Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Sunnyside's Roosevelt Avenue is going to get mighty crowded


Sunnyside Post

A small area around the 52nd Street train station has become a hot bed for development—and it is about to get a whole lot hotter.

Plans were filed last week for a 17-story, 90-unit complex at the corner of 51st Street and Roosevelt Ave., where the blue-colored J & Sons Supply building once stood.

The building would include six apartments per floor from floors three to 17. There would be ground floor commercial space, with the second floor used for mechanical and electrical purposes. The cellar would include parking and recreation space.

The plans include a stand-alone school, which would be four-stories tall, on the same site. The school is likely to be a private school, since the School Construction Authority said it is not working on bringing a public school to the site.

The plans are currently being reviewed by the Department of Buildings, including whether they meet existing zoning requirements.

Plans were filed in March for a six-story, 10-unit building at 52-16 Roosevelt Ave., a site mid-block between 52nd and 53rd Streets that once housed former Council Member Eric Gioia’s offices and a small shed next door. On the adjacent site, at the corner of 53rd and Roosevelt Avenue, a six-story building is being developed.

In addition, plans were filed in January for a seven-story, 40-unit complex at 51-24 Roosevelt Ave., where Nunziato Florists and Payag Restaurant were located.

Meanwhile, plans for a 5 story, 10-unit building at 52-22 Roosevelt Ave., where Adelita restaurant was formerly located, were filed in 2017.

Additionally, plans were filed last year for a six-story, 14-unit complex at 43-20 52nd St.
On Queens Boulevard, at 50-17 Queens Blvd (43-44 51st Street), plans have been filed for a nine-story, 75-unit building.

Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez integrated an environmental awareness event with a campaign fundraiser


NY Post

Her new deal is all about the green, alright.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez held a 5k in Queens Saturday that she billed as “a Family Fun Run supporting U.S. Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal on the Saturday following Earth Day.”
But many of the 400 runners didn’t realize their $30 registration fees were going directly into the lawmaker’s campaign coffers.
“We’re getting together for our own health, for our planet’s health … and to fight for the Green New Deal together,” the freshman Democrat told the participants before they set off.
Environmentally conscious supporters — who jogged through Astoria Park alongside a beaming, strolling AOC — believed their money was going to help save the planet.
“It’s going to help raise awareness and educate people,” a female runner told The Post.
“I think it’s really for this particular New Green Deal,” said Brian Schwartz of Long Island. “No question.”
“It’s to help the environment. To support the Green New Deal,” another woman said. “It’s a good cause.”
A vaguely worded notices on AOC’s Facebook page — saying that the run would support “U.S. Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez & the Green New Deal” — worsened the confusion.
But the fine print on a third event-related website revealed the truth.
“Registration fees are contributions to AOC for Congress,” reads the legal disclosure on aoc5k.com, which lists the Federal Election Commission rules that donors must follow.
“It was a campaign fundraiser,” Ocasio-Cortez spokesman Corbin Trent confirmed.
The participants paid more than $11,000 all told.
Even kids as young as 3 became unknowing political donors — ponying up $20 fees to join a kids’ 1k.

 But by fudging the fact that those fees were actually campaign contributions, AOC may have enticed constituents into inadvertently breaking federal election laws.
Parents, for example, can’t contribute their own funds in a child’s name.

 Then there's this:

 Anthony Pappas, the 72-year-old Republican who ran against Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in November, shadowed the freshman Democrat at an Astoria Park event Saturday – and had to be shooed away by cops when he got too close.
Pappas, a professor at St. John’s University, was distributing stapled copies of an eight-page manifesto about his grievances against the judicial system, including complaints about unfair sentencing and a lack of accountability for judges, and ranting to passersby.
Staffers blocked him from approaching Ocasio-Cortez as she took selfies with supporters at the Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez 5k “fun run.”
“I wanted to tell her about judicial immunity and judicial accountability,” Pappas told The Post, after two police officers guided him away from AOC and her group. She did not seem to acknowledge him.

All of this is extremely bad. Ocasio-Cortez is going to be a one-termer if she keeps up this elitist behavior. (That clip where she is walking with a baby looks like something out of VEEP). And the NYPD's treatment of the professor really shows how stupid and arbitrary the lengths to protect politicians from alleged threats on their lives are.

Her staff should especially know better too. Mr. Pappas is a constituent who the congresswoman represents in her district.

Mayor de Blasio, the man who gave us Vision Zero, was a passenger in a car crash that was caused by his NYPD security team and covered up by their commanding officer


 NY Daily News

On a Saturday morning in August 2015, Mayor de Blasio was in the back seat of a black NYPD Chevy Tahoe bound for an event in Harlem when a driver changing lanes slammed into his ride.
No one was hurt, but the commanding officer of the mayor’s executive protection unit, Howard Redmond, was furious. Text messages obtained by the Daily News show he immediately ordered the incident be covered up to protect de Blasio’s image.

“As per CO [the commanding officer] no one is to know about this,” Sgt. Jerry Ioveno texted members of the unit, referring to Redmond. “Not even the other teams.”
“No one is to know,” he repeated.

Text messages obtained by The News reveal that Redmond frantically covered up the Aug. 22, 2015, car crash due to concerns about “optics.” The previously unreported crash offers insight into the powerful commanding officer’s critical role covering up embarrassing episodes involving the mayor. It also hints at why Redmond remains in his post despite turmoil in the unit. The News has previously reported on allegations that Redmond covered up the case of an executive protection unit lieutenant accused of roughing up a sergeant at Gracie Mansion.

No report on the crash is publicly available in state Department of Motor Vehicles records. Redmond allegedly ordered that the cop behind the wheel, Detective Edgar Robles, be officially listed as the driver of a backup SUV, text messages show. That way, the unit could more plausibly claim the mayor wasn’t in the vehicle involved in the collision, a source close to the executive protection unit said.

The crash was covered up in part because of de Blasio’s Vision Zero initiative, which seeks to reduce pedestrian and traffic deaths through stricter enforcement, according to multiple sources close to the executive protection unit. The Vision Zero site proclaims: “The City of New York must no longer regard traffic crashes as mere ‘accidents,’ but rather as preventable incidents that can be systematically addressed.”

State law requires all occupants of vehicles involved in accidents to stay at the scene. But a retired member of the executive protection unit said it wasn’t unusual for a VIP under the unit’s protection to be taken away as long as there was no serious injury.

The mayor's atypical buck-passing response?

“Everything about how an accident is handled is the responsibility of the NYPD. I don’t know enough about their protocols. That’s something to ask them,” de Blasio said.

The aloof mayor was also uninterested in the apparent cover-up of the collision. Texts showed EPU members telling each other “no one is to know.”

“I don’t accept the notion that anything was done one way or another because I’m not familiar with what was done," de Blasio said, apparently ignorant of The News’s front page story and coverage it received from other news outlets.


Monday, April 29, 2019

Debate, consternation and trepidation over fracked gas pipeline from Rockaway Beach to the Jersey Shore

From NBC:

Environmentalists and clammers are challenging a natural gas pipeline that would serve Queens, Brooklyn and Long Island. Brian Thompson reports on the heated debate.

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Q70 bus illegal idling, hydrant parking caught in the act in Woodside

 I've been making 311 complaints since January regarding illegally idling Q70 buses on 61st St in Woodside (multiple buses just put on their hazards and block the street). Yesterday at 5 pm I found one *parked in front of a hydrant* on 39th Ave (driver apparently napping in the back seat). The neighbors say it happens all the time.

 Around the corner on 61st were two more idling buses, outside the "drop off only" zone that *always* has two parked vehicles, and the actual bus stop on Roosevelt. Needless to say, buses more or less permanently occupying the southbound lane on 61st makes for a massive honking traffic disaster.

Thursday, April 25, 2019

The luxurification of SRO's and the mindless demographic they attract

For HomeCommon Pacificcredit: Commonhttps://thenypost.files.wordpress.com/2019/04/re-common-dining.jpg?quality=90&strip=all&w=915

NY Post

Across from Kimberly Chexnayder’s bed (which folds out from the wall) and above her flat-screen TV (which came with her small but sparkling new apartment), she’s posted a slightly faded Polaroid of her mother.
The picture was taken 30 years ago, during what her mom described as her NYC “wild days,” when she flitted between apartments, owned a record store and was friendly with Andy Warhol.
Chexnayder, a 23-year-old junior analyst for the NFL, always coveted even a small slice of her mother’s New York life. But her experience moving to the city has been far different — and easier: 

She pays $1,700 per month for her 152-square-foot room through co-living startup Ollie (a shortened version of the resort-reminiscent term “all-inclusive”) in Long Island City’s Alta building. The move makes her one of the hundreds of young New Yorkers, mostly in their 20s and 30s, who are turning to co-living as a solution to frustrating and expensive apartment searches.

Co-living companies aim to disrupt traditional apartment life — just as coworking spaces did for staid office life — by borrowing the concept of resource-sharing. Tenants trade personal space for a fully furnished bedroom, shared common areas and sometimes group social events, all under a prix-fixe cost structure.
Say goodbye to frantically searching Craigslist for roommates, arguing over the internet bill, running to the bodega because you ran out of toilet paper, taking trips to Ikea or playing bed-bug roulette with the couch you found on the street. Say hello to, well, life in an adult dorm. Residents still have to deal with security deposits and income requirements, but the whole experience is much less Wild West than a classic New York apartment hunt.

The trend — which some treat as a half-step between college housing and the dog-eat-dog rental market — is growing in popularity, with companies like Ollie, Common, Roomrs, WeWork’s WeLive and Dwell gobbling up square footage from East Harlem to Midwood. Advocates say co-living is the future of housing in an increasingly cramped city, allowing people to trade privacy for shared amenities, a no-chores lifestyle and fun (if chaperoned) group outings. Critics say it’s a sanitized approach to city living for the generation that trusts Silicon Valley companies to solve problems, akin to eschewing the subway to take Ubers everywhere.
Chexnayder and her mother are fans. “As much as [my mom] loves New York, I think there is still an inherent concern that raises in your mind when you think, ‘Your new college grad is just moving to the city and starting a new life,’ ” says Chexnayder. “She got really emotional when I [found Ollie]. It was just a huge sigh of relief: ‘Ugh, we found a place, we are safe.’ ”

 Alta is on the higher end of the spectrum: The slick 43-story development opened last year and feels more like a hotel than a starter home. For rents ranging from $1,300 to $2,300, residents get a “microsuite” with a bed that folds into the wall to reveal a couch and mini living area, plus a shared kitchen and bathroom. Ollie, which partnered with Simon Baron Development to add its co-living spaces during construction, kitted out the units with brand-new appliances, dishware, furniture and TVs; it refills soap dispensers, drops off paper towels and offers weekly housekeeping and linen services. The building itself — a mix of rooms operated by Ollie and 297 traditional apartments — offers a full gym, a lap pool, a golf simulator, a yoga studio; a common room offers a ping-pong table and stadium seating that is set up during “Game of Thrones” and other screenings. Ollie’s studios in the building average 516 square feet.
For comparison, Chexnayder’s $1,700 room in a two-bedroom apartment on the open market might cost about $2,031, without utilities and furniture, according to data from brokerage MNS, since the average price of a two-bedroom as of March 2019 was $4,063.

The co-living idea has received its share of mockery — after all, the name sounds like a spiffy rebrand for the generic concept of “roommates.” But Ollie CEO Christopher Bledsoe says real estate developers need to break the mold to address the affordable housing crisis.

“There’s a large subset of the population that has either been priced out, or is feeling the pangs of loneliness, or is just looking or a more all-inclusive experience,” he says. Co-living companies can use economies of scale to save renters (or “members,” as some companies call them) money, since they are furnishing hundreds of rooms at a time.

Adds Bledsoe, “It’s counterintuitive, but we’re adding costs to improve affordability."

And this is why the subways are packed, the streets are congested with Ubers and Lyfts, landlords are weaponizing renovations in buildings with rent-stabilization, the rents are obscenely high and why the homeless population is going up. 

"Feeling the pangs of loneliness"???

"Improve affordability"???

 The marketing diarrhea that guy is spewing from his faceanus can't be any more tone-deaf.


I got a name for this mindless demographic of millenial urban professionals:


Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Raccoons from an abandoned apartment building have invaded row houses in Jamaica

 Eyewitness News

Neighbors in Queens are furious after they say raccoons have moved into their shared attics and are wreaking havoc in their walls.
Residents say they can hear the critters fighting and scratching every night all because of the abandoned home in the 10400 block of 164th Street.

NewsCopter 7 flew overhead on Tuesday afternoon where it could be seen that the back door was wide open. An overgrown tree in the backyard also appeared to provide a path right up to the roof where there are more openings.

Rhonda Scott said she has repeatedly called the city for help, but says she was told it's her responsibility because they're in her house now.

So she hired a private company to remove the raccoons and paid hundreds of dollars out of her own pocket.

One was caught on Easter and another was caught Tuesday. They are believed to be diseased, but expert John Vazquez does not suspect it to be rabies.

"It's kind of like an Alzheimer's thing, it affects their brains, so it's a distemper," said Vazquez with Hunters Wildlife Removal.

Amry Conliff complains the raccoons have driven out any potential rental income from his home.

"I can't put someone to live in a house when it sounds like it's a fight in the walls," Conliff said. "Who is going to rent property like that?"

It's not clear who owns the abandoned property, but it is clear that no one is fixing it. And even worse -- it's now breeding season.

Two busy exits on the Van Wyck expressway will be eliminated in Gov. Cuomo's redesign.

Van Wyck rebuild kills on-off ramps 2

Queens Chronicle

Buried in a preliminary report on Gov. Cuomo’s plan to rebuild the Van Wyck Expressway is news that two on-off ramps on the chronically congested highway will be permanently closed.

The northbound off ramp at Atlantic Avenue and the southbound entrance ramp at Liberty Avenue have been eliminated in the redesign, according to the state’s latest presentation.

The state Department of Transportation is in the process of finalizing its $1.2 billion plan to add two new high-occupancy vehicle lanes to the Van Wyck to speed up traffic to and from JFK International Airport, which is also undergoing a major renovation.

The new lanes will be constructed down the center of the existing expressway. They will be open only to vehicles with three or more passengers, taxis and buses.

The new lanes will essentially be limited-access express lanes with only limited chances to get off the highway before arriving at the airport going south or the Kew Gardens Interchange heading north.
In a video posted on YouTube about the changes in store for the Van Wyck, the DOT revealed that the two ramps on the Van Wyck will be closed permanently along the notoriously overloaded stretch between Jamaica Avenue and Linden Boulevard.

JFK-bound vehicles may not feel the change, but it promises to be one of the more disconcerting pieces of the project for local drivers.

Under the new design, drivers who get on the highway at Liberty Avenue will have to use the on-ramps at either 101st Avenue or Linden Boulevard instead.

Drivers who get off at Atlantic Avenue will have to exit at Liberty Avenue or Jamaica

Monday, April 22, 2019

The paper bag nickel fee from plastic bag ban is an austerity measure placed on middle and lower class citizens


After City Council approved a bill that would place a tax on single-use paper bags, Councilman Robert Holden is calling the move burdensome on the middle class.

Set to take place after a state-wide ban on plastic bags takes effect, the paper bag tax would put the cost of five cents on each paper bag used in a transaction at store across the city.

“As if it wasn’t enough that we are taxed to death in every facet of our lives, the New York City Council has just passed another regressive tax,” Holden said. “While ensuring our environment is clean for generations to come, a line must be drawn somewhere. I voted NO because this legislation will only add more pressure on our senior citizens who already live on a fixed income, and will once again put the burden on the middle class.”

The plastic bag ban was passed in the budget at the beginning of April making New York the third state in the nation to take a stand against the bags which are not biodegradable and land a heavy impact on wildlife.

California imposed its ban in 2016 and Governor Andrew Cuomo proposed the ban a year ago place emphasis on an earlier time when shopper only had paper bags to turn to.

Mayor Bill de Blasio signed an executive order on April 11 intended to be the beginning of the end for reusable plastics and said while even paper products should be reduced, there needs to be option for low-income New Yorkers.

“We are looking at a whole host of questions around reusable products,” de Blasio said. “This is something I’ve talked about in terms of getting rid of plastic bags and paper bags that we’ve got to come up with some kind of option for folks of limited means. And we’re looking at everything. We’ll be looking at plastic bottles. You’re going to see a number of things coming out.”

Saturday, April 20, 2019

The cause and effect of the parasitic apartment buildings pathogen


NYC Gentrification Watch

If you’ve been driving in and around NYC’s outer borough neighborhoods, you may have come across a strange phenomenon–a brand new building that looks radically out of place with everything around it. For example, it might be a minimalist grey box plunked amidst a line of delicate wedding cake-style cast iron buildings or a five story glass box wedged right in the middle of a block of two-story Italianate-style row houses.

Back when these types of buildings started going up, people used to blame this as oversight or arrogance on the part of architects. They’d say it was either a case of a new generation of architects not understanding how to build structures that were contextual, or of celebrated starchitects who were so egotistical, they cared more about designing buildings for their own gratification than considering the community they were being built for. These early critics might have been right. However, I believe that there is a third reason for this type building–a psychological warfare tactic being pulled by Big Development that I call Parasitic Development.

Parasitic Development is the act of erecting a structure within a neighborhood that not only visually clashes with surrounding buildings and its character, but is placed in such a way that is intrusive and in some ways obnoxious. Below is a perfect example of parasitic development.  A tall, 15 story gray box has been wedged in between a row of apartment brick houses built from around the 1920s and 1930s, disrupting an otherwise uniform area filled with similar structures no more than a few stories high:

Why do I call these developments parasitic? Because much like a living parasite, the new structures immediately begin to destroy the neighborhood from the inside out. Over time, structures around the development begin to fall one by one in a domino effect. Before long, the entire area has been redeveloped in the style of the parasitic development and most of the residents driven out to make way for new ones from a completely different and more affluent demographic.
How does parasitic development work and why does it work so well? Well, as you’re probably aware, a large part of gentrification is about supplanting one demographic in a neighborhood with another more affluent demographic. However, as you can imagine, pushing people out that have been living in an area for decades could never be that easy. They’re going to fight long and hard to stay where they are as long as possible, even if it means passing on lucrative buyouts from developers.
Because of this issue, something has to be done to get these stubborn residents to give up their fight. One way to do that is to strike at their Achilles heel–i.e., the very reason why they want to fight so hard to stay put. The reason can be any number of things– a love of local area architecture, the lack of high rises allowing for open sky, or some other characteristic that makes residents want to stay put. But whatever the case may be, there’s usually something special in terms of environment, appearance or character that residents have grown attached to and don’t want to lose.

This overlooked excellent post is from November of last year and it's definitely the best prognosis on all the hideous inappropriate out-of-scale buildings (what I call "tower pestilence") that have and will continue to infect city blocks. Especially in, of course, Brooklyn. An essential must read.

Shout out to the author who thanked this blog for the Kings County Politics story a few weeks ago.

Defiant hypocrite de Blasio jacks up the rents on his Park Slope homes



Despite calling for rent freezes for the city's roughly 1 million rent-stabilized apartments, Mayor Bill de Blasio continued to raise rents on several properties he owns in Park Slope, new figures obtained by POLITICO show.
The mayor and his wife have increased the monthly rent on one of the units in a two-family house they own to $2,850 last year, from $2,400 in 2009. The increases came in $50 and $75 increments annually, according to a City Hall source who would speak only on background. They raised the other unit's rent by $25 to $1,825 in June of 2015.

They charge $4,500 for their primary residence, which they left in 2014 to move into Gracie Mansion. The two row houses, worth a combined $3.7 million according to city assessments, are on 11th Street in Park Slope.
The City Hall source would not explain why the mayor raised his own rents while pushing for a rent freeze from the city's Rent Guidelines Board, which has ruled for two years against increases on one-year leases for rent-stabilized apartments. Several years ago, a previous City Hall spokeswoman said the mayor charged his tenants more when he made home improvements.
The mayor's properties are not part of the state's rent-stabilization program, so he is not subject to the board's decisions and is free to charge whatever he wants.
That de Blasio as a private landlord has increased his rents by modest percentages is unremarkable, were it not for his influence over the board. He appoints the board's nine members and has publicly urged a rent freeze since taking office. He also has taken credit for the 2015 and 2016 rent freezes — running city-funded ads, holding rallies and reminding voters about them as he runs for re-election this year.

Friday, April 19, 2019

Forest Hills tenants get a million dollars worth of rent restitutions following class action lawsuit


The mammoth private equity firm that bought a rent-stabilized Queens housing complex last year has agreed to pay $1.1 million in refunds to tenants after it found they were entitled to rent reductions, the Housing Rights Initiative revealed Friday.

The Blackstone Group, which acquired the 1,327-unit Parker Towers in Forest Hills last November, conceded that 110 units there should have been getting reductions, according to the non-profit housing watchdog, which is embroiled in a lawsuit with the Manhattan-based, multinational company.

The Housing Rights Initiative, being represented by the Newman Ferrara law firm, said the average rent reduction will come out to $230 a month.

It filed a class-action lawsuit over rent stabilization practices against the complex’s former owner, the Jack Parker Corporation, alleging the company illegally deregulated apartments despite getting tax breaks under the J-51 exemption and abatement program, which requires owners maintain rent-stabilization.

When Blackstone took control of the property, it assumed responsibility. Blackstone did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Housing Rights Initiative lauded the victory Friday, but said more needs to be done to rectify the situation.

“The goal here is not to get back some of what was stolen, but to get back all of what was stolen,” said Aaron Carr, executive director of the non-profit HRI, which did the research leading to the lawsuit. “Stay tuned.”

Congratulations to the tenants of Parker Towers and great job by HRI and the persistent Aaron Carr. And even to Blackstone, as is wont of these equity firms to continue frivolous and tormenting court battles to squeeze every penny and crush every soul trying to hold on to their residences, that saw the criminal machinations of the last company and paid up. Very rare good news regarding the housing crisis still festering in the five boroughs.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Mayor de Blasio illegally solicited developer donor money by himself for Campaign For One New York fund against advisement from aides

The City

Mayor Bill de Blasio violated conflict of interest rules after being warned repeatedly not to solicit donations from individuals actively seeking tax breaks, deed transfers and other favors from his administration, according to a Department of Investigation report obtained by THE CITY.

The finding followed a two-and-a-half year DOI probe that ended in October but was never made public. THE CITY secured the 15-page “closing memo” — which the DOI heavily censored — via the Freedom of Information Law.

During the probe, DOI investigators questioned de Blasio about warnings by both the city Conflict of Interest Board (COIB) and his own counsel. The mayor claimed he wasn’t aware of such warnings – and said he couldn’t recall any details of conversations he had with several developers who recounted his personal requests for checks.

The report reveals DOI substantiated the allegation that de Blasio sought checks for the now-defunct Campaign for One New York fund from individuals “who had or whose organization had a matter pending or about to be pending before any executive branch of the city.”

The nonprofit formed as de Blasio arrived at City Hall in 2014 and hired consultants to press for support for his pet programs, such as universal Pre-K and affordable housing.

The closing memo was heavily censored by DOI, which cited protecting the privacy of witnesses and not wanting to reveal unsubstantiated allegations. The entire section marked “Conclusion and Recommendations” was blacked out.

The revelation of the DOI conflict-of-interest finding comes as de Blasio toys with a run for the White House. The mayor told WNYC’s Brian Lehrer last week he has “not ruled it out,” and his advisors have made clear he intends to make up his mind soon.

The mayor’s office, which has had the DOI report since Friday morning, did not respond to detailed questions submitted by THE CITY Wednesday morning.

Instead, a spokesperson released a brief statement: “These questions are asked and answered. Fundraising for the now-defunct Campaign for One New York was thoroughly reviewed by multiple parties and it was determined there was no wrongdoing. It’s been said a million times: the Mayor acted lawfully and ethically.”

In its report, DOI questioned the competence of de Blasio’s system for vetting possible donors for conflicts, stating “how the system was overseen remained unclear, as did whether the vetting research was conducted thoroughly and completely.”

The report noted that “there does not appear to have been any particular individual who exercised supervision over the vetting process.” And it revealed aides couldn’t agree on who was supposed to be doing the vetting to avoid conflicts.

De Blasio, for example, told DOI his then-general counsel, Maya Wiley, and another aide “owned” the vetting process. But Wiley told DOI investigators she had “no significant involvement” in that process after issuing an April 2014 memo spelling out specific areas of conflict that would constitute a violation of city ethics rules.

Another unnamed aide told DOI that a colleague was responsible for vetting potential donors – but that colleague then “denied any significant role in the vetting process.” That aide “did not know who was responsible for overseeing the vetting process.”

The DOI inquiry began April 13, 2016, shortly after de Blasio shut down Campaign for One New York.

Investigators interviewed dozens of witnesses, including the mayor, multiple donors, attorneys and lobbyists who helped raise funds for Campaign for One New York, and public relations and political consultants hired by the mayor’s group: SKDK Knickerbocker, AKPD Message & Media, Berlin Rosen and Hilltop Public Solutions.

The investigation wasn’t formally closed until Oct. 22, 2018. Four weeks later, de Blasio fired DOI Commissioner Mark Peters

 Then there's this:

 Despite the agency’s censorship efforts, the report obtained by THE CITY provides the most extensive portrayal yet of de Blasio’s fundraising tactics as he sought out five- and six-figure checks for the Campaign for One New York.

The mayor set aside weekly “call times” in which he “walked around the block as he called potential donors on his cell phone.” By the summer of 2015, he was making six to 10 such calls each week. Aides would instruct him on which donors he could request money from. With some he’d simply seek “support,” and an aide would follow up soon after with a specific money request.

That visual I highlighted reminded me of the video where that homeless woman caught the Blaz doing his yoga exercises at the Park Slope Y where he daily wastes 4 hours of civic service time commuting with a police escort to and then to the City Hall. 

In a post I wrote on Impunity City, I thought the most interesting thing about that confrontation was not only that Ms. Adegusun brought up the fact that he broke his promise to house homeless people but that she caught him while he was holding a Blackberry. 

While she was politely trying to get through to him, he told her he was working out and it wasn't the time and place to discuss this issue. Even though he had enough time to text as she was speaking to him.

 For an exercise that takes concentration and discipline, why is he with diddling with his Blackberry and texting people. This gives the impression that he was still soliciting donors and doling favors.

As we all know now, he got up and speedwalked away.

No wonder he wears sneakers while doing yoga.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Foreclosure stats remain the highest in Southeast Queens

Queens Chronicle

More than a decade after the mortgage bubble burst in the United States, Queens continues to be ground zero for foreclosures in the city.

In its latest report, PropertyShark, a website that chronicles residential and commercial real estate in major U.S. markets, said the borough’s numbers were up for the first quarter of 2019.

The report, written by Robert Demeter, states that first-time foreclosures in the city totaled 870 from Jan. 1 through the end of March, a decrease of five percent over the first three months of 2018.

But in Queens, the borough had 315 new foreclosures to begin 2019, a 4-percent increase over the 303 in the first quarter of 2018, and a 25 percent hike from the 252 registered in the final quarter of 2018, which includes October, November and December.

“The 11434 zip code encompassing Jamaica, South Jamaica, Rochdale and St. Albans neighborhoods had the most foreclosures in the borough: 28,” according to the report.

MTA arranges one-year plan to rearrange bus routes in Queens


 Queens' sprawling bus network will get a massive overhaul.

The MTA on Monday announced a yearlong project to redesign the network of 107 bus lines that move more than 714,000 weekday riders throughout Queens.

The transit authority will work with the NYC Department of Transportation to alter redundant or indirect bus routes and change the spacing between bus stops, according to a presentation shown to the Queens Borough Cabinet on Monday.

The MTA will also collect public feedback on Queens' current bus service and ideas for changes they'd like to see through an online form and a series of open houses, which kick off in May.
The agency aims to finish a draft of the redesign in November 2019 and release the final plan in April 2020.

 "The Queens bus network has not substantially changed in decades and the people of Queens deserve better. I'm immensely proud to begin the process of bus network modernization in the city's largest borough," New York City Transit President Andy Byford said. "Bus network modernization is absolutely critical to the continued success of Queens and I look forward to being a part of it."

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

After three men got killed on construction sites in the last week, City Council reacts by fast tracking new saftey bill.

Crain's New York

Following a week in which three construction workers died in separate workplace accidents, a city councilman is renewing a push for the implementation of a construction safety training law passed in 2017.

City officials put out a statement Saturday that Gregory Echevarria, 34, died around 3 a.m. after being crushed by part of a crane he was helping assemble at a construction site at 570 Broome Street, in SoHo, as reported in the Daily News.

Brooklyn Councilman Robert E. Cornegy Jr. later that day released a statement calling Echevarria's death a "reminder of the importance of implementing the construction site safety training mandates of Local Law 196 of 2017, which will be a vitally important way to prevent future fatalities like these."

Cornegy called the string of construction deaths in the past week a "chilling reminder of the danger the men and women who build our city are subjected to day in and day out." Before the SoHo accident, a window washer was killed by a falling piece of stone last Monday in Midtown, and a construction worker fell to his death on Wednesday while placing bricks on a work site in Brooklyn Heights.

The private construction industry was responsible for the largest number of workplace fatalities in the city in 2017, according to a January report from the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics. There were 20 fatal injuries on private construction sites, representing about a quarter of the city's workplace deaths. There were 21 construction worker deaths in 2016. Construction-related injuries on job sites in the city have increased from 526 in 2016 to 744 in 2018, according to the 2019 mayor's management report.

Ridgewood citizens assemble protest against recidivist slumlord

Dozens of Ridgewood renters marched through their neighborhood Saturday to denounce a property owner routinely featured on the New York City public advocate’s annual Worst Landlord List. Their chants of “Fight Fight Fight, Housing is Right” prompted nods from passersby, supportive honks from an FDNY fire truck driving along Myrtle Avenue and words of encouragement from local elected officials.

The Ridgewood Tenants Union’s demonstration against Silvershore Properties attracted renters from Ridgewood and neighboring Bushwick who said they have been harassed by landlords who go to extreme measures to evict or wear down their tenants in order to jack up rents, especially in rent-stabilized apartments.

Silvershore’s former owner, Jonathan Cohen, was named the city’s worst landlord in 2017 by former Public Advocate Letitia James. The company owns nearly 100 buildings and continues the conduct that Cohen instituted, tenants say.

Gloria Nieves, a tenant leader at 1708 Summerfield St., described how Silvershore neglected tenants who went without heat or hot water and had to perform their own building maintenance.

“The people who run Silvershore Properties will say that they are good people and that we are the bad guys but to leave an entire building without any heat and oftentimes hot water during some of the coldest days of winter is not something a good person does,” Nieves said. “They have made our lives impossible and that is why we need landlords like them and all the other landlords in our neighborhood to understand that they cannot take advantage of us in this way.”

The demonstration began in front of 61-20 Madison Ave., a Silvershore Properties building, before community members marched down Fresh Pond Road and Myrtle Avenue, the neighborhood’s two bustling commercial strips. The event ended in front of 1708 Summerfield St., where at least one senior tenant watched from her apartment before heading outside to join the rally.

Several tenants told the Eagle about the bad experiences they have had with landlords — abusive companies with large property portfolios as well as opportunistic single building owners — who tried to drive long-term tenants out of their buildings.

Eugenio Vasquez said the owner of his Bushwick apartment building sold the property to a new landlord who immediately raised rent and took him to housing court to try to evict him.
Ahtziri Campos, a 15-year-old volunteer organizer, said her landlord has tried to drive her immigrant family out of the building for five years so that he can raise the rent and attract wealthier tenants amid Ridgewood’s gentrification.

“He only bothered us,” Campos said. “We are the minority in the building and he made us afraid of getting displaced.”  

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Borough President candidate Crowley proposes resuscitation of LIRR passenger train line


A little-used stretch of train tracks in Queens could be the key to filling transit deserts in the borough, community leaders say.

The Long Island Railroad’s Lower Montauk branch, which runs 8.5 miles between Long Island City and Jamaica, could be used to bring new passenger rail service to communities like Maspeth and Glendale, which do not have subway stops.

The LIRR ran commuter trains along the line until 1998, when the Metropolitan Transportation Authority closed its stops due in part to low ridership. Now, the tracks service freight trains and are used as an extra storage space for Sunnyside Yard.

The chief advocate of the project, dubbed the QNS, is former Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Queens). She commissioned an independent feasibility study in 2017, which was completed shortly after she left office in early 2018.

Crowley has recently renewed her push for the line — she hosted an event Friday to begin assembling a non-profit to stump for the project.

 Her proposal would bring nine stops to the stretch, and would cost an estimated $2.2 billion to pull off. The 2018 study projects that it would serve roughly 21,000 weekday riders.

Community leaders and advocates of the project disagree with that assessment, noting that the areas it will serve expect to boom in the coming years.

“Look at the growth in Long Island City and the growth in the Jamaica downtown area and at JFK Airport,” said longtime transportation consultant Philippa Karteron, an advocate of the project. “If we could put something like this together, the corridor could be an economic development corridor, bringing in businesses, bringing in jobs.”

Unlike the BQX, another Queens-oriented transit project, Crowley’s idea isn’t supported by real estate developers — she says she’s working to form a grassroots campaign that has community boards involved from the get-go.

This actually isn't a bad idea considering the severe and desperate need for transit in this overcrowded and overburdened city but that rendering of Hillside Ave. in Richmond Hill is a hysterically inaccurate depiction of the citizenry in that area. And very racist in it's prescience of what the designers think it will look like if the station is built there.

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Hudson Yards was made possible with pilfered EB-5 funding that was meant for public housing developments through enabled cirvumvention and crooked gerrymandering

City Lab

Since its official unveiling last month, critics have been teeing off on Hudson Yards, the $25 billion office-and-apartment megaproject on Manhattan’s West Side. The Guardian’s Oliver Wainwright calls it “bargain-basement building-by-the-yard stuff that would feel more at home in the second-tier city of a developing economy.” In Curbed, Alexandra Lange writes that it suffers from “no contrast. No weirdness, no wildness, nothing off book.” The New York Times’ Michael Kimmelman describes it as a “vast neoliberal Zion.”

“New York politics and real estate are notoriously akin to Rashomon,” reads Kimmelman’s review. 

“Any verdict on an undertaking as costly and complex as Hudson Yards depends on one’s perspective.”

Views abound, sure, but so far, nobody seems to like what they see when they look at Hudson Yards. 

The project has managed to do something unique: unite all New Yorkers in a vernal equinox of acid contempt. Early reviews offer a litany of contrasts, with the development’s garish geometry and dull placelessness earning rebuke in equal measure. That’s before considering how certain features, particularly Thomas Heatherwick’s oft-derided shawarma-shaped bucket, square with other projects as “bellwethers pointing to exactly where our cities are going awry.”

However, among all the many reasons to feel salty about Hudson Yards, one perspective may deserve a place of privilege: the view from Harlem. Without their knowledge, the residents of a number of public housing developments helped to make Hudson Yards possible. The mega-luxury of this mini-Dubai was financed in part through a program that was supposed to help alleviate urban poverty. Hudson Yards ate Harlem’s lunch.

Specifically, the project raised at least $1.2 billion of its financing through a controversial investor visa program known as EB-5. This program enables immigrants to secure visas in exchange for real estate investments. Foreigners who pump between $500,000 and $1 million into U.S. real estate projects can purchase visas for their families, making it a favorite for wealthy families abroad, namely in China. EB-5 is supposed to be a way to jumpstart investment in remote rural areas, or distressed urban ones.

Hudson Yards, of course, is nobody’s idea of distressed. Located at the source of New York’s High Line, it’s the most expensive real-estate project in U.S. history. It could not possibly qualify as distressed under the terms of the program, or any understanding of the word. In order to buy EB-5 visas at the lower rate ($500,000), immigrant investors must put their money behind projects in areas with high unemployment—a proxy for need.

 Manhattan’s West Side may not suffer for lack of opportunity, but, as Kimmelman notes, New York real estate is a realm for Kurosawa-esque visionaries. The Related Companies, the developer behind Hudson Yards, raked in at least $1.2 billion in EB-5 funds for this project. To qualify, Related needed a work-around to bypass the distressed-area requirements—a pass that New York authorities were happy to issue.

Here’s how these requirement works: EB-5 visa applicants must invest a minimum of $500,000 in a project within a designated geographic area called a targeted employment area, or TEA. To be eligible for this financing, a project needs to qualify as falling within a TEA—which is going to be either a rural area or a distressed urban area. For an urban area to count as a TEA, it has to meet a certain unemployment threshold (150 percent of national unemployment).

 Lower Manhattan doesn’t meet this unemployment threshold, so Hudson Yards, on its own, can’t qualify as a distressed urban area. However, when Congress created the EB-5 visa as a part of immigration reform legislation in 1990, lawmakers did not specify how states should draw up the geographic boundaries for a TEA.

New York takes a rather liberal approach to drawing these lines. Empire State Development, the economic development agency for the New York state government, determines the boundaries for qualifying TEAs. Under state law, the agency has the authority to string together an unlimited number of census tracts in order to achieve the desired aggregate unemployment standard. Think of it as a form of creative financial gerrymandering.  

As I reported back in 2017, records obtained by CityLab under the Freedom of Information Act reveal the gerrymandered map that Empire State used to qualify Hudson Yards for EB-5 financing. This particular TEA snakes up from the West Side and includes Central Park. (Think about that: a map of Manhattan that claims Central Park as an economically troubled area.) Beyond the park, the qualifying zone for Hudson Yards captures several census tracts in Harlem, where public housing projects boost the overall unemployment figure.   

 These funds might have financed alternative developments in Harlem directly. Other developers have successfully raised EB-5 funds for projects in actually distressed areas of New York. For example, Asian Americans for Equality, a nonprofit organization, once pursued EB-5 funding to finance a food hub and university project in northeast Kansas City, a grocery store destroyed by Hurricane Sandy in the Far Rockaways, and an affordable housing complex in Queens’ Flushing neighborhood.  

Instead, Related sopped up hundreds of millions in funds never intended to finance luxury projects. 

The developer has successfully leveraged Harlem unemployment to raise more in EB-5 financing than any other developer in the nation. Related recently sought a third tranche of EB-5 funds for Hudson Yards, targeting $380 million—bringing the total as high as $1.6 billion, according to New York University’s Stern Center for Real Estate Finance Research.

City wireless network went haywire and was inoperable for a week

NY Post

City Hall’ s tech czar ignored a federal warning about a looming, Y2K-like software bug last year — allowing a crash of the city’s official wireless network that has been down since the weekend, sources told The Post.

As a result, transit officials can’t remotely control the Big Apple’s 12,000-plus traffic lights, and many of the city’s traffic cameras and NYPD license-plate readers are down, sources said.

“This is a big screw-up, even for the de Blasio administration,” said a source familiar with the matter.

The New York City Wireless Network, known as “NYCWiN,” crashed on Saturday, affecting the operations of city agencies that rely on it to transmit high-speed voice, video and data communications.

Workers have been scrambling around the clock to fix the entirely preventable problem, but the network remained down Wednesday — five days into the outage.

NYCWiN is overseen by the Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications, whose commissioner, Samir Saini, was appointed by Mayor de Blasio in January 2018.

DoITT pays the Northrop Grumman Corp. about $40 million a year to run the network, which cost $500 million to build and went into service citywide in 2009.

It was unclear when it would be back up and running. But what is reasonably certain is that the technology snafu could have been prevented.

Exactly one year ago Wednesday, the Department of Homeland Security issued a warning that GPS-enabled devices could be affected by a time counter “rollover event” set to occur this past Saturday.
DHS noted that testing showed some devices could not “correctly handle” the rollover and urged “federal, state, local, and private sector organizations” to take preventive measures.

Sources said the biggest impact has been on the Department of Transportation, which lost its digital connection to the traffic lights at intersections across the city — leaving officials unable to know if a signal stops working unless someone reports it.

In addition, the clocks that time the lights are subject to going out of sync, which could wreck the carefully timed patterns that keep traffic flowing, sources said.

“I don’t know how the city could become more congested, but that would be a concern,” one law enforcement source said.

 This doesn't bode well for the coming congestion pricing tolling system the city is going to implement next year.

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Landlords continue to inflate rents based on dubious reconstruction costs and city loopholes


Crain's New York

In the fall of 2013, when apartment 1E at 171 W. 81st St. was vacated, the owner did what landlords have done with tens of thousands of other rent-regulated units in the city. Stellar Management claimed it had spent a bundle on renovations, which—combined with the 20% rent increase permitted when a tenant leaves—allowed it to push the $647 regulated monthly rent above $2,500—to the threshold at the time to make it a market-rate unit. A few months later Stellar rented the Upper West Side pad to massage therapist Jonathan Saballos for $3,300 a month.

It seemed like a routine example of the steady exodus of such units from the city's pool of about 900,000 rent-regulated apartments. Except that in January, after Saballos lost his roommate and then his job and was taken to housing court by Stellar for failing to pay rent, a judge ruled that apartment 1E shouldn't have been deregulated at all.

In the written ruling, Judge Sabrina Kraus of Manhattan Civil Court determined that Stellar had inflated its renovation costs of more than $71,600 by almost $45,000—including $3,500 for a bathtub that was never installed—and had overcharged Saballos at least $41,193. The judge ordered the owner of the 20-unit building to pay triple damages—$123,578—and place the apartment back into regulation with a monthly rent of $1,524.

Housing advocates say such episodes are common in a system where loopholes and lax oversight practically invite owners to pull units out of regulation. A review of several lawsuits against Stellar reveals how expensive or dubious renovations enabled the owner to convert rents to market-rate.

"The city or the state doesn't even know how many illegally deregulated apartments are out there, because they're only really examined when cases like this come up in court," said Mark Hess, an attorney who represented Saballos in the eviction proceeding. "Stellar thought it was going to be business as usual and they were going to throw my client out of his apartment. Instead we called them out."

Stellar is appealing and will not comment on ongoing litigation, said a spokeswoman for the company, which owns roughly 100 buildings, most of which are in the city.

Allegations of abuses by landlords are not new. In one high-profile case last year, the Associated Press reported, the family business of White House adviser Jared Kushner failed to disclose rent-regulated units in buildings it owned, then began disruptive renovations that some of those tenants saw as an effort to push them out. Kushner Cos. blamed a third-party document preparer for the erroneous filing and said its renovations were proper, but the episode led to a fine, a lawsuit by tenants and City Council legislation to deter harassment by construction.

Less focus, however, has been given to the method used in Saballos' case, which may have allowed landlords to improperly deregulate tens of thousands of city apartments—and even more of them legally.


Sunday, April 7, 2019

Mayor de Blasio used city government workers for electioneering during re-election campaign


NY Daily News

A city-run tenant outreach program led by one of Mayor de Blasio’s top political operatives is strongly believed to have doubled as an arm of his 2017 reelection bid, according to sources who worked for the program.

The Public Engagement Unit, which falls under the city’s Human Resources Administration, had workers knock on “thousands” of tenants’ doors to gather personal information, including names and addresses — in what former staffers described as an effort to lay the groundwork for 2017.

David Andrade, a former PEU tenant support specialist, described the unit as “very shady” and said he has no doubt the data it gathered was directed to de Blasio’s political operation.

"This wasn't kosher," he said. "It wasn't talked about ... but you could connect the dots. I knew it would be migrated."

Andrade said a connection to the campaign wasn’t spoken about openly, but was laid out to him by co-workers with ties to Rick Fromberg, who worked as de Blasio’s 2017 campaign manager and the PEU’s senior adviser from January 2015 to May 2016.

“It was wink wink, like this is going to be helpful in 2017 — that’s the way the senior adviser [Fromberg] would talk about it,” said another former PEU staffer. “Everybody could smell that it was sketchy.”

Public records confirm Fromberg was politically active at the time.

A March 2015 email obtained by the Daily News shows that while working at the unit, Fromberg wrote to former de Blasio adviser Peter Ragone about devising political strategy at the behest of City Hall.

“Emma/Boss gave me point on putting together a suburbs/upstate political strategy,” Fromberg wrote, referring to top de Blasio advisor Emma Wolfe. “She lets me know you’ve (very generously, of course) offered some guidance here. Got some time to connect on it?”

A month later, Fromberg followed up with Ragone about "suburban strategy."

“Boss is meeting with [former Nassau County Executive] Ed Mangano next week, and a couple other elements are in play for some regional partnerships,” he wrote. “Would love to wrap this all together. What do you think?”

 Fromberg denied sending PEU data to the campaign.

“We unequivocally did not move data between the PEU and the de Blasio campaign,” he said. 

“Anyone insinuating that we did is both misinformed and uninformed.”

Before working for the city, Fromberg worked for the Global Strategy Group, a public affairs firm that specializes in political campaigns.