Wednesday, May 31, 2017
Dozens of residents banded together Tuesday to try to stop federal immigration agents from arresting an undocumented man wanted by police for burglary, according to reports.
The neighbors gathered on 112th Street in Richmond Hill as ICE agents were arresting 35-year-old Hardat Sampat.
Sampat is accused of burglary and re-entering the U.S. illegally, according to The Daily News. He was on his way to Queens Criminal Court Tuesday morning for a scheduled appearance when ICE agents in unmarked cars boxed him in and took him into custody.
14 shootings & 2 murders over the 3-day holiday weekend. Safest Memorial Day wknd in years. Officers & community leaders are winning.— Eric Phillips (@EricFPhillips) May 30, 2017
Wow, only 14 shootings? Amazing!
The Queens County Democratic Party has endorsed Councilman Paul Vallone (D-Bayside) for the upcoming municipal elections. As the incumbent, Vallone represents northeast Queens, from Flushing to Douglaston, and faces community activist and land use expert Paul Graziano in the Democratic primary.
Vallone received unanimous support from the party and expressed gratitude to the Queens Democratic chairman, U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-Jackson Heights), for the standing by him.
“To stand side-by-side with our fellow Queens Democrats and our leader, Congressman Joe Crowley, and receive their unanimous endorsement will always be one of the proudest moments for me and my whole family,” Vallone said. “Representing my district has been the best four years of my life. We have put northeast Queens not only back on the map, but on top of it!”
Getting the nod from the corrupt Queens Machine is one of your proudest moments? That sure tells us a lot about you.
Tuesday, May 30, 2017
A new push has been launched to reform New York state law against gravity knives.
State Assemblyman Dan Quart (D-Manhattan) is pushing for amendments to the law, which is 50 years old.
The Village Voice reported the law was initially intended to ban large knives that resemble switchblades, but it has been applied in more recent years to common knives with folding blades that can be purchased at hardware stores.
[DA Cyrus] Vance’s office has said most gravity knife cases end with the cases being thrown out.
Go for a walk around New York City and you probably will pass right by 217 East 51st Street.
It's a tiny slice of this big place. It's tucked between Second and Third Avenues in Midtown Manhattan.
Trees spread out and green plants lounge on the walls as they soak in the light.
And yes, there's a waterfall. The sound bounces off the buildings that border the place.
Sunlight streams in, at certain times of the day. Time marches on and the nearby buildings sometimes offer shade.
But the sunlight seems to be diminished, as more taller buildings rise around this particular block and in the distance.
"There's a greater Midtown-East Rezoning Plan. We're concerned there will be buildings that will block the light in the park in the afternoon," Gail Caulkins said.
Some building owners, officials and planners have said Midtown zoning needs to be updated to keep up with the commercial area.
Greenacre Foundation commissioned its own study of the light. Supporters believe the taller buildings will cast too big a shadow.
...elected leaders have acknowledged the current fight as the zoning process continues.
This light is not something that will go quietly, if the people who enjoy the space have anything to say about it.
For over a decade, the sidewalk shedding around the Queens criminal courthouse has cost taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars — with no repair work being done to the building.
Queens District Attorney Richard Brown wrote a letter two years ago to the city's Department of Administrative Services (DCAS) requesting an answer as to why the structure was still surrounding the building.
“As a public servant, I am embarrassed and I can only imagine what phrases the public would use to describe the situation," Brown wrote.
Owners of buildings higher than six stories must comply with Local Law 11, which dates back to 1998, requiring an engineer to inspect the structures in order to determine necessary maintenance to protect the public.
Brown said that for more than 10 years his offices have looked like a construction site.
“We have endured more than enough of this eyesore. Repeatedly using this option, rather than making the necessary repairs to the buildings’ facade, is a waste of taxpayer money,” Brown told the Daily News.
The work required for the 61-year-old building is for minor repairs such as pointing, refastening of electrical conduits and repairing cracks, that as of this year have not been tended to, Brown said.
“Perhaps it is my outer-borough outlook, but I believe if this shedding surrounded City Hall or the courthouse at 60 Centre St. in Manhattan the result ... and timeline would be much different,” Brown said.
Monday, May 29, 2017
Honored to work with Queens County Dem. Committee to ensure NY remains a place that welcomes everybody. Happy to receive their endorsement. pic.twitter.com/j0e4K6GhfP— Bill de Blasio (@BilldeBlasio) May 28, 2017
And this is the asinine shit show that Queens politics has become.
Send in the clowns.
Don't bother, they're here.
Sunday, May 28, 2017
Saturday, May 27, 2017
From CBS 2:
Mayor Bill de Blasio’s crackdown on rampant parking permit abuse by city officials is so far a no-go.
As CBS2 Political Reporter Marcia Kramer found, some school personnel are still ignoring the rules.
CBS2 found a mountain of abuses Friday, after Mayor Bill de Blasio gave school officials 50,000 new permits and then tried to deal with the blowback by ordering the NYPD to ticket and tow the violators.
Multiple drivers with placards were spotted parking in no standing zones, and in zones where signs read, “no parking anytime.”
Introduction 1392-A, by Kallos – Sets minimum application requirements for developers to show why zoning laws should not apply to them including key financial disclosures with analysis by real estate professionals, neighborhood studies showing unique conditions, and affirmations under penalties of perjury with fines for knowing violations of up to $15,000.
Introduction 418-A, by Koslowitz – The BSA will be required to write decisions with responses to recommendations from Community Boards and Borough Boards.
Introduction 282-A, by Van Bramer - The BSA will be required to write decisions that respond to any relevant evidence and arguments submitted by the City Planning Commission, Community Boards, Borough Boards, lessees and tenants as well as owners.
Introduction 1200-A, by Richards –Proof of service will be required for applications and materials mailed to Council Members, Borough Presidents, Community Boards and other city agencies, with verification of receipt to be posted online.
Introduction 514-A, by Matteo - Notifies property owners when variances are expiring and penalties will be incurred in the coming six months.
City Staffing Reforms:
Introduction 1390-A, by Kallos -The Department of City Planning will appoint a BSA coordinator to appear before the BSA to submit testimony in defense of the zoning resolution, and such testimony would be available online.
Introduction 1391-A, by Kallos - A state certified real estate appraiser with no less than 5 years’ experience will be available to work for or consult with the BSA to review and analyze real estate financials provided by developers.
Introduction 1393-A, by Kallos - The number of pre-application meeting requests, number of applications, number approved or denied, and an average length of time until a decision would be reported biannually.
Introduction 1394-A, by Kallos – The location of all variances and special permit applications acted upon by the Board since 1998 would be available as a list and a layer on an interactive map of the city.
“We are taking away the rubber stamp from a government agency that used it far too often over the objections of residents. Developers will have, to be honest in applications that include the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. The Board of Standards and Appeals will have to consider community objections and write decisions outlining why they disagree. The City Planning Commission will have to watch over our zoning laws,” said Council Member Ben Kallos, Chair of the Committee on Governmental Operations, which has oversight of the Board of Standards and Appeals. “Thank you to the Municipal Art Society and Citizens Union for their reports and guidance, Borough President Brewer, as well as Council Members Koslowitz, Matteo, Richards, and Majority Leader Van Bramer for their long-standing leadership on this issue, and our Community Boards who fight the Board of Standards and Appeals on behalf of all New Yorkers every day.”
Friday, May 26, 2017
Rep. Joe Crowley helped push through $10 million in funding for a Bronx merchants association that was represented by his brother’s lobbying firm, The Post has learned.
The federal infrastructure money, which Crowley (D-Queens) and Rep. José Serrano (D-Bronx) led the effort to secure, came just months after Crowley’s brother, Sean, lobbied the House and the US Department of Transportation on behalf of the Hunts Point Terminal Produce Cooperative, records show.
The merchant co-op, which was awarded the federal funding in August 2013, has shelled out at least $827,000 to the lobbying firm Davidoff, Hutcher and Citron since 2009, federal and state records show.
Sean Crowley is a partner at the firm and has worked there since 2006.
“Everything about this reeks of a conflict of interest,” said Ken Boehm, chairman of the National Legal and Policy Center. “The congressman was not elected to help his brother’s lobbying firm — he was elected to represent his constituents.”
On Monday, Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito (D-Manhattan, Bronx), a native of Puerto Rico, released a letter to the parade’s board commending the organization “for recognizing that Oscar Lopez Rivera represents the voice, tenacity and resolve of Puerto Rico and its people.”
The letter, signed by 30 members of the City Council including seven who represent Queens, concludes by saying, “We stand in solidarity with Oscar and express our full support for the board’s decision to recognize and uplift the legacy of Oscar Lopez Rivera.”
The Queens Council members who signed on include Costa Constantinides (D-Astoria); Danny Dromm (D-Jackson Heights); Julissa Ferreras Copeland (D-East Elmhurst); Peter Koo (D-Flushing); Daneek Miller (D-St. Albans); Antonio Reynoso (D-Brooklyn, Queens) and Donovan Richards (D-Laurelton).
The Chronicle contacted the offices of all Queens Council members to ask about either their reasons for signing the letter or whether they intend to march. A handful responded via email.
“Oscar Lopez Rivera was pardoned by President Obama because he was never convicted of a violent crime,” Councilman Dromm (D-Jackson Heights) wrote. “He is one of a number of people being honored at the parade for his work highlighting the struggles of his people. The parade is an event that gives all of us an opportunity to celebrate the Puerto Rican people and I proudly support their efforts.
“Additionally, I am curious as to why some people are so unwilling to give Oscar a second chance but glowingly highlight a visit from Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams to dedicate Easter Rising Way in Maspeth [last November] an effort that I also supported.”
Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Glendale) said she was not attending the parade but that her reasons had nothing to do with Lopez Rivera.
She also took issue with any implied criticism tying Adams, a leader in Northern Ireland Sinn Fein political movement, to terrorism. While he had been imprisoned by the British as a young man, he has continuously denied involvement with the Irish Republican Army, a violent revolutionary group long tied to Sinn Fein.
“Adams was central to bringing peace to a long, bloody conflict in Northern Ireland,” Crowley wrote. “I’m pleased that while he was visiting New York City, he could make time to celebrate a historic moment in Maspeth at the co-naming of Easter Rising Way.”
Councilman Rory Lancman (D-Fresh Meadows) will attend.
Do you ever feel like you're living in a bizarre nightmare by staying in NYC?
|James Farrell/Queens Tribune|
An incoming Broadway-Flushing house is raising alarm for neighbors, who fear that the eight-bedroom, 10-bathroom structure is not in character with the neighborhood.
Neighbors became concerned that the building’s occupancy had changed after learning that the original plans, which called for a single-family house, had been amended. State Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) and urban planner and City Council candidate Paul Graziano gathered dozens of residents last Thursday for a press conference outside the structure, located at 33-05 157th St., as work was proceeding behind a green construction fence. Avella called on the DOB to release the amended plans, which residents say have been kept from public view.
Janet McCreesh, president of the Broadway-Flushing Homeowners Association, said that she had hired an expediter to get the plans from Queens Borough Hall but was unsuccessful after three attempts. After that, McCreesh turned to Avella’s office, who received them the Tuesday after the press conference.
The DOB told the Queens Tribune that the single-family status of the house did not change in the amended plans. According to the DOB, the amended plans, which were approved by the department as being in compliance with the city’s Zoning Resolution and Construction Codes, show only minor changes, replacing some of the proposed bathtubs with standup showers. The DOB also added that while it wasn’t sure why there could have been delays in the expediter’s attempts to get the plans, all permitted construction plans are publicly available for viewing at its Queens borough office.
(Great photo showing the ridiculous size of the house.)
Thursday, May 25, 2017
From DNA Info:
Tenants of an apartment building destroyed in a five-alarm fire are going to court to force the appointment of an independent official to oversee rebuilding, saying letting the owners do it would be like the “fox guarding the hen house” after a contractor was arrested for starting the blaze.
More than a third of the tenants of the Martinique Plaza, at 56-11 94th St., have signed on to the suit, which will be filed in housing court this week by Legal Aid.
The petition asks that a judge appoint an independent administrator to oversee all capital improvements to the 111-unit building, which was destroyed on April 11.
While the fire scorched the sixth floor, the more than 100 apartments below were flooded as firefighters battled the fire.
And the now-homeless tenants say they don't trust management — and fear they'll be priced out of their units, which are below the median rent for the area.
“We don’t want someone like that in charge to fix this building up," Sateesh Nori, the Legal Aid lawyer representing the tenants, said.
“The fox is guarding the hen house. Someone is responsible for a fire, you don’t want them then responsible for repairing the damage to the fire."
Tenants — who met with city officials at a meeting on Tuesday in Elmhurst to discuss their options — said the management company has been reaching out to select tenants promising them a new apartment if they don't take any legal action against them, they said.
They also said the building's superintendent changed his story since the evening of the fire, when he said there wasn't any work being done on the roof, to the time the fire marshals came out with its cause.
From CBS 2:
Mayor Bill de Blasio recently announced a controversial plan to issue parking permits to school staff members.
Now, he says City Hall plans to crack down and end rampant abuse.
“Parking is one of the biggest quality of life concerns of all New Yorkers,” de Blasio said.
As CBS2’s Political Reporter Marcia Kramer reports, the man who just gave anyone who works in a city school a placard bonanza – 50,000 of them – announced that just as he giveth he can taketh away.
Abusers will not only be fined or towed, but subject to “permanent ineligibility.”
“We’re concerned also about the placards that have been provided to police and other first responders,” de Blasio said.
Kramer: “Are you really going to tow cops and teachers’ cars, and really, really going to do it?”
De Blasio: “Sure.”
De Blasio: “Because it’s against the rules. It’s as simple as that… It’s not fair to residents of neighborhoods.”
As part of the crackdown, the mayor is hiring 100 additional traffic agents to go after placard abusers, adding more tow trucks and creating a new $100 parking fine for placard misuse.
The chief enforcer will be the NYPD’s Chief of Transportation Thomas Chan, who is also creating a new 16-member task force of cops.
The chairman of the City Council’s powerful Committee on Land Use, a crucial gatekeeper for all developers seeking zoning changes in the five boroughs, has several hundred thousand dollars from real estate interests socked away in a state political account for an undeclared office — and he has used the money to make periodic payments to an operative known to be plotting his own bid for a Council seat.
State Board of Elections records show Brooklyn Councilman David Greenfield has $308,641.71 stashed in a campaign account called “GreenfieldNY” — a separate entity from his re-election committee, “Greenfield NYC.” Both troves of political lucre report as their headquarters the home address of a Democratic Party apparatchik named Kalman Yeger and his wife Jennifer Berger, who works for Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito.
The New York City Campaign Finance Board, with which the Greenfield NYC account is registered, forbids donations from corporations, business partnerships and law firms, so as to reduce the influence of private interests and to amplify and empower individual citizens. The state rules governing the GreenfieldNY account, however, include no such stipulations.
Of the funds in the GreenfieldNY account, $86,600 would be outright verboten under city rules. All but a few of the contributing companies are real estate entities, or are businesses belonging to individuals who also deal in property development and management.
Wednesday, May 24, 2017
From the Daily News:
The wait time for the emergency room at Elmhurst Hospital Center is in critical condition.
The average emergency room patient at the Queens facility waited 114 minutes to be seen by a doctor in 2016, according to records obtained by the Daily News.
The nearly two-hour delay was the lengthiest recorded at any of the city’s 11 public hospitals in at least the last five years — and close to four times as long as the national average of 30 minutes, according to data for 2014 from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
For some of the patients, the wait is actually longer than two hours.
Hospital staff attributed the lengthy delays to a lack of nurses.
At times, one nurse is responsible for up to 12 patients, said Pattie-Dean Thompson, an ER nurse.
“That leaves us running from patient to patient,” she said.
Another issue is the large number of patients with minor ailments flooding the emergency room.
The long wait time comes as the number of emergency room patients at the public hospital has decreased, records show.
Queens residents are suing the MTA for failing to protect them from peeling lead paint on the elevated tracks of the 7 line, which they say rains down on pedestrians, property and businesses below, according to a lawsuit filed Monday.
Plaintiffs of the class action lawsuit include Jackson Heights residents and their children, a day care chain owner, and the owner of the neighborhood’s popular gay club, Club Evolution, according to Kate Foran, the attorney representing the group.
One plaintiff, Dudley Stewart, lives 500 feet from the elevated track on 80th Street in Jackson Heights and fears for the safety of his two children, ages 12 and 8, Foran said.
“His kids are there all the time,” she said. “It’s a scary situation.”
The first elevated structures on the Flushing line were built before June 1915 and were painted with lead-based paint, according to the complaint. And the tracks have been poorly maintained ever since, it adds.
The Queens Democratic Board of Elections commissioner, who in the past has come under fire for conflicts of interest, is quickly becoming one of the highest earning recipients of Queens court patronage, Gotham Gazette has learned.
In 2014, Jose Miguel Araujo, then the newly elected BOE president, was fined $10,000 by the city's Conflicts of Interest Board (COIB) -- the maximum penalty for nepotism -- because he gave his wife Rita Patron Araujo a job as a temporary clerk between 2010 and 2012.
The fines issued against Araujo and other BOE employees followed a scathing 2013 Department of Investigation (DOI) report, which found the agency to be rife with nepotism, incompetence, and overall dysfunction.
"The imposition of the maximum legal fine on the Board’s President should send a powerful message that this conduct will not be tolerated,” DOI Commissioner Mark Peters said in a statement at the time of the fines.
Despite the incident, Araujo was renominated for the position by the Queens County Democratic Party and reconfirmed for a four-year term by the City Council in 2016. Since then, his law practice has become one of the top earners of Queens Court patronage doled out by the Queens Surrogate’s Court and Queens Supreme Court, raising questions about his impartiality as a BOE commissioner and other conflicts of interest this outside business might present.
Before he became a commissioner, from 2005 through 2007, Araujo earned significant payments from the Queens Surrogate’s Court, which settles estates of Queens residents who die without wills. The appointments required Araujo to act as a “guardian ad litem,” to advocate for individuals incapacitated by age or mental illness. After Araujo joined the BOE in 2008, the appointments stopped. Several payments trickled in again in 2011, but after the 2014 COIB fine, the appointments escalated from both Surrogate’s Court and also Supreme Court, which gave Araujo work as a court evaluator or counsel for guardians of incapacitated individuals.
Of the roughly $140,000 Araujo earned from Queens court appointments since 2005, half of the money -- $69,513 -- flowed to Araujo’s practice in the last two years, according to records obtained from the New York State Unified Court System.
Tuesday, May 23, 2017
You may or may not be aware that the bell towers of the Church are in desperate need of repair and the bells and clocks have not been working for over 10 years. This fundraiser is for the
benefit of restoring the bells. Through your generous donations Saint Aloysius Church will repair the bells and also preserve an important asset to the Ridgewood community. Please note that the donation is a tax write off and you can request a tax receipt letter.
To make a donation to the tower fund, mail check to:
St. Aloysius R.C. Church
382 Onderdonk Avenue
Ridgewood, NY 11385
There's also a special fundraiser scheduled for later this year for alumni.
If the church had been landmarked, it could have qualified for special grants. Oh well.
Monday, May 22, 2017
Alison Tan, wife of Assemblyman Ron Kim (D-Flushing), surprised many when she announced her run for City Council at Community Board 7’s May meeting.
The managing director of Ackman-Ziff Real Estate Group has no political experience, but plans to challenge two-term Councilman Peter Koo (D-Flushing) in the September primaries. She has listed quality-of-life issues as her main platform.
The 20th District covers Flushing, Auburndale and part of Whitestone.
Tan has lived in Flushing with her husband for six years. She said raising two daughters in the area inspired her to run and fix issues she believes Koo won’t address.
“I have friends who have had to move out of the district because living here is unbearable,” she said in an interview with TimesLedger Newspapers. “Koo is not a strong advocate, Koo doesn’t fight for quality-of-life issues. Our district deserves better. All you have to do is look around us and you can see how he failed. He’s been councilman for eight years, and what do we have to show for it? Flushing is more polluted than ever, we don’t have the resources to survive, we deserve a better public advocate in City Hall.”
As for Koo, he has welcomed the competition from Tan and said he has been endorsed by her husband.
Tan said working in the private sector as a manager has prepared her for City Council. Tan was responsible for billions of dollars in development and was held accountable for her performance.
The Ackman-Ziff website says Tan has handled over $7 billion in commercial real estate capital market transactions.
Bold action is needed.
Step 1: Switch bus fare collection from entrances to on-board payment. This could cut curbside "dwell times" in half, speeding bus trips up to 20% and winning back some riders from cars, cabs and Ubers.
Step 2: Charge a congestion fee for Ubers, yellow cabs and, yes, all cars and trucks traveling to and in the Manhattan core. This will cut down on traffic and raise money for transit.
Step 3: Use the congestion revenues to equip every subway line with modern digital controls. This will allow more trains per hour and end those cascading delays.
One man can do all this. He controls the MTA and he's got the political chops to bring together city and state power brokers. Governor Cuomo, are you listening?
Sunday, May 21, 2017
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s hiring of 13 former staffers from the Obama administration, Hillary Clinton’s presidential bid and other national campaigns is costing state taxpayers $1.5 million a year, state records show.
Some of the hires are being paid not through the governor’s office budget but through state authorities and other entities considered “off budget.”
The top hires include Maria Comella, whose hiring as Cuomo’s chief of staff was announced in April. She is being paid $175,000 a year, according to records obtained under the state Freedom of Information Law. Comella initially had been hired as a consultant to Cuomo to help shape this year’s agenda after working for Republicans in presidential races, including New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, George W. Bush’s 2004 re-election, as well as Rudolph Giuliani and Arizona Sen. John McCain.
Other hires include Andrew Tillman, a former speechwriter for Obama’s chief of staff. Tillman is being paid $80,000 a year in his state job writing speeches for Cuomo. Jen Darley, who was the national lead advance staffer for the Hillary for America Campaign, is now paid $110,000 as Cuomo’s assistant director of executive operations, records show.
Such hiring of staff from outgoing adminstrations or failed campaigns isn’t uncommon. Cuomo’s hiring comes as he prepares his 2018 re-election campaign and as some supporters urge him to run for president in 2018.
Saturday, May 20, 2017
A group representing Hispanic police officers will boycott next month's Puerto Rican Day Parade to protest a decision by organizers to honor a controversial nationalist jailed for his connection to a string of deadly bombings.
While Oscar López Rivera is seen as a hero in some circles, he is still regarded as a terrorist by others, including many cops who hold him and his Puerto Rican independence group responsible for the 1975 bombing at Fraunces Tavern in lower Manhattan that killed four people.
Also from the Daily News:
Mayor de Blasio said he will march in the Puerto Rican Day Parade as usual this year, when the event honors Oscar López Rivera — who spent decades in prison for his work with a group that set off deadly bombs in New York City.
“It’s a complicated situation for several reasons. The organization he was affiliated with did things I don’t agree with obviously and that were illegal. He has, however, renounced terrorism,” de Blasio said. “He was pardoned by two United States Presidents. I think that speaks volumes. He also was a Vietnam veteran. He is someone who served this country even though he had real political differences over how Puerto Rico was being treated.”
“I don’t agree with the way he did it. But he did serve his time. He was pardoned appropriately,” de Blasio said. “He has renounced violence. So I’m going to do everything I would normally do with the parade.”
- Lopez-Rivera actually was offered an early release in 1999 by Bill Clinton if he would renounce terrorism. He refused. When Obama commuted his sentence, he did not ask that of Lopez-Rivera. Lopez-Rivera has never renounced terrorism.
- Lopez-Rivera was never pardoned by any president. He was offered clemency.
From the Queens Chronicle:
An immediate danger to drivers is posed by a sinkhole at 32nd Avenue and Union Street in Flushing, state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) says. But the Department of Environmental Protection, under whose purview repairing it falls, is not remotely alarmed.
“This is a major intersection,” Avella told reporters. “One of these days, [the sinkhole] is going to entirely collapse.”
A bus route, he added, goes over the sinkhole, which is near a school and a library. And given the traffic that the intersection experiences, Avella wonders why the de Blasio administration doesn’t repair it: “What the heck does it take to finally get this fixed and get an answer from DEP?”
According to an agency spokesperson, a sewer at the Flushing intersection “is being inspected using a remotely operated television camera and once that work is complete any necessary repairs will be made.” He added that the agency is investigating what the nexus is between the sinkhole and the sewer.
The DEP also diverges with Avella on what to call the problem. “This is more of a roadway depression than a sinkhole,” the spokesperson said.
Friday, May 19, 2017
Crowley, the Queens congressman and county leader, has styled himself as an advocate for homeowners, praising former president Obama’s efforts to expand federal housing programs to make it easier to refinance mortgages at current interest rates, even if more is owed than the value on the home. “We need to find ways to both help people stay in their homes and save more of their income,” he said in 2012.
But Crowley’s words have not matched his actions. He empowers Sweeney’s law firm, maintaining close ties despite its work on behalf of banks. And his brother Sean Crowley is a lobbyist at one of New York’s most influential firms, Davidoff, Hutcher and Citron, where he has lobbied the state government on behalf of the New York Creditors Bar Association, the trade association representing creditors and attorneys engaged in debt collection.
Crowley, however, defended his record.
“Congressman Crowley has been a staunch supporter of middle-class families and will continue to support policies that help keep New Yorkers in their homes,” said Alex Florez, a spokesman for Crowley. “The work the lawyers do on behalf of their clients is independent from the work they put in as volunteers in our effort to help elect good Democrats in Queens.”
When have they ever helped elect a "good Democrat" and not a Tweeder?
We have made repeated requests for traffic agents, 109 has requested traffic repeatedly. No one has done a thing. This is a dangerous and unfair burden on our community."
We Love Whitestone
The developer who got a sweet deal from the city to build a half-market-rate, half-affordable Upper East Side apartment tower is a big donor to Mayor de Blasio, records show.
Since 2011, Harold Fetner and his family have written eight checks totaling $39,150 for de Blasio, including seven donations to his 2013 and 2017 election campaigns and one to the mayor’s transition committee.
Months after arriving at City Hall, de Blasio appointed Fetner to the nonprofit Mayor’s Fund for the Advancement of New York, a plum assignment the mayor has doled out to multiple deep-pocketed donors.
NYCHA announced on Wednesday it had picked Fetner’s company, Fetner Properties, over three other bidders to build a 47-story tower on what is now NYCHA land in the Holmes Towers development on E. 91st St.
Under the deal, Fetner gets a 99-year lease and will build and manage a 344-unit tower. He will also qualify for $13 million in taxpayer subsidies and will pay no property taxes because the building will sit on NYCHA land.
Thursday, May 18, 2017
Don’t count on Mayor Bill de Blasio’s upcoming “congestion plan” to cut down on commute times.
While the mayor’s strategy to relieve street congestion is expected to be published in coming weeks, his administration has made it clear that commuters shouldn’t expect the plan to make much of an impact on traffic.
Details of the mayor’s strategy has been scarce so far, with Polly Trottenberg, the Department of Transportation commissioner only saying that it will target commercial delivery hours, parking regulations, and will incorporate data-driven approaches to certain points of gridlock.
A Manhattan think tank is pushing a plan to end the misery of Penn Station commuters, who are having an especially horrid month, by recasting the West 34th Street hub as just another stop for New Jersey Transit and the Long Island Rail Road, rather than the terminus for both. Having trains pass through the station instead of stopping and turning around, which results in a daily traffic nightmare, would also open up possibilities beyond alleviating congestion.
Part of the idea, named ReThinkNYC, calls for moving rail yards in Sunnyside, Queens, to the Bronx. That way a major new transit hub could be built on the Queens site, connecting the region’s commuter lines and the subway system for a fraction of the cost of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s plan to build a deck over Sunnyside Yards. With that kind of transit access, a business district could sprout up around the station, taking advantage of a 280-acre blank canvas across the East River from the most expensive office towers in the city.
In the public mind, the enduring image of Hiram Monserrate was him dragging his girlfriend through a vestibule in an episode that led to Monserrate taken away in handcuffs, charged with slashing his girlfriend with a broken glass.
"I have made my mistakes," Monserrate said in 2008.
That could be regarded as an understatement. Though ultimately convicted of a lesser misdemeanor charge, Monserrate later spent almost two years in federal prison after misusing public funds in his City Council days.
But Monserrate has never strayed far from politics.
"My mistakes are now in my past, several years ago. I have moved on," he said.
Indeed, on NY1's Road to City Hall Tuesday, he announced a run for City Council. He's staking his candidacy almost entirely on a single issue: the planned development of Willets Point, which he views as a giveaway.
"It's an atrocity for anyone to think that they can take 40 acres of parkland and hand it over for free to a developer to build and make more profits," Monserrate said.
Wednesday, May 17, 2017
It’s almost the middle of May, about 6 weeks into the 2nd quarter of 2017, and the notorious tardiness renovating the Lefferts Blvd. station continues unabated and sadly unconcerned by the higher administrative brass and even the thousands of commuters who rely on this heavily populated hub. The stairway and the handicap accessible elevator look complete but are still surrounded by machinery, giant orange thimbles and partition fencing obstructing the majority of the sidewalk. And it’s still causing massive bottlenecks of people exiting and entering the station.
But during my last visit, I happened to meet the curators of the year long fecal art exhibition at the turnstiles.
Now developer Xinyuan Real Estate will join the ranks of planning sorcery with its proposal for the former RKO Keith’s Theater in Flushing, a long-shuttered building by Thomas Lamb with partial interior landmark status. Xinyuan came in front of the Landmarks Preservation Commission on Tuesday morning to present its proposal to rehabilitate and preserve the 1928-built theater’s landmarked grand foyer and ticket lobby within a new glassy 16-floor building with 269 apartments. To the surprise of some, the proposal was approved on the first go-around.
Pei Cobb Freed & Partners, the firm founded by Pritzker Prize winner I.M. Pei, is the project architect while Ayon Studios have been tapped as the preservation architect.
Architectural drawings on file with Landmarks indicate that Xinyuan plans to use the existing ticket lobby and grand foyer as the entry for the residential building. An additional residential lobby, mail room, and elevator bank will be accessed past the landmarked interiors.
Floorplans included in the presentation also show that the building will have a sophisticated robot parking system, as condo developments these days do. Under the plan, the original theater that could once seat up to 3,000 and was not granted landmark status will be razed.
The interiors, largely neglected for the past 30 years, are worse for wear. Images from inside the building taken at different times after its 1984 landmarking show just how much the structure has fallen towards disrepair, with a partial collapse of the grand foyer’s ceiling and graffiti littered throughout.
As part of the site’s redevelopment, some of the existing plasterwork that depicts an asymmetrical Churrigueresque Spanish townscape will be removed and replaced, with other portions being salvaged and restored off site. Just about everything will require work, be it reconstruction or new paint.
The Municipal Arts Society has weighed in on the restoration, saying it believes “the new construction could be more sympathetic to the historic theater,” but endorsing the rehab nonetheless.
The Historic Districts Council in its written statement expresses concerns about the accessibility of the interior landmark, noting that “public accessibility to an interior landmark is a key characteristic of its designation” and that “people are not permitted into the lobby of a residential building except at the invitation of a resident.”
This proved to be the main point of contention among the LPC’s commissioners as well, at Tuesday’s meeting. While the ticket lobby will be accessible to the public as part of the retail space in the new development, the fate of the grand foyer beyond that has yet to be decided.
A spokesperson with the Department of Sanitation said the agency "sent an officer to the location who was granted access to the neighbor’s property at 184-07 to take additional photos. It appears 184-09 is under the jurisdiction of the Department of Health for the following reasons: it could be rodent infestation, it is private property which DSNY cannot enter, there is a structure on the property, and the trash and debris is not visible from the street. A DSNY inspector will return tomorrow to assess if any Sanitation action can be taken."
A Health Department spokesperson said they "take rodent complaints seriously. We are sending an inspector to the site and we will coordinate with the Department of Sanitation on next steps.”
Tuesday, May 16, 2017
From CBS 2:
Mayor Bill de Blasio was under fire Monday evening for a new gift to school employees.
As CBS Political Reporter Marcia Kramer reported, there has been a dramatic increase in free parking permits. Kramer also reported there were numerous abuses before the new permits even hit the streets.
“Historically, anyone with a (parking) placard in their car abuses that placard,” said former city Traffic Commissioner Sam Schwartz, better known as “Gridlock Sam.”
And CBS2 found numerous abuses even before de Blasio has doled out numerous new parking placards.
A Chevrolet with a Department of Education placard that expired three years ago in 2014 parked in a no zone for Health Department vehicles.
Other cars with DOE permits were seen parked in a no standing zone, and others still were seen just parked on the school sidewalk.
None of the drivers got parking tickets.
Federal agents showing up at a school didn't cause panic. The mayor did.
Thank you to NY1, who has had the most honest reporting of all.
It's an embarrassing time to be a New Yorker.
Monday, May 15, 2017
First, some background: Big Bird made a grand announcement earlier this year that from now on, ICE agents that show up at schools would be turned away. When questioned as to how often this has happened, he admitted it never did. So naturally, he thought this incident would be great fodder for him to use to show that he had tremendous foresight in enacting this new policy.
However, NY1 burst his bubble last night by publishing the truth:
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (UCIS) said two officials went to a Queens elementary school Thursday to confirm facts about a fourth grader's enrollment.
The agency — which is part of the Department of Homeland Security but not directly affiliated with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) — said the verification was for what they call an "immigration benefit request."
USCIS said the student, who attends P.S. 58 in Maspeth, was not the subject of the request, and the officials did not ask to see or speak with the child.
USCIS said school visits are not routine, but they are not unusual.
USCIS is the branch of Homeland Security that processes immigration and naturalization applications. If school visits are "not unusual", then this school, located in District 24, one of the most immigrant rich areas of the city, certainly has been visited by them before to verify enrollment. And if they were in fact turned away, then the city may have made it a bit harder for someone to obtain citizenship.
ICE, on the other hand, is the agency charged with enforcement of immigration law. They are not one and the same, and BDB is well aware of this, but the opportunity to appeal to his deluded base by fearmongering was just too good to pass up.
The moral of the story is: Just because the mayor says something happened doesn't make it the truth.
For almost 20 years, every time it rains really hard, the street in front of Angela Dennis's home turns into a lake of rainwater, eight inches at its deepest, spilling over onto the sidewalks on 148th Avenue, just off of Francis Lewis Boulevard.
The flooding damages cars, sidewalks and on weekdays the X 63 bus can't get through.
Seniors in the neighborhood have a particularly tough time.
Self-described community activist Carl Patterson is so frustrated with the NYC Department of Environmental Protection and their community affairs coordinator Karen Ellis.
"They sawed a cut in the middle, but they didn't' come back to finish the job," Patterson said. "It's been three years. This is a quality of life issue."
Neighbors say the city started the make repairs and then abandoned the project and abandoned these folks who say they just don't want a swimming pool in front of their homes.
Sunday, May 14, 2017
NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill vowed to discipline any supervisor who puts quantity before quality when it comes to summonses, it was revealed Friday.
“This department does not and will not use quotas for enforcement activity,” O’Neill said in a message distributed to every command citywide on April 28. “Supervisory personnel who use quotas or encourage or reward numbers for the sake of numbers may be subject to department discipline.”
O’Neill said he will also bring the hammer down on supervisors who “punish members who fail to meet a quota, or who threaten to retaliate against any member who reports the use of quotas.”
“Using quotas demonstrates a lack of understanding of today’s NYPD, and my expectations of you as leaders,” he added, encouraging cops to report any allegations of quota demands to the department’s Internal Affairs Bureau. “We are interested in quality, not quantity.”
The NYPD has always maintained that quotas are not used while enforcing the law — although police whistleblowers have testified otherwise for years, claiming cops were ordered to write a specific number of tickets a month — and were punished when they didn’t hand out enough.
Beautiful views off Breezy Point in the Rockaways could change; Connecting Queens all the way to Sandy Hook, New Jersey could be a barrier to shelter the city from flooding.
"This would save lives," said Bob Yaro of Storm Surge Working Group. "It will save tens or even hundreds of billions of dollars over its life in avoided flooding and disruption of the economy in the region."
Yaro's group calls not just for a barrier in the outer harbor, but also tying Queens to the Bronx near the Throgs Neck Bridge.
The group notes that New York lags behind London, the Netherlands, and even Russia.
"We're kind of standing down on the beach with our pants down around our ankles," Yaro said. "This is not how we want to protect this great city from these dangers."
And in a sign of its influence, a conference on the "urgent need for a regional barrier" is co-sponsored by the Port Authority.
But building a barrier isn't easy. The whole harbor system could cost $25 billion.
A rendering, seen in the video above, shows laying a highway on top to help pay, if it's given a permit.
Complicating matters further, Breezy Point is a private, gated community, whose residents aren't seen as exactly eager for interstate traffic to come through.
The group pushing the barrier says it's just an idea. Others question whether the barrier is needed at all.
Saturday, May 13, 2017
Workers at the Albert Road sewer project in the Centreville section of Ozone Park have not been spotted on site for close to a month, because they’ve been pulled for another job elsewhere.
While some area residents joked they’re enjoying the peace and quiet, they’re also fuming because the neighborhood has been left a mess by the workers there.
“People now have to live with the mess for a longer term than they should have to,” said Ozone Park Civic Association Howie Kamph. “It’s not fair to the residents.”
A Chronicle reporter on Monday saw streets ripped up and uneven, water mains exposed to the elements, and cones — which looked to be covering a pothole — left in the middle of the street.
“It looks like a third-world country,” said resident Joanne Cutitto. “It’s like there’s no pride in their workmanship.”
The Department of Design and Construction did not respond to multiple requests for comment on this story — including if they’re chasing down the contractor, Maspeth Supply, to finish the taxpayer-funded work in the time laid out in the contract.
A person answering the phones at Maspeth Supply — which, according to city records, has received hundreds of millions of dollars in city contracts for water main and sewer work — said to send an email to the company’s owner, which was not responded to by press time.
Friday, May 12, 2017
Rep. Joseph Crowley, who serves as Queens Democratic leader, is using campaign funds to rent office space in a family-owned property outside his district, records show.
Crowley has paid at least $69,700 since 2007 to Killean Enterprises LLC, which is controlled by his brother, lobbyist John “Sean” Crowley.
As chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, Joseph Crowley is the fourth-highest ranking member of his party in the House.
“This, without a doubt, raises red flags about conflicts of interest,” said John Kaehny, chairman of the NYC Transparency Working Group.
“As an important public official, you want to be above suspicion, not raising suspicion.”
The campaign office in Elmhurst is about 10 blocks outside Crowley’s congressional district.
But as party boss, he already has space at Queens Democratic headquarters in Forest Hills three miles from the Elmhurst office.
“It’s not physically in his district — that would be a key point,” said Ken Boehm, chairman of the National Legal and Policy Center. “What he uses it for — it’s as old as politics — it’s called a slush fund. And what do you know? It goes to a family-connected entity.”
The Elmhurst address is also home to Crowley & Kaufman, the law firm of Crowley’s campaign treasurer, Scott Kaufman, an attorney who since 2006 has raked in at least $550,000 in fees via appointments from Queens Surrogate’s Court.
Joe ran away from reporters asking questions about this.
a useless bill - as the sole sponsor - to require that a separate Inspector General oversee the DHS & HRA.
Joseph Ponte will resign Friday, a day after Democratic City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito broke with Mayor de Blasio in calling for Ponte to step down. De Blasio has defended Ponte amid the latest allegations.
Staffers were drafting Ponte's resignation speech Thursday evening, the sources said.
Ponte, whose career in corrections has spanned more than four decades, was appointed commissioner in April 2014. The Marine Corps veteran previously led the Maine Department of Corrections, where he instituted substantial reforms. It was to Maine that the city's Department of Investigation, which investigates city agencies, officers or employees for potential corruption, alleged Ponte drove a city-owned vehicle in violation of guidelines.
The owner of a Brooklyn construction company has been charged with manslaughter following a wall collapse that left one worker dead and two others seriously injured.
Michael Weiss, 47, of Williamsburg, owns RSBY NY Builders Inc. and Park Ave Builders Inc., both in Bedford-Stuyvesant.
He faces 14 counts, including second-degree manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide.
The charges stem from a Sept. 3, 2015 incident at a construction site on Myrtle Avenue in Bed-Stuy.
Workers were replacing a single-story building with a five-story one, when Weiss ordered them to excavate an area that was not approved by the Department of Buildings, Acting Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzale alleged Wednesday.
An adjacent wall eventually collapsed, crushing 18-year-old Fernando Vanegaz to death and seriously hurting two other workers.
Thursday, May 11, 2017
|(Photo by Carly Miller/BKLYNER)|
Today, City Council unanimously passed a bill to enforce fines on landlords that illegally subdivide homes to create “modern tenement housing”, an issue that has led to severe overcrowding and deaths in southern Brooklyn.
The bill, Intro 1218 proposed by City Councilmember Vincent Gentile, targets landlords of homes classified as “aggravated illegal conversions,” slapping a $15,000 violation per unit beyond the certificate of occupancy. If unpaid, the fine would be subject to a lien sale on the property.
The legislation also expands the authority of the New York City Department of Buildings (DOB) and the New York City Environmental Control Board (ECB) to inspect properties and impose penalties.
Gentile, representing Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights, Bath Beach, and Bensonhurst, was joined today by Council Members Barry S. Grodenchik and Jumaane Williams, representatives from Boro President Eric Adams' office, and dozens of civic groups and housing advocates who spent years rallying around this issue. The bill was supported by 23 City Council members, said Gentile on a sunny Wednesday at the steps of City Hall. A few hours later, the bill passed with a 49-0 vote.
“These strong restrictions and penalties will force egregious property owners to comply with New York City’s building code,” said Gentile. “Substandard housing is not affordable housing.”
The city’s plan to redesign a 1.3-mile portion of Queens Boulevard in Rego Park and Forest Hills includes the addition of bike lanes and stop-controlled slip lanes, while eliminating 198 parking spaces, according to a proposal presented to the Community Board 6 Transportation Committee earlier this month.
The section of Queens Boulevard between Eliot Avenue and Yellowstone Boulevard includes some of the busiest and most crash-prone intersections in the neighborhood, including at 63rd Drive.
The proposed redesign, which will also include fixes such as adding extra space for pedestrians and installing gravel curb extensions to shorten crossing distances at several intersection, seeks to make the thoroughfare safer for motorists, pedestrians and cyclists alike, the Department of Transportation said.
In the three months since the state's anti-Airbnb bill went into effect, the city has issued fines on 139 listings. That leaves a mere 24,000 more to investigate.
Earlier this week the city announced two women forked over $1,000 each, one for renting out her pad in Trump Tower, the other, her place in a co-op building on the Lower East Side. They were the first hosts to pay up under the new state law banning advertising for home rentals of less than 30 days. But a staggering amount of New York listings remain on the Airbnb site.
The number of potentially illegal Airbnb listings was 23,639 as of April, according to data from the company, though a portion of those ads could be for a stay in a single-family home or another type of dwelling exempt from the legislation. But based on current rates, it would take the Mayor's Office of Special Enforcement 43 years to run down those potential violations.
Rather than go after every one, City Hall's goal likely is to fine enough hosts to discourage the illegal listings and have the numbers come down on their own. Thus far officials have focused on owners of multiunit building who essentially run illegal hotels by renting out multiple apartments for short stays. The mayor plans to add inspectors going forward.
At least for now, hosts with only one listing have a slimmer chance of being caught, and according to Airbnb's site, 96% of hosts fall into this category. Since they stand to earn $750 a week on average, paying off the fine might not prove to be much of a deterrent.
Wednesday, May 10, 2017
Local historians are campaigning to save a house in the neighborhood once home to a well-known musician and composer — but the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) says the building has been too significantly altered to warrant landmark status.
The Greater Astoria Historical Society submitted a Request for Evaluation to the LPC in March for the pale yellow 3-story house at 31-07 31st Ave. near 31st Street, which they say was home to Ferdinand Quentin Dulcken, a pianist, composer and music teacher.
The house was purchased by for nearly $1.4 million in 2015, records show. Its owner, George Hrisikopoulos, filed plans with the Department of Buildings in March to develop the site into a 6-story apartment building with a restaurant on the first floor.
He declined to comment when reached by phone on Friday.
The second-in-command at the city agency that goes after local businesses for bad hiring practices is resigning from her job after investigators looked into a sweetheart contract she gave her lover — a man once described as “quite possibly the sexiest man in New York.”
Melissa Woods, first deputy commissioner and general counsel at the Human Rights Commission, tendered her resignation following revelations that she had gotten her artist and singer boyfriend a no-bid consulting contract at her agency that paid him $12,750, according to sources.
Woods gave notice two weeks ago, but she is officially leaving in June.
Her resignation comes after the city Department of Investigation opened a probe into her actions on behalf of the Conflicts of Interest Board, according to sources.
The Republican-led state Senate, for the fourth consecutive session, passed legislation to crack down on violent gangs — but Democratic Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie shot it down.
The bill comes amid a wave of violence by the MS-13 gang, which has menaced suburban Long Island and other areas.
The bill passed 48-13 — with all the no votes coming from New York City Democrats.
But it hasn’t even come up for a vote in Heastie’s Assembly.
The measure would increase sentences for gang-related felonies and create new felonies for individuals who participate or benefit from gang activity or recruit others to join gangs.
Heastie insisted longer prison sentences are not the answer.
“We support anti-gang initiatives. However, increased penalties are not necessarily a deterrent,” he said. “A better approach is to discourage people from engaging in gang activity in the first place, and that is where the focus should be.”
In fact, the bill offers anti-gang initiatives at the front end.
A new Criminal Street Gang Prevention Fund would be established to support a gang violence prevention curriculum in schools, for example.
The historic Bayside mansion near the Throgs Neck Bridge that’s been one of the neighborhood’s most popular eateries through the years will be under new management later this month, a city agency said.
According to Parks Department spokesperson Meghan Lalor, the restaurant at 201-10 Cross Island Pkwy., a former mansion that silent film actor Rudolph Valentino and former Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia once called home, will begin operating as Vivo Mediterranean Grille on Wednesday, May 24. The site is currently operated as Vivaldi’s Ristorante by 123 Restaurant Group.
Gieto Nicaj and Paul Nicaj, two relatives who are also well-established in the New York City food and beverage industry, will run operations at the soon-to-be Vivo Mediterranean Grille. Paul Nicaj, who resides in Whitestone , operates Battery Gardens Restaurant in Manhattan.
Vivaldi’s will continue to operate at the site until May 23, and Vivo Mediterranean Grille will open the following day, ensuring that there won’t be any service disruptions, according to the Parks Department.