Monday, April 30, 2018

The M train is back, baby!

City Planning's hotel bill will dump most of city's homeless in Queens

From the Commercial Observer:

The City Planning Commission earlier this week kicked off public review for a zoning change that would create a special permit to limit hotel development in industrial zones. While many in the real estate industry loathe the special permits, some hotel owners are surprisingly in favor of them.

The amendment would require hotel builders in M1-zoned areas to undergo a full public review process in order to get the special permit, which means sign-offs from community boards, borough presidents, the City Planning Commission and the City Council. Unless a developer secures the special permit, the New York City Department of Buildings won’t give the go-ahead to a new hotel project.

Well, this sounds good!

Developers will be allowed to build hotels in only three industrial neighborhoods as-of-right in New York City—East Elmhurst by LaGuardia Airport and Ozone Park and Springfield Gardens by John F. Kennedy International Airport (all in Queens). Special mixed-use districts like Long Island City will also be exempt from the special permits.

Ah, no, this is not what we want. As of right in 4 Queens neighborhoods only?

However, the zoning text amendment does include a potentially controversial carve-out for new hotels that will be used as homeless shelters. Hotels “operated for a public purpose” will not need to go through the special permit process, and hotel-to-shelter conversions will also be exempt from the permit requirement, according to zoning documents from the Department of City Planning.

And there we have it.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

NY&A deemed dangerous by worker safety group

From Newsday:

A national worker safety watchdog group has named the Long Island Rail Road’s freight provider as one of the most dangerous employers in the United States. The National Council for Occupational Safety and Health, an advocacy group, included the New York and Atlantic Railroad, or NYAR, in its “Dirty Dozen” list of companies that put workers and communities at risk.

"Safety is our top priority and the LIRR is reviewing its relationship with New York and Atlantic," LIRR spokesman Aaron Donovan said Friday.

The Glendale, Queens-based railroad, which has worked as the LIRR’s official freight service provider since 1997, was among other U.S. employers on the list, including Amazon and Tesla Motors.

The safety council said its criteria for inclusion on the list was 'severity of injuries to workers; exposure to unnecessary and preventable risk; repeat citations by relevant state and federal authorities; and activity by workers to improve their health and safety conditions.'

Fire doors now a top priority

From NBC:

Chris Glorioso has an update on what New York City is doing to crack down on landlords who have faulty fire doors.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

So we did all that for nothing?

From the Queens Chronicle:

The launch of Select Bus Service along several corridors in New York City has done little to improve riders’ commutes, a new analysis by the city comptroller claims.

The findings, released last Friday, state the average speed of SBS buses is 8.9 miles per hour, 20 percent better than the average rate for local buses, 7.4 mph.

The fastest Queens SBS route is the Q70, which connects riders from Jackson Heights to LaGuardia Airport, at 11.3 mph.

And the service is not doing much to get people where they need to go in a timely manner either. The average on-time performance for all SBS lines is 62 percent, equal to that of local routes. The Q44 SBS, which runs through Flushing and Jamaica, is on time 54 percent of the time, the Q70 scored a 62 percent and the M60 — which goes from LaGuardia Airport to Morningside Heights in Manhattan — got a 37 percent on-time rate.

The report did not state the speed or on-time performance of the Q52/53 SBS routes on Woodhaven and Cross Bay boulevards, which launched last November.

TWA is taking off

From PIX11:

An icon of the Jet Age is poised to soar anew: The landmark TWA Flight Center at Kennedy Airport will reopen next year as the gateway to a swank new hotel that will give new wings to the TWA name.

The TWA Hotel, which is now under construction, is rising next to the original Flight Center, which is being restored to its "Mad Men" splendor.

Commissioned by aviation tycoon Howard Hughes and designed by famed architect Eero Saarinen, the Flight Center opened in 1962.

Hopefully, Pepper the missing cat takes up residence there.

Friday, April 27, 2018

Many automatically closing doors fail inspection

From NBC:

Nearly four months after the Bronx inferno, the I-Team has discovered more than 22,000 other apartment doors that failed city inspections because they did not automatically close. The violations were issued by inspectors with the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development within the last three years.

About 13,000 of the door violations have been corrected or dismissed, according to city records. But almost 9,000 of the door violations are listed as current hazards that have yet to be fixed.

There are about 300 HPD inspectors citywide, so it is unclear how many malfunctioning fire doors may have evaded detection.

Fudged homeless stats are focus of investigation

From the Daily News:

State officials have launched an investigation into whether Mayor de Blasio’s administration has been properly disclosing criminal activity in homeless shelters as required by law, the Daily News has learned.

The state Office of Temporary & Disability Assistance (OTDA) “has begun a formal investigation into New York City's conduct and demands that they immediately provide all information required under the regulations,” agency spokesman Tim Ruffinen said Wednesday.

The probe comes in response to The News’ revelation Wednesday that the city has been hiding from the public hundreds of arrests at shelters citywide.

The city Department of Homeless Services (DHS) must by law report a long list of incidents at shelters, including most arrests, to OTDA.

DHS claimed that in December 2016, the state had agreed to their decision to reclassify and reduce the number of categories of “critical incidents” they’re required to report.

But the state said Wednesday that is simply not true.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

City Council acknowledges that city residents own cars and need parking

From the Observer:

Another bill—sponsored by Upper Manhattan Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez, chairman of the Council’s Committee on Transportation, as well as Levine and Queens Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer—calls on DOT to establish and implement RPP citywide.

Rodriguez referred to a study conducted by the City University of New York (CUNY) and New York University (NYU) that found more than 50 percent of New Yorkers surveyed were willing to pay an annual fee for RPP.

“We would like to see a system in place where 80 percent of the area will be reserved to the residents of the local community that we would like to bring the parking system,” Rodriguez said at a rally on Wednesday afternoon. “We also feel that by paying a small fee every year, those local residents, they will not have to compete with anybody else.”

At the Council’s monthly pre-stated meeting on Wednesday afternoon, City Council Speaker Corey Johnson said he plans to review the bills with all of the Council members.

“I understand that there are many folks that live in communities across the city who find it very frustrating that they can’t find parking in their neighborhoods,” Johnson said. “We also are trying to disincentivize cars in New York City. We’re trying to get people to use cars less in New York City.”

He said state law empowers the city to enact RPP.

“State law says that municipalities with a population of over one million people are allowed to enact residential parking, and so I believe we do have the authority to do this,” Johnson continued.

New York City is one of the only major cities in the United States that does not have some version of an RPP. Such a system currently exists in Boston, Chicago, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., Albany and Buffalo.

Oversized crap coming to Richmond Hill

From Queensbeans:

A new residential building is coming to Richmond Hill, a Queens neighborhood. The tower will be addressed at 93-13 112th Street and will feature six stories. The site is located around the corner from Atlantic Avenue, which serves as a connection between Queens and Brooklyn. Six blocks from the site there is the 111th Street subway station, which is serviced by the J trains.

The developer is Gorden Tan, whereas Peninsula MEP LLC will be handling the design. The area is famous for its Queen Anne and Victorian structures, so the design of this particular building will be something that will get people talking, whatever direction the architects decide to go.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

The building beat goes on in Woodside

From Sunnyside Post:

Plans for a nine-story building in Woodside have been filed with the Department of Buildings.

The 75-unit corner building would rise to a height of 99 feet at 43-44 51st St., and span just under 60,000 square feet.

Floors two though nine would see a mixture of affordable and market-rate apartments spreading through 51,372 square feet, while the ground floor would hold 8,624 square feet of retail space.

The development also includes an indoor and outdoor recreation room for tenants, a fitness room, and enclosed parking for 31 cars.

Police promise an intervention

From the Forum:

The commanding officer of the 106th Precinct this week told The Forum that his officers will soon meet with the owners/operators of the tractor trailers that seem to clog up both North and South Conduit avenues in South Ozone Park.

“We are aware of the situation and have visited the location,” Capt. Brian Bohannon said on Tuesday. “The trailers are moved frequently. We will sit down with management to discuss these issues.”

Residents have raised concerns about the problem in the past, noting the danger posed by the presence of detached trailers at busy intersections along both thoroughfares.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Bus overhaul in the works

From the NY Times:

Double-decker buses. Entering a bus from any door. Digital signs showing when the next bus will arrive.

These are some of the improvements New York City’s long-suffering bus riders were promised on Monday as the Metropolitan Transportation Authority announced a plan to turn around the sputtering bus system.

The city’s buses have been plagued by sluggish service and declining ridership, even though the persistent problems have received less attention than the crisis facing the subways.

In his first major initiative, Andy Byford, the new leader of the transit agency that operates the city’s subways and buses, released a plan to speed up buses.

“We know it’s the right thing to do, and now we really want to push on and make this plan a reality and get people back on the buses,” Mr. Byford said at an M.T.A. board meeting in Lower Manhattan.

Transit advocates and board members — a notoriously difficult group to impress — quickly praised the bus plan. Jaqi Cohen, the campaign coordinator for the Straphangers Campaign, an advocacy group, called it “one of the biggest wins for our city’s 2.5 million daily bus riders in more than half a century.”

Monday, April 23, 2018

Pipes run dry in Whitestone

From the Times Ledger:

Residents of 2nd Avenue in Whitestone said they have been living each day not knowing if they will have water due to insufficient pipes.

State Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) was joined by eight homeowners from 2nd Avenue to call on the city and the DEP to address serious quality-of-life issues regarding their water. Avella said that for years eight homes on 2nd Avenue between 147th Street and 147th Place have dealt with flooding conditions and poor water pressure, if they have had water at all. Residents said the flooding issue was resolved when the city Department of Transportation resurfaced their road but the city has not addressed the lack of water.

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Avella said he has reached out to DEP since 2013 about the water problem and has gotten zero response.

Residents are blaming the lack of water on an inadequate, two-inch wide water supply pipe that is not able to service all of the homes on the block. While the DEP has acknowledged in the past that the pipes are not wide enough, Avella contends the DEP has refused to take any action.

Council blows a lot of hot air over wind turbines

From Crains:

The City Council will consider a bill Monday to standardize wind-turbine installation on rooftops as part of a suite of green legislation wending its way through the chamber.

Currently, anyone who wants a turbine must apply for a special permit from the Department of Buildings, which is notorious for bureaucracy.

"As anyone who's dealt with [the department] knows, even the most garden-variety projects can often ensnare you in endless strands of red tape," Councilman Costa Constantinides, a Queens Democrat and sponsor of the bill, said in a speech earlier this year. "When you add cutting-edge technology on top of that, you're only complicating it further."

The legislation would standardize the process so property owners would know exactly what to do and inspectors would use the same set of criteria to judge every project. The idea is to help make the city more energy-efficient.

A complementary Constantinides bill would require officials to create a wind map showing where these devices would work best.

Solar panels tend to be more cost-effective small-scale power generators, but not all rooftops are conducive to their installation, creating an opportunity for wind.

Small wind turbines can be used to generate modest amounts of power as well as make a statement about renewable energy, but they are nowhere near the top of the list in terms of potential to make the city greener. Reducing power consumption of buildings, which account for nearly three-quarters of the city's greenhouse-gas emissions, provides the biggest payoff. Large-scale wind farms can also move the needle; the state's Energy Research and Development Authority is working on a plan for turbines off the coast of Long Island.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Maspeth bar shut down for prostitution, drugs, gambling & counterfeit cigarettes

From NBC:

A Queens bar had its liquor license suspended after authorities allegedly uncovered prostitution, narcotics, illicit gambling and untaxed cigarettes.

The New York State Liquor Authority issued the emergency suspension of Huang Jia Inc in Maspeth Wednesday effective immediately, which prohibits alcohol to be sold or consumed on the premises.

According to the State Liquor Authority, SLA investigators and officers with the New York City Police Department’s Citywide Vice-Enforcement Division executed a search warrant of the bar on April 12. During the search warrant, investigators allegedly discovered 97 packs of counterfeit or untaxed cigarettes, jars and bags filled with the narcotic ketamine, records related to the sale of prostitution and illegal gambling devices.

The NYPD made nine arrests, including the bar’s owner, for criminal possession of a controlled substance. Additionally, a number of hazardous conditions were observed, including overcrowding, blocked exits and non-working emergency lighting, the State Liquor Authority says.

On April 14, the NYPD and SLA conducted a follow up inspection, making six arrests after allegedly discovering patrons with ketamine in three separate karaoke rooms inside the bar and finding patrons consuming alcohol after closing hours.

On April 16, the SLA charged the establishment with 22 violations of the ABC Law, including disorderly premises for permitting prostitution, gambling, trafficking of controlled substances, failure to supervise and for becoming a focal point for police attention.

Between March 15th and April 12th, the NYPD conducted three undercover operations where detectives posing as customers allegedly purchased narcotics, prostitution and gambling — all which formed the basis for the April 12 raid, officials say.

According to the NYPD, there was an alleged a pattern of criminal activity in and around the premises months prior to these incidents.

Community gardens coming to Woodside

From Sunnyside Post:

Woodside could see two community gardens soon, as the city is preparing to license out small plots of land in the area to a non-profit and community gardening program.

The two triangular lots in question are on opposite sides of one another by 41-38 69th St., parallel to the Brooklyn Queens Expressway below them and close to Woodside Avenue.

The sites are under the jurisdiction of the Department of Transportation, which owns the BQE bridge structure the lots are on.

The lots would be converted to community gardens run by both the International Rescue Committee, a humanitarian aid organization, and GreenThumb, a NYC Parks program that supports community gardens around the city.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Will a community land trust work in NYC?

From Curbed:

The huge run-up of prices in the 21st century, which can lead to gentrification, speculation, and predatory practices, has shrunk the affordable housing stock, says Andrew Reicher, executive director of the Urban Homesteading Assistance Board, one of the community groups collaborating on the Interboro Community Land Trust in New York City.

“People are looking around for a tool that creates affordable housing from the start, and prevents this type of change from happening again,” he says. “I’m not sure people realize how fragile our housing economy can be.”

One of the more intriguing new CLTs, the nascent Interboro Community Land Trust, aims to apply this model to one of the nation’s most expensive real estate markets, New York City.

According to Reicher, Interboro will partner with developers and nonprofits across the city. New affordable homes, apartment developments, and co-ops will be added to the trust, which will help maintain affordability longer than standard subsidized housing developments.

While Interboro has already attracted seed funding from the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development, as well as a $1 million contribution from Citi Community Development, the organization will need to partner with existing projects to truly grow; even a few million won’t be enough to acquire significant land in New York. Still, despite the high costs of acquisition, Interboro believes it can grow to 250 units over the next few years.

Another tower for Dutch Kills

From the Queens Gazette:

The owners of a parcel at 41-05 29th Street in the Dutch Kills section of Long Island City have submitted pre-filing permits for development of a 24-story, mixed-use tower at the site.

The 290-foot tall tower will feature 66.940-sqare-feet of residential space with 84 apartments measuring 707-square-feet each, including some larger rental units, and 2,050-square-feet of ground floor retail space, according to information posted on the YIMBY (Yes, In My Back Yard) website.

Permits are in place for demolition of an existing structure at the site. The developer has not announced an estimated completion date for the project.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Contractor dumped lead contaminated soil near Middle Village school

Photo by Christopher Barca/Queens Chronicle
From the Queens Chronicle:

A $22 million sewer main project in Middle Village that was nearing completion suddenly stalled in December, and no one in the community knew exactly why.

There was some talk among area leaders that workers were transferred to another job site or that they had various problems digging into the ground.

But on Tuesday, Councilman Bob Holden (D-Middle Village) said the real reason for the project’s halting was much scarier.

“The Department of Design and Construction sent four representatives to my office on Friday and they told me the project stopped because of contaminants in the soil,” Holden said. “I asked one gentleman what were the contaminents in the soil.

“He said high levels of lead.”

As if that wasn’t a big enough issue, the lawmaker said that problematic soil that had been excavated during the Penelope Avenue sewer work is sitting in a yard leased by CAC Industries — the project contractor — across the street from PS/IS 128, a K-8 school in Middle Village.

The massive mounds of dirt had been sitting uncovered at the site, possibly for months, as a tarp wasn’t placed over them until this week.

And at both a press conference and Community Education Council District 24’s monthly meeting on Tuesday, Holden said the person who spoke about the high lead levels — a senior DDC project manager based in the immediate area — was contradicted by his colleagues over how dangerous the soil was and if it was covered.

The lawmaker added he visited the site last Friday and noticed the massive mound of soil was uncovered. But on Monday, he claimed, DDC Acting Commissioner Ana Barrio falsely told him it had been covered the entire time and that the agency project manager “misspoke” regarding lead levels.

DEP bribery scheme detailed

From NBC:

A former New York City Department of Environmental Protection employee was cuffed in a $165 million construction corruption scheme. Erica Byfield reports.

When it rains, it floods in Bayside

From NBC:

Residents in Bayside, Queens, says paving crews did such a poor job resurfacing roads that it now regularly floods when it rains. Roseanne Colletti reports.

LPC Chair resigns

From the NY Times:

The chairwoman of the Landmarks Preservation Commission announced on Thursday that she was stepping down from her post, after nearly four years of a sometimes tumultuous stewardship.

The chairwoman, Meenakshi Srinivasan, had faced fierce opposition to a set of proposed rule changes that critics said would weaken protections for historic buildings in New York City.

Those changes would, among other things, put the commission staff in charge of some types of landmarks decisions. Critics said that would remove decisions from public view and eliminate the chance for public comment.

At a commission hearing on March 27, an overwhelming majority of speakers voiced opposition to those rules; at least one speaker at the hearing called for the removal of the chairwoman, to loud applause.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Another de Blasio fundraiser busted

From the Daily News:

A Queens construction magnate who has pumped hundreds of thousands of dollars into campaigns across the state made illegal straw donations to Mayor de Blasio and other candidates during the 2013 election to gain political favor, prosecutors said Wednesday.

Husam Ahmad, whose deep pockets have helped fill the war chests of de Blasio, Gov. Cuomo and dozens of other elected officials, was arraigned in Manhattan Criminal Court for making false statements about the contributions.

He was also charged for his role in a massive corruption and bribery scheme that involved paying off a mid-level city official for inside information on contracts.

Ahmad — who until two months ago served on the board of the de Blasio-controlled Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York — leaned on HAKS employees to make political contributions at fundraising luncheons at the company’s 40 Wall St. office, prosecutors said.

The soirees — where finger food and sandwich wraps were served — were held for De Blasio, Joe Lhota and Bill Thompson, all mayoral candidates in 2013.

A HAKS administrative assistant would keep tabs on the employees’ donations, then Ahmad would reimburse them with year-end bonuses, according to the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office. Federal and state laws prohibit an individual from reimbursing a donor for their contributions.

Council wants to go after AirBnB

From Crain's:

The City Council hopes to pump up a task force targeting illegal home rentals—a move that could deflate Airbnb.

Speaker Corey Johnson's response to Mayor Bill de Blasio's budget proposal calls for injecting an additional $2 million into the Office of Special Enforcement, an investigations unit that conjoins half a dozen city agencies and often enforces state statutes barring transient occupancy. Johnson's request would bring the team's budget to $6.8 million and could enlarge its staff to 47 employees from 27.

"The increase could add approximately 20 new staff and allow OSE to take a more proactive approach to enforcement," the document, released last week, states.

In most cases, state law requires that a permanent occupant remain on-site whenever paying guests stay in an apartment or house for fewer than 30 days. The state also passed a law in 2016 outlawing the advertising of arrangements that would violate this rule. Both have dug into the business of booking site Airbnb, though the San Francisco–based tech giant has said it works hard to keep its listings and rentals in compliance.

The council's redoubled effort against scofflaw rentals comes in the wake of a hotel industry–funded mail and TV advertising offensive slamming Airbnb for allegedly putting upward pressure on rents. It also follows a zealous campaign by the Hotel Trades Council—the union representing traditional hospitality workers—to elect council members supportive of Johnson's speaker candidacy and to lobby the Bronx and Queens Democratic machines on his behalf.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

DeBlasio cronies rake in dough for homeless housing

From the Daily News:

Twin brothers with identical eye-popping salaries have been double-dipping off their nonprofit that provides housing to the city’s homeless — even as their clients suffered poor service and have been blindsided by eviction notices.

Mark and Solomon Lazar, the sons of Joseph Lazar, a former political ally of Mayor de Blasio, each make $240,000 a year as the top executives of the Brooklyn-based nonprofit LCG Community Services. But their big checks don’t end there.

The city has paid millions of dollars to LCG Community Services to place homeless families in temporary housing since 2012. The city also awarded LGC a four-year, $10.9 million contract in 2015 to run a Brooklyn shelter.

Mark and Solomon Lazar, in turn, use LCG to pay millions of dollars to a for-profit firm, Razzal Hospitality and Management — which they own.

Razzal manages many of the properties where LCG places homeless families.

In 2016, LCG paid Razzal $2.7 million to manage part of its cluster-site housing — a controversial city program that places homeless families in private apartment buildings, according to the nonprofit’s most recent federal tax filing.

LCG also paid $1.94 million to the Lazar brothers’ private firm in 2015 and $1.4 million in 2014, records show.

Meanwhile, LCG clients who live in cluster housing sites in the Bronx have complained in a lawsuit about bad conditions in their units, including roach infestations, leaky toilets and broken appliances.

College Point hotel raises concerns

From the Times Ledger:

State Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) joined concerned College Point residents who are unhappy with a proposed hotel Tuesday afternoon.

Avella and community members denounced the plans to construct a six-story hotel at 14-61 127th St., the former site of a single-story building. The rally comes weeks after Avella wrote three letters to the city Department of Buildings expressing concerns that the hotel, located in an M1-1 zoning district, would be totally inappropriate. In his letters he pointed out that the traffic situation in College Point is already bad due to the narrow streets and there is already over-development in the area.

He said he has yet to receive a sufficient response from DOB, but the agency did agree that turning a one-story building into a six-story hotel should not be considered an “alteration” as the developer originally claimed.

Residents at the rally said the hotel would be totally out of character with the surrounding neighborhood. Avella and community leaders have held multiple meetings with the owner of the property in hopes of coming to an agreement on a better use of the land without success. Avella said at one point the developer agreed to an alternative use for the location but quickly changed his mind and went back to his plans for a hotel at the site.

There are only 2 reasons you would put a hotel in College Point and neither of them are good ones.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

2 women die in fire at Illegally converted home

From the Daily News:

Two women were killed in a fast-moving blaze that erupted inside a Queens home amid a deluge of rain Monday morning, officials said.

More than a hundred firefighters tackled the inferno as flames tore through the two-story home on the corner of Wheatley St. and Brunswick Ave. in Far Rockaway around 4 a.m., according to a FDNY spokesman.

The two victims — both unidentified — were pulled from the burning home and rushed to St. John's Episcopal Hospital, where police said they died.

BP race gets another candidate

From Forest Hills Post:

Councilmember Costa Constantinides plans to run for higher office in 2021 and all indications are that it will be for Queens Borough President.

Constantinides held a fundraiser in Astoria last week and the highest donation sought was $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.

The invitation to the fundraiser reads: “Costa Constantinides A Champion for Queens,” and adds, “I hope I can count on you as we expand upon our legacy and fight for higher office after my current term ends.”

Constantinides is in his final term as a council member and will be forced to vacate his office at the end of 2021. He represents the 22nd District that covers Astoria and parts of Woodside, East Elmhurst and Jackson Heights.

Affordable for whom?

From the NY Post:

Most folks pay through the nose to live in New York City, but many in search of affordable middle-class housing are finding some relief in Queens.

Residential housing is booming in the borough. In February, almost half of new residential construction was in Queens, according to city figures.

The NYC Economic Development Corp. (NYCEDC) registered 2,847 new housing units in February, with 1,234 of those in Queens, or about 43 percent of the new units in the five boroughs.

A “mega-scale project” in Long Island City is a big reason why Queens is generating so much new housing, said a spokeswoman for the NYCEDC.

Queens residential rents generally have been about $600 less per month than those in the rest in the city. Last month the average Queens residential rent was slightly up, to $2,182, according to the Queens Rental Market Report.

Right, so the new housing is concentrated in areas where people will pay an arm and a leg for it yet this is a boon to the middle class.

Monday, April 16, 2018

DOT tries to fix Austin Street

From Forest Hills Post:

The Department of Transportation (DOT) plans to combat congestion along Austin Street by adding truck loading zones, tweaking parking regulations and adding new crosswalks.

Representatives from the DOT presented the proposed changes before Community Board 6 Wednesday evening and said the plan would combat congestion caused by trucks double parking, pedestrians crossing mid-block and limited parking availability.

The plan targets Austin Street between 69th Road and 72nd Road. (click for DOT plan)

The DOT said that it plans to tackle the double-parking problem by creating nine 60-foot long loading zones that would take up to 27 parking spaces over the course of the day along Austin and adjacent streets.

Behold Banks' B.S.

From AM-NY:

The Department of Homeless Services, which Banks oversees, said the city wasn’t trying to pick on Blissville. In a lengthy statement provided to Newsday, the agency said plans to house about 154 adult families in the Fairfield Inn by Marriott New York/Long Island City at 52-34 Van Dam St. in Blissville was part of the mayor’s “Turning The Tide” proposal. That is an effort to end the city’s 18-year expensive cluster program of using commercial hotel facilities and create transitional housing in the Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan and Queens.

The placement of homeless housing is done after an analysis at the community board level, covering an area of 100,000 people and not just one finite neighborhood that may be difficult to define with precision, the agency said.

CB2 already houses more homeless than it produces. Hell, all of western Queens does as does the entire borough.

Can we cut the crap now?

Sunday, April 15, 2018

The new reason for new streetcars

From Forbes:

The revival of American cities over the last 20-25 years has also coincided with the revival of a relic of the earlier urban heyday -- the streetcar. But don't mistake the streetcar revival for a newfound affinity for mass transit. Today's streetcars -- indeed, streetcars throughout American history -- are about stimulating development and rising property values, and not about improving job or neighborhood access.

Curiously, this is happening just as transit ridership seems to be on the decline nationally.

It's been done before. Streetcars were initially developed in the late 19th century to open up new areas for urban -- and suburban -- development. Streetcars enabled the development of areas beyond the edges of old, crowded cities, and led to a new, more dispersed development pattern.

As for today's iteration of streetcar development, however, I'm ambivalent. Streetcar development is happening now for two reasons: 1) there is a new and growing demand for city living, and 2) the demand for city living currently outpaces the supply. Streetcars systems are being built as a recognition of those factors, and an attempt to spark similar development in areas where it hasn't yet taken off. Just as parks and highways have been used as economic development tools in the past, streetcar systems are being utilized in the same manner. Their use comes into question as we consider the broader impacts of streetcar development. Do they improve access for the region? Are they playing a role in reducing the rapidly growing levels of inequality we see in our cities? Or are the new systems simply being constructed to serve a select group of favored urban newcomers?

Fight is on to stop "Bayonne Boxes"

From CBS 2:

A fight between New Jersey housing developers and supporters of historic preservation is heating up as Victorian homes from the 1800s are being replaced by the spread of so-called “Bayonne Box” homes.

Now, Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop has put a moratorium on demolitions until the city council can vote on a new ordinance governing tearing down old homes.

“The goal is really kind of recognizing the city’s history and some of the nicer buildings there. Not every building needs to be protected, but there are some that should,” he said.

“The new ordinance basically is designed so that each (developer) that applies for a demolition permit will go before the Historic Preservation office,” said Amatuzzo. “Then each house would get a fair assessment on its historic value, architectural style, it’s contributing aesthetics to the neighborhood, and if it ties to any historic event or family or person.”

A group of developers is fighting back with a lawsuit.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Tire thieves out in force

From CBS 2:

Several vehicles have been stripped of their wheels in Queens, and the cars all have something in common, police say.

Police say at least 16 cases of stolen tires and rims have been reported in neighborhoods like Astoria, Jackson Heights and East Elmhurst since February.

AAA’s Robert Sinclair told Castro this isn’t surprising. He said the fact thieves are targeting newer Honda Accords, Acura MDXs and Toyota Camrys can be attributed to how popular the cars are on the showroom floor.

Police sources told CBS2 the suspects are likely part of an organized crime ring that works in teams. Suspects in a scout car will pick out a target, then a van is called in with the tools to do the job.

A car can be stripped in a matter of minutes. The parts are then resold. Things like wheel locks do help, but they aren’t always foolproof.

Development avalanche hit Queens last month

From the Real Deal:

Queens dominated the list of New York’s biggest projects in March.

The borough took six of the top 10 spots on the list, three of which were part of a large new mixed-use complex replacing a derelict shopping center in Far Rockaway. The others were located in Springfield Gardens, Astoria and Forest Hills.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Is it time for Joe to go?

From Roll Call:

Pelosi has been in power so long that only 58 House Democrats seeking re-election this fall have known another floor leader. In the interim, a long line of lawmakers viewed as potential future speakers have taken themselves out of the running. First, Rahm Emanuel left to be White House chief of staff and then mayor of Chicago. Then, Chris Van Hollen opted for a Maryland Senate seat, Xavier Becerra opted to be California attorney general, and Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida was fatally sidetracked by her national party chairmanship.

Crowley remains the only member mentioned among that group who’s still got a shot.

To take it will require him to win an 11th term, of course, which is proving more work than usual. The district, which covers northwest Queens and a slice of the Bronx, is lopsidedly Democratic, but in June he faces his first contested primary in 14 years against Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a 28-year-old political operative and community organizer running an impassioned grass-roots campaign to his left.

“We have basically, on one side, a multimillion-dollar machine candidate that was never elected, who does not live in the district — he lives in Virginia, his children go to public school in Virginia,” she told the Queens Courier. “It’s really kind of the pinnacle of someone who is a little out of touch but very influential.”

Her reference is to the old-school way Crowley cruised into Congress after a dozen years in the state Assembly: His mentor Thomas Manton, who was both the Queens Democratic chairman as well as a congressman, announced his retirement from the House so late in the 1998 campaign that it was effectively up to him as the party boss to pick a replacement nominee. (Crowley has been county chairman himself since Manton died in 2006.)

Now, he portrays his blue-collar sensibilities as just right for leading his party in combating a president “born on the other side of the tracks” — meaning the Long Island Expressway, which separates Crowley’s Elmhurst from Donald Trump’s Jamaica Estates.

Like the president, Crowley said early in the Trump administration, he’s ready to use colorful language to express outrage and frustration and aims to “talk turkey and talk straight” to workers. “Part of my strength is that I come from the same borough,” he added. “Maybe I sound a little bit like him. But my life could not be more divergent.”

The night belongs to lovers but the day belongs to these people

"I've been living in Woodside since 1978 and this is the first street singer I've seen. And he is pretty darn good!" - SirBill55

How charming!

Watch behind the singer and you'll notice some not-so-kosher things going on. Cabs shouldn't be making U-turns in the middle of Roosevelt Ave and commercial establishment shouldn't be dumping their garbage next to public trash bins. It's funny to see the video end with the busker staring at a Hefty bag.

Thanks, Kent, for passing this along.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

2 bad MIH projects coming to Woodside-Elmhurst

From City Limits:

...the idea that triggering MIH makes this rezoning some sort of salve to the affordability crisis is a cruel joke. The most common criticism of MIH is that the “affordable” units are unaffordable to neighborhood residents. That’s certainly true. In my own writing, I’ve mostly focused on the impact that adding additional market rate development capacity will have on neighborhoods targeted for gentrification. But this rezoning points to another absurdity in the law.

The developer is proposing to use what’s called “option 2” of MIH, which requires the owner to set aside 30 percent of their units (in this case 27 apartments, all studios and 1-2 bedrooms) at an average of 80 percent of the Area Median Income (AMI). The word “average” is crucial here, because it implies that the developer will provide a range of options, which might look as follows.

  • In the best-case scenario, there would be just 9 new apartments for the typical neighborhood household, which makes something like 40 percent AMI. This also means there would be nothing for half the people of Elmhurst—the poorer half that is most likely to face displacement.
  • 9 apartment seekers would get homes at 80 percent AMI, and pay close to the median asking rents for market-rate apartments in the district. This means that wealthier-than-average people will get average priced apartments, and it will be called “affordable housing.”
  • Another 9 wealthy but inexplicably ill-informed households might take the 9 apartments offered for 120 percent AMI, which amounts to prices above the neighborhood’s average asking rent.
  • For some reason, people making 3 times the neighborhood median income are expected to move in and pay more than market rates for so-called “affordable” housing. Perhaps the developer assumes they’ll be willing to pay more in rent for the privilege of living above a Target.
From Sunnyside Post:

A two-tower complex with over 500 residential units could be making its way to Queens Boulevard in Woodside.

The large-scale development, put forth by Madison Realty Capital, would see a 17 and a 14 story building at 69-02 Queens Boulevard housing 561 units combined, according to filings with the Department of City Planning.

Over 425,000 square feet would be allowed to the residential portion of the complex, which includes 392 market rate apartments and 169 affordable units. The site would also see 5,640 square feet of commercial space.

The development would also include parking for 242 cars, and an open space between the two towers at ground level featuring picnic tables, table tennis, a putting green, and a sand lounge for residents.

A sand lounge? What the hell is that?

Remember, Mandatory Inclusionary Housing was supposed to offer more "affordable housing" but that only comes with out of character structures and a shit-ton of ridiculously priced units that hasten gentrification.

Trailer trash in South Ozone Park

"Here are some of the problems people are dealing with in South Ozone Park. If you have driven on South Conduit and North Conduit Aves you have probably passed these tractor trailers parked illegally taking up lanes at these busy intersections and yet they continue to be a daily nuisance in this area. People have gone to community board meetings, to the 106 police precinct regarding this problem only to be told by the community board members, and officers at the 106 that we should just learn to get used to it because they will never go away. People have also been told that it could take months or years for them to conduct a heavy tow operation. It is not right how these owners of about 5-10 trucks have no regard for people’s safety and how police do nothing. Here are some pictures. Now tell me how drivers can see oncoming traffic with these trucks illegally parked here.
Detached trailer parked on north conduit next to speed way gas station located at 129-03 both conduit Ave

Here’s another detached trailer parked on south conduit and 126th street

Here is a dumpster trailer parked on south conduit and 127th street. There are no standing signs posted as you can see in the picture below the one way sign.

Here is a video driving up the 150th Ave ramp from South Conduit.

- Anonymous

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

He must have thought that no one would find out

De Blasio solicited donations in exchange for meetings with major lobbyist’s clients but didn't report it - Daily News

De Blasio wanted donation from NYCLASS as group sought horse carriage ban - Daily News

De Blasio Defends Ethics As Critics Question Why Donors Paid Investigation Settlement Fines - CBS 2

Mayor de Blasio claims he can’t remember secret 2015 meeting with major lobbyist that led to $100G in donations - Daily News

One hotel coming, another going

From the Queens Gazette:

Developers have filed plans for a 116-room, 16-story hotel at 38-59 11th Street, just two blocks from the Queensbridge Houses.

The hotel would soar 179-feet over the Long Island City landscape, with eight room on each of the second through 14th floors, and six rooms each on the two remaining floors.

Great location!

Also from the Queens Gazette:

A developer has filed plans to build an 8-story, mixed-use residential building at the site of a Holiday Inn hotel at LaGuardia Airport.

The 70-foot-tall, 173,909-square-foot building at 37-10 114th Street in Corona will feature 623-square-feet of community space, 92,217-square-feet of commercial space and 81,069-square-feet of residential space with 90 units – 10 of which will be located in the basement.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Fire at illegally converted home with 10-year vacate order!

From the NY Post:

Three Queens residents’ lives were saved in an “amazing rescue” by firefighters who pulled them to safety through the window of an illegal attic apartment during a blaze Sunday, fire officials said.

“They would all have been dead,” FDNY Batallion Chief Robert Bohack Jr., said.

Firefighters were called to the scene at 101-51 107th St. in Richmond Hill around 7:45 a.m. for a fire that started on the second floor of what was legally considered a two-story building.

But first responders quickly realized residents were being illegally housed in the attic and would need to be rescued, an FDNY spokesman said.

Smoke eaters battled the flames from inside, by traveling up the interior stairs, and from the rear of the home, where firefighters used a ladder to access the attic through a small window.

Buildings department inspectors determined the two-family home had been illegally converted into a five-family structure, with additional apartments in the cellar of the building, a DOB spokesman said. Officials immediately issued a vacate order due to the heavy damage throughout the building.

When confronted at the scene, a man identified as the building’s owner would not answer questions about the illegal conversion.

Perhaps he's mum because there's been a vacate order on the house for 10 years!

Farewell, Shola

From the Daily News:

Beleaguered NYCHA chairwoman Shola Olatoye, accused of making misleading statements about the conditions in public housing and under fire from multiple critics, will announce Tuesday that she is resigning.

Olatoye will make the announcement at a public housing development in the Rockaways along with Mayor de Blasio, who appointed her four years ago and has defended her against a growing chorus of criticism.

Late Monday, the mayor said he will tour the Ocean Bay Bayside Houses Tuesday morning, and a City Hall spokeswoman confirmed Olatoye would step down and the mayor will install government veteran Stanley Brezenoff as interim chair of the New York City Housing Authority.

Late Monday the mayor continued his defense of Olatoye, 43, calling her “a change agent from Day One. Crime is down. Repairs are faster. Finances are stabilized. And NYCHA is putting record investment from the City to work making life better for the 400,000 New Yorkers that call NYCHA home.”

Monday, April 9, 2018

Attack of the "Cash 4 Junk Cars" stickers in Queens Village

"I took these photo's on the south corner of Hempstead ave and 221 st. It seems that every lamp post, street sign, telephone pole along Hempstead ave, Springfield Blvd, Jamaica Ave, Francis Lewis Blvd, and Hillside ave has these damn stickers on them! Even on the residential streets, they are stuck to the back of stop signs and glued onto telephone poles! THEY ARE EVERYWHERE IN QUEENS VILLAGE, AND THEY ARE MULTIPLYING FAST!!! HHHHEEEELLLPPP!!!" - anonymous

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Only the rich are moving in

From The Real Deal:

Pricey American cities are starting to attract more residents who can afford those prices.

Research from economist Issi Romem has found that new residents coming into cities like New York, Miami and Los Angeles are making significantly more money than residents who are leaving, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The trend is strongest in San Francisco, where the people moving to the city and nearby Silicon Valley earned almost $20,000 a year more than the people who left the area in 2016. In Los Angeles, the income gap between people leaving and people arriving was $7,600.

Former industrial cities like Detroit and Cleveland are seeing the opposite trend, where new arrivals are making less than people leaving the cities.

New arrivals to cities also tend to be younger, more likely to rent and less likely to have children than people leaving.

Dwarfing the Clock Tower

From Curbed:

A new rendering has surfaced for the massive residential tower taking shape at 29-37 41st Avenue, adjacent Long Island City’s historic Clock Tower, revealing what the Handel Architects-designed rental, dubbed Queens Plaza Park, is bringing to the landscape.

Once the building tops out at 63 stories, it’ll hold the title for the tallest residential building in Queens, though it could quickly be dethroned by a project taking shape at 23-15 44th Drive that could reach a whopping 78 stories.

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Because the LIRR isn't packed enough now

From Crain's:

The city’s Department of Transportation is studying ways to get more New Yorkers to use commuter rail lines and take pressure off of the beleaguered subway system, public documents show.

The department has tapped engineering firm AECOM to look at potential changes that would boost ridership on Long Island Rail Road and Metro North lines running within the five boroughs.

Reducing fares within city limits, for example, would entice more residents to use commuter rails like the subway system and connect more neighborhoods to transit hubs like Grand Central Terminal and Penn Station in Manhattan, Atlantic Terminal in Brooklyn and Jamaica and Woodside stations in Queens.

“AECOM is under contract to … investigate service and policy strategies for the city zone of the commuter rail network to connect residents to more frequent and affordable regional rail service, and potentially reduce crowding on nearby subway lines,” a spokesman for the department said in a statement.

In particular, the de Blasio administration has floated the idea of running trains more frequently between Atlantic Terminal and Jamaica Station so Queens commuters could then transfer to a number of subway lines at the Brooklyn hub.

The agency and the Economic Development Corp. are jointly spending around $787,000 on the study, which began in January and will end in October.

The City really seems to like AECOM. First they hired them for Liz Crowley's dopey light rail proposal, now this.

The commuter lines will not take Metrocards and the people who ride commuter rail lines won't stand for more crowding.

Waste. Of. Time. And. Money.

The case against Bill de Blasio

From the NY Times:

When a New York restaurateur who had donated to Mayor Bill de Blasio’s campaign grew increasingly desperate to get a lease renewed, he sent an email directly to one of the city’s most powerful people: Emma Wolfe, a top aide to the mayor.

“Hope you had a great holiday season,” the restaurateur, Harendra Singh, wrote in January 2015. “I would love to speak with you at your convenience.”

Ms. Wolfe took just nine minutes to respond: “Absolutely,” she wrote, “let’s talk on Monday.”

A meeting was soon arranged — part of a longstanding effort that federal prosecutors say Mr. de Blasio and his aides undertook to help Mr. Singh in return for campaign contributions.

The emails were among a raft of evidence related to the alleged scheme that was revealed in Federal District Court here on Wednesday, as part of a case that has revived discussions of possible impropriety by Mr. de Blasio, despite his not actually being involved in the trial.

From the Daily News:

Asked if de Blasio ever called him and solicited donations, Singh replied, “He was always looking for money for himself.”

In court in Central Islip, L.I., Singh made clear that he openly discussed his ties to the mayor with top de Blasio aides as he sought their help resolving a rent dispute with the city.

And they responded by pressuring the Department of Citywide Administrative Services to go easy on back rent he owed for the restaurant he owned on city land in Queens.

In a March 22, 2014, email to top de Blasio aide Emma Wolfe, Singh wrote, “I humbly request you to get me some time to get some issue in front of some City officials. I am very loyal and very early friend of Bill and not (to) be able to get in touch with anyone is a little heart wrenching.”

Soon after, one of Wolfe’s assistants responded, “happy to see if I can help.”

Friday, April 6, 2018

The grass isn't greener in the suburbs

From the Real Deal:

High property taxes are virtually inescapable for people living within commuting distance of New York—and the new tax law will make this burden even worse.

Nine of the 10 counties in the U.S. with the highest average property tax bills from 2017 were in the New York City suburbs, with Westchester topping the list at $17,179, according to Bloomberg. The sole exception was Marin County in California, where the average bill was $11,295.

New York’s Rockland County took the number two spot, while Nassau County landed at number five. Connecticut’s Fairfield County was number eight, and the rest of the spots all went to counties in New Jersey: Essex, Bergen, Union, Morris and Passaic.

Someone is reusing surrendered license plates

From PIX11:

The DMV is supposed to destroy all license plates turned into its offices. A department official said the plates are sent to a recycler in upstate New York. But, the official admitted, there have been instances of surrendered plates turning up on other vehicles.

“Somebody is doing something illegal," Sandi said, speculating that someone, somewhere, must have the Durells' old plates.

Next, the Department of Finance sent the Durells a Notice of Impending Default, tacking on a $30 penalty and threatening to turn the case over to a collection agency.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Bushwick Avenue bushwhacked by FLC!

QC normally focuses on crap in Queens, but we were alerted to the presence of a very special dung pile at 908 Bushwick Avenue. The lobby is in the cellar? Top floors overhang community drive? The design elements seem familiar. A little TOO familiar.
Mama mia! Who could be responsible for this architectural abortion? (Also notice how the rendering differs from the reality.)
Sure enough, look who was spotted in the vicinity. It's none other than Frank Lloyd Crap!