Friday, August 31, 2018

BQX somehow became shorter and more expensive

From Crains:

The de Blasio administration today released plans for its Brooklyn-Queens Connector, a streetcar officials envision running along the waterfront between the two boroughs. It has been delayed by complex infrastructure challenges.

The original streetcar was expected to cost $2.5 billion and run roughly 16 miles between Astoria, Queens, and Sunset Park, Brooklyn. But the updated plan calls for a shorter route to Gowanus instead and will cost $2.7 billion. That translates to an increase in per-mile cost from roughly $156 million to $248 million.

De Blasio first announced plans for the streetcar in February 2016. But as officials looked further into potential routes, they found that the rat's nest of underground infrastructure presented enormous potential for increasing costs and would need to be thoroughly studied. As Crain's reported late last year, the problem presented officials with a catch-22: By studying the infrastructure more carefully, the city insulated itself from risk in the event it had to scrap the project, but doing so caused delays and drove up costs.

The original project was supposed to be completed in 2024 and be paid for through property tax revenue as the land around the route increased in value. The updated version of the project is now expected to be operational in 2029 and would require $1 billion from the federal government, according to a report in The New York Times, which noted that the city tax revenues originally thought to be available for the BQX are being spent on other priorities, including affordable housing.

Caption contest over before it begins!

It's the Friday before Labor Day and someone has been having fun in Van Bummer land. I tip my cap to you, whoever you are! (Perfect "smugshot" on that poster as well.)

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Meet the new community boards! (Same as the old community boards!)

The NYC Charter Revision Commission has issued some recommendations that should be on the ballot this November. If adopted, they will impose the following on community boards:

Term limits

 Provide a limit of four consecutive full two-year terms for community board members, provided, however, that for purposes of staggered implementation, certain initial appointments may include a limit of five two-year terms;

 Establish that the four-term limit would become effective for appointments or reappointments beginning on or after April 1, 2019; and

 Establish that community board members who had previously served for four consecutive terms are not barred from re-appointment after one full term out of office

So in summary, the dinosaurs that have been on the board for 30 years will likely get another 10. There's also a whole lot of gobbledygook about a Civic Engagement Commission which just sounds like an unnecessary government expansion.

All hail democracy!

In case you missed it: The gubernatorial debate

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and challenger Cynthia Nixon square off at Hofstra University on Aug. 29, 2018, in their only debate before the primary election. The pair have several fiery exchanges and accusations on who can best lead the state.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Screwed by flooding!

From The Real Deal:

Homeowners in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut have seen home values lose nearly $7 billion due to flooding since 2005, according to a new study.

That’s on par with the $7.4 billion in value lost during the same time across the five southeastern states of Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia.

The new study from the nonprofit First Street Foundation said the Northeastern tri-state area lost nearly as much property value than storm-drenched Florida because of the concentration of valuable real estate in the area, the Wall Street Journal reported.

New York lost $1.3 billion in potential value between 2005 and 2017, and New Jersey lost $4.5 billion. Connecticut lost $916 million.

DOT is at it again

From the Queens Tribune:

Assemblyman Andrew Hevesi (D-Forest Hills) and Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz (D-Forest Hills) are calling on the city’s Department of Transportation (DOT) not to follow through on plans to expand loading zones on Austin Street’s busy commercial strip.

Hevesi and Koslowitz said that they are attempting to facilitate a dialogue among the DOT and the Forest Hills Chamber of Commerce and local business merchants, who say that the expansion of the zones would limit parking for their customers.

The DOT has proposed a variety of changes to Austin Street, including new 60-foot loading zones that would provide 36 spaces with 30-minute limits for trucks. The zones could be utilized from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. on Monday through Friday.

Between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m., there would be eight loading zones providing 24 spaces, while three loading zones with nine spaces would be available between 1 p.m. and 4 p.m.

“If the businesses that these loading zones are intended to help are against them, then what is the point of this proposal?” Hevesi said. “Unless the DOT provides some reasonable explanation, then this remains an unnecessary solution in search of a problem.”

In a statement, a DOT spokeswoman said that the aim of the initiative is to establish curbside regulations that help to ease congestion and promote safety.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Queens Machine nominates committee members without their consent

From the NY Times:

The New York Times called dozens of the Queens party machine’s nominees for county committee. The candidates for 21 seats were running without their consent.

Most of these candidates did not know they were running at all until a reporter told them; two, including Ms. Gambichler, found out when they got letters from the city Board of Elections showing how their names would appear on the Sept. 13 primary ballot. Only four candidates The Times spoke to said they were running on purpose.

The total number of unsuspecting candidates could be considerably higher: Party leaders fielded more than 1,300 nominees, at least a hundred more than in the last race in 2016.

What’s more, the machine is press-ganging nominees even as reform-minded candidates seeking the same entry-level seats at the table, inspired by Ms. Ocasio-Cortez and Bernie Sanders, are being disqualified in droves for falling afoul of complex filing rules.

It is not entirely clear why the party would want to populate the committee with people who did not know they were on it. But any seats filled by party candidates would not be filled by insurgents.

Many of the machine’s unwitting soldiers are elderly or in poor health, and were confused or upset to learn of their political careers from a reporter’s phone call.

How NYCHA became de Blasio's biggest problem

From Politico:

On the same day the scandal-scarred New York City Housing Authority was publicly acknowledging that it had violated a series of federal standards over the past year, the two city officials charged with overseeing it were occupied with other matters.

Mayor Bill de Blasio was rolling out his latest plan to raise money for his national political ambitions, and Alicia Glen, the deputy mayor who oversees housing, was discussing her proposal to build more statues of women across New York City on "The Brian Lehrer Show."

The juxtaposition highlighted what has become clear since de Blasio took office in 2014: Decaying buildings that house some 400,000 New Yorkers have rarely topped the priority list, and the administration is only now beginning to embrace policies that could have made a difference years ago.

Through a review of City Hall decisions and interviews with more than three dozen current and former government officials, politicians and people who work in the affordable housing industry — many of whom wished to remain anonymous to speak freely about a controversial subject — a picture emerged of a government conflicted over how to handle an agency with entrenched problems that call for an implausible increase in federal funding.

In de Blasio, NYCHA is overseen by a cautious politician, unwilling to challenge unions over work rules that impact building maintenance and leery of upsetting tenants concerned with private development on public land. Glen has presented different challenges: She declined to incorporate public housing into her affordable housing plan, rendering it less urgent and less subsidized, sources said. And where the mayor has acknowledged some ownership of NYCHA, despite its structure as a quasi-federal entity, she publicly distanced herself — a characterization she strongly disputes.

De Blasio campaigned on a promise of attending to those he believed former Mayor Michael Bloomberg ignored. Few embody that population better than public housing residents — who are predominantly black, Hispanic and financially struggling — yet they remain among the most disadvantaged in de Blasio’s New York.

NYCHA’s problems have now become unignorable.

Monday, August 27, 2018

BQE reconstruction is going to really suck

From Brooklyn Daily:

Work to rehabilitate the three-tiered 1.5-mile stretch of expressway from Atlantic Avenue to Sands Street can now start as early as 2021 — months after full L-train service is supposed to resume — and wrap by 2026, after state lawmakers in April passed a budget authorizing use of the streamlined design-build process for the city-led job, which will allow the Department of Transportation to solicit one bid for both the design and construction phases of the project, instead of contracting separate firms for each.

Green-lighting design-build, which proponents say will also shave about $100 million from the repair’s total $1.9-billion price tag, means the repairs will likely finish before 2028 — the year local transit leaders warned they might have to force the roughly 16,000 trucks that travel the expressway daily down local streets instead so the triple cantilever doesn’t collapse beneath their weight.

And residents shouldn’t worry about the decrepit, nearly 70-year-old roadway crumbling before then — even if they’ve read reports of other bridges around the world spontaneously collapsing — because the city’s top priority is making sure its infrastructure is safe, the mayor said.

But unlike said L-pocalypse — for which, city and state transportation officials are rolling out a plain to aid the roughly 225,000 L-train riders who cross the East River daily that includes more service on other trains, more ferries, new bike paths, and other options — there’s no backup highway for drivers to use when sections of the expressway are closed for its repair, DeBlasio said.

More than 29K new dwelling units being built in Queens

From QNS:

A new interactive, real time map released by the Department of Buildings this week shows that Queens has approximately 21 million square feet of apartment space under construction, among other findings.

As announced in a press release on Aug. 22, the map shows the entirety of New York City’s nearly 200 million square feet of building space currently under construction, complete with details about each individual project and links to online copies of building permits. The map is the latest installment in the DOB’s initiative to share data with the public, following the release of the interactive map of sidewalk sheds earlier this year.

The map shows all active permits that have been filed with DOB, including new buildings and alteration projects. It automatically updates in real time as new permits are issued and existing permits expire. Users have the ability to filter through the data shown by building type, number of dwelling units, square footage, estimated cost, general contractors, community board boundaries and boroughs.

When filtered to show just the building projects in Queens, there are several interesting facts about the borough’s buildings.

There are a total of 2,450 active permits in Queens that comprise a total of 37,642,187 square feet of building space under construction in Queens. Of that, approximately 12 million square feet of space is being built in Community Board 2, covering Long Island City and Sunnyside.

In total, Queens has 29,451 dwelling units in the pipeline, and five buildings under construction in the borough rank in the top ten most dwelling units in the city.

29,451 new dwelling units, with probably about 1-200 that are affordable. And the 61,000+ citywide homeless population will keep growing.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Bill would require market feasibility study before hotel building

From SI Live:

After plans surfaced for two boutique hotels on Port Richmond Avenue, Senator Diane Savino (D-Staten Island/Brooklyn) has introduced legislation to combat the increasing number of hotels across the city in neighborhoods that don't have a market need.

The recent outcry against hotels planned for Port Richmond on Staten Island inspired the bill to ensure there is a need for hotels before they are approved.

"It's clear that the city has failed New Yorkers with its indiscretion when it comes to allowing hotels and motels in areas that simply don't need them," said Savino.

The main concern within the Port Richmond community is that the hotels would not generate legitimate business, instead being turned into de facto homeless shelters.

Her legislation would require business owners perform a market feasibility study to ensure that there is a need for a hotel in a specific neighborhood. If the owner can't show that there is a market for the hotel, they wouldn't receive approval to build.

You can swim with dolphins off Fort Tilden

H/T Kent Parson

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Chon gets away with it

From the NY Post:

One of the honchos of Spa Castle pleaded guilty Thursday to attempted tax fraud charges, while the notorious Queens bathhouse agreed to pay $2.5 million for cheating the system by under-reporting income.

Daniel Chon was sentenced to a three-year conditional discharge — and no jail time — after copping to felony attempted criminal tax fraud charges.

The College Point spa mecca, meanwhile, was convicted of criminal tax fraud charges and agreed to pay the millions in restitution and damages as part of a simultaneous civil action.

The state Attorney General’s Office brought a slew of indictment charges against Spa Castle, Chon and several members of his family last year, claiming they failed to pay $1.5 million in taxes by under-reporting revenue.

Weinstein noted, however, that Chon pleaded guilty to just one count related to attempting to not remit sales tax “in excess of $10,000.”

The cases against Chon’s siblings — Victor Chon, Stephanie Chon and Spa Castle owner Steve Chon — were all dismissed with prejudice, according to Weinstein.

“We have zero tolerance for tax cheats who leave New Yorkers to foot the bill,” Attorney General Barbara Underwood said in announcing the pleas. “The defendants orchestrated a multi-million dollar scheme to defraud taxpayers.”

Wow, this is zero tolerance?

Plane noise is killing us

From PIX11:

For years, the Federal Aviation Administration gave tennis fans first-class treatment.

During the U.S. Open, the FAA diverted planes from nearby LaGuardia Airport, away from Arthur Ashe Stadium during the tournament. But in 2012, the tennis climb, as the flight path is known, stuck.

The decision permanently sent airplanes over the densely populated areas of northern Queens during takeoff.

"It's pretty loud, sometimes you think it's just a few meters above your roof," said Daniel Vasquez, who lives in Bayside.

Vasquez said he's constantly woken up by the rumbling of planes flying overhead. Now, according to a new study out of Columbia University, it turns out that turbulence may be causing more damage than anyone realized.

"I think the most damaging and shocking is the fact that given the noise impact, the air pollution impact, the noise from the planes, you could lose one year off your life," Sen. Tony Avella said.

Avella represents the impacted neighborhoods and said the FAA committed a classic double fault when it made the switch permanent. Not only was there no environmental impact study, but he said, the FAA didn't even bother to let the community know about the switch.

Friday, August 24, 2018

The case of the missing mail

From CBS 2:

On Thursday afternoon, the Postal Service apologized for the delivery issues, admitting, “There have been new hires to replace some recent retirements and to assist with prime vacation period.”

The Postal Service said since January it has been meeting quarterly with postal managers and community leaders to try to strengthen service in the Rockaways.

Dozens of residents shared their ongoing mail delivery problems on Facebook and by email, saying the Postal Service isn’t doing enough.

“They need to have the head of the post office come down and talk to us. They’re avoiding us,” Simon said.

The mistakes can be costly, from missing medication deliveries to late fees from missing bills. So residents say an apology is not enough.

The Postal Service suggests people track their mail digitally to help keep track of their letters and packages.

SHOCKING NEWS: Hardly any cyclists use Queens Blvd bike lanes

From NY1:

Taehong Lee says business at her market fell more than 30 percent after the bike lanes opened. Even more upsetting, she says, is that cyclists rarely use the lanes.

"I don't really see people bike the area, in this dangerous road," the business owner said.

It's a complaint NY1 heard from almost every store on this strip. So, we decided to see for ourselves.

Between 12:30 p.m. and 1:30 p.m. Tuesday, we counted 13 cyclists using the eastbound bike lane. We returned later in the day and counted just 23 cyclists from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.

The lack of cyclists, along with complaints from businesses, is a major reason why the local community board voted down a proposed extension of the lanes from Yellowstone Parkway to Union Turnpike.

Still, the city transportation department is moving ahead with the project, which will wipe out another 200 parking spaces. Now, business owners along that stretch of the boulevard are worried.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Missing the US Open in Forest Hills

Nice essay in the NY Times about the Forest Hills and the US Open:

This is just a theory from an old Queens boy: Deep in the mosh pit of the current United States Open, there is the gentle living Ghost of Tennis Past — another time, another place, only a few miles away in the borough of Queens.

At the National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows, paying customers inhale psychological oxygen — like air pumped into shopping malls — evoking the green, green grass of the West Side Tennis Club, where this great and very-New-York event was nurtured.

Fans breathe deeply and transport themselves to that green and pleasant land of good manners and pitty-pat applause for a lovely swooping backhand return.

Grace's tangled real estate web

From Crains:

A rising power in city politics for years reported owning a piece of her parents' home, but now says she was wrong about that.

That's just one of the oddities Crain's found upon examining personal-finance, campaign and property records of Rep. Grace Meng, who is perhaps positioning herself to become head of the Queens Democratic organization.

Reports have suggested that Meng could take over the vaunted party machine from Rep. Joseph Crowley, who lost the Democratic primary for his seat in June to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

The nexus of the Meng clan's holdings is the house where the congresswoman's parents apparently reside, at 211-18 34th Avenue. From the first time she ran for her Flushing-based seat in 2012, Meng listed this property—then valued at $500,000 to $1 million—among her assets in personal financial disclosures to the House clerk's office. But on August 14 of this year, Meng filed multiple amendments with the overseer requesting to remove the Bayside home from her official list of possessions, despite having claimed it for the five previous years.

Meng's spokesman said the congresswoman recently confirmed by consulting with her accountant that she never had any ownership stake in the home.

City property records show no change in deedholder for 211-18 34th Avenue since 2002. But they do show an elaborate and idiosyncratic ownership structure, and a network of real estate limited-liability companies involving the congresswoman, her mother Shiao Mei Meng and her father Jimmy Meng.

Jimmy Meng made his fortune as a lumberyard owner and became prominent in his community as president of the Flushing Chinese Business Association. New York politicos remember him as an ex-state assemblyman who resigned amid a voter fraud scandal in 2006 and pleaded guilty in 2012 to soliciting bribes. His daughter served as his campaign manager and later succeeded him in the state Legislature before winning election to Washington with Crowley's support.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

QCA wants artists' housing, but Katz wants a soccer stadium

And there you have it.

Flushing getting another hotel

From Flushing Post:

Plans were filed last week for a 19-story mixed use building in Flushing that will consist of 146 apartments and 360 hotel rooms.

The development is planned to go up at 133-25 37th Ave., just five blocks from the Flushing subway station.

The building will be 198-feet tall, with floors two through seven each consisting of 60 hotel rooms. The apartments will be located on floors eight through 19.

There will be 2,270 square feet of space dedicated for a medical facility and a first floor hotel party room.

The building will have separate lobbies for hotel guests and apartment dwellers. There will be indoor parking for 198 vehicles, with storage space for 82 bicycles.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

ICE deports 95-year old Nazi living in Jackson Heights

From Fox News:

A former Nazi SS labor camp guard was deported from his home in Queens, N.Y., to Germany, the White House announced in a statement early Tuesday morning.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents implemented a 2004 deportation order against Jakiw Palij, who immigrated to the United States in 1949 and became a citizen in 1957 after concealing his Nazi background, the statement read.

Palij admitted to Department of Justice officials in 2003 that he trained at a Nazi camp in German-occupied Poland. Court documents indicated that men who trained at the SS Training camp in Trawniki carried out the Nazi regime’s plan to murder Jews in Poland.

The 95-year-old also served as an armed guard at the adjacent Trawniki Labor Camp – where he served an “indispensable role” in the death of roughly 6,000 Jews who were killed in one of the single largest massacres of the Holocaust in 1943, according to the statement.

Palij, who claimed he was working on a farm and in a factory during World War II, had his U.S. citizenship revoked in 2003 by a federal judge, and ordered to be deported a year later. His appeal was denied in 2005.

Palij’s deportation process was hindered over Germany’s unwillingness to take him back because he is not a German citizen, ABC News reported.

President Trump tasked U.S. Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell to ensure Palij’s deportation was on the top of his list when he arrived to Berlin, according to the outlet.

Katz & Moya to hold secret meeting on Willets Point

From Willets Point United:

Queens Borough President Melinda Katz and Councilmember Francisco Moya are the co-chairs of the “Willets Point Task Force,” a cherry-picked group that is supposed to recommend potential uses for Willets Point land. The Task Force will hold its third closed-door meeting this Wednesday, August 22.

Katz and Moya are denying Willets Point United and all current Willets Point property or business owners the opportunity to attend any meeting of the Task Force – despite Queens Community Board 7’s recommendation that Katz and Moya consider allowing a Willets Point representative to attend. Even worse, Councilmember Moya’s office directly lied to us by telephone last Thursday, stating that no August meeting of the Task Force has been scheduled – when Queens Community Board 7 knew that the meeting is set for August 22.

Katz and Moya are shutting out not only Willets Point United, but also the press. We are aware that Borough Hall has rejected several reporters’ requests to observe Task Force meetings, and has been unwilling to provide even basic information regarding what land use options the Task Force is considering, or how it operates.

Per information furnished to Queens Community Board 7, the scheduled topic of the August 22 Task Force meeting is to “develop preliminary recommendations,” prior to the final September meeting which will “review final recommendations” to be sent to Mayor de Blasio.

In our view, Katz, Moya and the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) are leading the Task Force to an outcome predetermined by them – and they are using public-sector Task Force members solely to create an illusion of community buy-in, not to solicit or seriously consider any creative Willets Point development ideas they may have. Given that Willets Point United has a wealth of knowledge about all that has happened with the proposed Willets Point development during the past ten years (and beyond), had we been allowed to participate on the Task Force we would have encouraged thorough consideration of all relevant issues and potential recommendations – not just the ones prioritized by Katz, Moya and NYCEDC. We believe it is for that reason, that Katz and Moya are deliberately excluding us (and in the case of Moya’s office, even lying to us).

While Katz and Moya are shutting us out of their meetings, they cannot stop us from informing Task Force members, via this writing, of issues we consider important, and recommendations we believe the Task Force should make to Mayor de Blasio regarding Willets Point. We hope that the more open-minded members of the Task Force (if any) will raise these issues during the Wednesday meeting as “preliminary recommendations” are formulated.

(Article continues at link above.)

Monday, August 20, 2018

Work expands at Steinway Mansion

From George the Atheist:

After 5 months of inactivity since purchasing in March the properties (18-39 & 18-41) immediately south of their Steinway Mansion on 41st Street, the new owners of these adjoining lots, Salvatore Lucchese and Philip Loria, are currently demolishing the residence, storage sheds, and garage of the late Armin Urban, the previous owner.

And what will we now, pray tell, have here?

Why were these emails kept under wraps for so long?

From the NY Times: nearly 350 pages of emails obtained by The New York Times as part of a Freedom of Information request, it was clear that Mr. Howe had entree to the top levels of Mr. Cuomo’s administration — a period that included the years and months leading up to the news of the federal investigation.

The Cuomo administration had fought against releasing the emails for two years, spending more than $200,000 to hire outside counsel — Greenberg Traurig, a loyal Cuomo campaign donor — after The Times went to court seeking the documents. A state judge last year ruled against the administration, and ordered that the documents be released; the state appealed the ruling, but subsequently agreed to a settlement that allowed for the emails’ release.

The emails showed how Mr. Howe used his access to gain help for clients.

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Kew Gardens jail requires zoning change

From the Forest Hills Post:

The mayor’s office has released the first details about plans for four borough-based jails, which includes the redevelopment and expansion of the former Queens Detention Complex in Kew Gardens.

The overhaul would significantly expand the size of the facility at 126-01 82nd Ave., which closed in 2002. The existing building is 497,600 square feet and housed about 500 inmates; the new facility would be 1,910,000 square feet and house 1,510 inmates.

The jail reopening is part of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s plan to close the troubled Rikers Island jail facility and shift the city’s jail inmates to smaller jail facilities. The mayor’s office plans for the four facilities to offer 6,040 beds, which would accommodate the roughly 5,000 people in detention daily.

The mayor’s office says that the smaller facilities would be safer and enable inmates to maintain contact with their families and communities, and to have better access to their legal representatives and the court system. The new facilities would also give inmates increased access to rehabilitative and reentry services, as well as to more sunlight and outdoor space.

The Kew Gardens facility would also offer a centralized care area for inmates with an infirmary and a maternity ward.

The new development would offer parking for visitors to the jail and for the general public. A total of 429 parking spaces would be available within the detention facility, and the public would have access to an adjacent above-ground parking lot with 676 public spaces at the northwest of the property.

A community space would also be constructed along 126th Street, the mayor’s office said.

The city has not yet an anticipated a completion date or an estimate of the length of the construction period, but it would need to seek zoning changes in order to expand the existing facility.

The mayor’s office said that the city would need to make an amendment to the zoning text to modify the “requirements for bulk” such as the floor area, height and setback, as well as the parking requirement. The city would seek a special permit to de-map 82nd Ave. between 126th Street and 132nd Street.

City allocates additional $8M for Middle Village sewer project

From the NY Post:

The city has finally earmarked $8 million to fix ­aging sewer lines in Middle Village, Queens, that have caused fecal flooding in residents’ basements — a day ­after The Post revealed how the repairs had been promised for a decade.

“My God, I can’t believe it,” said longtime resident Vito Cascione, 60, whose 1985 Cadillac Fleetwood Brougham was flooded with sewer water during a recent heavy storm.

“The Post’s article really raised eyebrows and a lot of questions, so hopefully we can get this resolved once and for all,” Cascione said.

The 74th Street and Penelope Avenue sewer project, which was first proposed in 2007, sat unfinished for nine months after contractors dug up contaminated soil at the site and needed the extra dough to safely excavate it.

City Hall confirmed to The Post Friday afternoon the money has been allocated and will be processed through the comptroller’s office “soon.”

A spokesperson for the Department of Design and Construction expects work to resume “by the end of the year.” The contractor in charge of the project said about another year of work is still needed.

Friday, August 17, 2018

Queens has good tax value (whatever that means)

From the Times Ledger:

SmartAsset, a financial technology company, released a study last week comparing counties across the United States by measuring local crime rates and school quality relative to their effective property tax rates. Among the city’s five boroughs Queens homeowners fared the best in terms of value.

Queens ranked ninth out of New York state’s 62 counties and was one of two counties within the city to make it in the top 10 in terms of value.

With its 0.84 percent property tax rate, it received an eight out of 10 school rating, and had 1,734 crimes per 100,000 people, according to the July 27 study.

In comparison, the statewide average rate for property taxes is 1.65 percent, according to SmartAsset. Outside the city, tax rates in New York counties exceed 2.5 percent.

Queens had a better school rating then Richmond County (Staten Island), which had a seven out of 10 school rating, 1,531 crimes per 100,000 people and .87 percent in property taxes, according to the study. Kings County (Brooklyn) had a .65 percent property tax, a nine out of 10 school rating, but 2,2276 crimes per 100,000 crimes were committed there.

Well, it certainly seems we get what we pay for, doesn't it? (end sarcasm)

Dragon boat race experience was crappy

"Hi Crappy,

I attended the races in Flushing Meadow and want to report the crappie conditions I witnessed on Sunday.

First of all the north end area of the lake is getting a much needed makeover and large sections are fenced off where trees are being planted and roads resurfaced. Many people had problems including me trying to figure out how to get to lake area where the races were. There were no signs set up to direct people thus people had to walk down a path only to find they could not get thru. I ran into two DEC officers and wanted to complain to them but they were having the same problem and said, "don't complain to us, call Parks Dept."
When I finally got to the lake I saw that our Park's Dept. did nothing to spruce up the viewing area which was on both sides of the boathouse. People lined up along the shore got to view a lake full of algae, a 10' long board, a sunken barrel a dead turtle and along the shore a rotting pigeon.

There was also an inadequate amount of litter baskets and people were just leaving trash on the ground. There were many corporate sponsors that gave away free stuff for the kids and that added to the trash.

I attended the races last year and saw the same conditions and even wrote to the Park's Dept but I guess they think it's not a problem.
One would think that for a big event like this the Park's Dept. would at least try and spruce up the area ,no I saw the same conditions I see in my bike rides around the park. This really is a tale of two parks. The area by the Unisphere, the theater, the museum and the tennis stadium gets all the attention. Hopefully the upgrades by the lake area will keep coming." - Rich

Thursday, August 16, 2018

DOT admits they made a mistake with Clear Curbs

From the NY Post:

The de Blasio administration is putting the brakes on a controversial pilot program aimed at limiting deliveries along some of the Big Apple’s busiest commercial corridors following complaints it was killing local businesses.

City officials confirmed Monday they are halting the “Clear Curbs” program along affected zones in Queens and are working with community stakeholders to “adjust” the program along parts of Flatbush Avenue and other bustling sections of Brooklyn.

The six-month program, which began in March, won’t be altered in any way along its remaining, most traffic-heavy zones in Midtown.

Middle Village basements fill up with crap after heavy rain

From the NY Post:

Residents in Middle Village are up to their knees in their own waste any time there’s heavy rain — thanks to aging sewer lines the city hasn’t fixed despite a decade of promises, The Post has learned.

“I pray when I hear storms coming,” said Pat Donovan, 66, one of many local residents affected by the overflowing sewers.

Last Tuesday, a powerful storm pounded the central Queens community, causing the sewers to back up and leaving homeowners with as much as 3 feet of waste in their basements, with “actual turds” floating in the noxious waters, residents and a local official said.

“We had a waterfall just coming out of the toilet in my basement,” said Louisa Gennari, 61, who called dealing with the floods a “horrific” battle.

“Somebody came in to help us at some point and he went home and put his feet in alcohol,” she said. “It was disgusting.”

The problem goes back decades, but came to light on Aug. 8, 2007, when a flash flood left Middle Village residents with tens of thousands of dollars in damage, with many needing help from FEMA.

The city’s Department of Environmental Protection said the existing storm drains can handle only 1.5 inches of rain — and after that storm, it vowed to fix the issue with drains that can handle 1.75 inches.

It slapped a $22 million price tag on the project, but waited nine more years to break ground in May 2016. It was then halted in November 2017 when contaminated soil was discovered.

The city’s Department of Design and Construction said an additional $8 million was needed to finish the job, but those funds were never allocated.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Avella: Unsafe trees need removal, now

From PIX11:

Queens State Senator Tony Avella is calling on the Parks Department to respond to hundreds of constituent complaints about dangerous city trees in front of their homes.

Avella said he conducted a tree survey in February, and received 700 responses from homeowners claiming dead trees or damaged sidewalks. He then submitted 700 complaints to the Parks Department. Of those complaints, Avella said about 600 of them have been logged with the 311 system. He said only about 20 have resulted in tree removals.

"Homeowners said they're scared for the safety of their family and their property," said Avella.

Avella said the complaints remain largely unanswered because he said the Parks Department is understaffed and underfunded. "I know at least one homeowner is waiting over a year for a dead tree to be removed," said Avella.

St. Albans comfort station renovation delayed

From the Times Ledger:

On the eve of LL Cool J’s 14th annual basketball camp in St. Albans, elected officials from southeast Queens and Comptroller Scott Stringer blasted the city’s Department of Parks and Recreation at a news conference for failing to fix a comfort station for three years.

“It’s time to wake up and get your act together,” Stringer said. “The kids should be running through the sprinkler and they should be able to use the bathroom in the safest way possible.”

According to officials from LL Cool J’s free basketball camp, nearly 200 campers are expected to attend the camp every weekend in August.

The comfort station, which is located on Daniel O’Connell Playground at 113-01 196th St., received nearly $1.2 million from former Councilman Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans) and was expected to break ground in August 2015, with the project’s estimated completion time August 2016, according to officials at the Aug. 3 news conference.

“I’m disappointed to be back here on the same issue,” said Comrie, now a state senator. “LL Cool J, who grew up in this community and played in this park – this is his 14th year providing a free program for an entire month for young people in the community — and we have to give them port-a-potties that are not maintained.”

The updated comfort station was supposed to be fully renovated and include ADA-compliant bathrooms, energy-efficient light fixtures, and a slate roof, according to the officials. Instead, there were problems with the vendor hired to do the upgrades in 2016, and in 2017 the contractor had been removed after more than $400,000 of the original contract was spent. According to NYC Park’s Capital Project Tracker, money was spent on designing a new comfort station, procuring materials and doing 38 percent of construction work.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Dems don't want de Blasio's help

From the NY Post:

Thanks, but no thanks.

That’s the message some Democrats running in competitive state Senate districts have quietly delivered to Mayor Bill de Blasio, who started a federal political committee in part to help their campaigns.

Politico-New York surveyed 15 Democrats facing stiff competition from Republicans this November and found the majority of them wouldn’t accept de Blasio’s money.

“The further you get from Park Slope, the less popular Bill de Blasio gets,” said one senior Democratic strategist. “His support would be counterproductive.”

Monday, August 13, 2018

Parking rates going up

From Sunnyside Post:

The cost of a metered parking spot is going up throughout New York City—with Queens to be hit with the increase starting Nov. 1

The new rates will see the cost of metered parking spaces in the commercial districts of Astoria, Long Island City, Sunnyside, Woodside, Jackson Heights and Forest Hills go up from $1 per hour to $1.50. In downtown Flushing the cost will be hiked from $1 to $2 per hour.

Outside traditional commercial districts in Queens, the cost will go up from $1.00 per hour to $1.25.

The DOT in announcing the roll out, which starts in Brooklyn Sept. 4, said that this will be the first time since 2013 that rates are going up.

Abandoned Glendale site to become senior housing

From QNS:

More details have emerged about the affordable housing facility for seniors coming to Glendale after the permits for the project have been filed through the Department of Buildings (DOB).

The permits filed on Aug. 3 reveal that the structure to be built at 80-97 Cypress Ave. will rise to 57 feet tall with 45,420 square feet of residential space. The six-story building will contain the previously reported 66 living units as well as a parking lot with 19 spaces, records show.

The basement of the building will include a community room and lounge, an office, a laundry room and a bicycle room for up to five bicycles. The ground floor will house the building’s central office, another community room and four apartments. The second through fourth floors will each contain 14 apartments, while the fifth and sixth floors will contain 10 apartments each.

Ah, We're familiar with this particular pile of crap. Ten years ago, it was featured on this blog. Whatever happened to Mr. Angry?

Previous article:

Formerly known as PSCH, Inc. until a rebranding in 2017, the WellLife Network has owned the site since 2004, according to city records. The building currently on the lot, widely regarded as an eyesore in the community, was never completed because the previous contractor used bad materials that were porous and caused the building to flood every time it rained, Scott said.

The Department of Buildings (DOB) eventually issued a stop work order on the project, and WellLife Network has been formulating a new plan since then.

According to Scott, the old structure will be demolished to make way for the new building, but there is no timetable yet.

The often forgotten building on Cypress Avenue regained attention this year after the Department of Homeless Services (DHS) issued a request for community boards and elected officials to recommend possible homeless shelter sites. Not knowing the current status of the site, Councilman Robert Holden suggested the Cypress Avenue building be used as a homeless shelter, he said.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

The many sidewalk sheds of Queens

From the Queens Chronicle:

For years, residents of the city have been looking at levels of large metal-and-wood structures obstructing their views and detracting from the architecture of their workplaces. Some forms of the composition remain standing for a few weeks, while others become multiyear props that stir controversy among community members.

Often referred to as “sidewalk sheds,” the structures are erected over sidewalks to shield pedestrians from falling debris caused by building construction. According to the city Department of Buildings, the sheds are temporary structures meant to keep sidewalks open for pedestrians while structures undergo renovations.

Residents of Queens are quite familiar with them.

According to an interactive online map released in April by the DOB, the borough has 961 active sheds that stretch over 240,000 linear feet. As of Monday, it was noted that each shed is up for an average of 371 days. But many remain in place for several years.

Some note that they’re unattractive. Others cite the purpose they serve.

101-year old man swindled out of home

From the Forum:

A Queens man who took advantage of his friendship with a 101-year-old neighbor is facing up to 15 years in prison for tricking the centenarian into signing over the deed to his home.

Authorities say Ricardo Bentham, 58, of 118th Avenue, has been charged with grand larceny and other crimes for allegedly conning a neighborhood friend into transferring the deed of his long-time home into the defendant’s name in October of 2017.

According to the criminal complaint, the defendant submitted a quitclaim deed to be filed with the city on October 5, 2017. The document stated that 101 year-old Woodrow Washington was transferring ownership of his 143rd Street home which has a value in excess of $50,000 to the defendant for a sale price of $0. The victim realized something was wrong when he received a letter from the Department of Finance stating that the deed to his home had been transferred to Bentham. An inquiry was conducted and revealed the document that was filed bears the signature of the Mr. Washington along with a notary stamp and signature of a notary.

Mr. Washington stated that the signature on the form is his, however, he is adamant that he never signed any documents in front of a notary.

Mr. Theodore White, the 93-year-old notary, acknowledged knowing Bentham and would often sign documents for him because he trusted him. The document bearing his signature was missing the notary seal, which White always added to a document.

Mr. Washington identified the defendant as a neighborhood friend who offered to help him collect rent from tenants. He recalled signing documents that the defendant brought to his residence and that some were blank.

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Johnny vs. Tony

From City Limits:

The two men agree on most policy issues. They both disagree, for instance, with Mayor de Blasio’s bid to change the entrance process for the city’s specialized high schools. Voters will, of course, decide what the race is about, but if the candidates have anything to say about it, the contest will come down to whether the supposed practical benefits of Avella’s having joined the IDC outweigh the allege damage that did to the chances for a Democratic senate.

Both men appeared on Max & Murphy on WBAI this Wednesday. Below are each of their interviews:

City's biggest sinkhole?

From PIX11:

Rene Rodriguez says he was dumbfounded but not surprised, when he saw a massive sinkhole open up outside his home on Manhattan Avenue near 101st Street on the Upper West Side Tuesday morning.

It’s a sinkhole he and many residents who live in the area have complained to the city about since 2013.

“It just got bigger and bigger and they would fill it up with asphalt, asphalt and more asphalt and yesterday it finally gave in,” Rodriguez told PIX11 News.

After calling 311, both ConEdison and the Department of Environmental Protection arrived to the scene. Workers assessed the damage, put up a few cones and then, according to Rodriguez, left.

“It’s what, Wednesday the eighth, 2 o’clock in the afternoon and the sinkhole is still here,” he said. “If it was Fifth Avenue or Park Avenue this matter would’ve been settled already.”

The sinkhole measures roughly 15 by 7 feet in size, and nearly 4 feet in depth, consuming an entire side of Manhattan Avenue.

The crater makes it almost impossible for traffic to get through, but it isn’t stopping some drivers from trying.

Friday, August 10, 2018

Caption contest doubleshot!

(Interesting how all the Crowley kiss assers are lining up behind someone who not only beat him but doesn't have much competition in the general election. Where were they before the primary?)

"I’m a fan of Bob’s more than anyone but it’s a great one." - Jack

How exactly does this happen?

From NBC:

Eight families have lost their homes after an apartment building in the Bronx partially collapsed, sending several tons of bricks cascading onto the ground.

Chopper 4 was overhead as firefighters responded to the Fteley Avenue building Soundview Thursday evening, with bricks and debris strewn on the sidewalk and on the street. Bricks fell with enough force to mangle the front gate and cave in the awning, with some hanging precariously over the entrance.

No one was hurt in the collapse, and the cause is under investigation. FDNY officials on scene said an occupant started some repair work but "it just looked like the age of the building, maybe weather."

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Two acres of tweeding at Willets Point

From Willets Point United:

A new video released by Willets Point United demands that the de Blasio administration act before a December 2018 contractual deadline, to protect taxpayers’ interests by reclaiming two acres of Willets Point property which the Bloomberg administration gave to Queens Development Group.

In the video (below), Willets Point property owner Irene Prestigiacomo explains the give-away of the two acres to Queens Development Group; the comprehensive development project which the property was supposed to facilitate; the court decision that effectively prevents that project from proceeding; the contractual provision that allows the City to take back the property under present circumstances; the lack of action by the de Blasio administration thus far to reclaim the property; and City officials’ fiduciary responsibility to taxpayers to do so before the deadline lapses.

Ms. Prestigiacomo asks (06:38): "As corrupt as this City sometimes can be, have we really reached the point where a developer can keep public property worth tens of millions, without delivering any of the project that was the basis for it to receive the property in the first place?"

McMansion to replace former Halloran house

Ex-Council Member Dan Halloran is still in the clink, but his former Whitestone home won't be waiting for him when he gets out.
The property was sold and is in the process of being redeveloped.
One last pagan parting gift.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Pam's Place is a hellhole

"From July 11 through July 25, 2018 the Dutch Kills community was forced to endure three completely unacceptable incidents directly related to clients at “Pam’s Place,” a shelter for homeless women at the former Verve Hotel at 40-03 29th Street in Long Island City.

• At 10:30 p.m. on July 11th, shelter client Yaremis Perdomo, 33, became enraged and set her 51-year-old roommate on fire. Perdomo has since been arrested and is being held on attempted murder and other charges related to the attack. The roommate remains in critical condition at the New York Presbyterian Hospital’s Cornell Burn Unit with third-degree burns to her face, arms and hands.

• An unidentified shelter client stood in the center of the intersection at 29th Street and 39th Avenue at about 5 p.m. on July 23rd, tossing loose change into open windows of passing vehicles – snarling traffic, alarming motorists and creating serious safety concerns for pedestrians. Eyewitnesses told police that the shelter client backed off when she spotted police pulling up to the scene, making it impossible for the officers to observe her actions. This unfortunately made it impossible for the officers to charge or summons the woman. The best they could do under current law was to tell the woman to stop, which she promptly did.

• A shelter client viciously, and without provocation, attacked a local woman who was walking on 29th Street near 40th Avenue on July 24th. The unidentified assailant approached the woman, punched her in the mouth and fled. The attack was not reported to police at the 114th Precinct, an NYPD spokesperson said.

I have requested Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer’s chief of staff, Matt Wallace, to call an Emergency Meeting of the Community Advisory Board of “Pam’s Place.”

The purpose of this meeting is to discuss ongoing violent and/or dangerous conditions that spill from the shelter into the Dutch Kills community. These conditions result in a fearful, dangerous environment that substantially affects our residents’, business and quality of life.

The Dutch Kills Civic Association has requested that this meeting to be scheduled for a Tuesday or Wednesday evening at 7:30 p.m. Mr. Wallace has assured us that such meeting will take place in the near future.

The following is a portion of our agenda for this upcoming meeting. We are requesting:

• A listing of all incidents reported to the 114th Precinct regarding Pam’s Place, both inside and outside the shelter – including a client assault on a 114th Precinct officer.

• A complete breakdown of responses by FDNY and other ambulance crews relevant clients at Pam’s Place, both inside and outside the shelter.

• A complete listing of 911 and 311 calls seeking response to conditions at Pam’s Place, both inside and outside the shelter, from October 2016 current to the date of the upcoming meeting.

• A comprehensive report of all disciplinary actions taken by the operators and managers of Pam’s Place regarding troubled or combative shelter clients, from October 2016 current to the date of the upcoming meeting.

• A complete breakdown from the Department of Homeless Services and Sena Security of all incidents related to clients at Pam’s Place, both inside and outside the shelter.

Lastly, in order to ensure an open, transparent dialogue of issues surrounding Pam’s Placer Shelter for Homeless Women, we strongly urge that members of the press be informed and invited to provide coverage of the upcoming meeting.

George L. Stamatiades,
Dutch Kills Civic Association of
Long Island City

Overdevelopment hath wrought horrible flooding

When you pave just about everything over, and fail to upgrade infrastructure, you get a foot of water flowing across streets and into basements. This isn't a hard concept to understand. Yet we continue down that road, and call it "progress".

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

One Flushing cat caught, others escape

From PIX11:

A group of felines stuck behind a wall in Queens were able to find a way out — but now their whereabouts are a mystery.

The cats were stuck behind the 15 foot wall for three days, likely thirsty and hungry when PIX11 arrived on the scene last Thursday. After the story aired, city officials, and those with Animal Care Centers of NYC and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals tried to help the cats.

They put up a ladder to look over the wall, but were surprised to see no kittens. It seems the felines had escaped through a small hole at the back part of the ally.

One of the kittens was found roaming around where the ally once was, and was captured and treated, Carol Yao, a trained animal rescuer who works with organizations Kitty Kind and Angelico, said on Sunday.

Hopes are high they will locate the rest of the kittens on the building property.

Losing their religion in Astoria

From the Queens Gazette:

The Episcopal Diocese of Long Island has filed plans to develop a five-story apartment building at 46-09 31st Avenue in Astoria, the former home of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church.

The new building will feature a ground floor community room and lobby, 6 apartments on each of the second through fourth floors, and three apartments on the fifth floor, according to the plans.

The Diocese has not announced plans for demolition of the existing building, which is no longer used for Episcopal services, a spokesperson said.

Monday, August 6, 2018

Who is lying when it comes to supply & demand?

From Crains:

New York City and the surrounding area, including northern New Jersey, the Hudson Valley and southwest Connecticut, is home to 22.8 million people working at 10.4 million jobs, the Metro Economic Snapshot released Tuesday by the Department of City Planning found. Since the last recession, the region has added around 708,000 new jobs—much more than anywhere else in the country in terms of raw numbers—but at a growth rate of just .9%, which is about half that of other metros and roughly on par with the country as a whole.

Over the same time period, the New York area added just 378,000 new housing units, far fewer than the number of jobs created and not nearly enough to meet demand. The mismatch was centered in the five boroughs and helped drive around 100,000 people to the suburbs each year between 2012 and 2016.

The metro area also lost a significant number of recent college graduates to lower-cost cities elsewhere in the country—something Glen has experienced personally.

"I just moved my daughter to Minneapolis," she said. "It was great, but it was also really sad."

From Forbes:

Researchers at the Fed found there were no "direct estimates of the rent elasticity with respect to new housing supply in the literature." No one knows how much housing you'd have to add to have any significant impact on costs. So, the researchers built a simulation to estimate, directly from data, the elasticity of rent with respect to housing supply.

They wanted to know how much rents might change if there was an influx of new housing. Given metropolitan housing crises and a lack of other data, it was an important study.

However, elasticity isn't a simple phenomenon. There are products where changing the price doesn't necessarily result in big shifts of demand. Look at the Apple iPhone X: $1,000 for the device and tens of millions purchased it.

The Fed report suggests that housing will be much the same:

The implication of this finding is that even if a city were able to ease some supply constraints to achieve a marginal increase in its housing stock, the city will not experience a meaningful reduction in rental burdens.

Add 5% more housing to the most expensive neighborhoods and the rents would drop only by 0.5%.

The reason is that people like the amenities in given neighborhoods and want to live there, so will continue to pay higher prices. Amenities can include shopping, schools, and ease of access to public transportation.

Happy Monday from Forest Hills!

From Forest Hills:

let’s take a look at the Austin St. Underpass Walkway, which after months of complaints had the graffiti finally removed only for it to reappear along with garbage and human excrement (CRAP), plus out of control weeds on a public sidewalk right along with garbage dumping. Photos don’t lie about the FILTH OF FOREST HILLS.

Sunday, August 5, 2018

City pushing through rezoning that no one has seen

From PIX11:

A rezoning plan for Inwood has been heavily protested by large groups of residents over the course of many months, but on Thursday, a scaled down version of the proposal got onto the fast track to approval.

A city council subcommittee gave the plan the green light, before residents who've long opposed change got a chance to get a good look at it.

It's a proposal that would change the look and feel of this neighborhood, one of Manhattan's last pockets of relative affordability, forever. The proposal, which will see some 5,000 new units of housing built in this northern Manhattan neighborhood -- more than 25 percent of it classified as affordable -- was revised overnight Wednesday, and then re-negotiated in closed door meetings among city councilmembers all morning on Thursday.

The resulting proposal will allow for taller buildings in the western part of the neighborhood near Manhattan's northern tip. The area west of 10th Avenue will be upscaled, but new construction will not be as tall as originally proposed, according to preliminary assessments. To the east of 10th Avenue, buildings will be allowed to be even taller. The proposal will also add new schools and other additions to the community.

At the council subcommittee hearing, which was attended by developers, building trade union members and residents alike, there was a theme: that because the proposal that was being voted on had been newly minted, there was inadequate opportunity for analysis.