Saturday, September 30, 2017

DEC wants less extensive remediation at Edgestone site

From the Queens Chronicle:

When the Department of Environmental Conservation notified Community Board 7 that single-family homes could not be built at the Waterpointe development on Whitestone’s waterfront, it didn’t go unnoticed.

The Edgestone Group, which is planning to build 52 single-family homes at the site, is participating in the DEC’s brownfield cleanup program. The agency had said on Sept. 20 that fill used to replace contaminated soil at the site was not of the quality required by the type of cleanup being pursued there, which is called Track 2 residential cleanup.

So, a DEC Fact Sheet went on, “it is appropriate that the remedy be modified to a ‘Track 4’ restricted residential cleanup.” Which, the agency continued, applies only to “multi-family residential housing with restrictions that prohibit housing without a common controlling entity responsible for maintaining the [institutional and engineering controls].”

Not exactly music to the ears of a community board that has been adamant about the Waterpointe development being single-family homes.

CB 7 First Vice Chairman Chuck Apelian and board member Joe Sweeney were alarmed when they saw the message from DEC.

“We got this notice — Chuck saw it, I saw it and I said ‘This is impossible, because that’s not what we negotiated,’” Sweeney said at the board’s meeting on Monday. “We negotiated those 52 homes.”

He called the DEC. And ultimately, the agency agreed to allow the single-family house plan, though the restricted residential Track 4 will still be used.

Sweeney told the Chronicle that the DEC informed him the fill described in its fact sheet that resulted in the track change had been placed there by Edgestone.

Those never-ending sidewalk sheds

From NY1:

The scaffolding surrounds a city-owned building that is used as a homeless shelter. It went up four years ago to prevent parts of the deteriorating facade from falling onto the sidewalk. But since then, the city hasn't done anything to repair that facade.

"I think the city should be embarrassed about any scaffolding around any city building," City Councilman Ben Kallos said.

This scaffolding highlights a citywide problem of landlords erecting sidewalk sheds and not taking them down.

One building has had scaffolding since 2006. Another in East Harlem has had one for ten years, as has a building in Chelsea, all of which are seen in the video above.

Kallos has proposed legislation to end the nuisances and eyesores of perpetual scaffoldings.

"Anytime somebody puts up the scaffolding, they have to immediately start work or take it back down, and if they can't afford to do the work, the city would end up doing for them and charging for them later," Kallos said.

There are 7,800 active sidewalk shed permits, half of which are in Manhattan.

A law requires owners of buildings taller than six stories to erect scaffolding every five years to inspect the facades.

Landlords who don't make the repairs in 90 days face fines of $1,000 a month. But some choose to leave the scaffolding up and pay the fines to avoid costly facade repairs.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Amazon looking for space and Sunnyside Yards is in the running

From Queens Tribune:

Amazon has announced that it is looking for a location to develop its second headquarters—which would be known as Amazon HQ2—and Sunnyside Yard is among the spots it is eyeing.

Earlier this year, the city’s Economic Development Corporation (EDC) released its $2.5 million Sunnyside Yard feasibility study, which evaluated the viability of decking over active rail and facilities currently at the site to make way for housing units, retail space, parks and schools. Sunnyside Yard—which currently serves as a storage hub for Amtrak, the New Jersey Transit and Long Island Rail Road—sits on approximately 180 acres of land in western Queens.

Grant Long, a senior economist at Street Easy, an online real estate organization, spoke to the Queens Tribune to discuss the possibility of Amazon HQ2’s being built above Sunnyside Yard.

“Sunnyside Yard is the best fit,” said Long. “Through this project, people within the community can get good jobs.”

Amazon HQ2, which would seek up to eight million square feet of commercial space, is expected to create 50,000 high-paying jobs that offer an average salary of more than $100,000.

Long said that these salaries would enable workers at the new headquarters to afford apartments or condos at the numerous buildings constructed in Court Square, Downtown Brooklyn, DUMBO, Williamsburg and Long Island City.

Why are we protecting criminals?

From ICE:

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) Fugitive Operations teams arrested 498 individuals from 42 countries for federal immigration violations in multiple cities across the U.S. during a four-day operation that ended Wednesday. Operation ‘Safe City’ focused on cities and regions where ICE deportation officers are denied access to jails and prisons to interview suspected immigration violators or jurisdictions where ICE detainers are not honored.

The operation targeted individuals who have violated U.S. immigration laws, prioritizing aliens with criminal convictions, pending criminal charges, known gang members and affiliates, immigration fugitives and those who re-entered the U.S. after deportation. Individuals with active DACA were not targeted for arrest.

“Sanctuary jurisdictions that do not honor detainers or allow us access to jails and prisons are shielding criminal aliens from immigration enforcement and creating a magnet for illegal immigration,” said ICE Acting Director Tom Homan. “As a result, ICE is forced to dedicate more resources to conduct at-large arrests in these communities.”
“ICE’s goal is to build cooperative, respectful relationships with our law enforcement partners to help prevent dangerous criminal aliens from being released back onto the streets. Non-cooperation policies severely undermine that effort at the expense of public safety,” he said.

Operation Safe City arrests took place in Baltimore (28), Cook County, Illinois (30), Denver (63), Los Angeles (101), New York (45), Philadelphia (107), Portland, Ore. (33), Santa Clara County, Calif (27); and Washington, D.C. (14) and the state of Massachusetts (50).

Among those arrested during this week’s operation were: In New York, a citizen of Ecuador with lawful permanent resident status who was previously charged with sexual abuse of a minor and convicted of endangering the welfare of a child, and convicted of sexual abuse of a minor under 14. He was previously released from local custody before ICE could assume custody.

Of the 498 individuals taken into custody during this operation for immigration violations:

317 had criminal convictions, as noted in the chart below;
68 are immigration fugitives;
104 are previously deported criminal aliens; and
18 are gang members or affiliates.

Elizabeth Crowley's light rail exposed as a real estate scheme (again)

If you have a chance to sit down for about 20 minutes and really examine this entire presentation at the link from LTV Squad, it will be worth your time. Highlights presented below:

The need for new transit options is huge. However, I am often extremely disappointed by what passes for transit planning and advocacy these days. Many of the plans being pushed by our elected officials are devoid of facts, or purposely misrepresented with outright lies. These plans are too often not based on actually commuter needs, and are instead only take the considerations of the real estate industry to account. It is easy to see why our politicians are so concerned with pleasing the real estate industry, since many of them are financially supported by deep pocket real estate ‘developers’.

This time two years ago, Ray Cevoli penned a scathing rebuke of Elizabeth Crowley’s initial Lower Montauk transit plan. We had hoped, by simply pointing out many facts, that attention would be paid to actual reality (vs. a vague pie in the sky idea). Looking through the latest presentation on this route, I can see nothing has changed at all. We are two years into talking about this project and no closer to it ever happening in any form.

To illustrate my points, I’ve circled key areas of the presentation in red. Here we see that AECOM is being paid half a million taxpayer dollars to create a study on project. I’m a little confused here. Isn’t this a plan from Crowley’s office? Does she not have staff to do some of this research work? Is she herself adverse to work? I sure hope AECOM’s study considers all the facts, because that’s a lot of money. I could do the job for half the cost in a year.

[AECOM is also the consulting firm helping the city push for the Glendale homeless shelter on Cooper Ave.] - QC
The last statement on the slide is a complete lie: existing air train rail cars can’t use the Lower Montauk line. Again, there is no third rail. Installing one, with a modern signal system, would be a billion dollar project. There’s also the little matter of FRA and ADA regulations, which are being ignored. All of those AirTrain cars would likely have to be replaced. Anyone who knows anything about rail operations knows this. This is not an oversight on Team Crowley’s behalf. They have been working on this for two years now. This statement is a lie. A purposely stated lie.

I’m not sorry to say this: lying to the public is not kosher. It is willful deceit with the intention of achieving a hidden agenda goal. And it is being presented right here, just one slide into this presentation. Once you open the door to lies, it throws every single other piece of information in this presentation into question. Now every line must be analyzed to verify if it is factual or fake news.

Again: we’re talking about an NYC transit project. Everyone knows we need more transit options. There is zero need at all for any lies.

I found this slide interesting – disinvestment? We’re now going down the rabbit hole of evil real estate developers, who make it sound like older houses and buildings automatically means low value, bad for the economy, perhaps even blighted? Look at this map, and then go walk around these neighborhoods. In the residential areas you’ll find homeowners who care about their neighborhoods, maintain and improve upon their homes, and who like their neighborhoods just they way they are. The only purpose for this slide is to target real estate developer, showing them a part of the city that hasn’t see the skyrocketing rents we see in places like Astoria, LIC and Greenpoint.

It’s worth referring back to Ray’s article, where Liz is quoted as saying “there is a lot of underutilized manufacturing which is also threatening us." Again: none of this property is ‘underutilized”. Blue collar jobs are needed to maintain a large city. We need to work to preserve the few industrial zones we have left in NYC.
A footnote here: if you mention the “G” word to transit advocates, they get really bent out of shape. Personally I think it’s lazy to argue against a transit project on the grounds of ‘gentrification’. I wouldn’t even mention this G word if literally this whole (*&(*&^ presentation wasn’t geared towards real estate development. I’m not going to pound on this drum though. As you’ve seen, I have a dozen other red and yellow flags to throw. I’m sticking to those. Don’t be surprised if someone else throws this G flag though – and when they do, the only person to blame here is Team Liz Crowley for opening this door by putting out a presentation that is all about real estate development and not about actual commuters.

We explained what this was about before. Thanks to Joe for really driving the point home and exposing this for what it is. The sad thing is that most voters are dumb, don't read and swallow everything these tweeders throw at them as something positive.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Another LIC hotel converted into shelter

From Sunnyside Post:

A Best Western hotel located near the Sunnyside/LIC border has become a homeless shelter, the Sunnyside Post has learned.

A hotel employee at the 38-05 Hunters Point Ave. site, reached through the hotel’s listed number, confirmed that the site will fully house homeless families, and that homeless families began coming in yesterday.

“It was a surprise for everybody,” the hotel employee said. “We only got a week notice.”

The employee said “everything changed” on Sept. 25. The date coincides with a photo tweeted on that same day showing a letter written by hotel management to employees at the Hunters Point Ave. site. It is unclear what the twitter user’s relationship to the hotel is.

“This letter is to inform you that your employment with…Best Western will be ending on September 25, 2017,” the letter written by SSN Hotels, a Delaware-based LLC, reads. “The business has been sold.” The tweet was directed to Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer, who replied on Sept. 26 saying that a member of his staff would follow up with the user.

Councilmember Van Bramer and the twitter user could not be reached for immediate comment.

Jamaica junk car zone gets some attention

From PIX11:

It’s a working class neighborhood in Jamaica, Queens. There are many families among the residents on 164th Place and 108th Drive. They take pride in their homes and the surroundings. That’s one of many reasons they reached out to PIX11 for help.

Many of the vehicles have out of state license plates, some have no plates at all, and one truck had a Diplomat plate. We investigated and learned it belongs to the Indonesian Mission to the United Nations. A spokesman said the truck was reported stolen in March, but the police hadn’t contacted the Mission. It appeared as if the truck’s front bumper and headlights had been stolen and the seats inside were missing.

Residents complain the abandoned cars take up valuable parking spaces and, since they’re never moved, it prevents the Sanitation Department from cleaning the street. In addition to being an eyesore, some of the vehicles are filled with junk, posing a possible danger, especially for the children playing on the block. There is a school on the corner.

Fortunately, there is good news to report. After PIX11 contacted the NYPD, the 113th Precinct sent officers to investigate. As a result, late today a spokesperson told PIX11, “one vehicle was issued a summons for being parked on the sidewalk, one vehicle was removed by the police department and 4 vehicles were marked to be removed by sanitation.”

Squatter killed in Richmond Hill blaze

From QNS:

Fire marshals and police are investigating a fire at a vacant Richmond Hill home on Tuesday night where an unidentified man was found dead.

Law enforcement sources said the blaze broke out at around 9:50 p.m. on Sept. 26 inside the boarded-up residence located on 114th Street between 95th and 101st avenues.

More than 60 firefighters and officers from the 102nd Precinct responded to the inferno. After putting the fire, police said, firefighters found the unidentified adult male while searching the dwelling’s second floor.

The man was pulled from the home and pronounced dead by EMS units. His body was transported to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner for an autopsy to determine the cause of death.

According to the New York Daily News, the residence had been vacant for some time, but Buildings Department records indicated that there had been complaints of squatters residing there in recent years.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Skelos conviction tossed

From the Daily News:

A federal appeals panel threw out the corruption convictions of former New York Senate majority leader Dean Skelos and his son, court documents revealed Tuesday.

Acting U.S. Attorney Joon Kim wasted no time in announcing that his office plans to retry the two men following the widely-expected ruling in the defendants’ favor.

Skelos and his son Adam successfully appealed their December 2015 convictions, arguing that prosecutors' arguments conflicted with a recent U.S. Supreme Court interpretation of public corruption law.

The pair were convicted of bribery, extortion and conspiracy.

The landscape, it is a-changin'

Forest Hills Post reveals that what is above will replace what is below.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Weiner sentenced to 21 months in the clink

From Daily Intelligencer:

When U.S. District Judge Denise Cote gave him an opportunity to make a statement, Weiner sounded remorseful: “I was a very sick man for a very long time,” Weiner said, his voice breaking as he read from a written statement that made no excuses for the pain he caused. “I stand before you because I victimized a young person who deserved better.” He hoped that a sentence in the community rather than behind bars would be good for his son, Jordan, whom he called his “salvation,” as well as others who may be struggling and needing counsel for the same ills that destroyed him.

The federal government wanted between 21 and 27 months. Cote chose the low end of that recommendation.

When Cote imposed her sentence, Weiner’s head fell and he placed his left hand over his head. The courtroom cleared quickly, and several reporters ran outside to recover their electronic devices and report the news. The usual throng of television crews and cameras swarmed the outside of the federal courthouse on Worth Street, awaiting the defendant’s exit.

Queens Machine chooses Simanowitz's successor

From the Times Ledger:

Following the death of state Assemblyman Michael Simanowitz (D-Flushing), the Queens Democratic Party has nominated David Rosenthal, a Kew Gardens resident.

Rosenthal has worked as district director for Councilman Rory Lancman (D-Hillcrest) and his nomination came with high praise from the Queens Democratic Party chairman, U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-Jackson Heights).

Monday, September 25, 2017

Elizabeth Crowley is a rather piss-poor feminist

Folks, this blog has been following politics and those running for office for a long time. We (and the internet) also have a LONG memory. So it really gives us the jollies when we get to call out the tweeders for their hypocrisy.

Let's take this for example:
A July 31 Crowley for NYC press release announcing Gov. Cuomo’s endorsement of the incumbent went even further, saying Holden has a “record of taking strong anti-woman, anti-LGBTQ and conservative stances.” When pressed for examples of those stances, Crowley simply cited his quarterly production of the Juniper Park Civic Association’s magazine, which sometimes features right-wing commentary.
After thorough search of the Juniper Park Civic Association's website, which features the articles from the magazine, we found no "anti-woman" commentary. Unless you consider this editorial about an unqualified female firefighter (which was written by a woman) to be anti-woman. Regardless, Holden didn't write it and we could find nothing he authored for the magazine that addressed women's issues in a negative light.


Now let's look at just how "pro-women" Crowley's record is...

Crowley's campaign hurled sexually explicit and abusive language toward her opponent's volunteers on Primary Day, as per Progress Queens:
Other alleged irregularities in this year's election cycle in Queens involved the cousin of the chair of the Queens Democratic County Committee. Progress Queens has received credible information from various sources that representatives of the committee to reelect Councilmember Elizabeth Crowley (D-Maspeth) acted to intimidate the campaign volunteers of Councilmember Crowley's primary challenger, Robert Holden, sometimes by invoking violent language. One Holden campaign volunteer said that she was yelled at and disparaged by representatives of Councilmember Crowley's campaign, including by Councilmember Crowley and her son, Owen O'Hara. In one instance, the source said that Mr. O'Hara told the Holden campaign volunteer to perform a sex act on him and made a corresponding rude sexual gesture by grabbing his loins, according to information received by Progress Queens.
Wow, great parenting job there, Liz! You must be so proud.
Similar accusations of intimidation were also made by a second Holden campaign volunteer, revealing a possible pattern. The second Holden campaign volunteer informed Progress Queens that she was similarly yelled at when she was trying to inform voters about Councilmember Crowley's record and policy positions, and, in response, one male Crowley campaign representative came up to the second Holden campaign volunteer and threatened to silence her by shoving his penis into her mouth. Both Holden campaign volunteers told Progress Queens that they were called "white trash" by Councilmember Crowley herself or by other Crowley campaign representatives. Other forms of possible misconduct by the Crowley campaign including the spreading or mailing of false information about Mr. Holden ; engaging in ageism ; and allegations that Councilmember Crowley used her official capacity as an elected official to gain entry into private apartment buildings to distribute campaign literature, opportunities that were denied to Mr. Holden's campaign. For this report, Councilmember Crowley did not answer an interview request.

In a wide-ranging interview with Progress Queens, Mr. Holden questioned the personal character of Councilmember Crowley over the allegations of misconduct by her and her campaign representatives, saying, in part, that, "It's one thing to give out literature, but it's another thing to be harassing," he said, referring to the treatment his campaign volunteers received from the Crowley campaign. Of the sexually-violent use of language against his campaign volunteers, Mr. Holden said, "It's disgraceful."
So instead of either denying these things happened or apologizing and saying it would never happen again, Crowley decided to say nothing. It's hard to fathom how the Democratic, Working Families and Women's Equality Parties' candidate tolerates threats of sexual violence against women, but then again she also featured her sibling who was convicted of sexual assault in her "family values" mailers to Dem primary voters...

There's also only one candidate in the race for the 30th District that is running on a feminist platform who had a "personal relationship" with a married assembly member in return for money and gifts. She's even featured on Brian McLaughlin's Wikipedia page.

Liz Crowley: A proud role model for Queens women!

Willets Point businesses evicted from Queens now evicted from the Bronx

On September 21, 2017, video producer Robert LoScalzo attended a press conference of Sunrise Cooperative, a group of Willets Point automotive businesses, held at the Bronx site where they intended to relocate. They announced their pending eviction from the Bronx site, and requested that Mayor Bill de Blasio intervene. LoScalzo published this brief video synopsis. (c) 2017 LoScalzo Media Design LLC.

Ozone Park cellar fire kills sleeping landlord

From CBS 2:

Police say 68-year-old landlord Mohinder Singh was in the basement of the home and didn’t make it out alive. When the more than 60 firefighters got the blaze under control, they found him lifeless inside.

Roughly nine others who live in three-story multi-family home woke up to thick smoke. They ran out in pajamas, rushing to safety.

According to DOB records, this house is not a "multi-family" but a 2 family. That's also a cellar and not a basement. No one should have been sleeping in the cellar.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

More city workers = more city vehicles

From the NY Times:

If it seems like traffic in New York City might be a bit worse than before, there may be an unexpected factor: city workers.

New York City’s sprawling municipal work force is driving more than it used to, city statistics reveal. City vehicles logged 102 million miles on the road in the last fiscal year, which ended in June, 25 percent more miles than in 2014, Mayor Bill de Blasio’s first year in office.

Accidents are also up: Workers driving city-owned cars for the Department of Buildings were involved in 98 crashes last fiscal year, an increase from 22 crashes four years ago. Department of Correction vehicles were involved in 116 crashes, nearly double the number four years ago. The Department of Transportation and Parks Department fared no better.

The city’s fleet — everything from take-home cars to garbage trucks — now exceeds 30,000 vehicles, 10 percent larger than when Mr. de Blasio took office.

Crowley, Van Bramer, under investigation for breaking DOE rules

From Progress Queens:

Allegations that New York City Councilmembers Elizabeth Crowley (D-Maspeth) and Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) were campaigning on the day before the September Democratic Party primary on school property have been referred to the Office of Special Investigations of the New York City Department of Education. Information of the referral was provided to Progress Queens by a source. According to Chancellor's Regulation D-130, "no candidate for public office, including an elected official seeking reelection, may visit any Department of Education school building during the 60 calendar days prior to a primary and/or election," except in accordance with some exceptions.

In particular, Chancellor's Regulation D-130 generally prohibits the use of school property for electioneering work during after-school hours. In a prior report, Progress Queens published a photograph showing Councilmember Van Bramer standing next to Councilmember Crowley, who was hiding behind a gentleman. The officials were standing on the playground of Queens P.S. 229. According to information received by Progress Queens, the photograph of Councilmembers Crowley and Van Bramer was taken after children were let out of class on Monday, 11 September. The only exceptions to the general prohibition of after-school use of school property for electioneering work would be for candidate forums, provided, however, that all candidates would have been invited for the forum, or if public officials were engaged in use of public school property in a manner that was directly related to their official public duties and responsibilities.

After publication of the prior report by Progress Queens, a representative of Councilmember Crowley's committee to reelect declined an opportunity to issue a statement to Progress Queens in response to the prior report. Councilmember Van Bramer has not answered prior requests for interviews, and he did not immediately answer a request for comment for this report.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Beware of the Metro Ave ticket trap

From CBS 2:

On Thursday night, CBS2 shared a story about drivers in Queens who felt they were being forced into a ticket trap, with police standing by to write them up for blocking the box.

In the 24 hours since, more drivers have come forward with the same complaint. So CBS2’s Jessica Layton demanded answers from the NYPD.

The corner was empty of the NYPD traffic enforcement officers Friday, which came as a welcome sign for drivers like Angela Taveras, who said for weeks the agents have been pouncing on people who get caught in the chaotic intersection while doing nothing to help traffic move along.

Finally, some good news...

What a difference it makes not having Mary Beth Betts around!

Friday, September 22, 2017

2 construction workers die on the job

From NY1:

A deadly fall brought work at the site of the Manhattan West development to a standstill after two men tumbled out of a bucket lift to the ground below.

Video shows the moments after the accident at the 62-story mixed-use building going up at 9th Avenue and 33rd street.

EMS crews rushed one victim to the hospital with head and body trauma. The other was pronounced dead at the scene.

The victims were both 45 years old. Witnesses say both men appeared to be wearing safety harnesses but may not have had them secured.

It happened just hours after another fatal fall in Lower Manhattan Thursday morning. Police say Juan Chonillo fell through an open hole and dropped 27 stories to his death at a construction site on Maiden Lane. According to relatives, the 43-year-old father of six was supporting family in Ecuador.

Great moments in overdevelopment history

From DNA Info:

More than half of the city’s 1.1 million public school students attend overcrowded schools, according to a new report from the watchdog group Class Size Matters.

Despite the Department of Education’s addition of more seats and new buildings, many families feel the situation is getting worse as existing seats are being chipped away due to lost leases, schools being co-located together, or the elimination of annexes, mini-buildings and trailers housing temporary classrooms, according to the report released Thursday.

As trailers housing temporary classrooms — with nearly 8,000 seats — are expected to be phased out entirely, it may further strain school buildings, the report warns.

Roughly 575,000 students attended schools in 2015-2016 that were at or above 100 percent capacity, the report said, citing Department of Education enrollment data.

From the Queens Chronicle:

School Construction Authority officials on Monday said they have the money ready to alleviate overcrowding in overutilized school districts, such as SD 24 in southwest and western Queens, but a lack of available space remains their main obstacle.

“The hardest job of the SCA is to try and find real estate,” Michael Mirisola, director of External Affairs at the SCA, told members of the Borough Board during the annual update of the agency’s five-year capital plan. “We have brokers in every borough, in every district. We are constantly doing tests to see if a site will hold a school. We go through that exercise many times during the week and some of them just don’t pass muster.”

School District 24 has consistently been one of the most overcrowded in the city — as of February of this year, its average school utilization rate was 115 percent.
Mirisola said the SCA is always open to tips on available space to fit a school, yet many suggested sites are ultimately deemed unfit for an educational facility.

“Generally, the No. 1 reason is size,” he said. “If it’s a funded need and we don’t have a project, it’s because we’re looking for a location.”

Lots suitable for a new school site must be 20,000 square feet, the SCA official said, in addition to “other specifications and other requirements.”

They're all connected

More from Progress Queens:

In Queens, faith in Government institutions was revealed to be severely lacking after New York City Council candidate Paul Graziano filed a civil petition in New York State Supreme Court for Queens County, alleging criminality, such as fraud and forgery, in the ballot petitioning process carried out by incumbent Councilmember Paul Vallone (D-Bayside). On the Queens Crap blog, which attracts some of Queens most formidable civic-minded activists, some of the comments posted by readers to news of the court filing expressed concern that the justices of the Queens County court system would not be able to independently oversee the Court case. To some Government reform activists in Queens, the Graziano Court petition served as a symbolic Rorschach test, providing insight into the public's lack of faith in the Queens County court system. Many comments on the Queens Crap post raised questions about the "allegiance" that justices in the Queens County court system owed to leaders of the Queens Democratic County Committee, expressed concern that Mr. Graziano would not be able to receive a "fair hearing," and invoked the resignation that the "the [Queens] Machine will work to stop this at all costs."

Concerns about possible interference by the Queens Democratic County Committee were rooted in the fact that the County committee supports the reelection of incumbents as a way to earn political allegiance and to create a lockstep on power and authority over local elected officials. The role of money in politics is also a factor, because the County committee can marshal resources to support the reelection of incumbents, leaving primary challengers at a distinct financial disadvantage. Indeed, as reported by Progress Queens, Mr. Graziano ultimately discontinued his Court petition due to the high anticipated costs of having to litigate his case, reaffirming the belief to some Government reform activists that the role of money in politics even extends to being able to successfully petition the Government for a redress of grievances. The allegations made by the Graziano campaign against the Vallone campaign heightened new fears about the integrity of the voting process in Queens. In the 2016 election cycle, it was revealed that the New York City Board of Elections purged large numbers of voters without cause, triggering the filing of a Federal civil rights complaint in Brooklyn Federal Court that was later joined by both the U.S. Attorney's Office, headed at that time then by Mr. Capers, and by the office of the State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman (D-New York). To some Government reform activists, it has appeared that Queens voters have been disenfranchised for two years in a row, first, in 2016, when some voters were purged from the rolls, and, second, this year, when Federal prosecutors did nothing to investigate the allegations of criminality in the Graziano petition against the Vallone campaign, thereby allowing voters to cast their ballots for an incumbent, who may later be investigated for wrong-doing, although there is no indication that Federal prosecutors are presently conducting any such investigation. The press office of the U.S. Attorney's Office in Brooklyn did not answer advance questions submitted by Progress Queens for this report.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

The U.S. Attorneys and the Queens Machine

This article is lengthy and covers many topics, so we'll be linking to different segments of it over the next few days...

From Progress Queens:

Compounding the unknowns in the face of rapidly-changing circumstances facing the two, new Acting U.S. Attorneys in New York City are lingering questions about why some political corruption scandals are investigated, but not all. As reported in recent years by Progress Queens, questions have largely remained unanswered about funding received by a nonprofit group affiliated with New York State Senator José Peralta ; about reportedly preferential treatment showed to a campaign consulting company by the New York Democratic Senate Campaign Committee ; and with new allegations that politically-connected lawyers were earning enormous profits from, or wielding considerable influence as a result of, their connections to the Queens Democratic County Committee. The 2017 Municipal election cycle has raised new questions about the role of money in local politics and about public ethics, but there has been no apparent response from the U.S. Attorney's Office in Brooklyn, headed by Acting U.S. Attorney Rohde, who has jurisdiction over Queens.

No agency wants to deal with homeless woman's pile of junk

From NBC 4:

An apparently homeless woman's pile of belongings has residents in Bath Beach concerned about safety. Gus Rosendale reports.

Pols side with Spectrum strikers and not their victims

From CBS 2:

Thousands of union workers rallied in both Downtown Brooklyn and Foley Square in Lower Manhattan in Monday, in support of the striking Spectrum cable workers.

Cuomo and de Blasio are offering fiery rhetoric.

“It’s about respect and fairness,” Cuomo said.

But the residents and businesses on Austin Street in Forest Hills, Queens want fairness and respect too. It is one of many neighborhoods hit by massive outages in their cable, internet and phone services when the workers walked off the job on March 28.

There have been about 100 attacks on the fiber optics system – acts of vandalism that have left thousands and thousands inconvenienced since the strike began.

“I assume there’s some kind of money involved,” said Bareburger manager Adam Bariando. “As a person who campaigned talking about the people; the working class, I would expect him to side with us.”

CB7 wants seat at the Willets Point table

From the Queens Tribune:

The city has been “delinquent” in its discussions with Community Board 7 on the future of the troubled Willets Point development, according to the board’s First Vice Chairman Chuck Apelian. And at Monday night’s quarterly meeting with the project’s stakeholders, Apelian put the city and developers on notice.

“I want to be very clear,” Apelian said. “We expect to be involved.”

The future of Willets Point has been uncertain since a June ruling by the Court of Appeals halted a major part of the proposed development, a mega mall known as Willets West, because it was planned for a parcel of land connected to nearby Flushing Meadows Corona Park. Building the mall on public parkland would require approval from the state legislature, the court said.

And while Willets West was only part of a larger development plan that included hundreds of affordable housing units and environmental remediation, the developers maintained that the mall was the “economic engine” that would make the project possible. Now, the developers and city are deciding whether to pursue a long campaign for state approval or make changes to their plan. But changes to the project could concern Community Board 7, which approved the most recent proposal in 2013.

“If the original concept has been now modified, that’s not what this board voted on,” CB 7 Chairman Eugene Kelty said on Monday.

Nate Bliss, of the city’s Economic Development Corporation, said that, regardless, the city plans on being a partner with the community on the process. Apelian expressed hope that this was true. If the parkland was not alienated by the state legislature and Willets West was abandoned, he expects the project could change “dramatically.”

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

How they do things in Brooklyn

From Crains:

In 2008, Daniel Squadron clawed his way into the state Senate with a hard-fought upset in the Democratic primary, earning 12,688 votes to longtime incumbent Martin Connor's 10,757.

This weekend, Assemblyman Brian Kavanagh effectively won Squadron's seat with 32 votes to Paul Newell's 66.

Welcome to democracy—Albany style.

Kavanagh won the Democratic nomination to succeed the resigning Squadron by virtue of an obscure, backroom process. He defeated Newell, a Democratic district leader, despite the latter's capturing a majority of the vote Sunday of the Manhattan county committee—the panel of party insiders charged with handpicking the candidate.

The reason: one of Kavanagh's 32 supporters was Kings County Democratic Committee Chairman Frank Seddio. Party bylaws empowered Seddio to back the candidate of his choosing without a vote of the county committee that represents his borough's portion of the Senate district. Seddio's endorsement carried the weight of the Brooklyn contingent as if it had voted unanimously.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Cuomo sort of endorses de Blasio

From PIX11:

"The mayor won the Democratic primary. I am a Democrat," Cuomo said while explaining his endorsement. "I support Democrats and I will support Mayor de Blasio in the general (election)."

Large items pickup can be arranged via 311

From the Queens Chronicle:

The Sanitation Department last Thursday announced the launch of a service that allows city residents to schedule pickups for bulky items such as sofas, mattresses and large wooden furniture.

Those looking to have items picked up can do so by calling 311 or visiting

The service is designed for items larger than 4 by 3 feet that can be lifted by two workers and fit inside a Sanitation truck.

It does not apply to items that require special handling such as air conditioners, refrigerators, televisions or other electronics.

Developers exploit low-income housing loophole

From the Wall Street Journal:

Consider the Low Income Housing Tax Credit, created by the 1986 tax reform. This $9 billion credit masquerades as an antipoverty program, but it mainly subsidizes developers, investors and the financial industry.

To stimulate low-income housing construction, the federal government allots a share of tax credits to the states, which dole them out to selected developers. The credits cover part of the construction costs of multifamily housing projects. The developers must cap rents for a share of the units, so the benefits of the tax credit are meant to flow to tenants in the form of lower rents. Yet the developers usually sell the credits to banks and investors, often using syndication companies as intermediaries. The investors, developers and middlemen—not poor families—end up grabbing most of the benefits.

Monday, September 18, 2017

City unleashes beestorm in Kew Gardens

From DNA Info:

Swarming wasps stung several Kew Gardens residents after city workers cut down a tree housing their nest — with city officials telling concerned locals they won't remove the ornery insects because they are "an important part of nature."

The tree, on Kew Gardens Road near 82nd Road near P.S. 99, was removed by the Parks Department on Sept. 7 "due to poor health," after a resident asked the agency to inspect it, the department said.

The nest was left in the stump, with someone placing a traffic cone there with a sign reading, "Danger Bees Ahead.”

The insects, which experts said are yellow jackets, have become aggressive and started attacking passersby, residents said.

The NYPD referred DNAinfo New York to a city website titled "Bees or Wasps Complaint," which noted that the city "does not accept requests to eliminate bees or wasps from residential, commercial, or public property."

Meghan Lalor, a spokeswoman for the Parks Department, confirmed that regulation and noted that "these creatures are an important part of nature, so the City will not destroy them."

Trailer without a truck

"This was off of Woodhaven Blvd, next to the Home Depot near Metropolitan Ave.
Just the truck cab attached parked at a fire hydrant.
Typical Queens." - anonymous

Willets Point eyed as LGA parking lot

From Queens Chamber of Commerce:

While phases one and two are clearly defined and underway, there is a potential third phase in the works. Governor Andrew Cuomo has stated publicly on several occasions his desire for an AirTrain connecting the airport with the 7 subway stop and Long Island Railroad at Willets Point.

[Lysa C.] Scully said there are a number of factors at work with such a project, and all of them are currently being analyzed. Those findings and recommendations could be before the Port Authority board by the end of the year.

“There are a number of factors, if they all come to the right agreement point, that would provide a terrific opportunity,” she said. “There’s a thought about a consolidated rental car facility there and employee parking, things that today are very complicated because we’re so landlocked and we’re very respectful to the community.”

Sunday, September 17, 2017

City employee parking abuse down a little

From the Queens Chronicle:

The Chronicle’s Michael Gannon has been investigating illegal parking by city employees — or people passing themselves off as such — for about a year, mostly on the congested streets around Borough Hall in Kew Gardens and neighboring Briarwood.

On Gannon’s last surveys of the area, conducted over the last week, he still found unticketed cars with placards parked illegally: alleged cops in No Standing zones and blocking fire hydrants, for example. Not much improvement there. But what he did not see were the vests, patches and caps that had been used as substitutes. So there’s been a change, but more needs to be done. City employees have enough privileges as it is.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Trump home has illegal conversion inside

From DNA Info:

The city issued a partial vacate order at President Donald Trump’s boyhood home, which has recently been listed on Airbnb, after the owners illegally converted the basement into an apartment, city records show.

The five-bedroom, Tudor-style house, at 85-15 Wareham Place in the affluent Jamaica Estates neighborhood, where Trump lived until he was 4, was sold at an auction in January for $2.14 million. In August, the new owners listed it on Airbnb with a price tag of $725 per night.

But shortly after that, the city received complaints from Community Board 8 and via 311 about the illegal conversion conducted in the basement, officials said.

The basement is not part of the Airbnb listing which advertises the other portions of the house, according to Airbnb.

CB8 District Manager Marie Adam-Ovide said Friday that the board received a number of phone calls and emails with complaints that there are people illegally living in the basement.

“Once we receive complaints, we have to act,” she said.

CB8 then notified the Department of Buildings, which referred the case to the Mayor’s Office of Special Enforcement investigating illegal conversions.

Creedmoor of concern to local citizens

From CBS 2:

A Queens community says it has grown impatient with some patients at a famed mental health facility near their neighborhood.

They say incident involving patients range from scary to downright gross.

Matt Kruger told CBS2’s Jessica Borg the scenes he captured in a cellphone video are the reason he’s moving out of Glen Oaks.

“No one wants to see someone’s pants down to their ankles, in broad daylight, then going to the bathroom in the middle of the street,” he said.

He showed Borg the video – too graphic for TV – that showed a man doing just that right around the corner from his home.

“It’s inappropriate,” he said. “There’s kids, there’s families.”

Aggressive panhandling is also a growing concern for neighbors of a shopping plaza on Union Turnpike.

Friday, September 15, 2017

De Blasio opponent takes on project costs

From AM-NY:

Republican mayoral candidate Nicole Malliotakis and Democratic incumbent Bill de Blasio appear to have common ground on at least one issue — a proposed change to state law that would allow the city to streamline the process it uses to design and build projects.

Malliotakis, a state assemblywoman from Staten Island, speaking at a news conference in her home borough Thursday, outlined a series of proposals she said would save the city money and speed up long delayed infrastructure projects. The proposals are included in state legislation she co-sponsored this year, that failed to get approved by the legislature.

Under current law, the design phase and the construction phase of projects are contracted separately, which Malliotakis said had led to widespread delays and cost overruns that she argued could be prevented if contractors collaborated at the inception of a project.

“Current state law mandates a less efficient approach,” Malliotakis said.

To highlight the waste, she held her news conference in front of a proposed new city animal shelter that has yet to be completed five years after officials broke ground on the project. The new shelter was initially slated to cost $3.1 million, but has since increased to $8.2 million, Malliotakis said.

Residents protest taxes on co-ops and condos

From the Queens Tribune:

Residents of Bellerose’s Parkwood Estates condominium complex and members of the organization Politics Reborn turned out on Friday to protest city property taxes on condos and co-ops in front of Assemblyman David Weprin’s (D-Fresh Meadows) office.

The protesters accused the assemblyman and city of lagging on a bill aimed at capping co-op and condo assessments.

“He’s the one dragging his feet,” Alice Christy, a Parkwood Estates resident and member of Politics Reborn, said of Weprin.

Christy noted that Weprin is one of the sponsors of bill A00354A, which would cap co-op and condo assessments at 8 percent in any one year and 30 percent in any five years. The bill’s author is Assemblyman Ed Braunstein (D-Bayside). It is identical to a bill in the state Senate sponsored by state Sen. Toby Stavisky (D-Flushing).

“[The bill] just languishes there,” said Christy.

She added that 30 percent is still a big increase, “but it’s better than what we would have. Our community is middle-middle class. We can’t afford homes in the area, yet we have too much money for affordable housing. We need this to pass. The city commissioner of finance is just kicking this down the road. I’m not giving up. I’m a tiger.”

The condominium has a large senior population. Christy, who is a senior, said that with property taxes rising, her fees have risen as well. She added that the funds seniors receive from the city’s STAR program have not increased.

Christy and fellow organizers at Friday’s protest went door to door, persuading residents of the condominium to sign more than 250 letters urging Weprin to push the legislation.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

A more fiscally prudent transportation plan

From Crains:

Rather than spend several hundred million dollars to build a light-rail system which could take a decade or more, why not ask the LIRR to resume service on this corridor? It could run a two-car scoot service reconnecting Long Island City, Glendale and Middle Village with other communities including Richmond Hill and other intermediate stops to Jamaica. The LIRR could use existing equipment, which would afford far earlier implementation of service than light rail. This would provide connections east bound to the J/Z and E subway lines, Kennedy Airport via AirTrain and the LIRR's Jamaica Station. Queens residents traveling to jobs and colleges in Nassau and Suffolk counties would have access to all LIRR branches except the Port Washington line. Ditto for those traveling to the Barclay Center and downtown Brooklyn via the LIRR Atlantic Avenue branch. There would also be connections westbound at either the Hunters Point or Long Island City LIRR stations to the 7 subway line.

Last survivor standing no more

From Brownstoner:

A curious survivor, a freestanding Second Empire mansion at 489 Washington Avenue in Clinton Hill, will soon vanish, to be replaced by an apartment building. Workers were demolishing the upper floors of the already gutted house before Labor Day weekend, knocking holes in the roof and walls.

The faux-stone sheathing is gone, the stoop demolished, and windows and masonry have been removed from the side facades.

The mansard-roofed house is located just outside the Clinton Hill Historic District, and therefore unprotected. Plans call for conversion of the property into a four-story, 21-unit residential building.

This stretch of Washington Avenue, between Gates and Fulton streets, was once scattered with grand 19th century residences on generous lots. In the 20th century, many of the large homes were transformed into religious, institutional or commercial uses. Today, only a few of the houses remain, interrupted by new condos and 20th century apartments.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Park vs. towers in LIC

From LIC Post:

The city’s decision to appoint a for-profit developer to build 1,000 high-rise apartments on public land along the Long Island City waterfront was universally panned by residents at last week’s Community Board 2 meeting.

Earlier this summer, the city—through the Economic Development Corp– announced that it had selected TF Cornerstone, the Manhattan-based real estate firm, to develop a 4.5 acre site near 44th Drive and 5th Street. The project could bring 1,000 apartments, 400,000-square-feet of commercial space, and a school for 600 students at an estimated cost of $925 million. One-quarter of the apartments will be classified as “affordable.”

Residents who spoke at CB2’s monthly meeting in Sunnyside on Thursday said there was little need for more high-end, luxury towers in Hunters Point, especially when they’d be built on city-owned land by a for-profit developer.

Several residents said the site should be converted into a park.

Locals support the Flagship Diner

From DNA Info:

Dozens of Queens residents and several elected officials came together for a rally Tuesday to support a popular diner, which is currently facing a court battle with a new landlord after more than five decades in business.

The owners of The Flagship Diner, at 138-30 Queens Blvd., which has been a community fixture since 1965, said their new landlord — Jamaica-based White Rock Management — began harassing them shortly after White Rockpurchased the site for $6.125 million last year and promptly obtained permits to knock down the restaurant and replace it with a seven-story, mixed-use apartment building containing 64 units.

On Tuesday, patrons holding signs that read “No more buildings — Save the Flagship,” “Stop Unfair Landlord” and “Stop the Harassment White Rock,” said that the diner has been like a “second home.”

The diner's owners — Vincent Pupplo, Jimmy Skartsiaris and Frank Lountzis — said they were initially hoping to keep their business open until their lease expires in October 2019, and then most likely retire.

The landlord proposed to buy them out, offering each of them $100,000, but they turned it down, the owners said.

Since then, they said, the landlord sent them several "notices to cure," requiring them to address a variety of issues within five days if they wanted to avoid eviction, including accusations that their parking lot, sidewalk and back steps are in disrepair and have to be ripped up and replaced immediately.

The owners said that their lawyer was able to obtain a “Yellowstone injunction” for each notice which temporarily suspends the time period during which they must address the issues.

In July, the restaurant owners filed a lawsuit in the Queens County Supreme Court accusing the landlord of harassing them, with the first hearing scheduled for Sept. 19.

When will we learn?

Well folks, I decided last night that I would have a drink for every incumbent that got defeated in the primary. It was a rather sober evening.

The closest race was Vallone-Graziano. Only 500 votes separated them and the final tally was Graziano 45% and Vallone 55%. I guess there are a lot of Democrats in that district who don't like fraud, yet there are even more who are ok with it.

Of the open seats, the machine-backed candidates, Francisco Moya and Adrienne Adams, both won their respective races.

Perhaps if the turnout hadn't been so abysmal things would be different, but here we are once again after the primary with the same tired old "Virginia Joe"-endorsed candidates likely to cruise to victory in November.

God bless America!

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

LI town has illegal conversion problem

From CBS:

Tucked outside of Stony Brook University, they often stick out like sore thumbs — run down, lawns torn up for parking — and neighbors fed up over an explosion of illegal off campus student housing.

“Weeds where flowers used to grow are no like 4 to 5 feet tall, there is garbage all over the street, and cars, we can’t get out of our driveways,” Diane Sander said.

“The deplorable conditions of the homes. If they would upkeep the houses and keep them neat and clean and trimmed, we wouldn’t even notice them,” Bruce Sander said.

Residents count more than 300 houses owned by absentee landlords who subdivide single family homes and pack in the renters.

“We have five in this house,” one student said.

Brookhaven town law prohibits more than four unrelated people under one roof.