Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Hunters Point library besieged with delays

From the LIC Post:

The Hunters Point Library will not open until the summer of 2019 as the project continues to be besieged by construction delays.

The city agency in charge of overseeing the construction estimates that the library will be completed by the end of the year, with the Queens Library taking an additional three to six months to get it ready for opening.

The 22,000-square foot library, which has been under construction since 2015, was expected to open in the first half of 2017. However, between the complex design and issues with the general contractor it continues to be behind schedule.

The major source of the delays can be attributed to the performance of the general contractor, Triton Structural, according to Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer. “The contractor has essentially defaulted on the project.”

LIRR platforms to be widened

From the Forest Hills Post:

The Long Island Railroad train platforms at the Forest Hills and Kew Gardens stations will be lengthened to accommodate two additional train cars, LIRR President Philip Eng announced yesterday.

The project will lengthen the platforms by 50 percent to allow six cars to meet the platform instead of the current four. LIRR trains can be up to 12 cars long, the railroad said.

The plan is intended to address crowding and reduce delays by helping customers to board and exit trains more easily, the LIRR said.

Both the north and south platforms at each station will be lengthened with fiberglass decking supported by steel scaffolding.

The Forest Hills and Kew Gardens stations have an average weekday ridership of 1,967 and 1,778 passengers, respectively. In recent years, Forest Hills has become a more popular destination for Forest Hills Stadium event attendees.

Monday, July 30, 2018

Whitestone sidewalk & car damage resolved

From CBS 2:

It was a beyond welcoming sight in front of the Maddalena-Vigliotti home in Whitestone, Queens — city crews finally repairing the damaged sidewalk.

“If it wasn’t for you and your covering this story, nothing would’ve gotten done,” Queens resident Anna Maddalena told CBS2’s Andrea Grymes.

Two weeks ago, CBS2 reported multiple locations across Queens, where city-owned trees uprooted during storms back in March. The city had cleared the trees, but months later still hadn’t fixed the sidewalks.

This week, after CBS2’s reports, repairs are finally being made.

For this family, the sidewalk was not the only thing destroyed when the tree came down. They’re still looking for answers from the city about one of their cars.

The 2008 red Mazda had been parked on the street in front of the house, but when the tree collapsed, the car was totaled under the weight of the limbs.

Maddalena says they had collision insurance but not comprehensive coverage, which would’ve covered the damage.

So she filed a claim with the city comptroller’s office in May. She got a letter back saying if the office is unable to resolve the claim, “any lawsuit against the city must be started within one year and 90 from the date of occurrence.”

Maddalena says she then called numerous times, trying to figure out what she’s supposed to do with the car, as it sits in the driveway.

So on Friday, CBS2 reached out to the comptroller’s office and they quickly responded.

Maddalena says she got a call from the division chief, who apologized several times and promised someone would come out and assess the car by Monday. After that, they can finally get rid of it.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Cooper Avenue shelter, take 2

From the Queens Chronicle:

Seven months ago, the Department of Homeless Services told the Chronicle that the longstanding but dormant plan to build a homeless shelter at 78-16 Cooper Ave. in Glendale was dead.

But there's been a dramatic change of plans, according to the office of Councilman Bob Holden (D-Middle Village).

The lawmaker announced Friday that an unnamed social services provider is in negotiations with the DHS to house up to 200 homeless men at the location — a defunct, four-story factory.

"My office had received several reports from area residents over the last few days about activity at the former manufacturing building in Glendale," Holden said. "After sending numerous inquiries to various DHS officials over a 24-hour period, and speaking with Commissioner Steve Banks, these reports have validity and I am extremely concerned."

No deal has been finalized, Holden added, noting that he had provided a "more viable location" for a shelter in the district but "the DHS never responded."

Oh boy. And they were sounding so friendly a few weeks ago.

Liu not very adept at fundraising

From the NY Post:

Former City Comptroller John Liu’s state Senate campaign missed the deadline for filing its financial-disclosure statement — and no one there realized it until contacted by The Post Thursday.

The campaign said it resubmitted the documents Thursday and provided The Post with a copy, which showed Liu has just $984.80 in his kitty.

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Silver gets 7 years

From PIX11:

Former New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver has been sentenced to seven years in prison for public corruption, U.S. District Judge Valerie Caproni announced Friday at a court in Manhattan.

Silver was once among Albany's most powerful Democrats until he was felled by a corruption scandal.

He was initially found guilty in 2015 of pocketing $4 million illegally by collecting fees from a cancer researcher and real estate developer.

His conviction and 12-year prison sentence were thrown out by an appeals court, but the 74-year-old fared no better at a second trial in May.

In a pre-sentence submission, Silver said he was filled with shame and feared he would die in prison.

"The People's Beach" has gone to the hipsters

If you want to see what happened to the Riis Park Bathhouse, head on over to Impunity City. But be forewarned: this crap is not for the faint of heart. G.E.N.T.R.I.F.I.C.A.T.I.O.N.

Now we're getting e-bikes

From PIX11:

On July 28, riders in some areas will be able to test E-bikes with motors that help them ride.

This is part of the expanded bikeshare program. During the month of July, the Rockaways and Coney Island will see bikes that can be rented without a docking station.

Later in the month, Staten Island's North Shore and the Fordham Section of the Bronx will also be a part of the program.

During this test time, the city says it will be evaluating "companies’ compliance with pilot requirements around data accessibility and user privacy."

JUMP Bikes, which was born in New York City, will bring the first e-bikes to Staten Island and the Bronx.

Lime Bike and Citi Bike are also participating in these test areas.

Friday, July 27, 2018

Dutch Kills wants firehouse reopened now that it's overdeveloped

From the Queens Gazette:

Neighbors, local lawmakers, union officials and local leaders are renewing their wake up call to Mayor Bill de Blasio and the FDNY, to reactivate Engine Co. 261 before it’s too late to save lives.

The engine company located at a hook and ladder firehouse at 37-20 29th Street in the Dutch Kills section of Long Island City served the community for more than a decade until May 2003, when budget cuts under the Bloomberg administration forced its shutdown.

Ladder Co. 116, which shared the firehouse with Engine Co. 261, remains in service at the 29th Street house. Firefighters, aka “truckees” assigned to Ladder Co. 116 are usually the first to respond to local fires where they force entry, search for victims and ventilate burning buildings. The firefighters also perform rescues and provide medical assistance at fires and in other emergency situations, officials at the Uniformed Firefighters Association (UFA) said.

“All of a sudden, we were left with nothing but a prayer if we needed a local engine company to pour water on a fire,” Dutch Kills Civic Association President George Stamatiades said. “Fifteen years is far too long to be without adequate fire protection. The Dutch Kills community has come of age and we need the fire protection that is justified by our residential growth.

“We will continue our fight for the reactivation of Engine Co. 261 until the city is ready to acknowledge the need for increased fire protection for our booming residential community,” Stamatiades said. “Will it take a tragedy in one of the new high-rise residential or commercial buildings in Dutch Kills for the administration to wake up and smell the smoke?”

Stamatiades, one of dozens of local leaders who battled with city officials more than a decade ago to keep Engine Co. 261 activated, said Dutch Kills was a much different community in 2003.

“City officials said Engine Col. 261 had to go, because there wasn’t enough need for it,” he said. “We’re telling the city to take a new look at Dutch Kills today. Take a look at the new Dutch Kills and Long Island City communities that boast thousands of new residential units that tens of thousands of people call home.”

Rego Park tower to be pretty tall

From Curbed:

A large, corner site in Rego Park, Queens is set to welcome a 23-story residential tower, making it one of the tallest structures in the neighborhood. YIMBY first reported on the development, which will be located at 98-04 Queens Boulevard, and the construction site seems to span half a block on Queens Boulevard between 65th Road and 66th Avenue.

Plans filed with the city’s Department of Building list SLCE Architects as the architect of record. The 23-story tower will have a total of 116 apartments, which will average nearly 1,200 square feet.

Riding the subway there should be even more fun!

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Another too tall tower for LIC

From LIC Post:

Yet another tower could be heading to Long Island City, with reports of a 70-story skyscraper in the works for the Queens Plaza neighborhood.

The massive development has been pegged at 42-50 24th St., according to City Realty, just one block away from the Queensboro Plaza station, meaning the tower would join several 60 to 70 story towers under development in the area.

While there have been no building permits filed for the site yet, records dating back from 2015 show that the property, a taxi dispatch garage spanning 34,000 square feet, was purchased for $69 million by Property Markets Group and Dynamic-Hakim.

Renderings posted by one of the developers show plans for a one-million square foot project, with both commercial and residential components. The site, still under development, will be a “luxury tower”, according to developers.

The property is within an M1-5/R9 zoning district, which allows for high-density, tall towers.

311 call turns into 2-year saga

From QNS:

A potentially dangerous street condition in Maspeth is finally being addressed by the Department of Transportation (DOT) more than two years after a local resident filed a complaint with the agency.

The situation was brought to light in January of 2016 by Middle Village resident David Paz, who informed the DOT that a guardrail along the south side of 56th Road between 43rd Street and Maspeth Avenue had been severely damaged and needed to be repaired.

Photos revealed that the guardrail was in fact lying on the sidewalk on many parts of that stretch, detached from the bollards that normally hold it in place.

The rail serves as a barrier between the sidewalk and the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) tracks used for freight operations, and the industrial area is frequented by large trucks that park along 56th Road.

On July 19, more than two years later, a DOT spokesperson confirmed that jersey barriers — concrete or plastic barriers typically used to separate traffic — would be installed at the site this week, weather permitting. The statement came after QNS obtained copies of letters between DOT officials and Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan, who had been advocating for the guardrail to be fixed on Paz’s behalf, revealing that the agency had stalled in its response to the matter.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Is this the way to stop rampant K2 use?

From CBS 2:

Neighborhoods demanding a crackdown on the dangerous synthetic drug K2 rallied today describing the way the narcotic poisons their communities.

The neighborhoods might be different but the effects are the same, reports CBS2’s Marc Liverman.

CBS2 exclusive video taken back in 2016 show people on K2 passed out on chairs in the middle of the sidewalk, seen again in 2018 all around New York City.

Others are seen leaning against buildings and nodding out as mothers pushed their strollers close by. That was in the Mott Haven section of the Bronx, and now it’s happening in Williamsbridge.

Just ask pastor Janet Hodge.

“Every morning that we arrive, we find that people have used the bathroom on our property,” she said. “Every day I come outside and I find that there are men and women loitering on our stoops and they are in a stupor.”

“We have people walking around zombie-like, in catatonic states, up and down White Plains Road,” said State Senator Jamaal Bailey.

At a rally Monday, local politicians and residents said enough is enough. King introducing new legislation that would hold landlords and area businesses accountable.

“The store will be shut down and you will not be able to reopen the same business or rent it out to the same business,” he said.

The new legislation would also slap on a $100,000 fine on any business caught selling the synthetic cannabinoid.

Rats abound at Jamaica site

From the Queens Chronicle:

What once was a private park and playground at the corner of 109th Avenue and 171st Street in Jamaica has long been an overgrown eyesore for nearby residents.

Now it has been designated as a rat-infested danger by the city, which has laid poison in traps around the property and down holes on the lot itself.

“People in the apartment building across the street tell me they don’t want to go outside at night. That’s when they come out,” said Pam Hazel, a neighborhood activist, in one of two telephone interviews with the Chronicle in the last week.

The first treatment was put down on July 7, according to both Hazel and signs posted on the chain link fence around the property by the Department of Mental Heath and Hygiene.

During a visit by the Chronicle in 2013 the property, while already fenced off, had remnants of playground equipment and dilapidated but still recognizable park benches.

A visit last Friday showed the trees to have been cleared out, but that grass, brush and smaller trees have taken over all but the concrete-and-paving stone paths inside.

A handful of residents last Saturday staged a rally outside the property in an effort to draw the attention of the owners and elected officials from the area.

Why did a developer get control of this instead of the Parks Department?

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

March 2021 is new end date for Van Wyck project

From CBS 2:

“I am a Queens boy,” the governor said right before cutting the ribbon for the newly repaired Queens Midtown Tunnel, damaged during Superstorm Sandy.

But if you want bragging rights for having Queens roots, you have to take the pain with the acclaim, Kramer reported. Right now, there are some borough residents who have a bone to pick with “Andy from Queens.”

“Construction is horrible around here. You can’t go nowhere,” one driver said.

“Very annoying,” said another.

“It’s not easy to travel everywhere,” another said.

“I’m always late,” a man added. “I have to leave an hour earlier to get on the Van Wyck.”

The work began in 2010, but that was just phase one, which, according to the state’s records, was a year and a half late and millions of dollars over budget.

They’re now working on phase two, phase three and the yet-to-be started phase four to replace six decaying overpasses, rehab four more and widen the highway from six lanes to eight – a complex and intricate project that first required widening everything else to accommodate more lanes.

As the phases have multiplied, so has the cost.

Charter changes up for discussion

This is to let you know that the city's Charter Review Commission is having a series of meetings in the boroughs next week, Queens' turn is Thursday evening, July 26 at Queens Borough Hall. The Charter is basically New York City's "constitution" that lays out the broad parameters for administration and operation of the city. Please see the attached flyer for additional information. - Jessica Douglas, Queens Borough Director of the Mayor's Community Affairs office

Community Boards:
1) Whether to place term limits for Community Board members as a method to encourage diversity.
2) How to Standardize and enhance the existing appointment process
3) Provide additional support in resources; particularly as it relates to urban planning
4) Things to adopt methods to ensure Community Boards are representative of the community they serve.

Campaign Finance:
1) The Reduction of spending limits (no amounts provided).
2) Increasing the public match ( no ratio provided).
3) Look into the timeline for implementation given that candidates are raising money under the current system.

1) Language accessibility ( providing interpreters, translation of ballots and materials, and community advisory groups)
2) Instant Runoff Voting - Look to implement within local primary elections and for citywide elections (where runoffs is provided) or to extend to all offices (Borough Presidents and City Council offices)

A Citywide Civic Engagement Program
1) how such an entity or office could support, supplement, or coordinate the City’s existing efforts in this area, including the recently announced DemocracyNYC initiative.
2) how such an entity or office could facilitate the expansion of participatory budgeting while working within legal and operational constraints
3) where such an entity or office should be situated;.
4) whether such an entity or office should be independent and non-partisan.

Redistricting for City Council Seats
1) In light of the lack of DOJ oversight, solicit testimony from experts and affected communities about the effects of districting process on racial and ethnic minorities and their voting power.
2) Look at altering the Districting Commission to promote independence, including the appointment process.
3) Studying whether there are ways to counteract effects of an undercount in the next census.

Monday, July 23, 2018

Flagship Diner forced to close to make way for apartment building

From PIX11:

Sunday was a bittersweet day for longtime customers of the Flagship Diner, which closed after decades serving up meals in Queens.

For 53 years, this 24-hour diner with a parking lot out front on Queens Boulevard was the center of so many peoples lives.

Customers would bring their children and grandchildren to the diner. They also made sure to come out to say goodbye.

For a year and a half, the diner’s owners have been battling with the landlord over a lease that was supposed to end next year so the property could be converted into a 7-story apartment building.

This day brought one of the owners to tears.

“We’re very sad, but it is relief that it is over,” Vincent Pupplo, co-owner of Flagship diner told PIX11. “There was a lot of pressure in the last year and a half so this is bittersweet.”

Posting a property on AirBnB will have consequences

From Crains:

Airbnb seemed to be sucking wind after its political foes delivered it a gut punch Wednesday.

The City Council voted 45-0 in favor of a bill backed by the hotel industry and its union allies, a measure that will require the company to disclose to law enforcement the names and addresses attached to every one of its listings in the five boroughs. The legislation, expected to by signed by Mayor Bill de Blasio, will help the city to crack down on anyone violating state law by using the site to rent an apartment for fewer than 30 days.

The sole consolation for Airbnb was that the final draft of the bill lowered the fines the city can levy against the firm for every case of noncompliance to just $1,500, down from the original bill's range of $5,000 to $25,000.

The vote followed months of bitter public recriminations between the tech giant on one side and the city's traditional lodging interests and Hotel Trades Council on the other. On the morning of the vote, Airbnb labeled its loss "bellhop politics," and announced it would fund a lawsuit against the city brought by a host who claimed authorities targeted him after he testified at a council hearing.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Bars almost always get away with being loud

From NBC:

New Yorkers fed up with noisy nightlife have the odds stacked against them when filing complaints about loud bars and clubs. The I Teams Chris Glorioso reports.

(Sorry, couldn't resist.)

Liz Crowley considers losing boroughwide

From the Queens Chronicle:

Former Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley has been out of elective office for just seven months, but she’s already gearing up for what could be her next political endeavour.

In a Monday phone interview, Crowley exclusively told the Chronicle that she has formed an exploratory committee for a run for borough president in 2021 — something she is strongly considering.

“I’m from Queens. This is the borough I was born and raised in. I would bring a unique vision that extends beyond the previous boundaries of my Council district,” she said. “I’ve been out there the last few months talking to leaders throughout Queens and I’m getting a very good response. People are encouraging me.

“I haven’t decided yet, but I am humbled by the enthusiastic support.”

The former lawmaker said she formed her exploratory committee just two weeks ago, but she appears to already be in campaign mode — she attended six house parties in as many days across the borough, from Jackson Heights to Fresh Meadows and Breezy Point.

Just in recent weeks, Crowley said, she has raised approximately $100,000.

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Pedestrian plazas are homeless havens

From CBS 2:

There are a lot of homeless people on the streets on New York, which has lead some to wonder if the city’s homeless problem is growing.

CBS2 found one homeless hangout right in the middle of bustling Midtown Manhattan. For Thomas Decoteau, the area most known for the hustle and bustle of daily life in the Big Apple is simply known as the quiet zone.

Occupants say they typically get to the space around midnight every night and sleep surrounded by around 25 other homeless people. Decoteau has been sleeping in the Midtown oasis for years, and says outreach workers check on him every night. He’s still there because the city has labeled his street home a temporary pop up location, not an encampment. Only encampments may be forcibly removed.

By the city’s definition, encampments have a visible physical structure that’s difficult to move. Decoteau estimates there are upwards of 100 people staying along the space stretching from 39th to 35th Streets. The Department of Homeless Services refused to discuss the so-called pop up, but insisted last week the homeless situation is under control.

Cathy Nolan calls for moratorium on building throughout her district

From LIC Post:

Assemblymember Catherine Nolan is demanding that the city put a stop on new building construction in Long Island City following recent news of a developer securing a half-billion-dollar loan to build what will stand as Queens’ largest tower to date.

The proposed 67-story condo-project at 23-14 44th Dr., in the works since 2016 and with construction beginning last year, came into the spotlight yet again just last week, when the Wall Street Journal reported that the developer had secured a $502 million construction loan for the massive $700 million project.

With the loan, Chris Jiashu Xu, the developer, will be able to build out the 780 foot, 802-unit “Court Square City View Tower” by 2022, the WSJ reported, with LIC’s Modern Spaces in charge of marketing.

But Nolan, who released a statement on the project this afternoon, said the tower is “another illustration of the inadequacy of the current zoning in Long Island City.”

“I have written numerous letters opposing such large towers and asked for changes in zoning,” Nolan said.

She claims that City Planning’s LIC Core Study, a neighborhood study that could lead to a rezoning, has been “put on hold,” while as of right towers continue to spring up in the community.

The Department of City Planning, however, said the city is working on the core study.

From QNS:

Two elected officials representing Queens have joined Community Board 5 and concerned local residents in the fight against a controversial new housing development in Ridgewood.

Assembly Members Catherine Nolan and Mike Miller took their complaints straight to the top on July 13 when they sent a letter to Mayor Bill de Blasio to draw his attention to 1664 Woodbine St., where construction is about to begin. Listed among the nearly 3,000 Ridgewood structures on the National and State Registers of Historic Places, the building is set for a vertical expansion that could “speed up the potential for additional high-rise developments” in the neighborhood, the letter stated.

More importantly to the lawmakers’ constituents, however, is the feeling that such developments are “destroying the integrity and character of the block,” according to the letter.

Friday, July 20, 2018

No one ran a background check?

From the Daily News:

The site functions as an off-the-radar version of what the city hopes will be one of the first government-monitored supervised injection sites in the United States: Safe spaces where addicts can shoot up without interference from the police.

Mayor de Blasio has endorsed a plan to locate four sites citywide, including one at the Washington Heights location.

But no supervised injection site has been officially approved in the city — and there are doubts it will ever happen, given that the Department of Justice opposes the idea.

And as of this week, city and state health officials said they were not aware of Washington Heights Corner Project’s bathroom arrangement.

City officials were also unaware that the couple who now runs the Corner Project — Liz Evans and Mark Townsend — had to resign in 2014 from a supervised injection site in Canada after government auditors uncovered lavish spending on fancy restaurants, limo rides and four-star hotels in Europe.

Since then, Evans and Townsend relocated to New York and began running the Washington Heights Corner Project — and promoting the idea of opening more sites in the city.

This year Evans was appointed to an advisory panel on the subject by the city Health Department and was quoted by Mayor de Blasio in his May 4 press release announcing the push for the sites.

Bowne Park is a disaster

Hello Crapunzel,

It’s been awhile since I’ve felt the need to contact you. Recently in the blog you’ve mentioned North Flushing, sidewalks and street digging, and since I am a resident of the Bowne Park area of NF I figured you might have an interest in this.

The Department of Parks and Councilman Paul Vallone in their infinite wisdom have determined that Bowne Park should be ignored. We have made several requests for more trash cans on the 159th street side of the park, by the playground, where ice cream vendors ply their trade and parents allow their issue to drop litter, to no avail. Attached are photos of their solution, black plastic bags hung over fences.

We’ve also complained to Vallone about the pond. For OVER TWO weeks the fountains have been shut off leading to an algae bloom that is not only unhealthy for the fish and turtles in the pond but to the olfactory senses of the local residents. See attached photos.

Repeated calls to Vallone’s office have not alleviated this problem. Contacting the Parks department at the Overlook is a total waste of time, they do not care about one of their park “Jewels”.

Also, take a gander of the bocce court that the department added a couple of years ago for about $500,000...no one uses it.

Thanks for your attention.


Philipe the pissed

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Real estate money flows into Cuomo's political pocket

From The Real Deal:

Donors from New York City’s real estate industry contributed more than $733,000 to the re-election campaign of Gov. Andrew Cuomo in the first half of 2018, an analysis of state contributions data by The Real Deal found.

That’s down from the more than $1.2 million property interests gave the governor during the previous six-month reporting period. Gov. Cuomo raised roughly $6 million in total contributions during both periods and now holds more than $31 million in cash for the duration of his re-election campaign.

As for Cuomo’s primary challenger, Cynthia Nixon, The Real Deal was only able to identify one New York City real estate business person among her top donors. Lawrence Benenson of Benenson Capital Partners, which is currently at work on a mostly market-rate rental building in the East Village, donated $10,000.

Dockless bike program hasn't gone as planned

From PIX11:

It's less than a week old, but some Rockaway residents want to put the brakes on a new dockless bike program after the two-wheelers started popping up in some very unusual and inconvenient places.

The great thing about the dockless bikes is that riders can pick them up anywhere. They just need to find the closest one by using the GPS built into each of the apps.

When riders are done, they can park them anywhere.

While that's convenient for the rider, it's also causing frustration for those in the community. On the Facebook Group Friends of Rockaway Beach, residents posted photos of Limebikes abandoned all over the neighborhood. One was ditched in the dunes, while others were left blocking driveways and sidewalks.

The problem is one Limebikes has experienced before. There's an entire Twitter account with the handle @DocklessBikeFail that showcases problems parking the bikes in Seattle.

Sometimes the bikes end up in trees, underwater or stacked on street corners.

Wow, what a great idea!

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Jury still didn't buy the excuses of Skelos and son

From the NY Post:

Ex-Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos was convicted Tuesday on eight counts of bribery, extortion and conspiracy. The jury agreed he used his power to muscle companies into providing his son Adam (also convicted) with $300,000 worth of no-show and low-show jobs.

It was the second guilty verdict for the pair, whose earlier convictions were overturned based on a Supreme Court ruling that narrowed the definition of official corruption. And it took place next door to the courtroom where Alain Kaloyeros, Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s economic-development czar, was convicted of bid-rigging just last week.

Since March, juries also have convicted Cuomo’s right-hand man, Joe Percoco, of soliciting and accepting bribes, as well as former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver — Skelos’ fellow member of the “three men in a room” who controlled Albany — of corruptly abusing his office.

Looks like Albany’s swamp is finally being drained, one corrupt official at a time.

Though there was nothing new in the charges, the verdict was a fresh rebuke to the state capital’s culture of corruption — and its continued refusal to enact meaningful ethics reform.

Community beats back overdevelopment project

From the Queens Chronicle:

The controversial rezoning plan for 40-31 82 St. near the Jackson Heights-Elmhurst border has been withdrawn following months of community uproar, according to activists, Assemblywoman Ari Espinal (D-Jackson Heights) and the office of Councilman Francisco Moya (D-Corona).

In a press release issued Saturday, Espinal took credit for the withdrawal of the application, saying she successfully urged Councilman Francisco Moya (D-Corona) to withdraw his previously pledged support for the project.

In a lengthy post on the group's Facebook page a day earlier, activist group Queens Neighborhoods United cheered the news but said it will continue to fight against any plan to develop luxury housing on the site.

However, a Department of City Planning spokesperson told the Chronicle on Monday that the agency had not received a withdrawal letter from the developer, Sun Equity Partners.

Sun Equity Partners did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the demise of the proposed 13-story, mixed-use structure — dubbed The Shoppes at 82nd Street. But the group's spokesman, Hank Sheinkopf, confirmed the decision in a statement issued to Politico.

"After conversations with Councilmember Moya and Assemblywoman Espinal, and taking the borough president's recommendations into consideration, we have decided to no longer pursue this rezoning application," Sheinkopf said. "We are continuing with construction as permitted under the current rezoning."

Freight rail to be expanded

From Crains:

The city unveiled a plan Monday to invest up to $100 million in freight infrastructure, the opening step in Freight NYC, an initiative envisioned by the de Blasio administration to shift more of the millions of tons of food, products and materials that are carted into the city each year by pollution-belching trucks to trains and ships.

The city’s Economic Development Corporation said it will issue a request for proposal by the end of the year for a private partner to work with the city to build a five-acre barge terminal on city-owned land in Hunts Point. That project could cost between $20 to $30 million to develop and would be used to deliver food items and produce by water to the large constellation of grocery and restaurant distribution businesses in the South Bronx neighborhood. The city has not identified the specific site or sites where the terminal could be constructed.

The city is also seeking to create a 500,000 square foot distribution center in the Brooklyn Army Terminal in Sunset Park, which is located adjacent to freight rail, and build a 75,000 square foot ground-up air cargo facility near Kennedy Airport. By providing low cost space to rail and air freight businesses, the city is hoping to encourage the use of those transportation modalities rather than trucks. Solicitations for private partners to work with the city on those projects will be issued within the next two weeks, the EDC stated.

Another near-term goal in the report was to create as many as four small freight yards along an existing freight rail line that snakes through Brooklyn into Queens. The yards would provide new offloading points for goods carted by freight trains, potentially reducing the distance that trucks would need to travel to deliver that cargo the last miles to its final destination. Shorter delivery distances not only reduce vehicle miles, but also allow smaller delivery vehicles to be used in place of large, long haul trucks that currently rumble through the city.

It wasn’t immediately clear how much it would cost to build those small rail facilities, although they appear to be modest in scope, requiring the construction of short stretches of track parallel to the existing freight line to allow trains to park and unload without impeding the flow of train traffic along the route.

The steps could take thousands of trucks off the road and create freight-related jobs.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

We should do this here!

From Metro:

...while these so-called “bandit signs” are actually illegal in Philadelphia, it’s a tough problem to fight. So Philadelphia’s Zero Waste and Litter Cabinet recently teamed up with 24 community organizations to form the city’s first-ever “Bandit Sign Brigade.” Over the month of June, some 8,000 illegal flyers were removed from the streets.

“We had groups representing every part of the city tearing these signs down,” said Nic Esposito, who is director of Philly’s Zero Waste and Litter Cabinet in addition to running an urban farm in Kensington and a local publishing house. “They find this a sign of disrespect, that you can come in my neighborhood and put these signs up and think that it’s totally fine to do that.”

The Bandit Sign Brigade amassed significant data on the location and types of signs being hung around Philly to aid the city’s Department of Licenses and Inspections in tracking down and punishing the people responsible for the signs.

The city is also offering a cash benefit, paying 50 cents per illegal sign removed to eligible groups, up to $500 in funds for community cleaning and greening supplies.

To learn more about the Bandit Signs Brigade, visit cleanphl.org/illegalsigns/.

Crappifying Ridgewood by hook or by crook

From QNS:

Two Ridgewood residences in historic territory are slated for redevelopment to make room for more apartments, according to Department of Buildings (DOB) records.

In March, a three-story, three-family building at 1663 Madison St. received a permit to add a fourth story to its existing structure, records show. Two months later, a three-story, six-unit building at 1664 Woodbine St. — directly behind the first building on the same block — received a permit in May to add a fourth story and a penthouse to its existing structure.

With both properties located on National and State Registers of Historic Places, the new developments set an “unfortunate” precedent for the blocks of attached brick homes and make local residents fear gentrification, said Ridgewood Property Owners and Civic Association President Paul Kerzner.

“In theory, you can take any building in Ridgewood, Glendale, Maspeth and Middle Village that is not part of the city landmarks and that can happen to any property,” Kerzner said. “I’m also concerned about gentrification, because to me it’s the artificial transfer of property value because of speculation.”

A lifelong resident of Ridgewood, Kerzner explained that national and state historic status does not protect a building from redevelopment. Only city landmark status has that power, and the areas in question haven’t been designated as landmarks yet despite Kerzner’s efforts.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Hope for the Lefferts Ave bridge

From the Queens Chronicle:

At a Wednesday meeting with elected officials and civic leaders, Long Island Rail Road President Phillip Eng said the MTA has devised a plan to save the Kew Gardens span and the handful of small businesses on top of it, according to multiple people who were at the gathering.

“It was a productive meeting. The LIRR came back and said there’s a way to fix the bridge to make it stable,” Assemblyman Daniel Rosenthal (D-Flushing) told the Chronicle on Wednesday. “There’s a very clear pathway forward to rehabilitate the bridge. Nothing is done until its done, but it was a very optimistic meeting.”

The MTA originally said last May that the century-old span had decayed to the point where it would have to be torn down come 2020 — the year the entrepreneurs’ collective lease expires.

But in the 14 months since, mass community outrage led to both the MTA softening its position and state lawmakers passing legislation calling for a bridge rehabilitation feasibility study.

Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz (D-Forest Hills) even allocated $1 million for one.

But shortly after Eng took over as the head of the LIRR, he met with area lawmakers and civic leaders in June to hear their concerns and discuss how to potentially save the span.

In the following six weeks, Rosenthal said, Eng stayed true to his word.

“I’m not an engineer, but there is a way to — underneath the bridge — remove the deteriorating concrete and replace it,” the assemblyman said. “Today, [the LIRR] came back and they showed it was more than just words. They showed they have a realistic, tenable plan.”

Illegal demo leads to garage collapse

From PIX11:

The owner, 1771 Weeks LLC, was ordered to “repair or replace” the garage.

Unfortunately, the owner, according to DOB inspectors, “hired contractors to unsafely begin demolishing the … rear garage … without a permit.”

The allegedly illegal work went on for two weeks.

On June 15, the birthday party was planned to take place at backyard picnic tables not far from the garage at 1771 Meeks. That’s when nearby residents heard what one man described as “sounding like a gunshot.”

The garage had collapsed and bricks came raining down on an area close to those picnic tables.

“It could have been fatal,” resident Marcel Sukhlall said, if the collapse had occurred just one hour later, when the party was scheduled to begin.

FDNY and DOB inspectors rushed to the scene. A stop-work order was issued for 1771 Weeks Ave. and vacate notices were put up on three surrounding buildings.

Hey, we can't impede progress!

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Homeless people are causing mayhem

From Sunnyside Post:

A homeless man has been arrested and charged with murder in connection with a fatal stabbing in front of Duane Reade on Roosevelt Avenue early Tuesday, police said.

The police arrested Antonio Cabrera, 45, on Friday for the fatal stabbing of Velibor Flores, also homeless, at 12:31 a.m. on July 10 by 60-02 Roosevelt Ave.

From PIX11:

Nail polish remover was thrown on a woman who was then set on fire during an argument at a homeless shelter in Queens, police sources said Friday.

The victim, 51, lives at the Verve Hotel, a women’s homeless shelter on 29th Street in Long Island City, according to police.

That’s where sources said the woman argued with another woman who threw nail polish remover on the victim’s face.

The attacker is accused of igniting the flammable liquid and fleeing.

Damaged sidewalks remain after 4 months

From CBS 2:

The huge slabs of concrete look like they belong at a construction site. Instead, the slabs are at the corner of 32nd Avenue and 168th Street in North Flushing.

Residents say the sidewalk has been destroyed since March when the city removed the trees damaged by winter storms, but never fixed the sidewalk.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

670 "affordable" apartments to be constructed in Far Rockaway

From Curbed:

Following the rezoning of Downtown Far Rockaway in September last year, the city has now announced the first new affordable housing developments that have come about as a result of that rezoning. Together these two projects will bring 670 affordable apartments to the neighborhood.

The first of the two projects will rise at city-owned lot at Beach 21st Street. The city has picked The Community Builders, Inc, a housing nonprofit, to develop 224 apartments at the site, 130 of which will be offered to those making 60 percent of the area median income. The rest of the apartments will be offered at different levels of affordability. In addition to the apartments, the project will also have 90 parking spots, 8,000 square feet of community facilities including an early childhood education center, and 24,000 square feet of ground-floor retail.

For the second project, the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development and Housing Development Corporation have secured construction financing for affordable housing developer Phipps Houses to build 457 apartments in the Far Rockaway Village. There, Phipps Houses is transforming an abandoned parking lot into housing, public space, and retail.

A glimpse of Queens in the 1960s

You can't help but wonder... WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED?

Oh yeah, tweeding happened.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Kew Gardens house dating back to 1899 is teardown-bound

From the Queens Gazette:

The three-story Tudor style home at 116-17 Grosvenor Lane was built in 1899—one of many homes located in a forest-like setting.

The Grosvenor Realty Group acquired the property in September, 2017 for $1.35 million and has announced plans to demolish the home in December.

The developer is planning to build a 65-foot-tall, seven-story residential building at the site that will feature 19 apartments and a first-floor residential lobby, along with a laundry room and parking in the cellar for an unspecified number of bicycles.

19 apartments and parking for bicycles? Great. Grosvenor Lane used to be one of the most lovely lanes in the borough. Now it's almost completely crappified.

Barriers proposed for NY Harbor

From WNYC:

In a series of public information sessions this week, the Army Corps is presenting five options for protecting the area's waterfront, four of which involve storm surge barriers:

- a five-mile long barrier at the southernmost border of the lower bay, between Sandy Hook, N.J., and Breezy Point in the Rockaways;
- a smaller barrier between Staten Island and Brooklyn, across the channel that the Verrazzano-Narrows bridge spans, accompanied by gates across the mouth to Jamaica Bay and Arthur Kill;
- a series of berms and sea walls along low-lying portions of the New Jersey and New York City waterfront, along with small gates across some waterways;
- and an option that would only use berms and sea walls.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Queens now outpacing Manhattan in building permits

From Crains:

Brooklyn and Queens led the city in new building permits during the second quarter of the year, according to city data. Manhattan came in dead last.

The city's Department of Buildings approved more than 750 new building permits in Brooklyn over the second quarter of the year, according to the agency's Construction Dashboard. Queens saw the second most activity with 614 new building permits. The city approved more than 400 permits on Staten Island, which was roughly double the numbers of Manhattan and the Bronx, where a single building permit could yield more units than Staten Island's quarterly total.

The new building permits were concentrated in Williamsburg, Bedford-Stuyvesant, Flushing and the southern third of Staten Island—locations that were largely consistent with activity throughout 2017.

Slick Silverstein

From the Real Deal:

Last month, Silverstein Properties’ ground lease for Queensboro Farm Products’ seven-lot development site in Astoria, Queens hit public records. However, it turns out that’s only a piece of a larger assemblage: Queensboro is just one of four landlords Silverstein is working with who collectively own 315,000 square feet of ground. Together, all the sites could give rise to nearly 4,000 apartments.

The overhaul wasn’t originally Silverstein’s idea, but that of a pair of developers who struggled for years to bring an ambitious plan they dubbed “Steinway Square” to life. Now, Henry Wollman of Quadriad Realty Partners and investor Robert Gans, who is perhaps best known for owning strip clubs, are suing Silverstein and the Astoria landlords, alleging the developer squeezed them out of their dream project.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Another community fed up with illegally parked trucks

From NBC:

Scores of big rigs have been camped out on a Queens roadway, and residents are crying foul. Erica Byfield reports.

Tweeding routine backfired big time

From City & State:

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s upset victory over Rep. Joseph Crowley shocked New York political observers, in part because Crowley was thought to have a strong foothold in his native borough of Queens, where he is chairman of the county Democratic Party.

At first, it was assumed that demographic turnover in his district, which spans northwestern Queens and the northeastern Bronx, had harmed Crowley, as the Italian and Irish populations have been supplanted by Latinos and Asians.

Demographic turnover was indeed to blame for Crowley’s loss, but not the kind that was widely assumed. But some of the election districts in which Ocasio-Cortez performed best were in mostly white neighborhoods in western Queens. The congressman fell victim to gentrification and that force may upend expectations in Democratic primaries throughout Manhattan and western Brooklyn and Queens. And the rise of younger voters who are newer to their districts and unattached to incumbents could power insurgent candidates throughout New York City.

So you had your minions usher in all this development for tower people and the tower people voted against you. How deliciously ironic!

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

King of the hill, top of the heap!

From Metro:

New Yorkers may feel like this is one of the best cities in America, but a new report has named New York City one of the worst-run cities in the United States.

New York City ranked as the third-worst-run city in the country according to a WalletHub study published on Monday.

This is the second year in a row New York landed near the bottom on WalletHub’s ranking of the best-run cities. Out of 150 cities measured on a variety of “quality of services,” New York came in at number 148, above only Detroit and Washington, D.C. Gulfport, Mississippi and San Fransisco came in above New York, rounding out the top five worst-run cities.

WalletHub's list looks at how effective the local leadership is, but how can that be measured?

"One way is by determining a city’s operating efficiency," per the report. "In other words, we can learn how well city officials manage and spend public funds by comparing the quality of services residents receive against the city’s total budget."

The study’s “quality of services” score looked at different details across several categories: financial stability, education, health, safety, economy and infrastructure and pollution.

New York fared well in the safety area, but its finances and economic issues dragged down its overall score. According to the report, New York has some of the highest long-term outstanding debt.

The report also dinged New York City when it came to education. The high school graduation rate here is 74.3 percent, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced in February.

Dopey DOT program is hurting small businesses

From the Times Ledger:

A city pilot program to ban curbside deliveries in Queens has small business owners warning that they may have to close their doors because customers unable to find parking have fled.

City Councilmen Francisco Moya (D-Corona) and Mark Gjonaj (D-Pelham Bay) along with the DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg and the NYPD toured the bustling thoroughfare of Roosevelt Avenue last Friday to speak with residents and small business owners affected by the mayor’s Clear Curbs Initiative.

Under Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Congestion Action Plan -- a series of steps designed to ease congestion in busy thoroughfares across the five boroughs -- the Clear Curbs Initiative six-month pilot program was implemented in March banning curbside loading along the Roosevelt Avenue corridor in Jackson Heights from Broadway to 180th Street in Corona during peak hours from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. and from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.

The rules allow for expeditious pick-up and drop-off of passengers and delivery trucks to off-street loading docks. NYPD staff were assigned to pilot locations to enforce the new restrictions of keeping curbs clear.

The tour was at the halfway mark of the six-month pilot program, which has crippled businesses, created perilous traffic conditions, and led to steeper ticketing for residents and delivery drivers along Roosevelt Avenue, according to Moya.

Monday, July 9, 2018

Developers love flood zones

From the NY Times:

Rather than retreating from flood-prone neighborhoods after Hurricane Sandy, some developers are wading deeper into waterfront markets, especially in Queens and Brooklyn, where they are finding large parcels of land close to mass transit. These are calculated risks, bolstered by years of flood-zone price growth and unwavering demand.

Whether these new apartment buildings can endure another major storm does not seem to be a concern for most residents, who are glad to have new options in inventory-starved markets. Critics, though, ask whether the neighborhoods can withstand the surge of new development and the stress it will add to an already strained infrastructure. These new buildings might remain unscathed in a flood, they say, but what about the damage caused by the torrent around them?

Waterfront building has continued apace since Hurricane Sandy, and it could soon accelerate. As of January, there were roughly 12,350 new apartments under construction or planned in the city’s worst flood zones, according to Localize.city, a real-estate data website. That means 12.4 percent — or roughly one in eight new apartments — will be built in a high-risk flood zone, up from 10.7 percent in 2014, said Tal Rubin, the company’s vice president of research. And last year, 2,362 flood-zone units were completed — nearly double the number delivered in 2014, she said.

The largest share of these buildings is on the southern tip of Brooklyn, in areas like Brighton Beach, Coney Island and Gravesend, where a total of 45 projects — about a third of all flood-zone buildings — are rising. They represent a combined 1,571 units. Pricier precincts near Manhattan, like Long Island City in Queens, and Greenpoint and Williamsburg in Brooklyn, had the most units overall, with a total of 5,561 apartments in 20 buildings, accounting for 45 percent of new flood-zone units.

Jetsetting Bill!

From CBS 2:

Mayor Bill de Blasio is facing criticism for using the NYPD’s $3 million counterterrorism plane to shuttle him to and from his Canadian vacation for a street renaming in the Bronx.

“This is a bad use of resources. God forbid there’s an emergency somewhere in the city that needs this vehicle, and we have a big problem,” Joe Giacalone, a former NYPD sergeant, told CBS2’s Political Reporter Marcia Kramer.

Giacalone said it’s unusual to turn the sophisticated plane, which is outfitted with sensitive radiation sensors, into a commuter airline for one.

“This is something that I find very strange,” he said.

Data from the flight tracker website Flight Aware shows the Cessna Caravan left its hangar at MacArthur Airport and flew to Montreal, where it picked up the mayor at 9:09 a.m. Wednesday, then landed at Westchester County airport at 10:58 a.m. De Blasio was driven to a street renaming in honor of slain NYPD Det. Miosotis Familia, then back to the airport for the return trip to Canada, landing at 3:34 p.m., records show.

A City Hall spokesperson first directed questions to the NYPD, then said, “We don’t have a comment on the plane.”

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Yet another turd that won't stay flushed

From the NY Post:

Scandal-scarred former New York City Comptroller John Liu is attempting a political comeback — emboldened by the stunning upset pulled off last week by Democratic congressional candidate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, sources said.

Liu and his hard-left supporters from TrueBlueNY are racing to gain 3,000 signatures so he can run against incumbent Sen. Tony Avella of Queens in the Democratic primary Sept. 13.

The deadline to submit the petitions is Thursday at midnight, according to the city’s Board of Elections.

Avella is the last member of the Independent Democratic Conference to be challenged by a Democrat, even after the mainstream party called a truce with the rogue group that aligned itself with the GOP in a power-sharing agreement.

They're always cited after it's too late

From CBS 2:

The New York City Department of Buildings on Friday ordered a Brooklyn laundromat to remove an illegal parking where a young girl was fatally struck by a vehicle last month.

Residents say they’ve complained about the parking lot before because cars have no driveway across to the street, forcing people to drive perilously onto the sidewalk to park.

The DOB called for the immediate removal of the parking lot, which the NYPD already has blocked off.

DOB records reveal that this laundromat was established in 2002. Since that time, the DOB has been visiting to cite the owner for an elevator violation. I guess they failed to notice the parking lot on the way in for all these years.