Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Brooklyn developer heavily fined for arboricide

From CBS 2:

The city is demanding more than $176,000 from a Brooklyn developer accused of committing arborcide – the act of killing a tree.

As WCBS 880’s Mike Smeltz reported, city estimates say the pin oak tree that stood in front of 299 South 4th St. in Williamsburg had been there for at least 75 years and possibly up to 100 years.

An inspector found it with more than a dozen two-inch deep holes drilled into hits base that left the crown of the tree 90 percent dead.

Now the city believes the developer, Noah Amos – or someone acting on behalf of Amos – was the one who caused damage to the tree.

More MTA tolling shenanigans reported

From Eyewitness News:

Cashless tolling seems like a win-win. Still in its infancy in our area, it has reduced traffic, commuting times, and vehicle emissions, making it good for the environment.

And it's already generating big bucks in profit for agencies that run it - like the MTA, which oversees E-Z Pass on bridges and tunnels in New York City.

But we're hearing from scores of consumers who are are saying it's a big loss for them after getting hit with fines in the thousands - facing collections - even after some say they've paid the tolls.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Junked cars litter South Ozone Park

"Can you get this on your site. Business called runway towing in south ozone park. They are parking all there junked cars. Trucks and company tow trucks on residential street and sidewalks. For years it’s been like this. These trucks are here 24/7 and never move. Numerous 311 complaints and nothing has ever been done. This is a daily nuances here. The business is located 124-20 south conduit Ave.Here are some pictures." - anonymous

Neglected Kew Gardens bridge needs some quick help

From the NY Times:

The bridge over the railroad tracks is Queens’s rickety answer to the store-packed Ponte Vecchio in Florence. It doubles as the hub of the bedroom community, with restaurants and stores on either side of the crossing on Lefferts Boulevard. But it is also a crumbling mess, in dire need of drastic repairs, according to the agency that owns it, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. To the dismay of the tight-knit neighborhood, the M.T.A. says that the best way to fix it is to tear the bridge down as well as the shops.

Now, the community is scrambling to find other answers before 2020, when the leases of all the business on the bridge expire. The M.T.A. said it will not permit the leases to be renewed while it makes plans for the bridge.

One suggestion from the neighborhood has been to stave off demolition by building a new bridge underneath the existing span to prop it up. The agency has offered a glimmer of hope, saying it would consider other options for the dilapidated bridge if a study were produced outlining the feasibility of alternatives. But the M.T.A. has said it is unable to pay for such a study, which it estimates would cost $1 million. State and local lawmakers who represent the area have said they will push to fund the study.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Spa Castle in trouble again

From the Times Ledger:

A controversial spa in College Point is in trouble once again.

State Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) received a letter from the New York State Department of Labor informing him that Spa Castle, located at 31-10 11th Ave., had been fined $1,000 for violating the Child Labor Statute.

Labor Department Commissioner Roberta Reardon wrote to Avella Jan. 30 about an investigation that was completed in December 2017.

According to Reardon, investigators visited Spa Castle on various occasions and times looking for violations of state laws. “After meticulous review of Spa Castle’s wage and hour records, we substantiated a violation of Article 4, the Child Labor Statute,” she told the senator in the letter.

The statute bans minors from working late hours on school nights.

Reardon said the spa was served a notice of violation on Nov. 4 with a penalty of $1,000, which they paid in full. The investigators were not able to substantiate any allegations regarding overtime.

Parking placard abusers to feel the heat

From AM-NY:

As civil servants continue to illegally park personal vehicles on city streets unticketed, Mayor Bill de Blasio renewed a vow Thursday that he made last May: “We’re going to crack down.”

Safe-streets and good-government activists have long objected to how the vehicles park daily and dangerously around the five boroughs — on sidewalks, in front of hydrants, at curbs, in restricted zones — a practice especially acute near courts, firehouses and police precincts.

“The message is very clear: we’re coming for anyone who violates the rules relating to a placard, or anyone who has an inappropriate placard,” he said Thursday at an unrelated news conference.

Across the city, department-themed hats, vests, union calendars, union-issued placards — which confer no legal status — and handwritten notes are placed on dashboards and amount to impunity to traffic agents and cops, who refuse to ticket brethren.

De Blasio said Thursday that the NYPD’s top transportation cop, Thomas M. Chan, would soon be providing an update of the department’s enforcement efforts.

After de Blasio spoke, his spokesman Austin Finan reissued a statement he gave amNewYork for a story published earlier in the week: that there were 41,931 placard summonses issued last year, compared to 28,269 in 2016.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Problem Whitestone lot padlocked

From the Queens Tribune:

The city’s Department of Buildings (DOB) has padlocked a residential lot on 24th Avenue between 149th Street and 150th Street in Whitestone that was being illegally used for commercial storage.

State Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) had been petitioning multiple city agencies for nearly three years to have the lot closed. The site had been an area of concern for neighbors, who complained about a multitude of hazards emanating from the tract of land.

“I was very happy to learn that this nuisance was finally padlocked after years of requests from myself and neighbors who wanted to see something done,” Avella said. “Padlocking certainly does not completely eliminate the problems created by the illegal commercial use of the lot, but this will certainly protect the community from a number of hazardous conditions created by the illegal storage.”

The lot is owned by Whitestone contractor Salvatore Valenza and was being used to store trucks, construction equipment and debris, despite being located in a residential zone and situated directly between two residential properties.

Nearby residents complained about the loud, early-morning growls of truck engines and the unsanitary conditions of the lot’s strewn construction debris.

Disgraceful dealings at Willets Point

There's a really great photoessay on Curbed by Nathan Kensinger. Definitely worth a look.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Private Sunnyside park to become public

From Sunnyside Post:

The city is at last starting up the acquisition process for the former Phipps playground, part of the Sunnyside Gardens Historic District.

The Department of Parks and Recreation is putting forth an application with the city to ultimately turn 50-02 39th Ave., the corner lot at 39th Avenue and 50th Street, into a community park. The site, measuring 10,000 square feet, is currently owned by DBH Associates, a private developer.

The application to the Department of City Planning will be jointly filed with the Department of Citywide Administrative Services for the site selection and acquisition of the parcel of land, a NYC Parks representative said at last night’s CB2 Land Use meeting.

The project must go through public review by way of the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure, where it will be reviewed by the community board, the Queens Borough president, and make its way to the city council, which could take until next year.

6-year old tweeding effort exposed

From the Daily News:

State Sen. Kevin Parker’s mother got a $32,150 taxpayer-funded grant to fix up the Flatbush home he owns with her — money that was funneled to her by a nonprofit group pervy pol Vito Lopez founded and controlled.

Georgie Parker got the money in 2012 to fix the roof and replace the windows and gutters in the four-bedroom home she co-owned with her son, who also lived there.

Records show the grant came from the Ridgewood Bushwick Senior Citizens Council, which in turn got the money from the state Division of Housing and Community Renewal’s Main Street Program.

Ridgewood was founded by Lopez, the longtime state assemblyman and Brooklyn Democratic party boss who was accused of sexually harassing legislative employees. Lopez died in 2015. The nonprofit is now called RiseBoro Community Partnership.

Georgie Parker signed the paperwork for the $32,150 grant on Aug. 28, 2012, just a few days after the state Assembly voted to censure Lopez and strip him of his powerful housing committee chairmanship over the harassment allegations.

Lopez ultimately resigned in 2013 after reports surfaced that the state had paid confidential settlements to two of his accusers.

Lopez and Kevin Parker supported one another during their rocky political careers.

Friday, February 23, 2018

Western Beef will not become hotel

From the Queens Gazette:

The developer of a massive hotel at the site of a former Western Beef Supermarket in Long Island City has scrapped plans for the project.

The site at the northwest corner of Northern Boulevard and Steinway Street includes the former supermarket property and four adjacent parcels formerly controlled by the food retailer. JMH Development leased the Western Beef supermarket and the four parcels from Western Beef in 2014 for $19.6 million.

Plans for the hotel included 119,722-sauare-feet of commercial space, a bar and a breakfast room on the ground floor of the 60-foot-tall building, along woth14 hotel rooms in the cellar level of the hotel, 28 rooms on the ground floor, 67 room on the second floor, 66 rooms on each of the third and fourth floors, and 49 rooms on the fifth floor, for a total of. 289 rooms.

Plans for the new development feature a six-story rental building with 140 residential units, 40,000-square-feet of retail and an undetermined number of indoor parking spaces.

The developers “re-thought” plans for the hotel and decided to scrap the project due to an overabundance on similar hotels located in Manhattan and Long Island City, according to a spokesperson for JMH Development.

Yet another Queens Blvd hotel to become homeless shelter

From LIC Post:

The Fairfield Inn by Marriott in Long Island City is set to become a shelter for adult families.

The hotel, located at 52-34 Van Dam St., will provide shelter for up to 154 homeless families, according to the Department of Homeless Services. The shelter is expected to open in March.

The agency notified the community board and elected officials of their plans on Feb. 13.

The shelter will be a high-quality transitional housing facility under de Blasio’s “Turning the Tide” initiative put forth early 2017 to tackle homelessness. Under the mayor’s plan, cluster sites through the city will be eliminated while multi-service facilities like these are set to open. For this shelter, priority will be given to families with roots in Community Board 2.

We're also paying more for the privilege of housing the world's homeless.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

How do you help a hoarder?

From CBS:

Residents in Brooklyn are desperate to get their neighbor’s home cleaned up.

They say the historic landmark is now an eyesore with trash and junk piled high in the front yard.

It’s a beautiful tree lined block with million-dollar brownstones, but all kinds of things are piled up and pouring out of the front lawn of 253 Sterling Street.

People on Sterling Street said the woman who lives there hoards in her front yard, her backyard, and even in and on top of her car.

Neighbors say the homeowner has lived here for several decades, but the problem has gotten worse in the last few weeks.

Neighbors said they’ve called 311 and nothing has happened.

LIC leaders unhappy with development plan

From LIC Post:

The city’s current plan to bring a massive mixed-use project on public land along the Hunters Point waterfront has been rejected by Long Island City’s elected leaders.

Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer and Assemblymember Cathy Nolan say that the Economic Development Corp’s plan to build 1,000 residential units (25 percent affordable) in two towers scaling over 500 feet by 44th Drive and Vernon Boulevard is simply unacceptable.

“I think it needs to be re-envisioned,” Van Bramer said of the 4.5 acre proposal, which also includes a public school, a park, and industrial and commercial space. “This project as it stands is perhaps the dream of some people in City Hall, but it is not one that I share.”

Van Bramer added that the community’s concerns over green space, recreation, the number of affordable units, and the overall density of the project are valid. “What the community is saying, and what I’m saying, too, is for too long the city has not paid attention to the infrastructure needs of LIC,” he said.

Nolan said the development is “too massive” and fails to take the repeatedly-raised needs of the community into consideration.

A better way to board up homes?

From CBS 2:

Broken, boarded windows are a telltale sign of a an abandoned zombie home. Throughout the tri-state area, they attract vandals and squatters.

In Massapequa, neighbors count as many as 50 eyesores dragging down property values.

Gaetine Hodnett lives next door to one such home. After complaining to the town of Oyster Bay, her local government responded with a first for Long Island.

The town has passed a law banning the use of plywood to cover windows and doors. Instead, owners and banks will have to use clear boards made of polycarbonate.

The clear boards, mandated elsewhere in the nation, bring light into an abandoned house and keep criminals out.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

College Point street is flooded 24/7

From the Times Ledger:

State Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) joined residents of Powells Cove Boulevard last Friday to call on the city to finally address a major flooding condition that residents say has plagued the community for over 20 years.

Avella and residents stood on the corner of Powells Cove Blvd. and 126th St. around a large pool of water that amassed from rainfall earlier in the week that had frozen over and showed no signs of going away.

According to residents who have dealt with this issue for years, they expect the floodwaters to stay there well into spring. Avella said he has been working with residents for the last two years to bring the issue to the attention to different city agencies.

Avella said the location has been inspected by multiple city agencies, including the Department of Transportation, which blamed the flooding on a lack of storm sewers at the location, and claimed that the Department of Environmental Protection must address that before DOT can address the road issues.

Over the summer, Avella brought the issues up to the DEP, which said it would open a 90-day investigation of the location — but to this date, neither he nor the residents have heard what that investigation concluded.

They're Building It Back badly

From PIX11:

After the tri-state area was hit hard by Hurricane Sandy back in October 2012, "Build It Back," a federally funded program supervised by New York City was created.

The goal of the program is to help people get their homes back.

We get a lot of complaints about delays in Build It Back projects and other issues, but Frank Scarantino has a new one. The Build It Back project next door is flooding his home.

“This wall — they just created it. And when it comes into the street from the high tide this gets all flooded,” Scarantino said. "And the water does not go away for a minimum of a week to two weeks.”

The program is supposed to be helping, but instead they’re causing all kinds of problems for the people next door. Scarantino and his wife fixed their home without the help of Build It Back.

Scarantino told me that the contractor said they will build a retaining wall. The only question is, when?

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Georgia Diner sold and will merge with Nevada Diner

From QNS:

A favorite dining spot along Queens Boulevard is closing its doors after 40 years of serving the Elmhurst community, but its tradition will live on just a few blocks away.

Georgia Diner, founded in 1978, will close at its original location on March 25 and merge with the Nevada Diner, less than half a mile away on Queens Boulevard. John Singh, a manager at both diners (owned by the same entrepreneur, Jimmy Kaloidis), said that the Georgia Diner will bring its famous name and most of its staff to the new location, but not much else will change.

“It’s the same food, the same service, the same phone number, just a different address,” Singh said.

Singh explained that Kaloidis recently decided to sell the building the Georgia Diner has occupied for decades. After selling part of the parking lot to a developer three years ago, Kaloidis was recently offered a price for the entire property by the same developer and decided to capitalize on it, Singh said. The application for the demolition of the diner was approved by the Department of Buildings (DOB) on Feb. 7.

City records show that the diner was sold for $14.25 million.

Koslowitz ok with jail (and shelter for now)

From the Queens Chronicle:

The city will start housing homeless families instead of single men at the Comfort Inn in Kew Gardens beginning in June, and the hotel will stop being used as an emergency homeless shelter altogether by Feb. 12, 2019.

That’s according to Human Resources Adminstration Commissioner Steve Banks, who made those promises in a Monday letter to Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz (D-Forest Hills).

In return, Koslowitz — who shared the correspondence exclusively with the Chronicle — said she will renew her support for the reactivation of the Queens House of Detention as a jail, should the facilities on Rikers Island close as planned.

The lawmaker exclusively told the Chronicle two weeks ago that she was yanking her support for the QHD proposal, citing a larger-than-planned influx of homeless men the city was housing at the 123-28 82 Ave. hotel just a block away.

“It was a matter of a few weeks that it all transpired, right after it was in your paper,” Koslowitz said Wednesday. “I got the commitment Friday. The commissioner called me on Friday and I told him I wanted it in writing.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Homeless behavior is causing problems all over the city

From the Daily News:

The Daily News spent three months looking at life in neighborhoods with large numbers of shelter beds, documenting the cost these residents pay by shouldering a disproportionate share of the city’s collective burden.

The News found they often face a wide variety of challenges: verbal harassment and physical assaults; stoops used as bathrooms; outdoor flowerpots used to hide knives; prostitution and drug dealing; newly arrived gentrifiers unable to tell the difference between some longtime homeowners and shelter residents; real estate brokers warning that property values fall when new shelters are announced nearby; and a pastor who lost half his congregation after a parishioner was raped by homeless youths from a nearby shelter.

From the Daily News:

All along Queens Boulevard the Department of Homeless Services has placed homeless in one hotel after another. Residents believe two more are coming soon based on building permits touting new “hotel/apartment residences.”

Watchful residents complain about a history of complaints over incidents involving these hotels-turned-shelters, from prostitution to physical assaults.

Between 2013 and 2017, there have been 809 calls to 311 about homeless assistance in the two zip codes with the bulk of the hotels: 11377 and 11373.

Those two zip codes far outstrip all others in Queens for calls about the homeless.

On Jan. 4, the Department of Investigation revealed prostitution and drug arrests at 34 hotels where the city places homeless families. Twelve of those hotels are located in Queens, the report said.

Exhibit No. 1 cited by frustrated locals is the Pan Am Hotel.

Four months after the mayor’s promise to cut back on shelter-hotels, the city re-upped its contract with the nonprofit that manages a family shelter in the Pan Am — extending it through 2023.

Longtime homeowner Sally Wang, a member of Elmhurst United, a group pushing to close the Pan Am, said the new contract with DHS is just the latest insult to arrive from City Hall.

“What we’re finding is a lot of homeowners are selling out because of the shelter,” she said. “They don’t want to be near the shelter. They’re selling to investor owners who don’t live here and that starts the deterioration of the whole neighborhood. And it's worse now that the contract is in for six years.”

Violence at shelters has been redefined by the de Blasio administration.

And here's what Billionaire's Row has to look forward to.

Lefferts Blvd elevator finally open

From Impunity City:

In what I admit could be an aberration in the usual posts that get written here, here is an actual good news bulletin and sign of albeit late ass civic progress. As reported here since this digital publication’s inception, it took almost 4 years, but the main entrance of the Lefferts Blvd has completed with the activation of the elevator! And it actually is quite shiny and nice. It official got turned on about a few weeks ago about 4 months ahead of the proposed 3rd quarter deadline.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Presenting "The Filth of Forest Hills"

From the Filth of Forest Hills:

Thanks for joining me on this filthy journey on Queens Blvd (between Union Turnpike & 78th Ave) in Forest Hills in Queens, the “dump any kind of crap borough”, where a mere few blocks from the garbage strewn, homeless hang-out of Skid Row are multi million dollar homes in the gated community of Forest Hills Garden. and just a block away is the prestigious K-12 Kew Forest School. So then why is this section of Queens Blvd allowed to continue to look like skid row with constant garbage dumping, litter and several homeless men bothering people every single day. Of course having a homeless shelter a few blocks away in Kew Gardens in the Comfort Inn does not help the situation, in fact, this skid row is helped immensely by this failed policy of one of the worst Mayors in New York history. DeBlasio’s legacy will be the destruction of good communities and bad communities to get even worse, while all the while he poses as some progressive liberal, though his administration has been corrupt and the homeless population has increased greatly under his so-called leadership.

Speaking of so-called leadership, what are the hack elected officials of Forest Hills going to do about this mess here in Forest Hills on SKID ROW. You know Forest Hills folks like political hack Queens Borough President Melinda Katz and the awful do nothing while standing by city councilmember, the dishonorable Karen Koslowitz.

Illegal driveways continue to get built

From the NY Post:

Brazen Brooklyn residents are selfishly paving illegal driveways on their front lawns and creating unauthorized curb cuts — eliminating scarce parking spots.

“Most of them I’ve seen go from a lawn to a driveway overnight,” fumed Michael Buhse, 55, who lives on 79th Street between 19th and 20th avenues in Bensonhurst, where the problem is especially bad.

Buhse says he sometimes gets home from work at 1 a.m. and has to drive around for 30 minutes or more to find an open parking space.

Some homeowners cut the curb themselves, but most just drive over the short curbs onto freshly paved-over lawns — and then pitch a fit when anyone parks at the curb and blocks them in.

Worse still, the NYPD has no record of which driveways are legitimate.

So if a motorist parks at a curb and blocks an illegal driveway and the homeowner calls the cops, officers will ticket the car and force the driver to fight it in court, NYPD sources told The Post.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Residents wary of street trees

From NBC:

A survey in Queens drew 1,250 responses from residents voicing safety concerns about tree conditions. Roseanne Colletti reports.

Willets Point project is a 10-year long joke

Dear Editor (Queens Chronicle):

While a slice of bread is better than nothing, it is a poor substitute for the whole loaf, particularly if the single slice is stale.

The Feb. 8 Queens Chronicle editorial “Is the future of Willets Point finally here?” is legitimate in utilizing a question mark. It has been 10 years since approval of the 2008 Willets Point Plan, which involved 23 acres with 5,500 housing units. The current plan is limited to six acres said to accommodate 1,100 affordable units, a 450-seat elementary school, retail and some open space. Six acres is a pittance, hardly enough space to accommodate just a school, let alone what is planned. The bulk of the area consisting of 17 acres is left in political hands, and at this time is left open without the slightest transparency of what and when anything of substance will come to pass.

Given the length of time that has transpired since 2008 and continuation of involvement of the Queens Development Group, which consists of the Mets ball club owners, the Wilpons, their Sterling Equities and the Related Companies, one must have deep concern about the current proposal.

The QDG’s credibility is so slight it could not be visible even under a powered microscope. It was deceitful in accepting the original plan because what the developers really intended was to build a gambling casino, and when that failed, the project lay dormant until they came up with an even more absurd plan. They claimed they could not proceed with the original plan because they could not afford to do so, and needed to construct a 1.4 million-square-foot mega shopping mall on the Citi Field parking lot to generate the money they would need. The QDG’s owners had a portfolio of at least $20 billion consisting of many apartments and were in fact one of New York City’s largest landlords, and owned thousands of other properties in the country.

While there may well be “nothing rotten in the state of Denmark,” methinks there is something rotten in the City of New York. There has been no explanation for the current plan and no rationale for not including the left out 17 acres — nor any justification for why the original 2008 Willets Point Plan cannot now be accomplished. Mayor de Blasio’s support for an absurd six-acre deal is a sham for which he should be ashamed. The six-acre plan is the epitome of a lack of municipal transparency, and must be rejected.

Benjamin M. Haber

Friday, February 16, 2018

It's a good time for some bad taste...

It's Friday. I don't understand the obsession that Albany legislators have with pretending to be fast food workers. But this is a great photo caption opportunity!

Tenants claim that illegal construction is being used to evict

From AM-NY:

East Williamsburg residents are taking a stand against their new landlord, who they say has been threatening them and using illegal construction to get them to leave their apartments.

The tenants of 272 Stagg St. were joined on Tuesday by dozens of housing advocates with St. Nicks Alliance and the Stand for Tenant Safety Coalition as they rallied against landlord Silvio Cruz outside of their building.

“The tenants feel very unsafe,” said St. Nicks Alliance deputy director Rolando Guzman, who has been providing counseling services to the tenants. “Before the construction started, the landlord's contractor told one of the tenants, ‘you need to move out or you will be put in shelters.’ ”

Since Nov. 14, the building has racked up 17 complaints from the Department of Buildings, two of which remain open, as of Tuesday. The complaints ranged from construction without a permit to cutting off gas to part of the building and an inadequate tenant protection plan, according to DOB records.

Guzman said the tenants have been filing complaints about Cruz and the construction work since November, when he bought the building.

Neptune Diner to become a teardown

From QNS:

Neptune Diner, which has been located at 31-05 31st St. in Astoria for 30 years, is officially on sale.

Eastern Consolidated, a real-estate investment firm, has the site listed on sale for $10.5 million, the Queens Gazette reported. There have been multiple rumors throughout the years that the site was for sale, but owners have denied it.

When QNS called the diner and asked to speak to the owner — which is listed as Peter Katsihtis in some Department of Buildings documents and George Katsihtis in other documents — a person who was identified as the owner said that “it’s not on sale, ma’am,” and hung up the phone.

According to the listing, the site is 44,432 square feet and Eastern Consolidated touts the diner’s proximity to the N/W Astoria Boulevard station. It consists of three lots and is within a C4-3 zoning district, which will allow buyers to build a variety of residential, retail, commercial and community facility spaces as-of-right.

The diner’s lease ends on Aug. 31, 2019 and there are no extension options, according to the listing.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

City gives tax credits for hotel building

From Crains:

Little recent attention has been paid to the tax breaks, which have helped developers build a wave of hotels in onetime industrial neighborhoods—a pattern that Mayor Bill de Blasio has decried for pushing out manufacturers.

The city’s Industrial and Commercial Abatement Program dates back to the 1970s. ICAP was intended to spur landlords to invest in their real estate when few were doing so, and to attract and strengthen manufacturers, like those that once thrived in Williamsburg.

The program nearly zeros out property taxes for as long as 15 years and discounts them for up to a decade beyond that. The William Vale, for instance, used ICAP to wipe out about $1.7 million of its roughly $1.8 million recent annual tax bill, according to the city’s Independent Budget Office. The Williamsburg Hotel sought the benefit but missed a deadline to apply; sources said the developer is still seeking to qualify for the program.

Ironically, the incentive has helped to elbow out some of the businesses it was created to preserve.

“It appears to have fostered hotel growth in areas like Gowanus, Sunset Park, Williamsburg and other neighborhoods that were once primarily industrial,” said Doug Turetsky, chief of staff at the IBO, which has studied ICAP and its predecessor, the Industrial Commercial Exemption Program.

Hotel development has spread rapidly into those areas as tourism in the city has set record highs year after year.

Because hotels such as the Wythe tend to be more lucrative than industrial and other commercial uses in many areas of the Bronx, Brooklyn and Queens, hotel developers can afford to pay more for land. Also, unlike retail and residential uses, hotels generally have not needed special permission from the city to be in areas zoned for manufacturing. The result has been that hotels have been supplanting manufacturing and industrial businesses that once populated Williamsburg, Long Island City and similar areas.

Real estate investment firm Madison Realty Capital has estimated that 10 million square feet of industrial space has been converted to hotels or other uses in the city during the past decade. The tax break has fueled that.

Koslowitz agrees to Kew Gardens jail plan

From the Times Ledger:

Less than a week after a Rikers Island prison guard was viciously attacked by six alleged gang members and hospitalized with a fractured spine and bleeding on the brain, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced an agreement Wednesday to move forward with the closing of the notorious prison complex by creating a borough-based jail system.

City Council members from Queens, Brooklyn, the Bronx and Manhattan, Speaker Corey Johnson and the Mayor agreed to a single public review process for four proposed sites that together will provide space for 5,000 detainees.

“This agreement marks a huge step forward on our path to closing Rikers Island,” de Blasio said. “In partnership with the City Council, we can now move ahead with creating a borough-based jail system that’s smaller, safer and fairer. I want to thank these representatives, who share our vision of a more rehabilitative and humane criminal justice system that brings staff and detainees closer to their communities.”

In Queens, the city identified the old Queens Detention Center in Kew Gardens after nearly a dozen Queens council members suggested the former jail in October. City Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz (D-Forest Hills), the chairwoman of the Queens delegation, spearheaded the “unpreceden­ted” move with former councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley.

“The reopening of the Queens Detention Center not only makes sense, but it’s the right thing to do,” Koslowitz said. “This proposal restores the Center back to its original purpose and ensures that Queens’ borough-based jail facility is located in our civic center, close to our courts. This smaller facility will bolster the safety for our Department of Correction staff, will create an environment that is more conducive to rehabilitation and will save taxpayer dollars in transportation costs.”

Isn't it great when our reps work together on plans to screw us over? What happened to Koslowitz' claim that she wouldn't take both a jail and a shelter in Kew Gardens?

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Forest Hills streets become truck parking lots

From CBS 2:

Forest Hills, Queens residents say their streets have become an illegal rest stop.

As CBS2’s Lisa Rozner reported, the neighbors said tractor trainers form all over the country are parking and staying put for days, and they say no one is helping the problem.

Tractor trailers measuring 53 feet long stick out like a sore thumb on the Grand Central Parkway Service Road near 64th Road, filling up blocks. The city Department of Transportation said it is illegal for them to be there.

Residents said in the last year, the problem has gotten out of control.

“A parking lot — like a truck parking lot,” said Raj Patel of Forest Hills. “At night after 9 o’clock, it’s very hard parking. You can’t find the parking. You’ve got too many trucks here parking on the service road
“Because of this car, there’s lots of traffic over here, OK?” “They have to put sign, OK? ‘No parking,’” said Rafik Yusopov of Forest Hills.

“And they’re an eyesore,” said Laura Shepard.

The DOT said 53-foot trailers are only allowed on the nearby Van Wyck and Long Island expressways.

Happy Valentine's Day from the NYC Parks Dept

From AM-NY:

Decorative fountains built more than 50 years ago for the World’s Fair at Flushing Meadows-Corona Park are getting a new life — and new purpose — as part of a $5 million renovation next year.

The Fountain of the Fairs, part of the majestic water displays constructed for the 1964-65 World’s Fair, will be transformed into playful spray showers and mists where kids can cool off during the summer.

It will be a return to glory for the empty fountains, which Robert Moses designed to cascade from the Unisphere to the Rocket Thrower statue. The fountains were up and running after an extensive renovation in 2000, but broke within a few years and were later damaged in flooding from superstorm Sandy.

The city Department of Parks and Recreation decided to find a way to revamp them, setting up community meetings and listening sessions in 2015 and 2016 to figure out the best use of the space.

The community overwhelmingly asked for more water options, according to Janice Melnick, the administrator of Flushing Meadows-Corona Park.

MTA funding going to upstate bobsled track

From NBC:

Winter athletes and their neighbors in the Adirondack Mountains have long praised Albany for funneling subsidies to the upstate Olympic Training Facility. But last year some downstate lawmakers criticized Gov. Andrew Cuomo for diverting almost $5 million from the 2016 MTA budget to the Olympic Regional Development Authority (ORDA), the quasi-state agency that manages Lake Placid’s Olympic venues.

“The MTA is supposed to be for the mass transit system here in New York City and its surrounding suburbs, and yet millions of dollars were going upstate to finance a ski resort,” said state Sen. Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria). “It struck a lot of us as odd, especially at a time when the MTA is in a desperate situation. The trains are breaking down. They’re not running on time. Delays are increasing by the day.”

At the time, the Cuomo administration defended sending the $5 million payment to ORDA, saying it was a routine way of reimbursing the state for money the MTA owed to Albany. It’s also worth noting, $5 million is a tiny fraction of the nearly $7 billion Albany sends to the MTA annually.

Still, the cash transfer has given birth to a simple question: should any money intended for the downstate subway tracks go to help fund an upstate bobsled track?

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Van Bramer running for Queens Borough President

From the Sunnyside Post:

Council member Jimmy Van Bramer has all but announced that he is running for Queens Borough President.

Van Bramer formed the “Van Bramer 2021” committee last week and said that he is limiting contributions up to $3,850. That figure is the maximum allowed for the borough president race and well short of the $4,950 permitted for a citywide office such as mayor or public advocate.

“I’m not declaring for any particular office at this time but I am gearing up and beginning to plan for the future,” Van Bramer said in an interview. “Obviously serving as Queens Borough President would be a great honor.”

Van Bramer said that he will be rolling over $200,000 from his council committee shortly into Van Bramer 2021 and will begin fundraising.

$6.7M awarded to 5 Pointz artists by federal judge

From PIX11:

A New York judge has awarded $6.7 million to graffiti artists who sued after their work was destroyed on buildings torn down to make room for luxury condos.

Federal Judge Frederic Block in Brooklyn noted Monday there was no remorse from the owner of the warehouse buildings. Long Island Developer Jerry Wolkoff allowed the painting for decades on the property.

In November 2017 during a three-week trial, twenty-one aerosol artists sued the owner of a Long Island City, Queens site known as 5Pointz.

The case was based on the Visual Artists Rights Act of 1990. That federal law allows artists "to prevent any destruction of a work of recognized stature, and any intentional or grossly negligent destruction of that work"

The judge said he would not have assessed so much in damages if the owner had awaited his permits and demolished the art 10 months later than he did. Wolkoff ordered crews to whitewash the building one night. Wolkoff tells PIX11 News he plans to appeal the ruling.

Block said he hoped the award would give teeth to a federal law that should have kept Wolkoff from demolishing them for at least 10 months, when he had all his permits.

Artists then could have easily rescued some paintings from siding, plywood or sheet-rock before the rollers, spray machines and buckets of white paint arrived.

"Wolkoff has been singularly unrepentant. He was given multiple opportunities to admit the whitewashing was a mistake, show remorse, or suggest he would do things differently if he had another chance," Block said.

"Wolkoff could care less. As he callously testified," the judge said. "The sloppy, half-hearted nature of the whitewashing left the works easily visible under thin layers of cheap, white paint, reminding the plaintiffs on a daily basis what had happened. The mutilated works were visible by millions of people on the passing 7 train."

Manhattan group sues to stop too-tall tower

From AM-NY:

A new lawsuit has brought a skirmish over a residential skyscraper on the Upper East Side to new heights.

State Sen. Liz Krueger, City Councilman Ben Kallos, and two neighborhood groups are challenging the city’s approval of a residential building with an art gallery, currently under construction at 180 East 88th St.

DDG Partners’ structure is slated to rise 524 feet, when including mechanical equipment.

In a lawsuit recently filed in New York County Supreme Court, the Upper East Side groups claimed DDG Partners created a micro-lot to skirt zoning rules that would have otherwise limited the building’s height to about 300- to 350-feet, according to estimates from Kallos’ office.

The lawsuit alleges DDG Partners created a small zoning lot where its property borders 88th Street, which it transferred to an entity created exclusively to own the new buffer lot. DDG Partners then successfully argued the rest of the property does not border 88th Street, according to the lawsuit. This allowed DDG Partners to avoid zoning rules requiring buildings along 88th Street to use tower-on-a-base designs, where 55 percent of the building’s bulk is concentrated below a height of 150 feet, according to the lawsuit. The design standard can indirectly limit the overall altitude of buildings.

The Upper East Side groups have taken a number of steps to challenge the city’s interpretations of the zoning rules and attempt to halt the project, including appealing its decision with the city Board of Standards and Appeals.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Firetruck crashes into building

From Eyewitness News:

An FDNY truck crashed into the side of a building while responding to a call in Queens.

Five firefighters were checked out on the scene at 97-09 150th Street in Jamaica.

The Department of Buildings was called to the scene to conduct a structural stability inspection.

Queens getting a heavy tow truck

From the Queens Chronicle:

Queens residents, civic leaders and NYPD precinct commanders who have grown frustrated with drivers who park their large trucks overnight on residential streets could be off the hook — and the trucks on one — by the end of this coming summer.

The NYPD confirmed on Monday that the city is purchasing a heavy duty tow truck that will be used exclusively within the borough of Queens.

The truck, being built by Mack, will have a towing capacity of 35 tons.

“We anticipate that it will be delivered at the end of August, when it will be checked and prepped for service,” the NYPD said in an email to the Chronicle.

Marine Park experiences Fedders

From Brooklyn Daily:

Longtime Marine Parkers are livid the city let the owners of a small one-family Kimball Street home supersize it into a multi-family monstrosity they say is completely out of character with the neighborhood — and part of a trend that, if it continues, will let developers turn their beloved enclave into an overcrowded mess the likes of which can sadly be found just a few blocks away.

“What they’ve done to Sheepshead Bay is horrifying,” said Louise Quinlan. “We’re one of the few neighborhoods left from the old days.”

Unlike the quaint one-family homes it is surrounded by, the Kimball Street six-family between Avenues T and U sticks out like a sore thumb, thanks to its cluster of gas meters up front and mess of ductless air-conditioning units attached to it side. On top of that, it has a painted handicapped parking space in front, replacing what is normally a patch of grass, is noticeably taller than its two neighbors, and has entrances on the side as opposed to the front.

“It’s hideous and ugly,” said Quinlan. “There’s nothing in the front, no garden. It destroys the look of the block.”

This is really the first of its kind in this area? Kind of find that hard to believe. Well, have fun, Marine Park!

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Swindled workers will be paid after settlement

From AM-NY:

Three Queens construction companies have pleaded guilty to withholding more than $370,000 from 150 workers, according to state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.

The companies, Lotus-C Corporation of Jackson Heights, Johnco Contracting Inc. of Bayside, and RCM Painting Inc. of Maspeth, failed to provide workers with overtime wages between 2012 and 2017. Additionally, the employers had the workers, who were painters, sign a form stating that they were independent contractors instead of employees, the attorney general said.

The companies also underreported their staff numbers to the state, which resulted in major underpayment of unemployment contributions to the state, Schneiderman said.

As part of their plea deal the owners of the companies have dissolved their offices and are banned for five years from bidding on public works contracts in New York State. They will also pay a total of $371,447.01 for unpaid wages and $359,747.86 in unpaid unemployment contributions to the State Department of Labor, the attorney general said.

Another tragic fire in an illegal conversion

This is the new normal in Queens and other parts of the City. Read it and weep.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

DOT allows bus lane parking on weekends

From the Queens Chronicle:

The Department of Transportation will allow motorists to park in the curbside Select Bus Service lanes on Cross Bay Boulevard from Liberty Avenue to the Belt Parkway at all hours on Saturdays, area elected officials announced Thursday.

"Today is a perfect snapshot of how government should work," state Sen. Joe Addabbo Jr. (D-Howard Beach) said in front of C-Town Supermarket located at 107-66 Cross Bay Blvd. in Ozone Park. "Business owners, residents and others complain to their elected officials about a Select Bus Service that started in November and wanting change and change occurs. And we're thankful the DOT listened to our concerns and did the change."

Parking in the lanes was previously not allowed from 7 to 10 a.m. and 4 to 7 p.m. Monday to Saturday, with buses and cars making right turns being the only vehicles allowed in the space.

The DOT on Wednesday changed the signs to let motorists know parking is now permitted all day Saturday, following pushback from business owners along the strip who said business was negatively impacted.

Rose, the manager of C-Town, said her store lost 10 to 15 percent of its Saturday customers since the restriction was put in place in November — when SBS launched on Woodhaven and Cross Bay boulevards.

Subway repairs are of concern in Astoria

From AM-NY:

The MTA is planning to begin a 14-month, extensive reconstruction of the Astoria-Ditmars Boulevard subway station this April that the authority says is needed to rehabilitate what it considers a dilapidating, century-year-old station. There are rusted-out holes in beams and the wooden staircases between the platform and mezzanine buckle under steps from commuters. The station will remain open during the repairs.

But elected officials slammed the agency for poor public outreach — local politicians were notified Monday; not including the addition of elevators in its repairs; and for tacking on the construction while the 30th Avenue and 36th Avenue stations remain closed as part of a separate, controversial renovation program. Since those two projects began this fall as part of what’s known as the Enhanced Station Initiative, it’s apparent that any good will between the agency and the community has been lost.

Shams Tarek, a spokesman for the MTA, said that only one staircase in the Ditmars Avenue station will be closed at a time as crews work to fix crumbling staircases, concrete slabs and support structures. New lighting will be added. The leaky, wooden roof will also be replaced with a new steel structure and new outdoor windscreens will be added. The agency will also renovate and balance platforms to fix gaps between trains and the platforms and make small changes that will improve access.

Staging for the project will require the complete curb space under the Hell Gate Bridge overpass, but it will not block businesses nearby, Tarek said. The project will cost the MTA $22 million, the elected officials said.

Friday, February 9, 2018

5-story building to replace Forest Hills small businesses

From Forest Hills Post:

A block of shops on 71st Road are going to be torn down and replaced with a 5-story mixed use building, according to filings with the Department of Buildings.

The stores, located between 107-21 to 107-25th Road, will be replaced with a building comprised of ground floor retail and four stories of office space.

Joel Mandel, whose firm the Forest Hills Property Group owns the building, said that the tenants—Austin Fancy Cuts, City Printers and Anthony Kids—will be moving out this year. The convenience store Kwick Stop has already closed.

The building is part of a lot that includes 71-23 and 71-25 Austin Street, located on the corner of Austin and 71st Road. Those structures will not be touched.

Too-tall buildings to be reined in

From Crains:

The de Blasio administration is taking aim at developers’ practice of stacking luxury condos atop multistory hollow spaces to achieve greater heights and more lucrative sales.

Marisa Lago, chairwoman of the City Planning Commission, said at a town hall meeting last month that her office is working to change how it treats such large voids, which do not count against a building's density limit. Limiting their size could shrink the height of future towers.

“The notion that there are empty spaces for the sole purpose of making the building taller for the views at the top is not what was intended” by the zoning code, she said. “We are already working under the mayor’s direction with the Department of Buildings to see how we can make sure that the intent of the rules is followed.”

Putting a building on stilts is a common gambit used by developers of very tall luxury condo towers to boost a project’s height yet comply with existing zoning. It works because floors for mechanical equipment are exempt from the limits. By stretching the ceiling of one or more mechanical floors to dizzying heights, developers can essentially create a pedestal upon which to stack the priciest units.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

REBNY involved in CUNY chancellor search

"Why on earth would the President of REBNY be on the search committee for the next CUNY Chancellor? Their tentacles are everywhere...

These are the members of the Chancellor Search Committee and their affiliations:

William C. Thompson Jr., Chairperson, CUNY Board of Trustees
Barry F. Schwartz, Vice Chairperson, CUNY Board of Trustees
Henry T. Berger, Trustee, CUNY Board of Trustees
Fernando Ferrer, Trustee, CUNY Board of Trustees
Una S. T-Clarke, Trustee, CUNY Board of Trustees
Kevin D. Kim, Trustee, CUNY Board of Trustees
Jill O’Donnell-Tormey, Trustee, CUNY Board of Trustees
Karol V. Mason, President, John Jay College of Criminal Justice
Dr. David Gómez, President, Hostos Community College
John Aderounmu, Chairperson, University Student Senate
Huiling Cai, Student, LaGuardia Community College
Katherine M. Conway, Chair, University Faculty Senate
Ruth E. Stark, Distinguished Professor, City College
John Banks, President, Real Estate Board of New York"

- anonymous

16 units to replace 1-family house in Astoria

From Queens Post:

A single-family home that was built nearly a century ago was recently demolished to make way for a 5-story residential building.

Demolition permits for the 2.5 story clapboard home, located at 23-23 30th Rd, were filed in August, and the demolition began in December. The property was bought by 23-23 Astoria LLC in June for $3.1 million.

The 93-year-old house will be replaced with a 16-unit apartment building, which will be 12,495 square feet and 50 feet tall. The owner filed for building permits on Friday.

An outdoor recreation space will be located on the roof, and a lobby and bicycle parking facility will be on the first floor.

An ambulatory healthcare facility will be located in the cellar. The building will have a driveway.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

2-family home to be replaced with 20 units in Kew Gardens

From Forest Hills Post:

A 120-year-old Kew Gardens house will be demolished and an 8-story residential building will be built in its place.

Demolition permits for the 3-story, 2-family Tudor home at 117-03 Curzon Rd were filed in December. The house dates back to the construction of Kew Gardens as one of seven planned garden communities built in Queens between the late 19th century and 1950.

The property was purchased for $1.5 million in May.

The new 20-unit structure will be 80 feet tall and 14,498 square feet, according to Buildings Dept. filings.

Mr. de Blasio goes to Albany

From the Wall Street Journal:

New York state lawmakers are pushing Mayor Bill de Blasio to move faster on a promise to take on a property-tax overhaul, saying many residents are already being financially hurt by changes to the federal tax code.

“It’s urgent that we move forward,” Assemblyman Michael Cusick, a Democrat, said during a finance hearing in Albany Monday where the mayor was presenting his preliminary budget.

The mayor’s budget appearances in Albany take place several times a year. It’s typical for state lawmakers to grill the New York City mayor on subjects ranging from taxes to schools to police.

At one point, State Sen. Catharine Young, a Republican, asked Mr. de Blasio why Shola Olatoye, the head of the city’s public housing authority, was still at the helm amid concerns over management issues, including revelations the agency had failed to conduct lead-paint inspections required by law for four years. Mr. de Blasio defended Ms. Olatoye, saying she had made progress in a difficult agency.

But many lawmakers in Monday’s hearing focused on property taxes, an issue that in New York has cut across partisan lines.

The mayor said he would “unquestionably” roll out property-tax changes this year. But he said any changes would have to be “revenue-neutral” to allow the city to maintain its current services.

The city’s property-tax rate hasn’t increased under Mr. de Blasio, a Democrat. But the levy has grown by 23%, or about $5 billion, since fiscal 2015, the first full year he was in office. The increase is because of a rise in property-value assessments by the city.

Cuts to property taxes haven’t been a priority for the liberal mayor and liberal City Council. But the city could change the way it assesses property values to reduce what many residents, lawmakers and experts have said are disparities in the way the levy affects homeowners in different areas.

Plan in effect for small piece of Willets Point

From a mayoral press release:

Mayor Bill de Blasio, Borough President Melinda Katz and Council Member Francisco Moya today announced an agreement to jumpstart construction of 1,100 affordable apartments on six acres of Willets Point – an increase of 225 affordable homes over the original development proposal. The new homes will be the first built on the wider Willets Point site which was approved for development by the City Council in 2008.

The new plan is for three, 100 percent affordable buildings including a standalone building with 220 homes for low-income seniors and also apartments for families at lower incomes than originally proposed. The plan also includes public open space and a new 450-seat public elementary school.

To identify community priorities and produce recommendations for the remainder of the 17 acres of the Willets Point development site, the mayor also announced the formation of a task force, chaired by Borough President Melinda Katz and Council Member Francisco Moya. The task force, initially proposed by Council Member Moya, is modeled on the steering committee that developed the framework for the Greater East Midtown Rezoning.

Who died and left these two in charge? How do you just totally switch around what the City Council agreed upon? Shouldn't the process go out to bid again?

From Willets Point United:

From the outset of the proposed Willets Point development, it has been understood that a developer would be selected via a competitive sealed proposal process.

The City’s selection in 2012 of Queens Development Group (QDG) to develop phase one of Willets Point – to the exclusion of all other firms that submitted proposals – was predicated on QDG’s unique proposal that expanded the project to include a mega-mall on public parkland (leveraging a lease already held for said parkland by the Mets’ owners, who comprise half of QDG).

In the aftermath of the Court of Appeals decision which prevents QDG from implementing its proposal, Mayor de Blasio should have immediately availed himself of the opportunity afforded by the contract between QDG and the Economic Development Corporation (EDC), to rescind the sale of Willets Point property to QDG and cancel the contract award. Then, the City would have been free to issue a new request for proposals (RFP) to the entire present-day development community, for the “new” six-acre project which apparently is now the priority.

Instead, there has never been a competitive sealed proposal process for development of six acres of Willets Point property stemming from the intersection of Willets Point Boulevard and Roosevelt Avenue. Think of it: A reasonably-sized, six-acre project would likely attract a larger pool of developer proposals than did the 2012 RFP which encompassed the enormity of the Willet Point phase one site. There is absolutely no basis to think that QDG is the “best” developer for this six-acre site and configuration, because the de Blasio administration did not implement any competitive sealed proposal process (although it should have done so).

In its article published on February 6, 2018, the New York Times repeatedly refers to the six-acre project as a “new plan” and “new deal.” We agree, but wonder why there was also not a “new” RFP and “new” competitive sealed proposal process to determine it.

Willets Point, in total, is 62 acres. The city was supposed to develop the entire thing. Millions of dollars later, they're settling on 6 acres or 10%. You gotta love our government.