mayor de Blasio on Wednesday by ruling that his plan to raise big bucks through a legal-defense fund to cover bills growing out of investigations of his administration is against the law.

“The board has concluded that contributions to legal-defense funds are no different from gifts directly to the public servant,” wrote Chair Richard Briffault.

That means donations to a legal-defense fund are limited to a maximum $50 per person — except for family members, who can contribute as much as they want — making it unlikely the mayor could raise the hundreds of thousands of dollars he is expected to owe.

Hizzoner had earlier announced that he would seek donations from supporters to pay for hefty legal bills resulting from separate state and federal probes into his fund-raising practices.

Johnny's girl is out of the clink

From the Times Ledger:

Jia “Jenny” Hou walked out of a Pennsylvania detention facility a free woman last week after an immigration judge decided not to deport her to China. The treasurer of former City Comptroller John Liu’s 2013 mayoral campaign had been mired in legal problems since she was convicted in federal court of soliciting illegal donations.

The immigration court’s decision, rendered by Judge Kuyomars Golparvar, came at the end of a three-hour hearing in York, Pa. Liu, who was not charged with any wrongdoing in the original case, sat with Hou’s family in the courtroom and spoke with reporters after her release.

Hou was 27 years old in 2013 when she was found in Manhattan federal court guilty of attempted wire fraud, obstructing justice and making false statements to authorities and though she faced up to 45 years in prison, she was sentenced to just 10 months. She filed an appeal midway through her jail time and was released to wait for the results at home.

After losing that appeal, Hou was sent back to prison last March, and when she completed her sentence in December, she was transferred to an immigration detention center to await the court’s decision on whether she would be deported because of her felony conviction.

After the court allowed her to stay in the United States, Hou vowed to use good judgment in her future and thanked the Chinese community in eastern Queens for their support throughout this painful period.

Richmond Hill High School has a violence problem

From the Daily News:

School safety officials said a video recorded by students at the school on March 10 shows a gang initiation, with a crowd of students pummeling each other on campus.

Cops responded to the school after two girls struck another girl in the face, according to police records for that day.

The victim didn’t report any injuries, but a shaky cell phone video that safety agents provided to the Daily News shows a melee with a mob of students punching each other.

The safety agents union president, Greg Floyd, said scared students gave the video to agents at the school in a cry for help.

“The de Blasio school violence coverup isn’t working,” Floyd said. “Students are afraid of the gangs, guns, knives. They came to us because no one at City Hall is listening.”

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Fixing the ULURP process

From an Op-Ed by Council Member Geenfield and Borough President Gale Brewer published in Crains:

The current Uniform Land Use Review Procedure requires the Department of City Planning to make development applications public when the Planning Commission certifies them, roughly seven months before the City Council would vote to approve them. But applicants often submit paperwork describing their projects much earlier. Their plans can go through months or even years of pre-certification work. These pre-application forms matter because once an application is certified, it is difficult or impossible to make major changes.

One of us, Borough President Brewer, has made a practice of submitting Freedom of Information Law requests for those forms so her office can get a head start. The other, Land Use Chairman Greenfield, formally requested that they be turned over voluntarily. We both think it’s time to take that approach citywide.

If community boards, borough presidents and council members can review these forms at roughly the same time the Department of City Planning can, then they’ll know what’s coming. They’ll be better equipped to think through projects’ merits and demerits, seek out input from affected stakeholders earlier, and flag community concerns before it’s too late to address them.

So today, as the Committee on Land Use holds an oversight hearing on the mayor’s preliminary budget for the Department of City Planning, the council is requesting—as a “term and condition” of adopting the department’s budget—that pre-application forms be shared automatically with the relevant community board, borough president and council member. A range of data on the pre-application forms will also have to be included in the annual Mayor’s Management Report.

Bringing more transparency to the zoning process will make it less of a high-stakes, zero-sum game. When that happens, we’ll be better able to use zoning to deliver the results—whether it is affordable housing, commercial and manufacturing space, infrastructure, or open space—that our neighborhoods need.

Brooklyn folks get court order to stop shelter

From NY1:

The halls of Brooklyn Supreme Court were crowded on Tuesday.

Crown Heights residents were there to plea their case in front of a judge, hoping she would continue to block the opening of a men's homeless shelter in their neighborhood.

The judge agreed. She blocked the opening of the shelter at least temporarily. She is not likely to revisit the decision for 10 days.

At issue is whether the neighborhood has its fair share of these facilities.

The city was supposed to open the shelter last week. It is slated to house 104 single men over the age of 62.

Residents oppose the facility because they say their community is already oversaturated with homeless shelters. They argue the city did not do the proper review before it picked the site and prepared it to open.

Bolstering their argument, in court on Tuesday, officials revealed the city had just finished this formal analysis the day before. In it, the city examines all of the facilities in the surrounding community.

According to this analysis, there are six facilities within a half mile of the new site, including a shelter for singles, for adult families and four facilities for families with children.

St. Saviour's still waits for funding

From CBS 2:

A part of the city’s past has been languishing in a pair of sealed trailers in Queens for almost a decade.

CBS2’s Lou Young was there Tuesday when they were opened for the first time since 2008. Luckily, the pieces of history are right where they were left.

The trailers contain the pieces of St. Savior’s Church which originally stood in Maspeth, Queens for 160 years before it faced demolition in the face of 21st century progress.

Preservationists would like to put St. Savior’s back together on a plot of land owned by All Faiths Cemetery in Middle Village. All they need is money — which the city was not interested in providing eight years ago.

“Every preservationist said it was a noted building that should be saved,” Robert Holden from the Juniper Park Civic Association said. “Unfortunately the Bloomberg administration didn’t agree.”

Now it’s the de Blasio administration’s turn to consider the $2 million project on a tight city budget that won’t be finalized until later this Spring.

Galasso Trucking has stored the church pieces for free since 2008. The company has pledged to donate the use of their trailers until the restoration is complete.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

More illegal tractor trailer parking

"This illegally parked tractor trailer has its backed door ripped wide open. And it is obstructing drivers views of traffic coming west on south conduit ave. This truck is parked on 126th street and South Conduit in South Ozone Park queens." - anonymous

Landlord claims long-time tenant lives overseas

From the NY Post:

A developer is trying to boot an elderly concentration-camp survivor from his rent-stabilized Manhattan pad by claiming that the man really still lives in Romania — in the small shack seized from his family in the 1940s.

But tenant Lucien Orasel Tomberg, 73, says he hasn’t set foot in his family’s home since Romania’s Communist government took it over in 1948 and sent him, his three brothers and parents to a concentration camp.

Tomberg was the only one who survived.

“It is no small irony that the landlord has seized on the Banul Manta property as a basis for attempting to evict me from my apartment,” Tomberg says in Manhattan Supreme Court papers.

“It is vaguely reminiscent of a very dark episode in human history, of which I and my family were most unfortunate victims.”

At stake is Tomberg’s sprawling two-bedroom apartment at 1200 Fifth Ave., which its owner wants to convert to a million-dollar condo.

The longtime tenant pays $800 a month for the pad, which comes with views of Central Park; a similar unit is on the market for $1.7 million.

The Chetrit Group — the real-estate empire involved in the $1.3 billion sale of Chicago’s Willis Tower — owns the pre-war building through a subsidiary, 1200 Fifth Associates LLC, city property records show. The company began converting the apartments to condos in 2007.

The landlord claims that Tomberg should be kicked out because the cheap pad is not “his primary residence.”

The suit says Tomberg really lives at Banul Manta NR 79 Sector 1 in Bucharest.

NYC may stop getting some federal funds

From NY1:

The Trump administration is increasingly warning that if local law enforcement agencies don't cooperate with federal immigration officials, they could lose federal funding.

"A nation without borders is not a nation," Trump said.

It's been a Trump policy, signed in January in an executive order.

Attention lately is heightened after two Maryland high school students, including one here without papers, were accused of raping a classmate in a school bathroom. Henry Sanchez-Milian's lawyer says he is pleading not guilty.

Maryland lawmakers are considering a bill restricting how much local law enforcement can share with federal agencies.

"I would plead with the people of Maryland to understand that this makes the state of Maryland more at risk for violence and crime," Sessions said.

New York's rules limit cooperation with immigration agents. They don't end it. And its backers add the rules aren't just constitutionally sound, but make the city about the safest its been in generations.

Taking away federal funding jeopardizes that, they say. Not to mention, some of that money Trump is threatening to take helps protect his namesake tower.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Lawyers telling illegals to stay at Rikers

From the NY Post:

Federal agents trying to deport illegal-immigrant criminals are hitting a new roadblock in New York City — crafty defense lawyers who will put their clients in jail to keep them in the country, The Post has learned.

A Legal Aid lawyer took the extreme measure in The Bronx Thursday, when she claimed an Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent was waiting for her client and begged a judge to lock up the suspect.
The rookie judge — a Mayor de Blasio appointee — complied, setting $3,000 bail even though the defendant had been free for the six months since his arrest.

“I can’t believe this — every day Legal Aid is asking for no bail” for their clients, one insider told The Post.

“And now they’re asking for bail because even going to Rikers is better than being deported.”

Lawyers are also advising clients not to post even the lowest of bails so that they’ll go to Rikers Island rather than into the waiting arms of ICE agents, sources said.

Chons donated heavily to Queens Dems

From the NY Post:

Spa Castle CEO Steven Chon and several members of his family gave $31,300 to Queens Democratic Party Chairman Joe Crowley; $35,200 to Rep. Grace Meng; and $12,350 to Queens Borough President Melinda Katz since 2006, according to federal, state, and city campaign filings.

Crowley welcomed Chon as his guest to see South Korea’s then-President Park Geun-hye address Congress in 2013. The invite came six weeks after Chon and four relatives pooled $12,700 for Crowley’s campaign coffers, records show.

A rep for Crowley did not return messages.

How about that $4,500.00 for Paul Vallone?

Sunday, March 26, 2017

It's becoming more clear that Maspeth High School discriminated

The principal
From the NY Post:

A Queens public high-school principal excluded 500 Catholic-school kids from a list of 4,000 students applying to get into his school, raising cries from furious parents of foul play.

While more than 4,000 eighth-graders applied for a seat in the school, its principal failed to forward all 500 applications from Catholic-school kids to the Department of Education for possible placement.

Maspeth HS is a “limited unscreened” school — one of 225 in the city — which gives admission priority to students who live nearby and attend its information sessions or open houses.

These schools send a list of those applicants to the DOE, which gives them priority in a “random” lottery.

The system is ripe for abuse by principals who want to exclude certain students or favor others, critics say.

Principal Khurshid Abdul-Mutakabbir told parents at a Juniper Park Civic Association meeting on March 16 he made a “clerical error” in omitting all Catholic-school kids from the list.

But Abdul-Mutakabbir told civic leaders in a prior phone call that parochial applicants pose a “problem,” Juniper Hill president Bob Holden told The Post.

“He said, ‘In all honesty parochial schools are a problem because many of the students opt out and don’t go to my school. That leaves a seat [empty] and it costs the school funding,’” said Holden, who called for an investigation.

Constantinides complicit in destruction of Dulcken House

From Greater Astoria Historical Society on Facebook:

Costa Constantinides declined comment on the Dulcken House in a NY1 piece: "his spokesperson said the decision is out of his jurisdiction."

But...IN THE MINUTES OF the Community Board 1, Queens meeting dated Feb 21, 2017, page 2, "A constituent stated the some of the buildings in the district should be Landmarked.... The Councilman recommended the constituent ... contact his office."

Caliendo Gerald J AIA, who is trying to destroy the Dulcken House by another development project is the Land Use and Zoning Co-Chair of Community Board 1, Queens whose members are appointed by - Costa Constantinides. Gerry was appointed to Queens Community Board #1 in Astoria in 1977. He chaired the Land Use Committee for over 10 years and remains an active member of the Community Board to the present day, a period of over 35 years.

Mr. Caliendo is President of King Manor Museum whose mission statement reads "Our goal is to make history relevant and immediate, and to foster an awareness of the roots of the present and a deeper appreciation of history as an on-going process."

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Woodside church needs mucho money to keep pool going

From Sunnyside Post:

The St. Sebastian’s Parish Center in Woodside looking to raise $1 million in donations to help keep it afloat.

The Parish Center, which provides athletic facilities and programming to the community at 39-60 57th Street, began an online crowdfunding campaign yesterday with a goal of $1 million to help repair its facility. The online fundraiser had reached nearly $8,000 by Friday afternoon.

“Our beloved St. Sebastian Parish Center is in dire need of financial assistance. The Parish Center relies heavily on memberships as a source of revenue. With traditional health clubs popping up all around our building the competition is fierce,” reads a statement on the fundraising page. “If we don’t take action soon we are in jeopardy of losing the Parish Center.”

The Parish Center has been operating at a loss for years, explains the fundraising website, running a deficit of $294,000 in 2015. There is a desperate need to make repairs to the swimming pool infrastructure to avoid losing the ability to use the pool, according to the website.

To donate visit or send a check to:

St. Sebastian Parish Center
c/o Harry Connor
39-60 57th Street
Woodside, NY 11377

(I have confirmed that pool membership is open to anyone, not just parishioners.)

All about de Blasio

Lots of links about the mayor's malfeasance this morning:

EXCLUSIVE: Mayor de Blasio donor raised nearly $200G for political favors, prosecutors say - Daily News

Judge orders Mayor Bill de Blasio to release consultant emails - AM-NY

De Blasio Says He’ll Fight to Hide From the Public His Correspondence With a High-Powered Real Estate Consultant - Observer

Critics Slam De Blasio After He Refuses To Take Questions About Midtown Stabbing - CBS

Friday, March 24, 2017

Private streets may be taken over by city

From Brooklyn Daily:

The city is taking a crucial step towards taking over responsibility for hundreds of unmapped streets — the private byways in many neighborhoods which homeowners are now burdened with maintaining.

Mayor DeBlasio has signed a new law requiring the Department of Transportation to identify and study all of the city’s unmapped streets with the aim of the city acquiring them in order to bring them into the normal system of municipal maintenance.

Councilman Alan Maisel (D–Canarsie) introduced the legislation because maintenance has become too burdensome for many of his constituents who live on such streets, he said.

Under the new law, the Department of Transportation must identify and study all unmapped streets citywide by June 30, 2018, to determine the feasibility of bringing them onto the city rolls, Maisel said.

But the process of adding a street to the city map isn’t always as straightforward as one might think. In many cases, it’s not clear which streets — or even which parts of a street — are outside the city’s purview. Hence the need for the study, Maisel said.

“What is and what isn’t, we don’t know, there are lots of them, every street has a different history and we want to know,” he said. “There’s a lot of confusion, and it requires a lot of research.”

De Blasio creates fake issue for press conference

From City Council Watch:

Mayor de Blasio held a press conference earlier this week at Tweed Courthouse to announce a major new policy directive. He was joined by Melissa Mark-Viverito, Zachary Carter, Carmen Fariña, Gale Brewer, Vanessa Gibson, Nisha Agarwal, Carlos Menchaca, Helen Rosenthal, and a number of other officials and advocates.

The announcement was that from now on ICE agents will not be allowed in DOE schools unless they have a warrant. Everybody took a turn at the mike to denounce fear and hate. Corporation Counsel Carter and the head of school security for the NYPD ran through all the new protocols and training, the chains of command and lines of authority, the phone trees and channels of communication. Who would authenticate the warrants, who would accompany the agents. What number to call when the children are arrested and where you can go to get help.

At question time I asked the obvious question: “How many incidents have there been so far of ICE agents trying to enter schools, with or without warrants.” Mayor de Blasio answered, “None, so far.” Hmm. Then I had another question for Chancellor Fariña.

Later I went on YouTube to review the video of the press conference. But when the video came to my question there was an odd skip: the first question was cut from the video, and picked up again about 15 seconds later with my question for Fariña.

Someone with authority in Mayor de Blasio’s communications department decided that his answer to my question was off-message, and edited the tape to erase the part where the mayor admits that his new policy directive addresses a problem that does not exist. Basically it was all for show.

I excerpted a clip from the video to preserve the evidence that the mayor’s press office redacted his comments. Here it is:

Greg Gutfield went off on the Dope from Park Slope. (This is a must watch.)

Dopey also leaves news conferences when the questions aren't to his liking.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Kew Gardens park to be returned to the people

From DNA Info:

...on Tuesday, the Parks Department said that the DA’s office had vacated the space and that the park would be restored in the coming months, weather permitting, without offering a specific timeline.

The department also said that it is currently working on a plan that will include removing gravel, aerating the soil and planting new seeds.

The DA’s office will be responsible for handling the renovations and footing the bill, the Parks Department said.

It was unclear who gave permission to ECCO III Enterprises, Inc. — which for the past six years has worked on the Interchange project seeking to widen the Van Wyck Expressway — to build the lot.

Chon family charged with tax evasion

From NBC:

The family owners of a popular spa destination in Queens have been indicted on felony charges for failure to pay $1.5 million in taxes over the course of three years, authorities announced Wednesday.

The owners of Spa Castle Inc., a 100,000-square foot spa facility in College Point, Queens, didn't pay the sales, withholding, corporate and MTA surcharge taxes they owed from 2010 through 2013, state officials say.

"The scale of theft alleged in this case is staggering," said Acting Commissioner of Taxation and Finance Nonie Manion, who announced the indictment along with Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.
The investigation began when authorities executed a search warrant at Spa Castle Inc. in August 2015, and found records showing the spa owners underreported earnings and paid workers and vendors in cash.

Steven Chon, 57; his brothers Daniel Chon, 54, and Victor Chon, 50; and daughter Stephanie Chon, 29, were arraigned Wednesday in Queens Supreme Court. Bail has been set at $100,000 bond.

Queensboro Hill veterans getting runaround from DOB

From NY1:

The group of veterans at the VFW post says it has tried to correct the violations, but do not receive proper guidance from building officials to clear the liens. They say the bureaucratic red is putting its post in jeopardy of closure.

Stuck in bureaucratic red tape, a group of veterans say they're being unfairly fined for building violations. So much so that their community center is in jeopardy of closing. During a press conference Monday, veterans at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 34-27 in Flushing say they feel like bureaucrats are attacking their post. The post has been dealing with building code violations for more than two years.

​"There is a lawless war being perpetrated against the veterans of new York city. And this post being fined out of existence is evidence of that war," says Marvin Jeffcoat, Sergeant First Class, U.S Army (Retired).

Building code violation fines have mounted against the VFW Post to the tune of $13,000.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

De Blasio announces he's moving forward with SBS

From Curbed:

In his latest Vision Zero push, Mayor Bill de Blasio has announced a series of road safety and traffic improvement projects set to take place place throughout the city—all part of a $1.6 billion initiative to reduce traffic accidents and fatalities.

This particular set of Vision Zero projects involves wider sidewalks, new crosswalks, new protected bike lanes, and pedestrian refugee medians.

Select Bus Service will be added to the Q52 and Q53 routes that run along the Woodhaven and Cross Bay Boulevards, passing through multiple neighborhoods in Queens. There are also plans for pedestrian safety improvements along this stretch, all of which is on schedule to wrap sometime this spring.

Smells like crap at Pomonok

From PIX11:

Janice Rodriguez says the smell inside the Pomonok Houses where she lives with her children is unbearable.

"It's smells like raw sewage in our lobby, in our elevator, in our hallways, and even inside our homes," said Rodriguez.

Rodriguez says she worries for the dozens of families who live inside the city complex, including her grandchildren.

PIX11 news reached out to the New York City Housing Authority.

A spokesperson says,"This situation is unacceptable and our residents deserve better. This morning, the clogged sewer line was cleared and the area was disinfected.”

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Homeless are everywhere at Jamaica Center

From NY1:

The effects of the city's growing problem of homelessness are not only being seen on the streets. There are also problems underground at one of the city's main subway terminals - the E train station at Jamaica Center/Parsons/Archer. NY1's Ruschell Boone reports.

Judges fed up with some jury duty attendees

The last time I served jury duty, the judges were quite perturbed by the excuses the jurors came up with for not serving.

If you know you can't hear well, you should have brought your hearing aid.

Being a chiropractor is not a life or death profession that requires your attendance at work.

If you can't understand English, then how did you figure out what the judge was asking you?

Monday, March 20, 2017

Fresh Meadows eyesore has new owner

From the Times Ledger:

An abandoned Fresh Meadows home that drew complaints from neighbors for years has finally been sold at acution for $710,000, according to the Public Adminstrator of Queens County.

According to state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside), the 50-19 175th Place property was sold at the end of February. Avella has been at the frontline of a campaign to get the home sold and cleaned up for two years after neighbors asked for his help.

Avella worked with various city agencies to get the property cleaned and late last year the public administrator was able to have the property auctioned. The house was auctioned in December and sold in late February.

“I am extremely happy to be able to tell the community today that as a result of the relentless efforts of my office and the incredible help of the public administrator that this property is no longer going to haunt the community,” Avella said. “Being able to get this house sold will certainly go a long way in returning a better quality of life to the neighbors who had to live with this hazardous property on their block. I hope that this sale can also set a precedent for the control and auction of the many other zombie properties that haunt communities across the city.”

Ozone Park protests drop-in center

Photos by Phil Wong

Democratic candidate for Public Advocate Tony Herbert speaks:

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Rikers Island makeover in the works

From the Daily News:

Federal prosecutors say it’s broken. Inmates, visitors, lawyers, correction officers and even Gov. Cuomo say it’s “hell.”

But despite a culture of violence that’s resisted reform for decades and a movement to close it — backed by politicians, celebrities and activists — political realities appear to have Rikers Island headed for a makeover, not a shutdown.

Mayor de Blasio has promised to release his own long-term plan for the massive 10-jail complex within swimming distance of LaGuardia Airport in the coming months - and it doesn’t include shuttering the facility.

Officials tell the Daily News the mayor’s plan includes resuming construction on a controversial new jail on the island that has been stalled since he took office, along with the roughly more than $1 billion dollars worth of improvements on the island included in his 10-year preliminary budget.

Advocates and other elected officials say the only way to fix Rikers is to tear the place down and scatter modern jails in neighborhoods across the city - an idea staunchly opposed by some vocal groups in the communities that would be affected.

And others are drooling over the development prospects.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Save Astoria's historic Dulcken House before it makes the demo list

Hello Crapper:

I just had to post this.

NOW (!!!) I find out about it being torn down. I used to live 2 blocks away from this house and passed it by everyday coming home from school as a kid. I never even heard of Dulcken or knew of the house's possible historical import. I bet you never heard of him before either? Kind of sums up what's wrong with historical preservation in Queens: The public finds out quite often about the historical significance of these things AT THE VERY LAST MINUTE.

It's disgusting and heart-breaking.

At the front,

PS Too bad the old black and white photo doesn't have a date. The elevated subway is conspicuously missing on the left side of the photo which means it's quite ancient, no?

$10 fine for failing to vote

From the Daily News:

A state lawmaker from Manhattan wants to make it costly for New Yorkers not to vote.

Assemblywoman Deborah Glick, a Democrat, introduced legislation this week that would establish “compulsory voting” in the state and punish those who don’t vote with a $10 fine.

“Mandatory voting would drastically increase civic participation and transform the political arena by making politicians more reflective of the constituents that elected them,” Glick wrote in a memo submitted with the bill.

Under Glick’s bill, any eligible voter who fails to vote would be hit with the $10 fine unless they have a “valid excuse” why they couldn’t do so. The legislation does not specify what constitutes a valid excuse.

Any fines collected would be used to improve the electoral process, the memo stated.

Glick’s bill drew prompt scorn from Senate Elections Committee Chairman Fred Akshar (R-Binghamton), who gave it little chance of ever being enacted.

“Last time I checked, this was the United States of America and people have the right to vote or not to vote,” Akshar said.

Major World in major trouble

From NY1:

The commercials for the Major World Car Dealership promise no pressure sales tactics and affordable financing.

But according to the city's department of consumer affairs (DCA), the claims are misleading.

"These ads typically promise loans even when you have poor credit, and often result in predatory lending targeted at New Yorkers with limited English proficiency and with poor credit history," said Lorelei Salas, the commissioner of the department of consumer affairs.

The agency says the dealership targeted Spanish speakers by forcing the customers to sign contracts in English — even though the verbal negotiations were done in Spanish.

DCA also alleges that Major World inflated car values, sold defective vehicles, and even changed incomes and job titles on loan papers so applicants would qualify.

The DCA is seeking nearly $2 million in fines and restitution, and calling for the revocation of the dealership's license.

Friday, March 17, 2017

DeBlasio skates after blaming lawyer

From DNA Info:

Mayor Bill de Blasio broke state law when he and his subordinates steered money towards Democratic state senate campaigns — but he can't be charged with a crime because his lawyer said it was OK, according to the Manhattan District Attorney's office.

"After an extensive investigation, notwithstanding the [Board of Elections'] view that the conduct here may have violated the Election Law, this office has determined that the parties involved cannot be appropriately prosecuted, given their reliance on the advice of counsel," DA Cyrus Vance.

The U.S. Attorney's office in Manhattan also concluded an investigation into the mayor's fundraising and determined on Thursday that no criminal charges would be brought.

Well that pretty much ends our chances of not having the Dope from Park Slope around for another 4 years. Paul Massey spoke with the Tribune recently, but he's running as a Republican in a Democratic town.

Illegal hotel owner gets off easy

From Crains:

The owner of a Midtown apartment building that for years has been dogged with lawsuits has agreed to settle millions of dollars' worth of outstanding violations for $375,000 and bring the property up to snuff, according to federal bankruptcy court documents.

Ben Zion Suky was one of several owners of 440 W. 41st St. and for years rented apartments for less than 30 days in violation of city code, according to City Hall. In 2015 the Mayor's Office of Special Enforcement filed a lawsuit seeking to shut down the illegal inn and collect damages. Before it was resolved, however, Suky sold the 96-unit building to a company controlled by David Goldwasser, who then filed for bankruptcy protection.

The city argued that Goldwasser was responsible for the outstanding violations and penalties, which totaled more than $2 million, according to the documents. Now the two sides have agreed to settle the suit for $375,000 on the condition that Goldwasser bring the property up to code and cease all illegal hotel operations.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

New 421a plan will flood Queens with condos

From The Real Deal:

A budget proposal from the New York State Senate would greatly increase the number of tax exempt condominium projects in the outer boroughs, confirming the fears of Mayor Bill de Blasio and other city officials that such developments could creep back into a renewed 421a developer tax break.

In the Senate Republicans’ latest version of the bill, condo projects outside Manhattan with as many as 80 units could qualify for 421a tax exemptions, up from 35 units in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposal released in January. A cap on the average tax assessment value for benefitting condo units is also raised in the new proposal from $65,000 to $85,000, a change that was first reported by Politico.

Since the 421a program’s expiration in January of 2016, developers have filed offering plans for 15 new outerborough projects consisting of between 35 and 80 condo units, a TRD analysis of data from the New York State Attorney General shows. If 421a became available to developers of this section of the market, there could be many more of these condo projects on the horizon.

Two key Senators in the 421a negotiations have previously expressed an interest in increasing outer-borough condo benefits, prior to Cuomo releasing his own plan. Republican-caucusing Democrat Simcha Felder and Republican Marty Golden, both of Brooklyn, told reporters in December they were looking to expand the tax break for more property owners, but haven’t provided further details.

Calls and emails directed to Golden and Felder were not immediately returned on Wednesday.

Kew Gardens road construction project takes over public park

From DNA Info:

A large chunk of Maple Grove Park was suddenly transformed into a parking lot for the Queens District Attorney's Office — with no timetable for when it might be restored, and neither city nor state officials saying who signed off on the decision.

For the past six years, the state Department of Transportation has had the right of way to use a lot near the 1.5-acre park tucked between Queens Boulevard, Hoover Avenue and the Van Wyck Expressway as a staging area while the agency works on the lengthy Kew Gardens Interchange project, according to DOT spokeswoman Diane Park.

The project seeks to widen the highway and rebuild its bridges and ramps between Union Turnpike and Hillside Avenue.

But recently, a portion of the green space was paved over to accommodate a second parking lot located between the staging area and the park's seating area, locals said.

A spokeswoman for the Queens District Attorney’s office, Meris Campbell, said the new parking lot is currently being used by DA's staff. She noted the lot was built by the construction company working on the Interchange project, ECCO III Enterprises, Inc., but couldn't say which city agency gave permission to build it.

Mass transit options are icy

From CBS 2:

Countless commuters were seen hopping and leaping over snow mounds that were piled high at bus stops, while others reached out for a helpful hand.

It was not just bus stops. On social media, people posted pictures of snow and icy subway stops. The steps to the D Train at 179th Street in the Bronx were virtually covered in snow, and the Forest Avenue M Train platform in Ridgewood, Queens was covered in ice.

A commuter tweeted the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, “How is this acceptable?” CBS2 wondered the same thing.

The MTA is responsible for subway platforms and stairs. A an agency representative said: “Our snow fighting crews have been working non-stop since the onset of the storm to clear snow and ice.”

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Tiffany glass found at new school site, incorporated into design

From NY1:

The site of new public school in Queens became an archeology dig after construction workers discovered fragments left behind by one of America's great artists, Louis Comfort Tiffany.

Dual-bin trucks create unforeseen problem

From Brooklyn Daily:

The city must rework how it collects large junk from Bay Ridge and Dyker Heights streets because the Department of Sanitation’s new garbage trucks have less space to cram in hulking waste, according to locals.

Mattresses, furniture, and other large items are piling up curbside because the area’s new trucks are split between trash and organics. Now an extra truck swings by occasionally to collect the leftovers, but workers miss items that are then left to fester for weeks. The new procedure is just one big mess, said a community leader.

The Department of Sanitation rolled out the so called “dual bin trucks” in October 2016, which are divided into two compartments — one for trash and the other for biodegradables — as part of the city’s organics collection program, where residents haul bins packed with food scraps and yard waste to the curb for pick up, according to a Sanitation spokeswoman.

But the trucks’ split trash compactor means the garbage side fills up faster and makes it more difficult to crunch what the city calls “bulk” items — anything bigger than four feet by three feet — and things get left behind, according to Beckmann. The result is a hodgepodge of junk littering the streets until a truck with the specific purpose of picking up bulk comes by. And that only happens if workers remember to fill out a form logging the rubbish and pass it along to a supervisor, according to an agency spokeswoman.

From October 2016 to March 2017, 311 logged nearly 300 complaints for missed bulk collection — compared to zero for the same period the year before, according to city data. But tossing a bookcase or a boudoir isn’t an everyday occurrence, so the city doesn’t think locals should be making such a stink, said an agency spokeswoman.

I'm sure this is also happening in Queens but no stories on it yet.

Far Rockaway houses are a do-over

From NBC:

Two luxury houses under construction in Queens collapsed on Tuesday, with witnesses suggesting wind gusts from a raging Nor'easter could be to blame.

The houses were in the 700 block of Jarvis Ave in the Far Rockaway section. The FDNY tweeted that all searches were negative for injuries and the situation was under control.

Twisted metal framing and snapped wood gave testament to just how strong the wind was, with gusts of more than 40 MPH striking parts of the tri-state.

A neighbor told News 4 New York that the houses had been under construction for more than a year.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

End of the road for the LIC Elks Club

Photo by George the Atheist

Commission created to study plastic bag use

From NY1:

Governor Andrew Cuomo is revisiting the idea of a fee on plastic grocery bags with a new task force.

The commission will study the issue for a year and then come up with recommendations for reducing the use of plastic bags.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Maspeth High School refuses to take local kids

Well I have been getting a flood of emails from parents of kids who applied to get in to Maspeth High School this September. So far it's been confirmed that NONE of the kids attending parochial schools in the community board 5 area were accepted to the school and those monitoring the situation are having trouble finding public school kids who got in as well. When the school was built, there was controversy over it in part because the DOE would not guarantee admission to local kids. They did say that the school would take students who reside within school district 24 before accepting kids from outside of it. Maspeth, Middle Village, Glendale and Ridgewood are part of district 24 along with Elmhurst and Corona. Although the DOE claims it chooses the students by lottery it seems implausible that every kid within CB5 would be so unlucky.

Has this happened at high schools in any other community or is this another form of retribution from de Blasio?

Expediter sanctioned by DOB

From Brownstoner:

Arguably the most famous expediter-engineer in the city, Scott Schnall, lost the right to file with the Department of Buildings in late February and now hundreds of projects in Brooklyn are in limbo.

An administrative court held a trial, found Schnall guilty of falsifying documents, and the DOB barred him from submitting filings to the department.

Department of Buildings v Schnall by queenscrapper on Scribd

The Brownstoner post has since been removed for an unknown reason.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Barnwell has novel idea for shelter approval

From the Queens Chronicle:

An outspoken opponent of using Maspeth’s Holiday Inn Express as a shelter, freshman Assemblyman Brian Barnwell (D-Maspeth), has drafted and plans to introduce a mulifaceted bill that would empower community boards to veto planned shelter sites.

Given the experience with their communities that board members have, the lawmaker said, their votes would be based on more information than City Hall’s.

“At the end of the day when you leave all the decision-making power in the hands of the mayor, the fact of the matter is you leave the authority to the person who is in my opinion causing problems,” Barnwell said. “Notification is great but you need something to actually have the power to stop bad decisions.”

The assemblyman does not think that granting the shelter-placement rejection power would result in NIMBYism preventing hotels from ever being used as shelters, though it would block sites like the Holiday Inn Express from housing the homeless. Different sites could be suggested by the board, he said; and no government body is ever compelled to approve anything.

“What forces the Senate to approve a nomination for the Supreme Court?” he said. “The community board is not gonna turn down every site.”

Community boards are advisory bodies. Because Barnwell’s legislation would designate the hotel shelter location veto authority, the assemblyman said that a “home rule message” — legislative approval by New York City — might be required.

The Law Department declined to comment about whether the bill would require a home-rule message; City Hall and the office of Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito (D-Manhattan, Bronx) did not immediately return requests for comment.

Real estate vultures are circling the JMZ

From Commercial Observer:

While the L train partial and temporary shutdown won’t be a reality until 2019, some real estate investors and tenants are already taking steps in anticipation of the proverbial traffic ahead. As a result there has been increased demand and an escalation in prices at properties close to the J, M, Z train stations, the next best thing to the L in Williamsburg and Bushwick. (The G train, which has no Manhattan station, is also being talked up.)

This is quite a reversal for the unloved stepchild that was the J, M, Z lines. Prior to this situation, the J, M, Z were scoffed at as unreliable; when they left Brooklyn they curled through a remote area of Lower Manhattan; there were few transfer points. The parts of Brooklyn that the lines went through were lagging considerably behind Bedford Avenue and the most coveted parts of Williamsburg.

The L train panic started in July 2016 when the Metropolitan Transportation Authority announced it would shut down the popular line between Manhattan and Brooklyn—on which 225,000 Brooklynites commute into Manhattan daily—for 18 months to repair damage from Superstorm Sandy starting in 2019. Commuting alternatives—like shuttle service over the Williamsburg Bridge—are still unclear and the outcry has prompted the MTA to host public meetings about the situation.

While the temporary shutdown of the L train line will impact residents and workers in a large portion of Williamsburg and Bushwick, some real estate pros are looking at the situation as positive for some and negative for others.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Hey, Eric, it's time to sh*t or get off the pot

From the Observer:

Only one of the four contenders to appear at the Columbia University College Republicans’ mayoral primary forum have yet to announce his candidacy—Queens Councilman Eric Ulrich, who promised reporters afterward he was “very close to making a decision.”

In his opening statement, Ulrich claimed that he was weighing a run because Mayor Bill de Blasio, a liberal Democrat, does not appear to be interested in the job. The councilman, who is eligible for another four-year term representing Howard Beach and parts of the Rockaways, has raised just short of $52,000 in a committee for undeclared office—some of it with the help of Ohio Gov. John Kasich, whom Ulrich backed in New York’s primary last April.

“It’s the million dollar question, right?” Ulrich admitted to the press. “I haven’t made a decision yet. I’m very close to making a decision and I should have an announcement soon, but I’m still considering a run for mayor because I’m concerned about the future of the city and because I do believe that Bill de Blasio can be beaten.”

The forum also included real estate executive Paul Massey, former Jets defensive lineman-turned-minister Rev. Michel Faulkner and actor and disability rights advocate Darren Aquino.

Preet asked to resign in the middle of major investigations

From NY1:

U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara has been asked to resign, along with 45 other prosecutors, as part of a nationwide purge of the Justice Department. But whether the hard-charging federal prosecutor will step down is unclear.

There are some possibilities here. One is that Bharara does not get any special treatment and he is out and he just had not accepted it yet.

Another possibility is that Bharara stays because sometime soon he is asked to re-apply for his position, or the president does not accept his resignation if it is offered. Two U.S. attorneys are being told that their resignations would not be accepted. One has been nominated for a top Justice Department position, and the other is in that spot now.

A third possibility for Bharara is that he dangles for a bit. It is possible that Bharara is something of a pawn in a battle between the Trump and Schumer. The president may be threatening to fire Bharara to get Schumer to speed up approvals of his nominees.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Second Avenue subway brings worse service to Astoria

From Brick Underground:

Since its opening on New Year's Day, the Second Avenue subway has mostly delighted far Upper East Side residents who previously had to schlep to Lexington Avenue trains, which were bursting at the seams with commuters. One Brick staffer who lives in Yorkville wrote that the three new stations were worth the wait, and according to the New York Times, regular 4/5/6 train passengers have reason to celebrate, too: Ridership on that overcrowded line has fallen and its trains are running a little closer to schedule.

But while Upper East Siders are enjoying public works of art and a fleet of Q trains from the new stations, some Astorians are complaining that their local line has taken a hit, citing an increase in delays, and more crowded, slower-moving trains.

Before the Second Avenue subway opened, the N and Q trains ran from Astoria-Ditmars Boulevard into Manhattan, meeting up with the R train from Forest Hills at 59th Street/Lexington Avenue. With the debut of the new subway line, the Q was re-routed to run from 57th Street-7th Avenue up to its terminus at 96th Street; the W train—phased out in 2010—was brought back to replace the Q.

It seems, though, that the W is not an adequate replacement for the Q, given the number of locals who have taken to Twitter with their transit grievances.

And these accusations likely aren't just sour grapes that another corner of the city got a major transit upgrade. Back when the W's return was announced, DNAInfo wrote that the switch from Q to W meant over 20 fewer trains heading to and from the neighborhood.

The reductions in service take place during the wee hours of the morning and the late evening, though, with the same amount of trains running during rush hour, which means the problems Astorians are reporting may have more to do with the subway overall, rather than just the new Second Avenue line.

Where is Wills?

From the Queens Chronicle:

New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman apparently has had it with the steady stream of delays coming from Councilman Ruben Wills (D-Jamaica) as the councilman moves closer to trial on corruption charges.

Wills was scheduled to appear before Queens Supreme Court Justice Ira Margulis on March 1. The councilman is accused of stealing about $33,000 from a nonprofit group that he ran.

Wills has repeatedly denied the charge, as well as one accusing him of redirecting $11,000 in campaign funds for personal use.

He did not appear, with multiple published reports saying his attorney, Steve Zissou, notified Margulis that he had forgotten to inform Wills of the date. Wills is said to be recovering from surgery in February for an unspecified ailment.

Margulis drafted but did not issue a bench warrant for Wills’ arrest. This past Monday, Wills’ attorney did show in court, and Wills’ next appearance was set for March 13.

But Schneiderman’s office said there were indications this week that Wills now is seeking to hire a new attorney.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Enough reasons to nix the BQX

From AM-NY:

Streetcars, America’s transit de jour, have proven difficult operations in other cities like Atlanta and Washington, D.C. Beyond the latent ire of community boards in New York, there are major hurdles revolving around nearly every aspect of the project, including how the streetcar will interact with vehicles; the use of value capture financing; and its placement in a flood-prone corridor.

Other transit experts believe the city is oversimplifying the scope of the project. De Blasio’s streetcars would carry almost 50,000 riders per day at a speed of about 12 miles per hour, according to city estimates. When you weigh costs and capacity against the Second Avenue subway, the BQX doesn’t add up, said Jon Orcutt, a spokesman for TransitCenter.

The streetcar was first proposed by the Friends of the BQX, a support group with several large development firms on its executive committee and board of directors. De Blasio has had to vehemently fight the perception that the streetcar isn’t a handout to developers in an area that is not quite the “transit desert” that he describes.

A trip on the BQX would cost the going rate of a MetroCard, but it’s still unclear if the BQX will be integrated with the MTA’s fare payment system.

Proposal to strengthen the industrial sector

From the Queens Ledger:

In an effort to build the city’s industrial sector, the Industrial Jobs Coalition has proposed a set of policies that would change manufacturing areas to foster growth.

According to the IJC, which was formed to implement the strategies, New York City has pioneered the use of nonprofit organizations to develop and manage affordable housing. Now the coalition wants those groups to do the same for manufacturing businesses and jobs.

For example, organizations like the Brooklyn Navy Yard, Greenpoint Manufacturing and Design Center (GMDC) and Evergreen Exchange collectively manage 4 million square feet of space and close to 10,000 jobs. But the coalition said the benefits of their efforts are limited to their individual communities.

The IJC now wants to extend this strategy throughout all five boroughs.

To achieve the large-scale expansion, the coalition suggested that the city give nonprofit organizations a priority in the disposition of city-owned industrial land.

It also proposed funding increases to the Economic Development Corporation (EDC)’s Industrial Development Fund and enhancing the role of Industrial Business Service Providers (IBSPs) as neighborhood partners.

The second strategy it recommends is re-conceptualizing Industrial Business Zones into “industrial campuses.” That would include physical and structural changes to industrial areas.

Advocates from the IJC proposed rerouting bike lanes off truck routes and adopting parking, loading and sidewalk regulations. They also suggested adopting signage about the area’s industrial use, expanding high-speed broadband access, reviewing street maintenance and planning for resiliency.

The last proposal to foster manufacturing growth is to reform city zoning to protect industrial spaces. To do this, the IJC wants to prohibit “incompatible uses” that accelerate speculation within IBZs, such as hotels, large-scale entertainment venues and mini-storage facilities.

The zoning changes would also reevaluate density in manufacturing zones and end a Community Facility bonus.