Friday, November 30, 2018

Lots of new construction ends up in court

From The Real Deal:

Construction defects, alleged or otherwise, are a hallmark of any building boom, and the last five years have been no exception. While there are no publicly available numbers on the frequency of such complaints, attorneys say latent defects usually spring up a year or so after buildings open. Many say they are already seeing an uptick, given that construction has been unrelenting since 2012. And they say it’s safe to assume that another wave of lawsuits is about to hit.

Unlike during the financial crisis, when cash-strapped developers may have cut corners to avoid abandoning projects altogether, today’s developers are racing against the clock — and each other — to complete projects in a soft market that’s bracing for even more inventory.

Seeking to save NYC theaters

From Crains:

In a city with 8.6 million residents packed within 303 square miles, aging movie theaters have become a preservation battleground that often pits developers looking to make a profit against elected officials eager to maintain quality of life and residents seeking communal and cultural gathering spaces. After notable failures in recent years such as the American Theater in the Bronx, which is now a Marshalls, and successes such as the Kings Theatre in Flatbush, now a live-performance venue, communities are hoping to find a road map for success with long-empty theaters such as the Metro, RKO Keith in Flushing and the Hamilton in Harlem, among several others.

"There's a desperate need for any space geared toward the community—something for young people and seniors," said Assemblyman Ron Kim, who is eyeing the RKO Keith in his Queens district. Demolition and plans for a large glass condo tower have apparently stalled, and Kim hopes a coming downturn in the Flushing condo market could give the site new life. "There's no place to meet and interact."

Once upon a time New York City did not have multiplexes—it had movie palaces, dazzling buildings that screened movies, hosted vaudeville and became social anchors for their communities. The first was the Regent, built in 1913 by Thomas Lamb at 116th Street and what is now Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard. (Today it is home to the First Corinthian Baptist Church.) Nearly every neighborhood soon had its own palace with an average of 1,800 seats and lavish decorations.

But the rise of television in the 1950s, New York's fiscal crisis in the 1970s and the crime surge in the crack era all played a role in the decline of these movie theaters. Then the subsequent real estate boom made the land beneath them increasingly valuable. Large-screen home entertainment centers and movie streaming on smartphones didn't help. Coupled with the high cost of modernizing theaters for digital projection, the economics of these old picture houses simply didn't work anymore.

More than two dozen movie palaces built between 1910 and 1932 have been closed or razed. Of those still standing, some were transformed into retail stores or gyms; others were reimagined. Frequently they became churches. Even the Ziegfeld Theatre, one of the last single-screen theaters in the country when it opened in 1969, closed in 2016 after converting to digital projection. It is now Ziegfeld Ballroom, an event space.

The movie houses that remain pose challenges to communities and developers alike. While nostalgic locals campaign to turn the projection lights back on, that's typically not a realistic solution.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Pols call for moratorium on property seizures

From PIX11:

Hundreds of homeowners throughout New York City have been defrauded out of their homes. Now, elected officials are calling for a federal investigation into the matter, including whether a city program may be partly to blame.

"There needs to be a moratorium on taking houses from these homeowners until we can make sure that somethings not unethical, illegal, or immoral," said Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams.

Adams says his office has heard dozens of similar stories over the past year: homeowners in rapidly gentrifying areas, like Bed-Stuy, forced out of their homes. He says it's usually been one of three causes:

Forced foreclosures
Deed fraud
City's third party transfer program

"We believe when you have something of this magnitude that could be a large number of black and brown homeowners losing their homes, when the dust settles we cannot look back and say wow we should have paid attention to this," Adams said.

Which is why he and City Council Member Robert Cornegy are calling for a stop on all property seizures pending federal, state, and city investigations. For it's part the city's office of Housing Preservation and Development, which runs the TPT program, says it's unfair to lump it in with other illegal activities scamming people out of their homes.

Stringer subpoenas NYCHA

From CBS 2:

New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer is putting NYCHA’s feet to the fire, alleging the city housing agency is stonewalling efforts to investigate why so many residents have been left without heat or hot water.

Stringer’s office announced that a second subpoena was issued to NYCHA on Friday, demanding they turn over information about multiple outages last winter. On Saturday, the comptroller said the city housing authority had “purposely done everything they can” to delay a year-long audit into the embattled agency.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Will Melissa be appealing to citywide voters?

From AMNY:
Melissa Mark-Viverito is looking to get back into city public office.

The former City Council speaker announced Tuesday that she plans to run in next year's special election for public advocate. Mark-Viverito, who first announced her bid on "Mornings on 1," will kick off her campaign with an evening event at Borough of Manhattan Community College.

She has said she would hold city and state leaders accountable over the state of the city's transit system, ongoing problems at New York City Housing Authority developments and issues of inequality, as public advocate.

Blissville shelter changes hands; another "hotel" on the horizon

From The Real Deal:

Brooklyn investor Shulem Herman has gone to Queens for his latest purchase.

Herman has purchased a homeless shelter in Long Island City from Lam Group for $36.5 million, according to property records. He took out a roughly $23.2 million mortgage for the purchase from Sterling National Bank.

The 154-room building used to be a Fairfield Inn hotel and is located at 52-34 Van Dam Street.

Who knew owning a homeless shelter could be so lucrative? Actually, that's been apparent for years, so we'll end sarcasm right here.

From The Real Deal:

Another day, another Long Island City hotel from Sam Chang.

The developer filed permits with the city’s Department of Buildings on Monday for a 14-story hotel with 282 rooms. The project at 52-02 Van Dam Street would span about 82,000 square feet and replace a pair of industrial buildings.

This is the latest of many hotels Chang’s McSam Hotel Group is planning for the neighborhood. The company is also building a 324-key hotel nearby at 38-39 9th Street and a 142-key hotel at 38-04 11th Street.

Wow, it's certain that tourists will flock to a hotel that is hard to get to and sits amidst 3 homeless shelters. Unless there is some kind of hidden plan here. Hmm, what could McSam be up to? End sarcasm again.

You know, this neighborhood had so much potential. Instead the city is turning it into a slum. Well, this guy thinks it's great for some reason but everyone else sees the forest through the trees.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Where the most street homeless are

From RealtyHop:

As shown on the map, homeless encampments are mostly concentrated in Manhattan, with Midtown-Midtown South being the worst of all neighborhoods. The good news? So far, only 402 encampments have reported in the neighborhood, 201 fewer than 2017. West Village is another neighborhood that has seen more homeless encampments than others, with 275 reported in 2017 and 260 reported in 2018 as of October 31st, 2018. The number goes down as the neighborhoods get farther away from the city center. In Brooklyn, however, things seem to be worsening in Stuyvesant Heights, with 56 homeless encampments reported in 2017 and 130 reported in 2018. Other neighborhoods that have seen an increase in the number of encampments include East Williamsburg, Dumbo-Vinegar Hill-Downtown Brooklyn-Boerum Hill, and Prospect Heights.

So this study, using 311 call data regarding homeless encampments, seems to show that while Manhattan numbers are skyrocketing, Queens homeless numbers are on a steep decline. (They cut up and mashed together neighborhoods in a weird way, though.)

$226M Woodhaven/Cross Bay SBS route only saves riders a few minutes

From Forest Hills Post:

The Department of Transportation announced Tuesday that the Select Bus Service that links the Rockaways with Woodside–via Woodhaven and Cross Bay Boulevards–has decreased travel times for riders since its introduction last year.

Travel times for bus riders have improved by nearly 10 percent on the Q52/Q53 SBS route, which was rolled out amid controversy on Nov. 12, 2017. Meanwhile, travel times for all other modes of transportation along Woodhaven and Cross Bay Boulevards have stayed the same since the introduction of SBS, the agency said.

The DOT, as part of SBS, removed a travel lane along the boulevards for the sole use of buses, which critics say has increased congestion. Furthermore, there have been parking bans in sections of the corridor that many argue has hurt small businesses.

But the DOT says SBS has been a success since it was launched 12 months ago.

What's the longest you could possibly spend on this bus? An hour? We're talking less than 6 minutes you're saving by taking the SBS. In the meantime, it's bumper to bumper traffic for everyone else, despite the BS that DOT is peddling about travel times for other modes of transportation staying the same.

Great use of taxpayer money here.

Monday, November 26, 2018

Special treatment given to big de Blasio donors

From CBS 2:

Shocking video has surfaced, documenting the easy access achieved by a pair of donors to Mayor Bill de Blasio who reportedly used gifts and bribes to weasel their way into the very heart of the New York Police Department.

A photo taken at a dinner showing donors Jeremy Reichberg and Jona Rechnitz bracketing then-NYPD Chief of Department Philip Banks takes on a new whole new meaning in light of the astonishing dash cam video played out at Reichberg’s trial on charges of bribing police officers.

The video shows Reichberg and Rechnitz, who has already pleaded guilty and is testifying as a government witness, somehow gain access to the heavily protected underground garage at the department’s headquarters in lower Manhattan.

“I would expect that the chief, the PC, sent us a representative to walk us up to the private elevator,” Rechnitz said. “I expect nothing less.”

Banks, who has not been charged with any wrongdoing, did in fact send an escort who can be seen greeting the pair effusively. Jurors were also shown pictures and video of the pair wearing Santa Claus hats and driving a black Aston Martin to deliver Christmas presents to officers, but it was the unfettered access to police headquarters that’s riled police experts.

Construction damage forces small business to close on Black Friday

Animal Pantry on Cross Bay Blvd was hit with a vacate order this past Friday due to construction behind the building damaging their foundation.

Great timing! It's called Black Friday because small businesses are generally running "in the red" up until the day after Thanksgiving, when they make a bundle off holiday shoppers, which pushes them "into the black" on their balance sheets.

All to build another cookie cutter piece of crap. For shame.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

The poor will still have trouble affording reduced fare MetroCards

From City Limits:

In June, after more than two years of campaigning by advocates, activists and grassroots groups, the City Council and Mayor Bill de Blasio announced they’d struck a budget deal: one that included funding for the Fair Fares program, which would provide half-priced MetroCards to New Yorkers living below the federal poverty level.

The initiative, which experts say could potentially benefit as many as 800,000 low-income New Yorkers, is set to roll out in January, though the city has yet to release a detailed plan for how it will operate. Eligibility criteria, how many people the program will serve during its initial rollout, and exactly how participants will obtain their discounted MetroCards are all factors still being worked out, according to a spokeswoman for the mayor’s office.

One detail that we do know, revealed at an MTA committee meeting last week, is that the half-priced fares will only apply to the purchase of weekly and monthly MetroCards. Pay-Per-Ride MetroCards, which users can purchase and load with any amount of money over $5.50, are exempt from the discount, at least initially—something city officials say will allow them to get the program launched on time.

This news was a disappointment to transit advocates who’d pushed for the passage of Fair Fares, who argue that the city’s most cash-strapped New Yorkers are not always able to afford the upfront costs of a weekly or monthly MetroCard, even at a discount. Under Fair Fares, a 30-day MetroCard would cost $60.50 while a 7-day would cost $16.

When is an attic not an attic?

What's this underdeveloped property with an older home and - gasp - a side yard doing taking up space in Queens? We need a hero to come and take care of this problem.
Not to worry, Middle Village has its own local overdevelopment superstars known as the Fabians. Small one family to be replaced with two 3-familys. I'll admit, these don't look quite as hideous as what I am used to from this development firm. However, the permits are for a 4-story building and this rendering doesn't seem to show that.


Might want to post the renewed permits, there, Bobby.
This looks legit. Naturally this was all self-certified and there were issues, including a stop work order.

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Queens owners hold on to their multifamily buildings

From The Real Deal:

Queens has been at the forefront of New York City’s development boom, with major new megaprojects rising from Astoria to Flushing. And with Amazon’s official selection of Long Island City for half of its so-called HQ2, the appetite for large scale developments in Queens is likely to accelerate even further.

But one segment of the local market that has remained consistently slow is deals for multifamily buildings, where activity almost always lags behind the other boroughs. During the third quarter of the year, Queens saw just 11 deals across 14 buildings for $93.33 million, according to data from Ariel Property Advisors.

During the second quarter, the borough saw 18 deals across 25 buildings for about $283 million, and just 13 deals across 18 buildings for about $178 million during the first quarter. Throughout 2017, Queens saw 43 deals across 115 buildings worth $849 million, making it the only borough not to break the $1 billion mark in annual sales. These were the lowest number by borough in every instance and every category, with the sole exception of dollar volume during 2018’s second quarter (the Ariel reports examine every part of the city except Staten Island).

Michael Tortorici, executive vice president at Ariel, said Queens has had a slow multifamily market for as long as he has been analyzing the borough. He generally sees somewhere around 60 trades per year.

“The demand is there. The supply often isn’t,” he said, “and I think that fact is seen in the pricing, which is consistent and has been, compared to other parts of the city, also very competitive.”

Part of the reason for Queens’ slow multifamily market could be the relatively small amount of multifamily buildings it has compared to the other boroughs. Ariel identified just 3,371 tax lots in the borough that have one or more multifamily or mixed-use building on them with 10 or more units. This number was 6,057 in the Bronx, 7,361 in Brooklyn and 12,726 in Manhattan.

There is also more of a general reluctance among multifamily owners in Queens to sell their properties, given that they tend to be very secure investments, Tortorici said.

“Queens multifamily owners are very loyal to Queens and to their holdings, and many of them are very stable in value with appreciation,” he said. “They’re stable in terms of collections. The income growth is steady and consistent.”

Because of the stability, owners are more likely to commit to longterm holds and pass it on generationally, he said.

What a shame that the multifamily buildings aren't being traded back and forth! In the meantime, one- and two-family homes are torn down and replaced with crap on a regular basis.

NYCHA weaves a tangled web

From the NY Times:

Mikaila Bonaparte has spent her entire life under the roof of the New York City Housing Authority, the oldest and largest public housing system in the country, where as a toddler she nibbled on paint chips that flaked to the floor. In the summer of 2016, when she was not quite 3 years old, a test by her doctor showed she had lead in her blood at levels rarely seen in modern New York.

A retest two days later revealed an even higher level, one more commonly found in factory or construction workers and, in some cases, enough to cause irreversible brain damage.

Within two weeks, a city health inspector visited the two Brooklyn public housing apartments where Mikaila spent her time — her mother’s in the Tompkins Houses; her grandmother’s in the Gowanus Houses — to look for the source of the lead exposure, records show. The inspector, wielding a hand-held device that can detect lead through multiple layers of paint, found the dangerous heavy metal in both homes. The Health Department ordered the Housing Authority to fix the problems.

The discovery spurred the Housing Authority to action: It challenged the results.

Rather than remove or cover the lead, the Housing Authority dispatched its own inspector who used a different test, documents show. The agency insisted that however Mikaila was poisoned, there was no lead in her apartments.

Friday, November 23, 2018

Construction death in Brooklyn

From CBS 2:

It was a tragic day in Brooklyn, where a construction worker was fatally struck by falling construction material at a work site in Bedford-Stuyvesant.

Chopper 2 was over the emergency response at the six-story mixed use building project near the corner of Myrtle and Marcy Avenues just before noon.

It was a tragic day in Brooklyn, where a construction worker was fatally struck by falling construction material at a work site in Bedford-Stuyvesant.

Chopper 2 was over the emergency response at the six-story mixed use building project near the corner of Myrtle and Marcy Avenues just before noon.

Shalimar Diner closing forever on Sunday

From the Queens Chronicle:

After more than 40 years in Rego Park, the Shalimar Diner will close its doors for good on Sunday.

The Shalimar Diner, located at 63-68 Austin St., is the latest eating establishment to close in the borough. In recent years, the Scobee Diner in Little Neck, the Palace Diner in Flushing, the Future Diner in Fresh Meadows and the Flagship Diner in Briarwood have all gone out of business.

In July 2016, Shalimar owner Chris Karayiannis told the Chronicle “I don’t know how long I can last,” in response to the rising costs of running a diner.

One waitress said that the rent was raised and that the landlord offered a 20-year lease but a deal didn’t happen.

It’s a far cry from 1977, when The New York Times mentioned the Shalimar Diner in an article titled “Diners Strike It Rich.” Diners were growing in appeal to families and not just truckers and taxi drivers.

According to the article, “on weekends, hundreds of people form lines in the diners’ parking lots from Rego Park to Bayside to Douglaston.”

NYCDOT helps close diners, too.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Rest in peace, Senator Peralta

From the NY Post:

New York State Senator Jose Peralta died of an apparent heart attack late Wednesday night, friends and fellow lawmakers said. He was 47.

Peralta, a Democrat, represented a Queens district that included diverse neighborhoods such as Corona, Elmhurst, Jackson Heights and Woodside.

Read this as you wait for the feast

Below is the letter that former DOI Commissioner Mark Peters sent to the City Council about his dismissal by de Blasio.


Happy Thanksgiving from Queens Crap!

It's the day of the year when we give thanks for all we have. And no one has more than this guy. And he's about to get even more at our expense thanks to two other guys who he spun like records. I guess we should be thankful, though!

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Not your routine stop work order

In the 12 years we've been at this (has it really been that long?) we've come across a number of SWOs posted on buildings. But the story behind this one at 64-00 Metropolitan Ave is like none ever profiled here before.
You can learn a new way to get an ECB violation every day around these parts.

And wait, there's more! The plot thickens...

There are a slew of complaints about this building, and they're interesting to read.

More rules for AirBnB

From Crains:

The mayor's office on Monday unveiled a set of proposed rules that will force short-term rental sites such as Airbnb to disclose the identities of hosts and the types of listings they are offering. The new statues are the result of a law enacted earlier this year that's designed to aid city inspectors in cracking down on illegal home sharing—which they have done in grand fashion lately.

Absent certain exceptions, the new rules propose that booking services submit monthly reports to the Mayor's Office of Special Enforcement through a yet-to-be-create web portal or face fines up to the larger of $1,500 or the annual income from the listing. The reports are to include a host's personal information, how much money changed hands, where to find advertising materials for listings and, most crucially, whether an entire apartment was being rented out and for how long.

Renting an empty unit for fewer than 30 days in larger buildings is considered a violation of the state's multiple dwelling law, and the mayor's office has invoked that statute to ding homeowners or building owners and then hit them with additional violations for not having exit signs, sprinklers and other safety measures required in hotels.

"This law provides the city with the critical information it needs to preserve our housing stock, keep visitors safe, and ensure residents feel secure in their homes and neighborhoods," Christian Klossner, executive director of the Office of Special Enforcement, said in a statement.

The administration is hosting a public hearing on the proposed rules Dec. 18, after which the mayor's office is likely to adopt them in some form. The effort is part of the city's opposition to illegal home sharing, a thorny issue involving a nebulous mix of housing economics, politics and pricey public relations campaigns.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Middle Village construction fence hosts painting & permits

Recently, yours truly came across a painting on a construction fence covered with DOB permits within the friendly confines of Middle Village. Well, this was certainly a new one! So, let's look into it.
The fence stands around what was the former site of a recessed bungalow-style house and a garage which were both torn down.
It's sure looking great now! What a boon to the neighborhood. That fence permit expired about a month ago, but there are no plans filed to do any further work at this site. Surely the local rodent population is grateful for the new habitat provided.

The shoe is on the other foot

From Crains:

Mayor Bill de Blasio is preparing a revised plan to raise money for the troubled New York City Housing Authority by working with private property managers and developers. And a major change to the blueprint involves trimming the amount of affordable housing that will be created—something that would have been anathema to the mayor just three years ago.

The city's plan, which officials said will be released by the end of the year, will be called Nycha 2.0 and will consist of increasing the number of developments managed by private companies, selling air rights and building new apartment towers on vacant or underused land, according to Politico New York, which first reported the initiative. Officials believe they can raise nearly $22 billion, which would take out a significant chunk of the authority's current $32 billion capital needs.

One key element of the plan is developing new apartments on Nycha-owned land that would generate income for the agency, something that was first proposed under the Bloomberg administration. Under that initiative, the buildings would have been 80% market-rate and 20% affordable.

"The idea was to generate money to repair the existing buildings and create significant new affordable housing, though the buildings would not have been 100% affordable," said Fred Harris, a former Nycha executive who helped draft the plan.

However, de Blasio criticized the Bloomberg plan as "a pure giveaway to wealthy elites" and in his NextGen plan proposed buildings that would be entirely affordable or split evenly between affordable and market rate.

Monday, November 19, 2018

Not the sharpest knife in the drawer

From a Bill de Blasio op ed in the Daily News:

They didn't pick Texas, which trumpets its low taxes.

They didn't pick Maryland with its $8.5 billion in incentives, or even New Jersey with its $7 billion.

In the end, Amazon came to New York.

When I took office, the 20-year knock on New York City's progressives was that our love of big government, the labor movement and high taxes would send businesses running.

We ignored the critics, and went on to pass paid sick leave, a higher living wage, a $15 minimum wage and a fair work week.

And this is where Amazon — the world's biggest online retailer — decided to be: in high tax, pro-union, high-regulation New York City. The 25,000 jobs coming to Long Island City in the coming decade represent the single biggest employment boost in the history of our city or state.

You can continue on and read the rest of this delusional bullshit, but let's point out that the type of workers Amazon is planning to hire will not be subject to anything he mentioned and will not be union. And the only reason you got them to come here was because you gave them tax incentives, a helipad and there is a workforce here that can support what they need. But we enjoy you reveling in the fact that this is a high tax state as if that's a positive.

Cozy relationships may have brought shelter to College Point

From the Times Ledger:

City Councilman Paul Vallone (D-Bayside) confirmed Thursday that a controversial men’s shelter will open in College Point next year.

The Department of Homeless Services (DHS) spoke to Vallone Nov. 14 and notified him that they would be moving forward with the proposed shelter at 127-03 20th Ave.

According to the Vallone, the shelter could come as early as next September.

“Our fears were confirmed that 127-03 20th Avenue has been approved for use as a homeless shelter as early as September 2019,” Vallone said. “David Levitan’s greed sold out all of College Point for profit over the needs of our entire community.”

“This is a site that was deliberately purchased and converted for use as a homeless shelter — a despicable act by one owner who has no regard for the communities he infiltrates. We will continue to fight and stand with College Point,” he added.

Despicable act by one owner?

Yes, it was deliberately purchased and converted for use as a homeless shelter by David Levitan and Steven Berger. So who really sold out College Point since everyone knows what those two are all about? Why, it was none other than Gina Argento of Broadway Stages fame, a close friend of the mayor! Let's not forget that her husband, John Ciafone, has organized at least one fundraiser for Peter Vallone, and has been friends with the Vallone family for decades. Hmmm....
Also note that the sale of the property happened more than a year ago (just before the City Council election), but the transfer didn't happen until well after, in March.

Not to worry, we're sure Vallone and the born-again progressive, John Liu, will be right on top of this one. The voters of northeast Queens are to be applauded for their wise choices at the polls.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Parkway Hospital redevelopment approved by CB6

From the Forest Hills Post:

Community Board 6 resoundingly voted to approve plans for a major residential redevelopment of Forest Hill’s abandoned Parkway Hospital.

The board voted 33 to 1 at Wednesday’s meeting in favor of the plan, which includes the construction of a 14-story building at the 70-35 113th St. complex, and the addition of two floors to the existing 6-story hospital building on site. A total of 351 apartments are slated for the project.

The developers, Jasper Venture Group LLC and Auberge Grand Central LLC, had filed an application in September to rezone the property and allow for their towers, taller and denser than allowed under current zoning, to be built. Their application also sought to designate the property under a Mandatory Inclusionary Housing (MIH) zone, the first in the area.

The proposed plan would turn the existing hospital building, with its two additional floors, into a residential tower with 135 affordable units, with 68 of these apartments for seniors. A 4,000 square foot community facility is also planned for the building, which is likely to be taken up by a medical service provider.

The 14-story tower, meanwhile, would be built in the vacant parking lot of the former hospital and house 216 market-rate units. The majority of the apartments here are studios and one-bedrooms, with 44 two-bedroom units.

DeBlasio fires guy that was investigating him

From the NY Post:

The mayor’s official pretext is that Peters had behaved “in a manner indicating a lack of concern for following the law” by improperly trying to replace the special schools investigator and supposedly lying to a de Blasio aide.

The real issue is surely that he’d done his job too well — better than the mayor expected when he installed his former campaign treasurer at the Investigations Department.

Peters exposed rampant mismanagement and systemic dishonesty at the Housing Authority, uncovered significant scandals at the Administration for Children’s Services and blew the whistle on how top mayoral aides lifted deed restrictions so that a Lower East Side nursing home could be sold to a real-estate developer for luxury condo.

And the firing comes as DOI has been investigating political interference in the Department of Education’s “probe” of Jewish religious schools that don’t teach their students non-religious subjects.

In that and other “matters now being pursued by DOI,” Peters told City Hall last month, “the mayor himself and/or his staff, are potentially a subject of investigation.”

Talk about fishy timing.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Metrocard scammers at Sutphin

From PIX11:

A daily commuter who moves through the Sutphin Boulevard transit hub told PIX11 a troubling situation has been going on there for at least three years.

“Gangs control the front of the turnstiles,” the woman told us. “They don’t let tourists out of the station until they give up their MetroCards.”

The hustlers want the cards to “swipe through” other tourists arriving in the United States, who want to get into the subway system. A guy named Lavell said he’s seen the swipers in action and knows the fee.

“Two dollars, and they give you a transfer.”

When PIX11 decided to investigate on two recent weekdays, we saw several people—men and women—soliciting MetroCards from travelers who were leaving the subway system, pushing their luggage along, on their way to the AirTrain that would take them to JFK airport.

Plaxall to develop site alongside Amazon

From The Real Deal:

Plaxall isn’t completely handing over its large Long Island City project to Amazon.

The family-run plastics company, which last year developed a 15-acre plan that appears to have been the key to luring Amazon’s HQ2 to New York, will retain a site just to the south of the tech company’s planned campus where it can develop its own commercial building, according to a memorandum of understanding between the company and the state and city’s respective economic development arms.

Plaxall... will retain the southernmost block of the larger project: a group of properties that sit on the block between 46th Road and 46th Avenue. The six property lots, which cover nearly the entire block, would allow Plaxall to build a mixed-use building slightly larger than 800,000 square feet, or a residential building of nearly 566,000 square feet.

Under the residential plan, the new building would be subject to the city’s Mandatory Inclusionary Housing requirements, and under either scenario, Plaxall would set aside 5 percent of the space for light industrial use.

Friday, November 16, 2018

Bad roads are to blame for added costs

From CBS 2:

A new report finds they cost drivers in our area an average of $2,800 a year.

Part of that $2,800 is spent at car mechanics, reported CBS2’s Aundrea Cline-Thomas.

Drivers consider it a necessary evil to get to work, but traffic backups and potholes are an all-too familiar site in our area.

The cost of wear and tear adds up. A new report from TRIP – a national transportation research group – found drivers in the New York City area spend nearly $2,800 a year. It’s more money spent on car repairs, wasted gas by sitting in traffic and being late for work, all because the roads are so bad.

“It’s distressing to see that here in the metro area 2/3 of pavements are in poor condition,” said Carolyn Bonifas Kelly of TRIP. “That means two out of every three miles you’re driving on you’re hitting potholes, you’re hitting rough roads.”

The larger concern is that the deteriorating infrastructure could keep more jobs from coming to the area.

Experts say the solution is more transportation funding from the state and federal government.

Judge says "no deal" on public housing plan

From the NY Times:

A federal judge rejected a sweeping settlement on Wednesday that would have appointed a monitor to oversee the troubled New York City Housing Authority and required the city to pump at least $1.2 billion into repairs.

The judge, William H. Pauley III, also strongly suggested that the federal government should take over the authority instead.

In a scathing opinion, Judge Pauley deplored the “breathtaking scope” of the squalid living conditions in the city’s public housing complexes. He rebuked the city for its mismanagement of the agency, and said the federal government had abdicated its legal responsibility to overhaul the nation’s largest stock of public housing that is home to about 400,000 vulnerable New Yorkers.

The unexpected ruling threw the future of the Housing Authority into doubt and unraveled a deal that Mayor Bill de Blasio had staked his reputation on as a champion of public housing tenants.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Bland Houses host fighting vermin

From PIX11:

Melba Nazario lives at the Bland Houses in Flushing says she saw rats fighting raccoons for trash.

Nazario said when she tries to complain to the management office, it’s always closed.

A spokesperson for NYCHA said exterminators are treating the area every two weeks for any rodent issues, with the last treatment on Oct. 29. They are scheduling to address any raccoons at the development. The animals will be safely relocated. Also, all the garbage and trash around Senior Center have already been removed by staff, a spokesperson promised.

The Bland Houses’ office has been closed briefly due to a staffing shortage, a spokespersons aid. It will be reopening Dec. 4.

Is it time for panic buttons at bodegas?

From PIX11:

Several bodega owners rallied in the Bronx on Tuesday, calling for panic buttons to help them reach police during emergencies.

The rally was held outside Wascar Guerrero’s deli on Shakespeare Avenue. Two weeks ago he chased away a group of teenagers with a metal pipe. Guerrero believes they were trying to rob his store.

“I have to protect me and my customers too," he said.

Guerrero says it took police more than half an hour to respond.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Bill would legalize basement units citywide

From PIX11:

City Council Member Brad Lander says he wants to make sure long-time residents like Thorne can stay in the community, while also providing affordable housing. It's why he's proposed a bill to help homeowners bring illegal basement units up to code.

"We just have been playing a sort of don't ask, don't tell game and that's not good for anybody," said Lander.

Under his proposal, homeowners would receive low interest, subsidized, or forgivable loans depending on their income level. That money would be used transform basements into legal apartments with the help of the Department of Buildings.

In exchange, current or future tenants will receive leases with renewal clauses and affordable rent increases.

"If the house is in proper standard with the basement and pass all it's examination it could be done," said Thorne. "If it fails, it should be out."

If the pilot program is approved it will roll out in East New York sometime next year. If it's successful, it will likely roll out to the rest of the city shortly after.

Van Bramer & Maloney in favor of Amazon before they were against it

Well that's sure interesting. Quite a rogue's gallery here!

Added trivia bonus: How many of the signatories are now in prison?

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Amazon will be too much

From NBC:

Amazon could be coming to Long Island City, bringing 25,000 jobs to that part of Queens. But could mass transit handle the influx? Local city officials say the infrastructure needs to be repaired before Amazon potentially moves in. Andrew Siff reports.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Condos raided over AirBnB rentals

From the Wall Street Journal:

A team of New York City law-enforcement officers swarmed a Manhattan condominium last month, issuing 27 notices of violations for illegal hotel use in one of the largest crackdowns on short-term rentals such as those listed on Airbnb.

The raid at the Atelier, a 46-story Midtown luxury tower, may be a sign of what’s to come. New York and other cities are seeking to limit short-term rentals that can run afoul of local laws designed to limit hotel-style stays in residential buildings.

The violations went to 20 different apartment owners who allegedly rented to guests from at least 15 countries including Argentina and Spain. Some guests paid $400 a night, and one group of six from Switzerland paid a total bill of $3,823 for a short-term stay, according to city records.

Two members of the Atelier condo board were among those cited for making illegal short-term rentals. They also were accused of putting up illegal partitions in their units to create extra rooms.

100 years ago today

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Elmhurst fights for its historic African burial ground

From the Times Ledger:

The fight for survival continues for one of the city’s oldest African burial grounds now that a Request for Evaluation was submitted to the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission.

The Elmhurst Histories and Cemeteries Preservations Society submitted the request Oct. 1 as a step toward keeping the piece of local and national history from being buried underneath a 55-foot-tall residential building. On Sept. 13, the developing company Song Liu filed permits to develop the five story structure at 47-11 90th St., according to reports from the city Department of Buildings. If construction were to take place, a vital part of American history could be wiped off the map.

In 1828, St. Mark’s American Methodist Episcopal Church was founded — on the site of the proposed building — one year after enslaved people were emancipated in New York City 35 years before the Emancipation Proclamation. Newly Freed African-Americans quickly established the congregation which eventually evolved and relocated three times. The church still remains active today as the St. Mark’s A.M.E Church in North Corona, which is still responsible for the 310 bodies still believed to be resting in the lot hugged by highways.

Construction can only take place when there has been an agreement struck between Song Liu and St. Mark’s AME Church of Corona, according to Giampino. In order for Song Liu to touch the earth, the remains must be properly removed and reburied. St. Mark’s AME Church did not respond to request for comment about the matter.

“It’s a very sad story,” said James McMenamin, vice president of the Elmhurst Histories and Cemeteries Preservation Society.

In 1928, after St. Marks AME had to move to new location, the New York City refused to grant the church permission to remove the remains to a new location. The burial ground was then mostly forgotten and even written off of city maps, according to Giampino.

“The Pepsi Cola sign gets landmarked and $1.9 million (is allocated) to save and restore the house next door to Louis Armstrong,” said McMenamin. “In the meantime we have been trying to save this structure in Elmhurst and we have gotten zip.”

Yep, that about sums it up.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Cuomo to do an end run around Van Bramer on Amazon

From Crain's:

The Cuomo administration will likely use a controversial planning process to shepherd Amazon's potential headquarters in Queens around the normal city review, Crain's has learned.

Several sources familiar with the negotiations to bring the tech giant to a sprawling office and mixed-use campus around Anable Basin on the Long Island City waterfront say the state is planning to create a general project plan to rezone the roughly 20-acre site, which today can only accommodate low-rise manufacturing uses.

That would give the state the authority to remake the area without having to secure approval from the City Council, which usually holds power over major development projects in need of a rezoning.

The general project plan still requires an environmental review, allows the community to comment in a public forum and is subject to nonbinding input from the City Planning Commission and the local community board.

The advantage for Gov. Andrew Cuomo is that the Amazon project could not be held hostage by Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, per the council's tradition of deferring to the local member on rezonings.

"I'm not just surprised, I'm angry," said Van Bramer. "I think it would be shocking if this was done in a way that bypassed the city land-use review process. This is the most top-down approach to a project I have seen so far, with no community involvement. This is the governor and the mayor and [Amazon CEO] Jeff Bezos sitting in a room together."

Now this is what you call a bad hombre!

From the Queens Chronicle:

A Jackson Heights man convicted of rape and twice deported from the United States was sentenced to 57 months in prison by a federal judge last Wednesday for illegally re-entering the country, prosecutors said.

Judge Sandra Feuerstein ruled that Rogelio Mendez, 38, a Mexican national who also has gone by “Rogelio Mendez-Puebla” will serve the time consecutively with the 30-month sentence he got in Suffolk County court last year after pleading guilty to third-degree rape.

He was working at a restaurant in Southampton, LI, when that crime occurred in September 2016. Mendez raped a woman at a house he shared with co-workers.

He’s incarcerated for the rape now.

According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York, Mendez was first deported from America in 2004, after he served a two-year prison term for illegally possessing a loaded gun in Queens.

He came back to the United States in 2005 and was deported again in 2009.

Then, Mendez illegally re-entered the United States a year later.

Friday, November 9, 2018

Amazon & Google may expand here

There are a bunch of articles out there about the possibility of Amazon and Google expanding here, so here are some of them for your perusal.

What Amazon May Mean for Queens: Gentrification and (More) Packed Trains

Local politicians grow concerned as Amazon HQ2 eyes Queens' Waterfront Plaxall property

Any zoning changes for Long Island City would hinge on local lawmaker

Bezos Turns Gritty Queens Area Glutted With Development Into 'Field Of Dreams'

Report: Google planning big New York City expansion

The 18th hole needs protection!

From CBS 2:

Cracked windows, shattered windshields and dented cars … again and again.

The culprits? Golf balls.

Dozens were scattered all over Raymond Hublall’s home on Commonwealth Boulevard in Little Neck, because right across the street is Douglaston Golf Course.

“From 2010 to now I’ve spent approximately $5,000,” Hublall said.

His neighbors have seen similar damage. The situation is not just proving to be expensive, it’s also dangerous. Hublall said one errant shot injured his niece.

“She was walking in from roadway walking into my front door and she got hit by the golf ball,” Hublall said.

Just to give you an idea of how many golf balls end up on some of these properties, Hublall produced a box filled with them. He said he collected all of them in just a couple of months.

Back in 2014, neighbors complained to local leaders and got netting installed. The only problem is it doesn’t protect the 18th hole.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

"Vertical enlargement" = 5 more stories

From Forest Hills Post:

Plans have been filed for a “vertical and horizontal extension” of a two-family home located at 99-49 66th Ave. The plans call for the house to be converted into a 7-story, 18-unit building. They also include space for professional offices, which are classified as community facilities.

Woodhaven businesses being targeted for fines

From CBS 2:

Dozens of store owners in Queens say the city is cutting into their bottom line.

They’re being forced to take down their outdoor signs that they say are vital to their business.

A DOB spokesperson says they’ve received anonymous complaints about area businesses, and have to inspect once that happens. In a statement, the spokesperson said the department isn’t specifically targeting Woodhaven.

Local leaders aren’t satisfied.

“They weren’t aware they had to have a permit when the sign was put up,” Assemblyman Michael Miller (D-38th) said. “Now they’re being penalized for it.”

Miller is trying to find a compromise with the city. He’s hoping they can set up an amnesty period for business owners.

Store owners say the only thing falling will be their bottom line since as things currently stand, they have no way of advertising their business. Many say they bought their shop with the awning or sign already up, thinking everything was already up to code.