Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Bill's with Shola

From the Daily News:

Mayor de Blasio is still standing by his New York City Housing Authority Chairwoman Shola Olatoye — and channeling a president he doesn’t quote very often in doing so.

“As George W. Bush once famously said, ‘I'm the decider,’” de Blasio told reporters Tuesday. “Hold me responsible for the decision. I am responsible. She is the right person to lead.”

De Blasio has repeatedly defended Olatoye as the authority she leads has come under fire for years of failing to conduct lead inspections in public housing apartments — and for falsely claiming on federal documents they’d been done even when she knew they had not.

Crowley housing plan backed by developers

From Progress Queens:

As U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-Queens) begins a reelection year, a real estate-backed housing group has expressed political support for his housing proposals. An election year platform put forth by U.S. Rep. Crowley, named, "A Better Deal for Queens and The Bronx," includes a proposal to offer tenants rent relief in the form of a tax credit. U.S. Rep. Crowley has received political support from the real estate-linked group as published reports have revealed that he is relying on real estate developers as sources of donations to three of his political committees.

The group that is backing U.S. Rep. Crowley's housing policies, the New York Housing Conference Inc., is a real estate developer-backed nonprofit group. Its Board of Directors includes Mark Willis, a senior policy fellow at the NYU Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy, a political think tank that is funded by real estate developers. Its Advisory Board includes Aaron Koffman from The Hudson Companies Inc. and Ronald Moelis from L+M Development Partners. The Hudson Companies Inc. was briefly the subject of a probe in connection with a reported Federal corruption investigation after the de Blasio administration agreed to sell the Brooklyn Heights Branch of the Brooklyn Public Library to the politically-connected real estate development firm. L+M Development Partners was one of the real estate development firms that invested in a consortium that, in turn, bought, in secret, a portfolio of project-based, Section 8 apartment complexes from a cash-strapped New York City Housing Authority.

The tax credit that U.S. Rep. Crowley is offering tenants, which is the key provision in the Rent Relief Act (H.R. 3670), stops short of regulating residential rents paid for by tenants. Instead, it forces the Government to essentially subsidise the upward spiraling rents paid by tenants by giving tenants a tax credit for rent paid in excess of 30 per cent. of a tenant's income. Separately, U.S. Rep. Crowley has expressed support for the Family Self-Sufficiency Act (H.R. 4258), which would advance the Government's receding commitment to public housing under the New Deal-era law, the Housing Act of 1937 and, instead, place more emphasis on the Section 8 housing voucher program.

Rachel Fee, the executive director of New York Housing Coalition Inc., did not immediately answer advance questions submitted by Progress Queens for this report. Lauren French, a spokesperson for U.S. Rep. Crowley, did not answer a press inquiry.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Tow truck company's practices being questioned

From PIX11:

A real-life parking wars situation is playing out in Elmhurst, Queens.

As one private tow company is making quite the bit of cash off of one lot, customers of two restaurants in the same location say they’re being targeted and towed despite following the rules on posted signs.

“Bianca” asked PIX11 not to show her face or use her real name since she is a city employee, but she told us she is furious and feels as though she and others are being scammed.

On Friday night, Bianca said she parked her car in a private lot located on 59th Avenue in Elmhurst, right next to the Queens Center Mall. With plans to meet her family inside Olive Garden, she says she decided to peek into Cheesecake Factory across the street to check out the line.

“That was literally a three minute layover. I literally walked across the street saw the line was crazy and walked right to Olive Garden,” explained Bianca.

Following dinner at the Olive Garden, Bianca says her car was gone and Done Deal Collision out of College Point had towed Bianca's car.

“He was like, 'yeah I took your car. You left the premises,'" Bianca recalled. "I'm like bro your sign says Olive Garden and Longhorn Steakhouses."

Despite showing receipts and trying to prove she followed the rules of the lot as stated. Bianca said she had to fork over $250, far more than what's indicated on this sign to get her car back that night.

Continuing the fight against scaffold blight

From PIX11:

There are more than 280 miles of scaffolding all around the city— and one city council member is renewing his push to help bring down as much of it as possible.

The scaffolding and elevated sheds are designed to protect pedestrians from construction and crumbling facades.

However, with almost 8000 buildings wrapped in scaffolding, City Councilmember Ben Kallos said what it comes down to is many landlords just leave the scaffolding up instead of laying down cash for necessary repairs.

“We should not see scaffolding sitting with no work getting done for seven days, and they need to get the work done within six months of the city will step in and do the work and make the bad landlords pay,” Kallos said.

Kallos pushed for the new law last legislative session but ran out of time. He will reintroduce the bill this week, pledging to continue the fight.

Monday, January 29, 2018

Maspeth developer attacks police

From the Daily News:

Prosecutors have charged a Queens homeowner with hurling a brick at a cop during a brawl over renovation permits, authorities said Wednesday.

Edward Wysk, 51, allegedly struck NYPD Officer Randy Paulsaint with the brick on Maspeth Ave. near 59th St. in Maspeth around 12:30 p.m. Tuesday.

Wysk is also accused of assaulting Paulsaint’s partner and a city Department of Environmental Protection agent who was issuing a stop-work order on his home because he didn’t have the proper paperwork to show that asbestos had been removed from the building.

Wysk was in the middle of gutting and renovating the Maspeth property when DEP Agent Michael Lateef arrived and told him he had to shut down over the paperwork issue.

Outraged, Wysk ripped the stop-work order and Lateef’s credentials from his hands and threw them on the ground, according to prosecutors. When Lateef called police, Wysk smashed the agent’s phone against a wall, authorities said.

When Officer Paulsaint and his partner, Officer Matthew Portales, arrived and approached the front door, Wysk allegedly hurled a brick from inside the home.

The flying brick crashed through a window and struck Paulsaint in the head. Portales ran in to arrest Wysk and injured his arm in the scuffle.

Responding officers took Wysk into custody along with two construction workers who were initially thought to be the brick tossers. The workers were questioned and released without charges, officials said.

2 de Blasio donors charged, but not de Blasio himself

From the NY Times:

A major donor to Mayor Bill de Blasio pleaded guilty to using campaign contributions as bribes to buy better treatment at City Hall — and yet the mayor, who took the money and aided the donor, was not charged with a crime.

Another donor pleaded guilty to honest services wire fraud that included making political contributions in exchange of official action — and again, no charges for the mayor.

The outcome has led some, including the WNYC radio host Brian Lehrer, to an obvious question.

“How can someone be guilty of giving you a bribe and you not be guilty of taking it?” Mr. Lehrer asked Mr. de Blasio on Friday.

It’s abundantly clear,” the mayor said. But it wasn’t.

“This man did a lot of bad things in a lot of places,” Mr. de Blasio said of Harendra Singh, a restaurateur who pleaded guilty to bribing the mayor. “I’m someone who never did, never would be involved in such an effort.”

Several factors were in play.

The United States Supreme Court set a much higher bar for public corruption cases with its 2016 ruling that reversed the bribery conviction of the former Virginia governor, Bob McDonnell. In the ruling, the court determined that making introductions or setting up meetings, even in exchange for gifts or financial benefits, did not constitute a crime.

As a consequence, several prominent corruption convictions were set aside, and prosecutors have become more cautious in taking on such cases.

Furthermore, bribery cases against elected officials based on campaign contributions are rare, the legal experts said. That is in part because the Supreme Court has drawn a clear distinction between a legal contribution to a political campaign and other kinds of payments like cash, gifts or other benefits that in effect go into the pocket of a public servant.

It may also have been that it was simply easier for prosecutors to bring charges against the person buying access, because the men admitted guilt, in the face of abundant evidence, as part of plea deals in which they agreed to cooperate with the government against other defendants. Mr. Singh is a witness in corruption trials on Long Island; Mr. Rechnitz testified against a labor official who was accused of steering millions of dollars of officers’ retirement funds into a hedge fund in exchange for promised kickbacks.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Track repair is disrupting Woodside

From Sunnyside Post:

Enraged Woodside residents, business owners, and community leaders are demanding that the MTA stop wreaking havoc on the neighborhood—once again—as the agency snarls Roosevelt Avenue and surrounding streets with its work along the 7 line.

The MTA has been working to repair the express and local tracks at the 61st Street station since Jan. 5, but the multiple cranes clogging up traffic and sudden no-parking regulations for hours on end have put a dent on small businesses and establishments along the avenue.

“We need safe, reliable transit,” said Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Woodside) outside Donavan’s Pub at the corner of 58th Street and Roosevelt Avenue. “But you can’t destroy a neighborhood in the process of saving a train line.”

Pols oppose jail at Fort Totten

From the Queens Tribune:

State Assemblyman Edward Braunstein (D-Bayside) and Councilman Paul Vallone (D-Bayside) said that they are opposed to a proposal to create a new city Department of Correction training facility at Fort Totten.

Braunstein said that, according to a document his office received that was dated Sept. 26, the city has moved to re-use a portion of Fort Totten to create permanent home for a city Department of Correction training academy. In 2015, the city’s Fire Department—in collaboration with the city’s Office of Management and Budget and Design and Construction Department—initiated the first of two consultant studies on the proposal. An analysis of requirements for the site is expected to be completed this month, according to the document.

“I strongly oppose the creation of a new DOC training facility at Fort Totten and find it outrageous that the city is secretly considering this proposal, which could have a detrimental impact on our parkland,” Braunstein said. “Recently, Community Board 7 notified my office that DOC was considering a facility at Fort Totten. Upon receiving this information, my requests to various city agencies have failed to result in any substantive information. It is absolutely unacceptable that a proposal of this magnitude was not shared with elected officials and the community board for over two years.”

Braunstein called on Mayor Bill de Blasio to abandon plans for the facility at Fort Totten, while Vallone added that Bayside was the wrong community in which to locate such a facility.

From QNS:

In a letter addressed to Mayor Bill de Blasio on Jan. 11, state Senator Tony Avella raised concerns with the city’s “serious lack of information” in reference to certain project propositions by the Fire Department and Department of Corrections (DOC). The FDNY has proposed building a wind turbine at the Bay Terrace location, while DOC considers using it as the site of its new training academy.

After an alleged runaround from city agencies, Avella has filed a Freedom of Information (FOIL) request for documents pertaining to both proposals.

“What are you hiding?” Avella writes. “I would appreciate a full briefing on your plans by all those involved.”

Fort Totten — formally an active U.S. Army installation in the Bay Terrace section of the neighborhood — is currently used by the U.S. Army Reserve, NYPD and FDNY. Certain portions are designated public park areas.

For FY 2018, DOC allocated $1.1 billion to fund a “New Jail Facilities” project, prompted by Mayor de Blasio’s push to close Rikers Island and create neighborhood-based and decentralized jail sites. Avella questioned whether DOC’s interest in Fort Totten pertained to this move.

“I hope this is not a hidden plan to place a jail on the Fort,” Avella writes. “Such an attempt would be fought vigorously by the whole community.”

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Show Palace shut down

From the Queens Chronicle:

Lawmakers and other opponents of Long Island City strip club Show Palace are celebrating this week after police shut down the problematic venue last Saturday.

Armed with a court order, officers from the NYPD’s vice unit walked into the 45-20 21 St. all-nude venue around midnight, ordered everyone to leave and posted a notice on the door, saying it had been shut down by the authorities.

The closure came a little more than a month after police raided the venue and arrested five women on prostitution-related charges — the latest in a laundry list of alleged crimes, including drug offenses and a handful of nonfatal shootings, that have either occurred there or were otherwise stemmed from confrontations at Show Palace over the years.

Open letter to de Blasio from 14-year old on overdevelopment

Friday, January 26, 2018

De Blasio donor pleaded guilty to bribery

From the NY Times:

A campaign donor to Mayor Bill de Blasio secretly pleaded guilty in federal court to bribery, admitting that he used his contributions to the mayor to try to win favorable lease terms for a restaurant he owned on city property, newly unsealed court records show.

While the court papers included no charges against Mr. de Blasio or other city officials, a federal criminal information in the case makes it clear that the donor, Harendra Singh, got something in return.

The court documents said that the mayor took steps to benefit Mr. Singh in exchange for the contributions, and that an unnamed senior aide to Mr. de Blasio arranged a meeting to pressure a city agency to offer more favorable terms to Mr. Singh.

Last March, federal prosecutors who had investigated Mr. de Blasio’s fund-raising decided not to bring criminal charges against the mayor based on what they described as a high burden of proof and the challenge of proving corruption without “evidence of personal profit.”

Mr. Singh’s plea hearing occurred in a sealed Long Island courtroom before United States District Court Judge Sandra J. Feuerstein on Oct. 17, 2016; Mr. Singh said that his donations were intended as part of a quid pro quo, according to a transcript of the hearing.

“I gave these donations to the elected official in exchange for efforts by that official and other city officials to obtain a lease renewal from the city agency for my restaurant on terms that were favorable to me,” he said.

Mr. Singh did not name the mayor, and the court documents refer instead to an “Official #2” who received the donations; various details in the documents make it clear that the unnamed official is Mr. de Blasio.

Zombie home is a blight on Flushing

From CBS 2:

Fed up in Flushing – residents say home in the Queens neighborhood has been neglected for decades, and they are having a really hard time getting anything done about it.

As CBS2’s Andrea Grymes reported, the windows at the house are boarded up and part of the back of the roof has completely collapsed. Debris litters the yard.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Construction crane mishap in Flushing

From NBC:

A construction truck suddenly fell on its side as crews were using its boom to haul beams at a site in Queens Wednesday, sending the crane-like piece of machinery onto several parked cars and partially into a wall nearby, according to buildings officials and dramatic surveillance video from the scene.

Spotlight on the Speaker

From CBS 2:

Corey Johnson, the new speaker of the New York City Council, vows to be independent and mount his own investigations of city agencies.

And if Johnson does not agree with mayoral policies, he says he will challenge them.

CBS2 Political Reporter Marcia Kramer said Tuesday that there is a new wind blowing at City Hall.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Illegal construction leaves family homeless

From CBS:

A rally was held Tuesday in support of tenants at a Brooklyn building – one in particular who has been forced to live in a shelter due to illegal construction by the landlord.

As WCBS 880’s John Metaxas reported, some 50 protesters gathered in front of Brooklyn Housing Court in support of Najary Torres and her family.

The Mexican immigrant told a tale of bewildering governmental apathy. She has been forced to live in a city shelter with her husband and three young daughters for the last two and a half years, after the city forced her out of her apartment in the building at 94 Franklin Ave. in North Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn.

The vacate order came after her landlord built an illegal synagogue in the backyard , blocking access and creating an unsafe condition.

2 workers die in falls in separate incidents

From PIX11:

A 26-year-old man doing repairs on a Queens roof was the second man killed in a fall Tuesday.

John Davie fell to the ground from a Saunders Street building around just before 3 p.m., police said. He suffered severe trauma to his head and body in the fall.

A 33-year-old elevator technician was killed in a fall earlier Tuesday. Jucong Wu fell down an elevator shaft while working at a construction site in the Flatiron District. Wu plunged from the ninth floor where he was working to the bottom of the elevator shaft just before 9 a.m.

A man was killed when he fell down an elevator shaft at a Manhattan construction site.

He was employed by U-Tek Elevator, Inc., an NYC Department of Buildings official said. The elevator firm was installing an elevator car at a new 12-story hotel project when the worker, who was not tied to a protective line, fell.

The Buildings Department issued a full stop-work order on the construction project.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Developer claims woman is anti-Semitic for complaining to DOB

From PIX11:

Julita Gontarczyk is involved in a bitter dispute. She and her husband own a home in Maspeth, Queens. A developer, Orin Effi, is putting up several homes in the space next door. What began amicably enough has deteriorated in a war of words, texts, complaints, and calls to the police.

“Because we have a common wall there is a lot of problems going on,” Julita told us. “Rain would come into his house. Flood his basement and flood my basement.”

Julita says her complaints to Effi fell on deaf ears. She complained to 311, the Health Department and the Department of Buildings. Some stop work orders were issued, infuriating Orin Effi. He says Julita made false accusations and blames the fact that she’s Polish and he’s an Israeli Jew.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Queensway compromise?

From the Queens Chronicle:

The Regional Plan Association isn’t choosing the QueensWay over the Queens Rail, or vice versa.

Instead, the transportation think tank has partially endorsed both ideas for the abandoned 3.5-mile Rockaway Beach Rail Line.

In its Fourth Regional Plan, issued late last month, the RPA called for the creation of the QueensWay — a proposed park along the elevated right-of-way — between Rego Park and Woodhaven.

From Atlantic Avenue south into Ozone Park, the RPA has endorsed the reactivation of train service along the defunct line.

Under the Fourth Regional Plan, the Queens Rail would run between Atlantic Avenue and Kennedy Airport with a stop near Aqueduct Race Track in between.

At Atlantic Avenue, the service would connect to the Long Island Rail Road’s Atlantic Branch — which itself would be extended west from Atlantic Terminal in Brooklyn into Manhattan.

That would give train proponents that 30-minute one-seat ride from Manhattan to JFK many have advocated for.

REBNY wants to eliminate building height limits

From Crains:

This year the Real Estate Board of New York plans on pushing Albany to lift a cap that has long limited the size of new apartment buildings in New York City, the trade group’s president said Thursday.

Current state rules restrict the square footage of a residential building to 12 times its lot size. While this has resulted in plenty of tall Manhattan apartment towers, developers have the capability to go much higher. Commercial office buildings are routinely built to twice this density, and some of them have later been converted to apartments.

Unlocking greater density in transit-rich areas could help chip away at the city’s housing crunch and provide affordable housing, said REBNY President John Banks, who represents many of the landlords and developers who would construct the buildings.

Banks envisions allowing buildings to exceed the cap if they are rezoned, which would require going through the public-review process and including affordable housing. It is a concept that both REBNY and others have embraced in the past. Mayor Bill de Blasio suggested nixing the density cap in his 2014 housing plan. And the Regional Plan Association included the idea in its Fourth Regional Plan. In the coming months, RPA is separately planning to release a study and start a push of its own to get rid of the limit.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Who is the real problem here?

From CBS 2:

New York state Gov. Andrew Cuomo is doing whatever is necessary to protect New Yorkers from increased federal taxes.

As CBS2 Political Reporter Marcia Kramer reported, Cuomo also answered critics who charge that governor should start at home by cutting state taxes.

On Wednesday, the New York State Tax Department issued a report offering a raft of workarounds. They include:

• Restoring the deductibility of real estate and local taxes on New York returns.

• Increasing the state’s standard deduction;

• Changing the income tax to a payroll tax;

• Allowing taxpayers to make charitable contributions to the state instead of paying taxes.

And if the IRS tries to stop him, Cuomo said he would fight it.

“If we come up with a way not to pay, I’m sure they’ll attack it and they’ll challenge it – and I have no problem with that,” Cuomo said to Kramer. “I’m a Queens boy. I don’t back down, Marcia – you know that. You know me a long time.”

But there are those who say that instead of focusing on the loss of the so-called SALT issues – the deductibility of state and local taxes – Cuomo should also get his own house in order and cut spending and taxes on the state level.

(Dear Andy: Please stop reminding us that you are a product of Queens. Thank you.)

Feds hunting down lone LaGuardia coyote

From PIX11:

A parking lot for LaGuardia employees was cleared out Wednesday while U.S. Dept. of Agriculture officials hunted for a coyote. This is according to several people who work for the company that runs the parking lot.

PIX11 has been covering the controversy over coyotes living near LaGuardia Airport for the last several years.

In 2016, a family of coyotes was caught and euthanized by government officials who said it was a necessary measure to protect the public. One coyote survived. Today, they were looking for that lone coyote.

The lot is located at the end of Berrian Boulevard. The crux of the argument - wildlife officials say the coyotes pose a danger to people but others say leave the coyote alone.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Public advocate offers to help file Whitepointe lawsuit

From the Queens Chronicle:

Whitestone residents upset with the controversial Waterpointe brownfield cleanup may have an influential new ally.

Public Advocate Letitia James said she would help in the potential launch of litigation over the situation at the We Love Whitestone Civic Association's meeting on Wednesday night.

"I'm prepared to seek and try to find a law firm that will represent you in your interests," she said. "This is totally unacceptable."

The Edgestone Group, which conducted the cleanup, plans on building 52 single-family homes at the property. The firm could not be reached for comment.

Many in the community are upset with the Department of Environmental Conversation over the project, because the agency agreed to let Edgestone pursue a different cleanup method than first planned. Rather than the Track 2 residential cleanup that was originally planned, the developer conducted a Track 4 unrestricted residential one, which is less stringent in terms of the chemicals allowed at the site.

The DEC issued a certificate of completion for the cleanup last month.

City moves families out of shelter and moves in single men

From Eyewitness News:

At a time of record homelessness in New York City, especially among homeless families, there is a controversy about a shelter in Queens.

A hotel in Long Island City is no longer taking in some homeless families.

Families were given new locations in other boroughs where they had to report Wednesday night. But the transportation promised in that letter never showed up until well after Eyewitness News called the city for answers.

Suddenly a bus which had been parked there before we arrived opened its doors and people finally started loading up. No answers, no apology, no way to live.

You can't trust the government.

BDB accused of engaging in retaliation

From the NY Times:

In 2016, as federal investigators dug into allegations that Mayor Bill de Blasio traded favors for political donations, a senior official at a city agency at the center of the probe was demoted and given a sharp pay cut.

That official, Geneith Turnbull, has filed a lawsuit against the city, alleging that her demotion was motivated by discrimination, and was meant to punish her for standing up to her supervisors.

Ms. Turnbull was a deputy commissioner at the Department of Citywide Administrative Services until she was demoted in February 2017, in what City Hall said was a reorganization of the agency. The lawsuit, filed this month in Federal District Court in Manhattan, accused the city of demoting Ms. Turnbull in retaliation for repeatedly voicing concerns about a pay raise given to one of her subordinates, who she believed had in some way helped to protect Mr. de Blasio during the federal investigation.

The lawsuit also alleges that her demotion was part of a pattern of discrimination against older, minority employees at the agency. Ms. Turnbull is black.

Ms. Turnbull was demoted on the same day that Ricardo Morales, another senior employee at the administrative services agency, was fired. Mr. Morales has filed a notice of claim with the city in preparation for a wrongful-dismissal lawsuit; Mr. Morales had resisted pressure from City Hall over negotiations between his agency and Harendra Singh, a mayoral donor who did business with the city.

Friday, January 19, 2018

An icy dilemma

From CBS 2:

A water leak is creating dangerous, slippery conditions on a sidewalk in a Queens neighborhood.

As CBS2’s Dave Carlin reported exclusively Thursday, complaints are pouring in. But the water is still flowing and turning into ice in the cold.

A two-story cascade of water has created icy dangers on the sidewalk to the below-grade Grand Central Parkway Service Road between Aberdeen and Tudor roads.

The unwanted waterfall started gushing over the top of a wall more than a week ago.

What a victory!

From Crains:

The de Blasio administration financed an all-time high 24,356 units of affordable housing last year, the mayor announced today.

That number included the construction of 7,177 apartments and the preservation of 17,359 that might have otherwise become market-rate dwellings. Half of the total will be available for residents making less than $33,400 a year, or $43,000 for a family of three, though it was unclear from the announcement what the lowest incomes served will be.

Can someone explain how only adding ~7K "affordable" apartments to the inventory is a victory? We need hundreds of thousands of affordable apartments and the city's response to this is to upzone areas that are currently "low density" and relatively affordable so that developers move in and build market rate housing. Throwing more money at landlords year after year so they keep rents stable also seems like a plan destined for future failure.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Illegal conversion could lead to a 7-year prison sentence

From CBS 2:

The insatiable demand for affordable housing in New York City at times creates an illegal supply of rentals.

Now, for the second time in five years, a Queens man has been charged with illegally converting a single-family home into a multi-unit dwelling.

On first glance, it’s not clear why the home in Elmhurst would need three satellite TV dishes. A resident insisted there was nothing illegal happening there.

“No illegal conversion,” the man who didn’t wish to be identified told CBS2’s Tony Aiello. When asked if they’d allow a camera crew in for a look, the resident claimed “it’s not a perfect day today.”

It certainly proved to be a bad day for the owners, 53-year-old Segundo Chimbay and his wife, 52-year-old Maria Chimbay. The Queens District Attorney charged them with illegally converting the home on forlay street into five small apartments, including one in the attic and one in the cellar.

Authorities say at one point fifteen people lived there, all of them sharing one kitchen on the first floor. Rents were between $750 and $1,400 a month, according to authorities. The Chimbays also allegedly told renters to ignore the vacate order placed on the front door.

Flushing landlord cheated tenants, city

From the Village Voice:

One stormy evening last summer, in a corner of a playground on Union Street in Flushing, a small crowd gathered. They were residents of 140-35 Franklin Avenue one block to the south, and they were there to hear Aaron Carr, a former state legislative aide who now runs the nonprofit Housing Rights Initiative, explain how their landlord had been swindling them out of hundreds of thousands of dollars in rent money.

Their building, a six-story apartment complex typical of this low-rise immigrant neighborhood, had turned up during a trawl by HRI staffers through city tax records, Carr explained. The building’s owner, Hewlett Associates, had filed with the state in July 2007 for a J-51 tax abatement, a rebate available to landlords who upgrade their buildings. By law, anyone getting J-51 money for a building must agree to keep it rent-regulated as long as it receives the tax break; Hewlett, however, had recently filed a property tax form with the New York City Department of Finance that casually listed its J-51 benefits while listing only 14 rent-stabilized units — in a building of 113 apartments.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Cuomo wants lots of new taxes

From Crain's:

Gov. Andrew Cuomo called for an array of new revenues to close the state’s $4 billion budget hole on Tuesday while sketching his spending plan for the coming fiscal year.

The governor asserted that Albany could reap $750 million from sales of health care nonprofits to private entities, $140 million from a new tax on health insurers, $170 million from an opioid surcharge, $300 million through a one-year suspension of certain corporate tax credits and $318 million through an internet sales tax.

The 2017 federal tax legislation eliminated the state and local tax deductions, which let New Yorkers report less on their returns to the Internal Revenue Service. Cuomo reiterated his earlier calls to restructure New York’s tax system by replacing the income tax with a payroll tax—eliminating the excise on employees for money earned, and putting the burden instead on employers for wages paid.

This idea won a swift and bitter rebuke from a top small-business trade group.

The governor again teased a congestion pricing plan that would fund the moribund subway system through a new charge on cars entering the Manhattan business district. He offered few new details other than insisting that he would not impose tolls on the four city-owned East River bridges, but promised a full proposal later in the week.

Paper reports that Glendale shelter plan is dead

From QNS:

Late on Friday, Jan. 12, a spokesperson for the Department of Homeless Services confirmed to QNS that “there is currently no shelter operating on premises and we currently have no proposal for this site.” Samaritan Daytop Village, the human services organization that was going to operate the Cooper Avenue site, gave a similar statement acknowledging its past involvement and confirming that it “will not be providing any services or operating any program at the Glendale location.”

Records from the Department of Buildings appear to indicate when the shelter plans may have changed. Shortly after it was reported that the initial plans for the shelter were approved, DOB records show that a proposed renovation to the four-story structure submitted by George E. Berger & Associates was approved on April 2, 2015. Over the next two years, there were three amendments to the renovation approved under the same applicant, the records show.

The last amendment under that applicant was approved one year ago on Jan. 11, 2017. Since then, there were two additional amendments proposed in June of 2017 under a new applicant, SW Engineering Company. George E. Berger & Associates is listed as the filing representative on those amendments.

One of those amendments was approved, and the other is still pending with the amendment fee due, records show.

The plan all along was to pretend to renovate the structure into a hotel or something else and then ink a deal with the city to make a mint running a shelter there. I wouldn't get hopes up too high that the deal is dead, although the longer it takes to move forward, the less likely this scenario seems.

Rikers closure a land grab: union head

From the NY Post:

The union head who represents Rikers Island corrections officers slammed plans to close the jail complex as nothing more than a “political con game” and a “land grab” that would enrich well-connected real estate developers.

Elias Husamudeen, president of the Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association, said Sunday the closure plan has nothing to do with helping blacks and Latinos as some have argued, but “everything to do with business.”

The union big honed in on a report overseen by former New York State Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman that called for the closing of Rikers within ten years — noting its claim that the city and state stand to gain $17 billion if the island is repurposed for use by LaGuardia Airport.

“It has everything to do with business,” Husamudeen said Sunday during an interview on John Catsimatidis’ 970 AM radio show. “There’s so much wrong with this. This is such a political con game.”\

Husamudeen pointed to the make-up of the Lippman commission, charging that only two people on it have experience with jails.

“The majority of the people on your committee are real estate developers,” he said, referring to Lippman’s commission. “This is really a sham, it really is. It’s a land grab.”

Husmudeen argued that politicians should be more focused on the safety of corrections officers, citing more than 2,000 assaults against union members since de Blasio became mayor.

“My thing is: take your island, take your jail, take the island. We don’t care. Make the jails safe,” he said.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

NYPD caught covering up shelter crime

From the Daily News:

A Queens man suffered a one-two punch when a homeless shelter resident struck him in the face — then cops refused to put key details of the assault in their report and closed the investigation in one day, the Daily News has learned.

Edward Karakash, 29, said the man called him a “cracker” and slugged him outside of the Queens Blvd. car repair shop where he works, on Dec. 18.

The auto shop near 54th St. in Sunnyside is adjacent to a Quality Inn which the city has converted into a homeless shelter.

“A laundry van for the hotel was blocking my driveway and I was honking the horn,” he said. “A guy comes out of the hotel with a friend and starts threatening me. He said, ‘I’m gonna knock you out, cracker!’ Then he punched me in the temple.”

The suspect ran into the hotel. Karakash went to the hospital where he was treated for bruises after telling cops what happened.

His mother, Karine Karakash, 50, an eyewitness to the attack, said doctors initially believed he had broken bones in his face.

Unbeknownst to Karakash, cops closed their investigation the same day even though he gave them a photograph of the perpetrator, video of the assault and told police where his attacker lived.

The complaint report claims wrongly that Karakash refused to give his contact information and says there were no witnesses.

“They did not put on the report that he was from the homeless shelter,” Karakash said. “They just put that it was a random person who ran away.”

It was only when community activist Bill Kregler, a former Republican candidate for Queens Borough President, got involved that the cops changed their tune.

Karakash said the neighborhood has had problems with shelter residents before. Back on Oct. 14, someone else from the shelter hit him with his car and the police refused to take a report.

“I got hit while I was taking a picture of the plate,” he said. “The police said they weren't going to take a report.”

Years ago when similar problems were happening near the Pan Am, this blog reported that crime in the area was increasing and that police were not taking reports. They publicly denied this and several of the reporters covering the situation claimed we were lying. It's clear who was telling the truth and who is full of crap, now, isn't it?

Cease and desist list now in effect

From the Times Ledger:

A cease-and-desist list targeting unwanted real estate solicitations went into effect with the new year, allowing residents of northeast Queens to opt out of receiving fliers and door-to-door visits.

State Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside), who fought to have at least part of an expired cease-and-desist zone restored, reminded residents of Auburndale, Bayside, College Point, Malba, Murray Hill, North Flushing, and Whitestone to add their addresses to the list on the Department of State website.

“There may be 1,033 houses already on the list, but there is always room for more,” Avella said. “The Department of State will continue to accept new submissions and will update the list monthly.”

The cease-and-desist list established by the Department of State emulates a zone covering all of Queens County that was established in 1989 and expired in 2014. At three public hearings, residents and civic associations blasted the real estate industry for tactics they considered aggressive and complained of fliers littering their communities.

According to the Department of State, “no licensed real estate broker or salesperson shall solicit the sale, lease or the listing for sale or lease of residential property from an owner of residential property located in a designated cease-and-desist zone if such owner has filed a cease-and-desist notice with the Department of State indicating that such owner or owners do not desire to sell, lease or list their residential property and do not desire to be solicited to sell, lease or list their residential property.”

The new list will expire in 2022, but the IDC senator is hoping to get a law passed in the state to ban real estate solicitations in Queens indefinitely.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Ain't it the truth?

When Ben called Bill

Lehrer: Let’s take another phone call. Ben in Queens, you’re on WNYC with the Mayor. Hello Ben.

Question: Good morning Brian. Mr. Mayor, good morning.

Mayor: Good morning Ben.

Lehrer: What’s your question Ben?

Question: Okay, I’ve been involved in the Willets Point issue for ten years since the adoption of the 2008 development plan, and nothing’s been accomplished. Nothing's going to happen until you, Mr. Mayor, wake up to reality. Bloomberg gave this deal to a bunch of real estate moguls who were deceitful and liars. They never had any intention of doing the job, they wanted to build a casino. When that failed they came up with an absurd plan that they needed to have a mega-mall and Citi Field parking lot to earn enough money to build it. These are multi-millionaires. They never had intention of doing anything. And you have an opportunity now to get things straightened out. Get rid of these guys. We don’t need them. You go ahead and hire somebody else to do the job.

Lehrer: Ben let me ask you. What’s your issue? Is it the building of a mall on public parkland in Flushing Meadows –

Question: No, no

Lehrer: – Park?

Question: That’s dead at the moment. The New York State Court of Appeals said they could not build the mall. We’re talking about Willets Plan, the 2008 plan.

Lehrer: Okay.

Question: We’re now concerned, there’s a rumor, that this administration may be giving 23 acres of Willets Point land to these builders. We oppose that. That costs of hundreds of millions of dollars. They’re giving it to these guys for one dollar.

Lehrer: Mr. Mayor, go ahead.

Mayor: Okay, I – Brian I know Ben, and Ben I truly admire you, you’ve been at a number of my town hall meetings and you’re a passionate activist and you have been for decades. So I thank you. I think – look, first be careful about rumors. I’ve said to you in public before, I want to reaffirm it to everyone who’s listening. We want affordable housing at Willets Point, that’s our priority. We’re not focused on anything else, we want affordable housing. And anything the City does will come with the guarantee upfront and the actualization of a substantial amount of affordable housing or else we won’t approve anything. So, there’s a lot more that’s going to play out. Ben is exactly right that the Court of Appeals decision I think put us in a position to fix the mistakes of the previous administration. I share a lot of his critique that I think the original concept of Willets was supposed to be focused on community needs including the need for affordable housing, it drifted substantially or was altered substantially in the years before I came into office. We want to go back to that original focus on affordable housing.

Full transcript

Ben also sent out a letter to the editor on the subject.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Cottage on roof has gotta go: DOB

From the NY Post:

Puchkoff, head of the real estate development firm DP Associates, converted the building from a warehouse into 14 luxury co-op apartments.

But when the Buildings Department inspector visited the rooftop last year, he determined that Puchkoff’s current certificate of occupancy does not allow the cabin or surrounding garden.

He was fined $1,200 and told to apply for a new certificate of occupancy.

A city administrative law judge tossed the fine in April, but then the Buildings Department had it reinstated on appeal in September.

So Puchkoff sued the agency to have his little slice of country comfort in the Big Apple declared legal.

His attorney, Richard Lobel, said the fine was based on a bogus complaint. He added that the DOB even signed off on the project twice, most recently in 1999.

I really wanted this to be legit because I think that's cool as hell, but there don't seem to be any permits issued for that structure.

Lawsuit to be filed over Northern Blvd bike lanes

From the Queens Chronicle:

Douglaston Civic Association President Sean Walsh announced on Monday that his group plans on filing a lawsuit against the city over the Northern Boulevard bike lane.

“Our civic, at its annual meeting, decided to sue the city,” he told members of Community Board 11 at the advisory council’s meeting on Monday.

The suit will be against city Department of Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg, Mayor de Blasio and the City of New York and will seek the path’s removal.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

"Agent of city" spouse promoted

From the NY Post:

The wife of powerhouse PR guru and de Blasio whisperer Jonathan Rosen, one of the infamous “agents of the city” whose communications with City Hall the mayor attempted to shield from the public, has been promoted to a top job at City Hall.

Debbie Rosen was named chief of staff to the first deputy mayor, with a $192,000 salary, a roughly $27,000 raise from her previous role as chief of staff to the budget director.

She has also worked in the state Assembly for six years and for the city’s Health Department under Mayor Mike Bloomberg from 2005 to 2008.

During an unrelated press conference Wednesday, de Blasio parried questions about conflict-of-interest concerns about the wife of a PR guru serving in a top policy position on his staff.

Middle Village being dumped on

Good morning Crappy

I am attaching pics I took this morning....this is on 75th Street in Middle Village. This is the side of the Coliseum Gym at 75-09 71 Avenue Middle Village.

This has been this way for several months....I have called Sanitation Garage in Maspeth....they have not come and issued ticket ...I am assuming because then it would have been cleaned up.

This is a mine field of junk...the snow has melted ...they never shoveled...this side street....I believe its there responsibility, if its their business. I just dont know how they get away with this....they must know someone at Sanitation.

What else can be done...this should definitely in the Hall of Shame....

Regards, Anonymous
Success has been reported in the past by sending complaints directly to DSNY Commissioner Kathryn Garcia. You may use this form.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Columbus isn't going anywhere

From NBC:

A city commission has decided to keep a controversial statue of Christopher Columbus that stands in Columbus Circle, officials said. Katherine Creag reports.

Huge new park coming to Jamaica Bay

From Brooklyn Daily:

The site of some old trash will soon be Brooklyn’s latest treasure.

Gov. Cuomo is gifting the borough with the city’s largest state park that will occupy a massive federally owned, vacant plot in East New York that once was a toxic landfill at the edge of Jamaica Bay, the pol announced during his annual State of the State address on Wednesday.

“This new state park will be a treasure in the heart of Brooklyn, offering hundreds of acres of beautiful parkland on the shores of Jamaica Bay,” Cuomo said in a press release. “We are committed to ensuring every New Yorker can access the recreational, health and community benefits of open space, and this park will open new doors to wellness for New Yorkers who need it most.”

The state will spend $15 million to transform 407 acres of remediated land — bounded by Pennsylvania and Fountain avenues, the Belt Parkway, and the bay — into a lush green space that will be the largest state-run park in all the five boroughs. The only other exclusively state-run park in the Borough of Kings is Williamsburg’s East River State Park, which is a mere seven acres along the waterfront. And Manhattan’s more-than-500-acre Hudson River Park is managed by a state-and-city partnership.

The East New York meadow will include comfort stations, shade-providing structures, and concession stands, and park-goers can bike, hike, kayak, and fish there when it opens later this year or in early 2019, according to a New York State parks spokesman.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Congress Member excited by big development project

From the Times Ledger:

U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-Astoria) reviewed the draft scope of work proposed by Plaxall that within 15 years would bring a 65-story tower; 5,000 residential units spread out over eight buildings, with 25 percent set aside for affordable housing; manufacturing and office space; and an esplanade to make Anable Basin accessible to the public.

“Anable Basin is currently a gloomy industrial area with limited roads, limited access, sparse public transportation and very little retail,” Maloney said. “We have seen the success of Queens West and Hunters Point South in Long Island City and in Northern Brooklyn. And it is time for that trend to reach Anable Basin — an extraordinary area with magnificent views of Manhattan and the East River. This rezoning has the potential to create another great neighborhood, if it is done right.”

Torres leading anti-tweeding investigative committee

From the NY Times:

If there was any lingering doubt that Mayor Bill de Blasio’s mostly harmonious relationship with the City Council was about to change, Councilman Ritchie Torres may put that question to rest.

Mr. Torres, a Democrat from the Bronx, has been chosen by the Council’s newly selected speaker, Corey D. Johnson, to be in charge of a new investigations unit that will look into the operation of city agencies.

In an interview, Mr. Torres said that between 10 and 15 professional investigators, possibly including former prosecutors, would be hired and that the committee would use them to conduct its own inquiries.

Among the areas of possible investigative interest, according to Mr. Torres: “The abuse of placards. The use of eminent domain. The disposition of public land. Deed restriction. The disbursement of city subsidies,” he said. “All of it is on the table.”

Concrete company creating a big mess

From the Queens Chronicle:

Ozone Park resident Paul O’Neill has been in the area for decades and has never had a problem with the surrounding businesses — until now.

O’Neill, and others who spoke to the Chronicle, say concrete business Prime Ready Mix has been the source of a number of quality-of-life issues in recent years and it’s only getting worse.

The main complaint from nearby homeowners is the dust and sand that emanates from the business, located at 87-13 Rockaway Blvd.

The Department of Building’s website states one caller said, “There have been numerous amounts of dust and sand all over the place, seeping into homes. This influx of dust causes allergies and many people have gotten sick.”

Those who spoke to the Chronicle said vehicles, barbecue grills and other items have been ruined by the dust.

A man named Sean, who identified himself as the owner of Prime Ready Mix but did not give his last name, said in a telephone interview he’s doing the best he can to keep the area clean.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Shovel shaming

From PIX11:

As the temperature starts to rise, and the snow slowly starts to melt, some New York City sidewalks remain covered by their white blankets - and that's a problem a councilman is working to fix.

City Councilman Justin Brannan hopes to do it by introducing what he calls "Shovels of Shame." He wants fines for failure to shovel to rise. In the meantime, he's started posting pictures of snowfall scofflaws on social media with the Shovels of Shame tag. He's hoping if extra fines won't convince the businesses to shovel, maybe public pressure will.

"When the average small business owner gets out there and shovels, when the average homeowner gets out there and shovels, you would think that some of these big corporate chains can get out there and shovel just like everybody else," Brannan said. "If you're not going to do it, then we're going to put you on blast. That's what Shovels of Shame is all about."

Right now the city requires responsible parties to shovel their sidewalk between 4 and 14 hours after the snow stops falling. If you don't, fines range between $100 and $350. Brannan wants to increase the fines for chain retailers. The new penalties would range from $1,000 to $5,000 and would apply to businesses with 10 or more locations.

Another Assembly Member indicted

From NBC:

A New York state assemblywoman from Brooklyn who claims to be an advocate for Sandy victims has been accused of bilking FEMA and New York City's's Build it Back fund out of thousands of dollars following the monster 2012 storm.

Rep. Pamela Harris, a former New York City correction officer, was named in an 11-count indictment charging her with cheating the two storm relief agencies out of thousands of dollars before and after she was elected to the State Assembly in 2017. The indictment also accuses the Coney Island Democrat of stealing from New York City Council coffers while running a nonprofit and lying about her schemes during bankruptcy proceedings in 2013.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Queens College president paid to not live in school's mansion

From the NY Post:

Queens College has let a historic $2.5 million waterfront mansion with sweeping views of Little Neck Bay stand empty for three years after its current president chose to live in his Westchester home while getting a $5,000 monthly housing allowance.

While Felix Matos Rodriguez collects $60,000 a year to live in his own house, the CUNY-owned Douglaston manse collects dust, used only sporadically for college functions.

New lead in cold case?

From NBC:

New evidence has been discovered in the cold case investigation of the murder of a young Queens teenage girl in Feburary 1988, NYPD officials tell News 4's I-Team.

NYPD officials say the evidence into 14-year-old Christine Diefenbach's killing in Richmond Hill is being examined, but would not identify exactly what it is.

Despite the recent discoveries in the case, detectives are still hoping someone steps forward and calls the NYPD Crime Stoppers tip line with information that could lead to the arrest of a suspect.

The murder happened on a Sunday morning. Christine left her home on 125th Street around 7:30 a.m. She was walking to a newsstand to buy the Sunday paper and a gallon of milk.

According to the police report, NYPD pronounced her dead at 12:45 pm.

Monday, January 8, 2018

City taking owner's business for peanuts

From the Daily News:

New York City is using eminent domain to take an East Harlem businessman to the cleaners.

Damon Bae, whose family success story embodies the American Dream, is about to lose the shirt off his back — after a 12-year battle with the city for control of his dry cleaning enterprise.

Fancy Cleaners, a 6,000-square-foot facility at the corner of 126th St. and Third Ave., was supposed to be the cornerstone of a family empire built by a Korean couple who came to the U.S. in 1981, bringing their tailoring skills with them along with two young children and endless ambition.

But an eminent domain claim filed by the city in 2008 and enforced — after years of legal challenges — in March 2017 means Bae’s family no longer owns its premier property.

Now Fancy Cleaners has nowhere to go, and the whole enterprise will likely shutter, said Bae, 42, who runs the business created through decades of hard work by his immigrant parents.

“The city has offered my family about 30 cents on the dollar on the market value for what our three lots are worth — that’s not enough to buy anything comparable in East Harlem today,” Bae said. “The city’s working so hard to meet the developer’s timeline; meanwhile, we’re trying to stay in business.”

The city said it would pay the Bae family $3.5 million for the lot holding Fancy Cleaners when it took the property title through eminent domain in the spring, Bae said.

The asking price for a similar 5,000-square-foot lot about five blocks south of Fancy Cleaners’ current location is $11 million, Bae said.

Kennedy Kaos

From the NY Times:

Kennedy Airport remained in disarray on Sunday, three days after New York City’s first major snowstorm of 2018 disrupted operations. Since the storm, a lingering, bone-chilling cold and a series of missteps have contributed to a logjam that has left thousands of travelers stranded and caused hundreds of flights to be canceled or diverted.

The disorder at J.F.K., one of the world’s busiest airports, rippled across the world, affecting passengers as far away as Beijing. Flights headed to New York were forced to turn back, and connecting flights that were only supposed to bring passengers to New York for a brief stay were grounded indefinitely.

On Sunday, just as there were signs that things were finally improving, a water main break in a terminal plunged the airport back into chaos. The flooding — three inches in parts of Terminal 4 — compounded the confusion that had gripped parts of Kennedy all weekend, as airlines tried to rebound from the cancellation of thousands of flights because of the storm. Officials of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which operates Kennedy Airport, were still trying to sort out what had gone wrong on Saturday when they had to scramble on Sunday to cope with the burst pipe.