Sunday, April 2, 2017

Proposed Astoria Cove site is a disaster

From the Daily News:

Frustrated neighbors for the last few years have bombarded 311 with noise and other complaints. And they’ve called any agency they think can help.

Officials with the state Department of Environmental Conservation confirmed they were investigating complaints at the site at 8-01 26th Ave. in Astoria.

Alma Realty, principal investor of 2030 Astoria Developers, the company intending to build on the site, denied any illegal activity had occurred.

Under state environmental law, anyone found guilty of dumping hazardous waste can face criminal charges and a fine of $37,500 for each day of violation and civil penalties up to $22,500.

Three years ago, the now-blighted lot was going to be the next hot waterfront development — Astoria Cove.

Mayor de Blasio praised it during his 2015 State of the City address — claiming its affordable housing component was a victory for his administration.

But instead of the promised housing, and jobs and community benefits, Astoria Cove brought chaos and frustration, local residents say.

Alma Realty owner Efstathios “Steve” Valiotis — who landed at No. 3 in Public Advocate Tish James’ list of worst landlords in 2016 — pledged to use union workers for all phases of clean-up and construction at the site, according to Build Up NYC, an umbrella-group of various labor groups.

Instead of hiring union workers to do environmental clean-up at the site, he brought in a “low-road” company called Tristate Cleaning Solutions...

Another snag followed.

The state’s 421-A tax abatement program — which gave subsidies to developers including affordable housing in their projects — expired in the summer of 2016. Without the tax break the project was completely stalled, Astoria Cove principals maintained.

Since 2016, no meaningful work has been done on the massive waterfront construction site — but there’s a constant flow of material on and off the property...


Anonymous said...

So once again the Mayor's cronies get away with making life miserable for everyone else.

How can anyone possibly consider voting for him again?

Anonymous said...

The rags-to-riches developer who owns Alma Realty was once a penniless Greek immigrant who now controls a massive real estate portfolio — and donates to Mayor de Blasio.

Efstathios (Steve) Valiotis, 70, came to Queens more than 40 years ago and started working as a dishwasher. He now owns and manages more than 120 buildings and 6,000 apartments in New York alone — and more in New Jersey.

Valiotis has also wound up on the city’s “Worst Landlords” list, most recently in 2016 when Public Advocate Letitia James put him at No. 3.

In 2015, Valiotis got in trouble with Con Ed for having illegal gas hook ups in eight apartment buildings in the Bronx and Harlem — all of them managed by Alma Realty. The developer at the time said his company was unaware of the illegal hookups and was working with Con Ed to get them fixed.

NYCHA will break into apartments to do repairs
In February 2016, five Alma properties — in Harlem and the Bronx — were put into a city program meant to force repairs in the 200 worst-run residential buildings in the city. Valiotis said he would make all the necessary fixes.

The real estate mogul has also been a supporter of the mayor since 2013. Alma officials put $5,525 into de Blasio’s first mayoral campaign. He also donated $5,000 to the mayor’s defunct Campaign for One New York.

Valiotis has also been hit with wage violation lawsuits.

In April 2016, Valiotis and one of his Alma affiliates agreed to settle a federal wage theft lawsuit filed by workers Luis Luna and Jose Francisco Reyes.

NYC won't remove Kamran Hakim off 'worst landlord' list
Luna and Reyes said they worked for the Valiotis’ affiliate doing cleaning and maintenance work but were initially paid less than minimum wage and were never paid overtime.

In 2014, Alma agreed to pay $22,500 to settle charges they stiffed worker Christian Moreno on overtime pay and other wages after he filed a lawsuit.

Valiotis said violations at his new Manhattan and Bronx properties were reduced by 80% after he assumed ownership.

“I have renovated them extensively ... installing new building systems, repairing and rehabilitating roofs and facades and making countless other improvements,” he said. “Properties such as these continue to be a vital part of the city’s affordable housing stock and ... I remain committed to working with anyone to continue to improve all outstanding building conditions and provide safe and quality housing to all tenants.”