Thursday, January 30, 2020

City orders investigation into crooked homeless services provider that fooled them for five years


 The city on Wednesday filed a complaint in Manhattan Supreme Court seeking a temporary receiver for one of New York’s largest homeless service providers — an act officials referred to not just as unprecedented, but as a source of pride.

They had diligently built a case alleging fraud against Childrens Community Services — a firm that’s reaped nearly $500 million in recent years — and were now taking action to protect both taxpayers and the homeless, officials said.

“We’re proud that our staff saw something and said something,” said Isaac McGinn, a Department of Social Services spokesperson.

But the city’s own court filings show that warning signs about the firm began to emerge as early as September 2015.

A review of those filings and other documents by THE CITY reveal a nonprofit formed in 2014 by a former hotel executive that quickly expanded into a multi-million dollar operation that provided nearly 2,000 units of housing for the homeless.

But the company kept getting contracts to help with the city’s homeless crisis even as concerns over its operations grew. The suspicions culminated in raids this week by city and federal officials amid the city’s accusations of fraud, bid-rigging and bogus vendor headquarters

 From the fall of 2015 into the following spring, the Department of Social Services received invoices submitted with repeat and duplicate charges, the filings show.

In April 2018, a piece by New York Nonprofit Media told the story of CCS under the headline, “How an obscure nonprofit became one of NYC’s largest contractors.”

The story noted that the founder of Childrens Community Services, Thomas Bransky, was a hotelier with no background in homeless services when he launched the nonprofit in early 2014 — and raised questions about whether the company had a physical administrative office.

A copy of Branksy’s resume THE CITY obtained through a public records request shows his previous titles — all at Chicago hotels — were account manager, sales manager and front desk manager.

A message left at a phone number he submitted in documents to the city wasn’t returned.

In May 2018, city social service officials’ concerns about “CCS’s suspicious subcontracting, invoicing and billing practices” prompted them to notify the city’s Department of Investigation.

This week, DOI and federal prosecutors executed search warrants of addresses linked with the firm and its vendors, the court filings show.

Questions sent to DOI late Wednesday about the length of the investigation weren’t immediately answered.

In 31 days, New Yorkers will have their hands full after buying groceries...,f_auto,fl_progressive,g_center,h_675,pg_1,q_80,w_1200/18v37o1tt4mbyjpg.jpg

NY Post

Paper or plastic? New York shoppers may soon find themselves juggling their groceries home.

A paper bag shortage is expected to hit the Empire State hard when Albany’s plastic bag ban goes into effect March 1, The Post has learned.

Retailers are allowed to offer paper sacks for five cents a pop at checkout — but they’re already having trouble stocking the gear due to a nationwide shortfall.

It’s a problem manufacturers say could last up to five years because there simply aren’t enough factories to meet the booming demand, as efforts to reduce environmentally unfriendly plastic bags increase.

“It’s a major issue,” Phil Rozenski, a spokesman for Novolex, one of several major bag manufacturers in North America told The Post.

“It’s so large that there are outages in the Midwest in trying to get supply to retailers.”

New York store owners say they’re working on short-term fixes, including stocking up on more pricey, reusable bags — but are bracing for backlash from customers when the ban hits.

The owner of two Key Food stores in the Bronx, Sal Bonavita, placed orders at the beginning of the year for both paper bags — which he has not offered for years — and reusable bags, but has not received them yet.

“I’m hoping to get some paper bags before March but I know I won’t have enough,” he said.

The grocer told his cashiers this week to warn customers to bring reusable bags in the future. There are also signs in his stores about the new law, but most of his customers are immigrants and he worries they may not be getting the message.

“I expect my customers to be surprised by this in March and our checkout time is going to soar,” Bonavita said.

The 30 Gristedes and D’Agostino grocery stores in the city ordered paper bags in December but have only received one case per store so far — which is “surprising,” owner, John Catsimatidis told The Post.

“Our supplier took the order but also warned us that there is a shortage of paper bags,” Catsimatidis said, “I assume that it’s an excuse for them to raise the prices now,” he guffawed.

And you all think the bail reform law the state passed was bad?

Danny Dromm is leading legislation to ban nuclear weapon proliferation in NYC 

NY Post

Between homelessness, classroom disorder and rising crime, it might seem like there is plenty for the City Council to do. But instead of dealing with such humdrum matters, the council’s tackling the threat of nuclear war — by reaffirming New York’s status as a nuclear weapons-free zone, and setting up a commission to oversee compliance with that directive.

A hearing this week took on nuclear disarmament directly. Danny Dromm sponsored legislation to create an “advisory committee to examine nuclear disarmament and issues related to recognizing and reaffirming New York City as a nuclear-weapons-free zone.” This, in a city that has zero nuclear weapons — or even military bases.

Many New Yorkers may not know, but will surely be relieved to learn, that the city has banned the “production, transport, storage, placement or deployment of nuclear weapons” since the passage of a resolution in April 1983, at the height of the Reagan-era “No Nukes” movement.

The hearing quickly ran into difficulty when Commissioner Penny Abeywardena, though agreeing with the peacenik principle, insisted that the responsibility didn’t fall under the ambit of her office, which is focused on relations with the United Nations — mostly, public relations and handling parking-ticket complaints from scofflaw consulates.

“The presence of nuclear weapons in New York City,” she clarified, “is not an international issue.” Moreover, since the deployment and use of nuclear weapons is a federal matter, “cities do not have jurisdiction or involvement in this decision-making process.”

Look out Kim Jong Un!

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

A few bed bugs have conquered the control tower at the 71st/Continental Ave Station

NY Daily News 

A pesky bed bug infestation at a key subway control tower in Queens isn’t going away — and the bloodsuckers could chew up service for the second time in less than week.

More bed bugs were discovered at the facility Monday, five days after the space was shut down during rush hour to be fumigated — a move that caused major delays for thousands of riders across nine different subway lines.

Metropolitan Transportation Authority spokesman Tim Minton said “one bug” was spotted at the Continental Master Control Tower in Forest Hills on Monday — and that exterminators would again be brought in to fumigate the facility after the evening rush.

“It is conceivable that this bug originated somewhere other than these premises,” said Minton. “We cannot conclude and we do not conclude that the source was internal.”

But transit workers at the tower have complained for weeks about bed bugs in the facility. Union officials and employees with knowledge of the situation charged bosses didn’t take the problem seriously.

An MTA employee with direct knowledge of the situation accused transit officials of a coverup, and said a general superintendent was to blame for the ongoing infestation.

Frank Jezycki, NYC Transit’s chief operating officer for subways, admitted to the Daily News that an exterminator verified the presence of bed bugs at the tower on Jan. 8 and treated the facility.

Jezycki said a manager then identified more bed bugs on Jan. 22 — but the MTA’s exterminator showed up quicker than usual.

Jezycki said said the agency’s exterminator, Abalon Pest Control, has a 24-hour window to respond to complaints, but the company’s worker arrived at the tower just before rush hour, which ended up causing serious headaches for riders.

“There was a truck down the block, a guy says he’s here to treat,” said Jezycki. “We had folks there that put together a contingency plan for service.”

That contingency plan was a nightmare.

Operators who work in the infested control tower direct train traffic through a key relay switch on the E, F, M and R lines.

Crews were unable to direct trains through a crucial interlocking while the building was fumigated last Wednesday, and the lapse caused 236 trains to be delayed and another 117 to be canceled, according to an MTA incident report obtained by The News.

Eric Loegel, vice president of rapid transit operations at Transport Workers Union Local 100, said gripes that the bed bugs may have been living in a set of cloth chairs at the facility went ignored by a tower manager.

There was also this little tidbit closing the Gothamist post on this latest transit disgrace:

Following last week's outbreak, NYC Transit President Andy Byford issued a statement apologizing to customers affected by the delays and assuring employees that they were working to ensure their safety. A few hours later, he announced his resignation.

I mentioned on the Twitter a few times that this was the final straw that caused Byford to snap and say goodbye to all that. Among the myriad other things I point out on Impunity City.

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Build It Back is broke


 Last summer, several contractors told NY1 they were owed millions of dollars by the city's Hurricane Recovery Program build it back, and weren't getting paid because the program was out of money.

The city responded saying that was categorically false.

But now the de Blasio administration is doing an about face, seeking $92 million dollars to close out the beleaguered program.

"It's a shame that last year they felt the need to say everything is good when obviously it wasn't,” said Roque Schipilliti, a contractor for Build It Back.

Roque Schipilliti is one of the nearly two dozen contractors believed to be waiting for payment with debts first reported last summer by NY1.

Build It Back had blamed the late payments on the lengthy audits required before cutting final checks to contractors.

But in seeking new funds this week, Build It Back says the additional cash will be used in part, to pay contractors and close out construction permits.

"We were misled. Something wasn't right, and if there's new funding, you connect the dots. You have new funding; now you're paying. So that must have been the issue, right?" said Schipilliti.
Build It Back once hailed the rebuilding work at MaryLou Barcia's home as a success story. Mayor de Blasio visited four years ago to celebrate its completion.

But she says she's had to spend $25,000 of her own money since then to fix faulty work done under the city program,

And the contractor hired by Build It Back placed a lien on her home because he still hasn't been paid by the city.

"Where did that money go? It should have been there! Not now you're begging for money all over. That don't seem right," said Marylou Barcia, a Build It Back participant.

This isn't the first time Build It Back has asked for more money.

In 2016, the city requested and received an additional $500 million in an attempt to complete its recovery work.

That brought the total cost of the troubled program to $2.2 billion.

A little more than half of the additional $92 million needed would come from the U.S. department of housing and urban development; the rest from city taxpayers.

In addition to paying contractors, the money would be used to buy properties damaged by Sandy, and to build 37 flood-resistant homes on acquired lots in Staten Island, Brooklyn and Queens.

Comptroller Stringer rejects federal seawall plan for city

The Forum

 City Comptroller Scott Stringer on Friday fired off a four-page letter to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers condemning their plan to construct offshore storm surge barriers in New York Harbor.

In the letter, Stringer castigated the corps’ proposal for not adequately protecting coastal communities from the threat of sea level rise and associated flooding. The Comptroller’s letter also highlighted the long construction timeline associated with the storm barriers and their high cost estimate — noting that the largest of the options outlined in the proposal would take a quarter of a century to build out, cost six times that of shorefront resiliency options, and endanger the delicate ecosystem of the harbor including the region’s network of marshes and wetlands that are critical to mitigating storm surge.

Stringer said he is calling on the agency to implement an integrated and environmentally-conscious approach that’s focused on onshore resiliency measures including localized floodwalls, dune and wetland restoration, living shorelines, reefs, and levees. Stringer’s missive noted that this approach was the only way to protect the city from rising sea levels, storm surge from non-catastrophic weather events, and increasingly catastrophic storms in the future.

The letter follows a May 2019 report published by the comptroller, “The Costs of Climate Change: New York City’s Economic Exposure to Rising Seas,” which exposed substantial underspending of federally-appropriated Superstorm Sandy recovery funding that the City had not yet allocated to protect vulnerable coastline communities including only 57 percent of a combined $14.5 billion in federal funds. The report concluded that lagging spending posed a threat to the 520 miles of coastline citywide, which is estimated at a combined property value of $101.5 billion within the city’s current 100-year floodplain map — marking a more than 50 percent increase in value since 2010.

“There’s no question about it — a future Superstorm Sandy will come and New York Harbor will bear the brunt of it. Too many of our waterfront communities are all too vulnerable to the next storm, or even the next high tide,” Stringer said Friday. “I am urging the Army Corps of Engineers to get shovels in the ground on shorefront resiliency options like floodwalls, dune systems, wetlands, and levees that can protect New Yorkers and their livelihoods. Lives are at stake, homes and businesses are on the line, and futures hang in the balance. We need to act with urgency, plan strategically, and build out resiliency efficiently in the era of climate change, because time is not on our side.”

Sunday, January 26, 2020

Introducing Rodneyse Bichotte, the new leader and money bundler of the Democratic Brooklyn Machine


Five years after she joined the state Legislature, Assemblymember Rodneyse Bichotte (D-Brooklyn) is all but set to take over the cash-strapped Kings County Democratic Party.

And she’s bringing with her a campaign fundraising record unusually prolific for a junior lawmaker — fueled, in part, by donations from groups her bills have aided.

Bichotte pulled in more cash than all but one Brooklyn Assembly Democrat in the first half of 2019 — beating out 17 other lawmakers, many of them senior to her, with a haul of $112,095 in an off-election year.

Overall, Bichotte had $411,702 in her campaign coffers as of July. The party she’s expected to soon lead, meanwhile, has only $32,833.95 in the bank, state filings show.

Key to her numbers are entrepreneurs who benefit from her actions as chair of the Assembly’s minority- and women-owned business subcommittee. She’s also drawn support from anesthesiologists battling to preserve their place in the operating room and players in Brooklyn courthouses with a stake in the county Democrats’ nods for judgeships.

Bichotte, who would become the first black woman to head a county Democratic party in the city, told THE CITY that repairing the group’s finances is essential — and she vowed to pursue “big donors and small donors.”

“I’d certainly like to raise money for the county to help our candidates, to help the Democratic Party,” said Bichotte, who became the first Haitian-American elected to the New York state Legislature when she arrived in 2015.

“I’m very particular about making sure that the treasury is healthy for the purpose of helping out candidates and also getting more civilians more engaged and included in our processes,” she added.

She was also the only elected official in New York to endorse Mayor de Blasio's farcical presidential run 

Eric Adams' gaffe exposes media hypocrisy

Surely by now you all have heard about the controversial remarks that Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams made on MLK Day about wealthy white transplants. If not, here's a summary:

Now, of course, Adams was going to feel blowback from this, and it has gone on for a week now. But for the wrong reason! As my friend Miss Heather succinctly pointed out:

Now THIS is what the media should have been focusing on in their criticism. Instead, they tried to make the issue about foreign immigration and people coming here for work, which is not who Adams was talking about. We have all been affected by the latest trend of prom queens and bros that have infiltrated NYC and turned it into chain store heaven. These folks leave lily-white suburbs and come here to remake NYC into an urban version of what is familiar to them, and do it with general disdain for the people who were born and raised here. They don't contribute anything to the city's culture except upzonings, gentrification, virtue signaling politics and shitty, overpriced pizza.

So why has the media gone so apeshit over Adams' comments? Well, if you recall, back in 2009, the newspapers were tripping over themselves to endorse - for money - billionaire media mogul Michael Bloomberg for a third mayoral term, aka the grand wizard of forced gentrification and pimp daddy of corporate welfare for real estate companies. So the reaction from the press now is pure defense. They helped gentrify this city with not only this, but by framing any and all opposition as kooks standing in the way of progress and basically printing developer press releases word for word. Can't piss off your advertisers!

Check out this "rebuttal" opinion piece in today's Daily News:
I loved my childhood here but also see again reflected in my kids’ eyes what a profoundly unnatural place it is to grow up in. It’s a way station for people and money coming in or out of America, and everyone building a life in the midst of the tumult and transit and trade knows it.
Hmm. It may be a way station for some people. But everyone reading this knows scores of native New Yorkers who don't feel this way. If this reflects the media's opinion of NYC, then it's no wonder they cover it the way they do, like everything politicians propose is inevitable. Sad. Just sad.

Yes, Adams deserves criticism for his remarks because of his hypocrisy, but the media deserves the same. And that's a big reason why this blog and others, like Jeremiah's Vanishing New York, exist. - QC

And mine too,
JQ LLC ,Impunity City

D.A. Vance's assistant prosecutor hid trial evidence to protect developers and contractors


 The head of the Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance Jr.’s vaunted Construction Fraud Task Force left her post this week after allegations surfaced that she withheld damaging evidence about a key cooperating witness in seven major bribery cases, THE CITY has learned.

Assistant District Attorney Diana Florence had prosecuted most of the high-profile cases involving construction wage theft, bribery and worker deaths brought by Vance in the last few years.

He appointed her “attorney-in-charge” of the task force when he formed it in August 2015 to crack down on wrongdoing in the industry.

Florence stepped down Tuesday shortly after allegations emerged in court papers that she kept secret a 38-minute audiotape in which the key informant in a series of construction bribery cases denied under oath to city investigators that he’d accepted any bribes.

Ifeanyi “Manny” Madu, a former city Department of Environmental Protection manager who was involved in picking vendors, was Florence’s star witness in cases she prosecuted against several contractors who’d received millions of dollars in city work.

Madu cooperated with the DA and claimed that in exchange for steering work to favored vendors, he received bribes of hotel stays, Broadway show tickets, gifts, extravagant meals and work for a subcontractor he secretly controlled.

He was the sole cooperating witness in seven criminal cases that were announced at an April 2018 news conference in which Florence stood next to Vance.

Unknown to the defendants, on Feb. 13, 2015, Madu made an audiotaped statement to city 
Department of Investigation agents involved in the bribery case, during which he was placed under oath.

According to court papers reviewed by THE CITY, Madu told DOI “among other things that he broke no laws, and that he did not take gifts, things of value or bribes from contractors.”

In court papers, Florence denied deliberately withholding evidence in the bribery cases, but did not address the allegation regarding the Madu DOI tape. She did not immediately return a phone message from THE CITY.

The allegations threatened to unleash a stampede to throw out cases and convictions involving Madu and Florence.

The accusations also marked the latest strife for Vance, who faces calls for his resignation over his handling of some high-profile cases involving the likes of Harvey Weinstein, Jeffrey Epstein and family members of President Donald Trump.

Saturday, January 25, 2020

High school teacher and dean fired from Maspeth High School that is under investigation by the feds


NY Post

A Maspeth High School math teacher and dean who students say gave them answers on Regents exams and texted with them has been removed, The Post has learned.

Danny Sepulveda was escorted out of the Queens school in late December “due to an ongoing investigation,” the city Department of Education confirmed.

DOE officials said the investigation was “unrelated to academic fraud.”

But Sepulveda, 30, is one of several teachers who gave kids answers during Regents exams, according to statements given to investigators.

One student wrote last year that Sepulveda re-read the questions at the end of the exam: “But while he was reading it he was only saying the right answer choice, and this made me uncomfortable because it showed he didn’t believe in me to pass the exam.”

Another student wrote that during a math Regents exam in June 2018, Sepulveda and math teacher Chris Grunert “helped me and other kids in my room with answers.”

Grunert and others accused of academic misconduct have not been removed from the school.

NY Post

The feds have started looking into allegations of widespread academic fraud in New York City schools, a Queens lawmaker says.

City Councilman Robert Holden met this month with officials in the US Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York after his call for a federal probe of “deep-rooted fraud” in the city Department of Education.

“I’m encouraged by my meeting with the US Attorney. His team is taking this seriously,” Holden told The Post.

FBI agents have already contacted several whistle-blowing teachers whose names he provided, Holden added.

A spokesman for US Attorney Richard Donoghue declined comment.

Holden sent a letter in November to Donoghue in Brooklyn and US Attorney Geoffrey Berman in Manhattan, saying “an apparent pattern of conspiracy to cover up” grade-fixing, cheating and other wrongdoing might warrant an investigation under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), which covers criminal enterprises.

In Atlanta, eight educators were convicted under a RICO statute of manipulating student test scores and sentenced to prison in 2015.

Holden turned over records compiled by former and current faculty members at Maspeth High School in Queens, where teachers say administrators encouraged cheating on exams, enforced a “no-fail policy,” and retaliated against staffers who didn’t play ball.

Mayor de Blasio excuses and condones Brooklyn BP Eric Adams and his aides illegal plaza parking

Placard Corruption/Twitter

Friday, January 24, 2020

Andy Byford quit his job with the MTA

Business Insider

Andy Byford, a globally renowned transit expert hired in 2017 to help reinvigorate New York CIty's aging subway system, has resigned.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority, a state agency responsible for city subways, buses, and commuter rails, confirmed his departure in a statement. 

"Andy Byford will be departing New York City Transit after a successful two years of service and we thank him for his work," Pat Foye MTA chairman and CEO, said in a statement. "Andy was instrumental in moving the system forward, enacting the successful Subway Action Plan and securing record capital funding with the Governor and the Legislature, and we wish him well in his next chapter."

Before New York, Byford previously worked in London, Toronto, and Australia. His arrival in New York largely signaled a seismic shift for the aging subway system following decades of underinvestment.

During his tenure as transit chief, New Yorkers were treated to improvements in subway communication as well as several high-profile projects designed to speed up commutes and replace aging parts of track, signals, and more.

Byford also became a popular figure among New York transit aficionados, earning the nickname 
"Train Daddy" after an anonymous resident began posting stickers of Byford's face superimposed on a subway car with the text "Train Daddy loves you very much." A photo of the sticker quickly spread on Twitter, and the moniker became widely used across social media. The MTA seemingly embraced the term for its subway chief, with Byford himself joking about the title.

 I don't have time to write about what I saw coming two years ago, so enjoy my prophecy from Impunity City for now.

 Andy Byford may have just realized he is in way over his head and out of his league in his well-paid state service leadership position (yeah it’s redundant, I’m writing about the MTA again so fuck off).
President Byford is trying really hard though. He did come up with that budget study assessing that it would take $37 billion dollars to overhaul the mega-shitshow mass transit system, despite having no current idea or plan how to pay for it. I mean, he is not a bad bloke, he kind of resembles a mixture of Moby and Thom Yorke and he is a big fan of legendary new wave band The Smiths, so big that he thought it was prudent to mention and discuss fave tracks by them during a live social media style town hall with frustrated commuters complaining about consistent shitty service a while back (my personal fave by the way, is the WLIR extended remix of “This Charming Man”), but at least he has been apparently honest and straightforward.

It didn't take long for Mr. Byford to realize that the worst fucking transit system in the universe couldn't be fixed with that moron tyrant Governor Cuomo up his ass.

Just walk away, Train Daddy

Brand new costs have appeared in Kew Gardens borough tower prison

Queens Chronicle

The cost of building a new jail in Kew Gardens could zoom past initial estimates of $2 billion, it was revealed last week.

Already unpopular in the neighborhoods surrounding the proposed site, the 19-story jail is to be funded by municipal bonds whose interest costs were not figured into the projected $2 billion price, civic leaders said after emerging for their first meeting with city officials since the plan was approved by the City Council last November.

“We are not happy campers,” said Sylvia Hack of Community Board 9, who has led the two-year fight to stop the jail from being built.

Hack, CB 9 Chairman Kenichi Wilson, Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz (D-Forest Hills) and Kew Gardens Civic Association President Dominick Pistone were among about a dozen local leaders summoned to a meeting Jan. 16 of a newly formed Queens Advisory Committee in an office building across the street from Borough Hall.

“This is a big deal,” said Wilson, whose board voted unanimously last year to reject the proposal.

“We’re just spinning our wheels trying to get answers,” said Hack.

Hallets Point development suspended until de Blasio is gone so it can exclude affordable housing


A long-simmering feud between one of the city’s most prominent real estate dynasties and the de Blasio administration has boiled over on the Queens waterfront.

Negotiations broke down recently over the stalled Halletts Point project in Astoria following the latest in a string of pointed and occasionally bizarre disputes between City Hall and the Durst Organization. The development firm, now in its third generation and run by Douglas Durst, said this week it plans to hold off on the remainder of the 2,002-unit rental complex rather than stay at the bargaining table.

“We are postponing the project until the next administration in the hope they will share the enthusiasm that the local community and we have for the development,” Durst spokesperson Jordan Barowitz said in an interview.

The point of contention is a $21.6 million city financing package promised in 2015 to offset infrastructure costs at the sprawling, seven-building project on the East River waterfront. Between the time the project was planned and now, changes to a state tax abatement baked into the project’s financing required an additional 5 percent of units to be enrolled in the city’s affordable housing program.

Barowitz said the developer and city officials came to an understanding years ago that the additional requirement would throw the project’s balance sheet into the red, and that an alternate way of awarding the financing was needed to get the money without having to provide the added affordable housing.

But when Durst proposed such a mechanism last year, the city declined to move forward with it.

“A project as large and complex as Halletts Point requires a partnership between the developer and the city,” Barowitz said. “Unfortunately, we have never been able to forge this partnership, and without it, the project is impossible to build.”

City Hall, however, said it was always understood the developer would have to comply with existing requirements under the tax break, in whatever form the program ended up. City officials still reviewed Durst’s proposed financing method last year, but determined the additional affordable housing requirement wouldn’t have as dire an effect on the project as the developer claimed, per the mayor’s office.

“We will not cut special deals that result in more profit for developers and less affordable housing for New Yorkers,” mayoral spokesperson Jane Meyer said in an email.

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Massive Flushing development foments discord with area residents

Queens Chronicle
Special Flushing Waterfront District protesters returned brandishing “Housing justice for all” and “The massive waterfront giveaway” signs for the developers’ presentation at Community Board 7’s Land, Buildings and Zoning Committee hearing Tuesday, Jan. 21.

“You have your signs and that’s great, it’s no problem. March around with your signs, but please kindly control the tone,” District Manager Marilyn McAndrews said at the start of the meeting, begging the protesters not to repeat their chants of the Jan. 13 public hearing meeting that disrupted the nursing home the meeting took place in.

“Flushing community members are concerned with increased congestion, pollution, construction hazards and mass displacement resulting from new luxury development,” MinKwon Center, the advocacy group that organized the protest, said in a statement.

The Brownsfield Opportunity Area plan, which allows for redeveloping the 29-acre stretch of waterfront industrial property and surrounding land in Downtown Flushing, aims to extend the district to the waterfront, improve pedestrian flow and vehicular movement, add affordable housing and improve the water quality of Flushing Creek. As the meeting progressed, CB 7 members, who hold the power to make an advisory vote, scheduled for Feb. 10, on the implementation of the plan, found themselves voicing similar concerns to the protesters.

“This is a vacant site. Other than U-Haul there is no activity,” said Ross Moskowitz, the attorney representing the project owners in response to a question about displacement, “The increase in this project should not have an impact on the local businesses ... these are local developers. They are long-established owners, operators, tenants, residents. They have invested in this community and will invest in this community.”

This post is for all you readers of Queens Crap that pay property taxes in this state


Governor Andrew Cuomo's latest pitch to expand Penn Station is an overflowing grab bag of promises to commuters and city residents to improve what the governor called in his budget speech yesterday the station’s “seven levels of hell”. The governor is proposing 40 percent more train capacity, airier concourses and unspecified new development in a "cohesive transit-oriented district." 

The plan also boasts an accordingly mammoth price tag: $8 billion to buy up an entire block of Midtown property, according to one estimate, most of which Cuomo hasn't yet identified specific funds for beyond the idea of siphoning off future retail rents and property taxes.

Meanwhile, sitting atop the now-buried train station is one of the state's biggest poster children for corporate tax giveaways: Madison Square Garden, which thanks to a state law passed at the behest of then-mayor Ed Koch in 1982 has now gone 37 consecutive years without paying property taxes

The total cost in lost revenue to the city over that time period is now $555 million, according to the latest calculations by the city's Independent Budget Office. If current property value trends continue, MSG's total tax break could clear $1 billion by 2030.

It's an alarmingly high figure, made even more so by the fact that the tax break, first proposed by Koch in order to encourage the Knicks and Rangers to renovate rather than moving to New Jersey, was, according to the mayor, initially supposed to end after just ten years. ("I went to bed at night believing it was a 10-year abatement," Koch told the Times years later.)

In the decades since, MSG's eternal tax break has become a white whale for budget reformers and enraged Knicks fans alike; possible repeal has become a recurring feature of IBO's annual budget options documents offering ways to saving the city money.

Asked for an explanation of the continued need for the tax break, a Madison Square Garden spokesperson provided this statement to Gothamist: "We appreciate that people have their opinions about our location, but the truth is that Madison Square Garden’s tax abatement pales in comparison to the billions in public benefits received by the other New York sports venues.”

 The decades-long inaction can partially be explained by the odd nature of the tax break: It's the city losing tax revenue as a result, but the city council has no say over state law. While the state legislature could repeal the law at any time, it's under little pressure to do so given that none of the money would go toward filling state budget holes.

And then, there is the considerable pressure the legislature is likely under from Cuomo, who has long counted MSG owner James Dolan and his family as major campaign donors, though that seems to be on the wane since they sold off Cablevision to Dutch telecom giant Altice for $17.7 billion in 2016. (Then-MSG business partner Irving Azoff did give $10,000 to Cuomo's reelection campaign in 2017, and MSG itself is a regular donor to both Democratic and Republican state legislative campaign committees.)


MTA bus route remix gets the ire of 15 angry councilmembers

Queens Eagle

 All 15 city councilmembers from Queens say they oppose the MTA’s draft plan to overhaul the borough’s bus network, unless significant changes are made to ensure better, more extensive service, particularly in public “transportation deserts.” 

The entire Queens delegation issued a joint press release condemning the plan Thursday, citing criticism and concerns from constituents across the borough. Queens residents have specifically complained about a lack of express bus service and proposed route cuts in neighborhoods that do not have subway service, as well as alterations that would severe bus services in specific locations.

“We are deeply concerned about losing bus service on Little Neck Parkway and Braddock Avenue as well as throughout Glen Oaks,” said Northeast Queens Councilmember Barry Grodenchik, whose district does not include a subway line. “We need the bus redesign to provide better, faster, more expansive bus service.”

Councilmember Robert Holden called for an express service line in Maspeth, one of the neighborhoods he represents. 

“In District 30, we only have access to two stops on one subway line, so my constituents rely heavily on the bus network,” said Holden, whose district includes the end of the M train line. “Maspeth is in desperate need of an express bus route, but this plan actually reduces the current express routes.

 The Queens delegation called on the MTA to revise the plan and commit more money to making an equitable transit system in a borough home to more than 2.3 million residents.

“The goal of public transit should be to take New Yorkers from point A to point B expeditiously,” said Councilmember Adrienne Adams, who represents a swath of Southeast Queens. “The plan in its current form would make this goal unattainable for many residents of Queens especially commuters with limited public transit options.”

The agency hosted community forums on the bus plan in Ridgewood on Tuesday and Flushing on Wednesday. Six additional sessions will take place at 6 p.m. on the following dates:

Jan. 23
Queens Educational Opportunity Center
15829 Archer Ave.
Kew Gardens 
Jan. 28
Queens Borough Hall
120-55 Queens Blvd
Ozone Park
Jan. 29
JHS 202 Robert H. Goddard
138-80 Lafayette St.
Jan. 30
Langston Hughes Library and Cultural Center
100-01 Northern Blvd
Long Island City
Feb. 4
Jacob Riis Settlement
1025 41 Ave
Feb. 5
RISE/Rockaway Waterfront Alliance
58-03 Rockaway Beach Blvd.
Feb. 20 at 7 p.m.
Korean Community Services
203-05 32nd Ave.
Feb. 27 at 7 p.m.
Cross Island YMCA, 238-10 Hillside Ave.

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Dead man found tied up after abandoned house fire in Queens Village

NY Post

A man’s scorched body was found with his hands tied behind his back after firefighters put out a blaze that erupted inside an under-construction Queens home early Monday, police and law enforcement sources said.

Smoke-eaters made the gruesome discovery on the first floor of the two-story colonial home on 217th Street near 104th Avenue in Queens Village once the fire was extinguished around 3:15 a.m., police said.

The victim, whose identity was not immediately released, was found bound and lying face down on the ground with severe burns on his body, sources said.

Emergency responders pronounced the man dead at the scene.

The city medical examiner will determine his cause of death.

Neighbors said the home, which used to house a deli on the ground floor, has been under construction for about a year.

“It’s very creepy,” neighbor Robin Bishop, 55, said of the disturbing incident. “It’s very shocking because I know things happen but not this close to home.”

Bishop noted that the area is a “quiet neighborhood.”

Jimmy Van Bramer campaigns to spend more time with his family

NY Post

 Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer announced Tuesday that he is ending his campaign for Queens borough president, citing family reasons.

“Family circumstances have been weighing on me for some time, causing me to reconsider the timing and feasibility of this campaign,” the Queens Democrat said in a statement.

“Prioritizing my responsibilities as a son and brother is where my attention needs to be right now. 

While this is a difficult decision, this is the right one for me and my family at this time.”
A special election will be held March 24 after former Borough President Melinda Katz was elected Queens district attorney.

Van Bramer helped lead the controversial fight against Amazon building a new headquarters in Long Island City — a deal that was ultimately scuttled due to the backlash.
The Queens pol had previously complained about getting threatening texts over his opposition, but told The Post that his decision to pull out of the race “has nothing to do with anything other than my mom and our family.”

Van Bramer was a front-runner and had already scored some key endorsements, including Public Advocate Jumaane Williams and actor-turned-progressive darling Cynthia Nixon.
Others still vying for the beep job include fellow term-limited Councilmen Donovan Richards and Costa Constantinides, and former Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley. The Queens Democratic Party is backing Richards.

Van Bramer as of last week had raised $463,701 for his campaign and had $203,185 on hand. His fundraising efforts have exceeded both Richards’ and Constantinides’, but slightly trailed those of Crowley, the cousin of longtime Queens power broker and former Rep. Joe Crowley.

If Jimmy was so weighted with these thoughts for "some time", why did he show up and passionately pleaded for voter support at that ridiculous two mic forum last week?

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Big rigs hogging Grand Central Parkway service road space is another persistent problem the city avoids


  Trucks are taking over another Queens neighborhood.

CBS2 found around two dozen parked Sunday night in Forest Hills, some idling for hours.
Residents said they are begging the city to help. Reporter Lisa Rozner first reported on the problem two years ago. On Sunday, she went back to speak with residents who said the situation has only gotten worse.

Truck fumes filled the air, but she wasn’t at a truck stop.

It was actually the Grand Central service road spanning several blocks starting at 64th Road. For the last three years, Rafy Yusupov and his neighbors say it’s what they come home to every night — and it’s especially bad on weekends when trucks are left for days.

“Always noise, always smell, traffic,” Yusupov said.

Here's an idea. Since the MTA did a transit ad campaign with Comedy Central and Forest hills resident and Golden Globe winner and viral rap star Awkwafina having her doing station announcements, have the NYPD make the same integrated advertising/public service arrangement with the network and have her order the removal of these pig parking big rigs.

Catch Awkwafina is Nora from Queens premiering on Comedy Central on January 22nd.

 AFN-TV | We Bring You Home

Sunday, January 19, 2020

The BQX just hired a new friend


The nonprofit organization that has been advocating for a streetcar system along the Queens and Brooklyn waterfront since 2014 made a change in leadership just as the city launches a wide-ranging community engagement process.

The Friends of the Brooklyn Queens Connector recently named Brooklyn resident Christopher Torres as its new executive director to replace Jessica Schumer, who left at the end of the year to pursue a new opportunity.

“Jessica had a tremendous run with Friends of the BQX and we thank her for outstanding work over the past three years,” a Friends of the BQX spokesperson said. “With its environmental review in full swing and a public review process ahead, we’re glad to have Chris at the helm as we head into a big year for the BQX.”

Torres was an organizer for the Working Families Party, where he helped lead campaigns in Arizona, Wisconsin, and, most recently, for Public Advocate Jumaane Williams. Torres also worked with Make the Road New York Action Fund as its director of field operations, where he spent five years working to build electoral power in immigrant communities through grassroots and community driven campaigns in New York and Pennsylvania. He views public transportation as a social justice issue.

“It makes all the difference in getting your mother to her doctor’s appointment on time, getting your children to school, or in some cases keeping your job,” Torres wrote Monday to board members. 

“This belief must be the foundation of our work if we are going to change the landscape of NYC and build a robust transit system for all New Yorkers.”

The controversial proposal for the $2.7 billion state-of-the-art light rail system, which would run along an 11-mile corridor from Astoria to Red Hook, Brooklyn, would provide a crucial north-south transit option for the 400,000 people who live along the corridor and the 300,000 who work along the fastest-growing business corridors in the city. The city’s Economic Development Corporation has launched an extensive community engagement process that will include presentations to community boards and public workshops that will focus on community priorities, suggestions and concerns.

“There are myriad reasons why we want to see the BQX happen. For me, one stands out more than most: implementing quality public transit access for those who have been historically neglected by city planners,” Torres wrote. “From Astoria, Queens, to Red Hook, Brooklyn, no one feels the sting of walking more than a half mile on a rainy day to a delayed subway or bus more than the folks who live in public housing along the route. This year we will work to broaden and strengthen our support in NYCHA with the help of the resident association presidents who share our vision.”

Puh-leeze, the only reason why Jessica Schumer is gone and replaced with this young man is not to promote diversity or transit equity, but because this piece of shit trolley needs federal funding to pay for the cost of building it, which keeps rising every year. Also, Schumer is Senator Chuck's daughter and that would have been a huge conflict of interest, and it seems the Mayor and his developer overlord donors have had their fill with that. Or so it seems, the ferry's are still costing the city more money last time I/we checked.

Couldn't find a better guy to push your trolley agitprop NYC EDC. Have fun pissing away our tax dollars, Chris.

...Sorry mom, the developers have spoken

The gentrification trolley that refuses to die


 In 2016, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that the city would begin working on the Brooklyn Queens Connector, a $2.5 billion streetcar that would trace the waterfronts of the two boroughs from Astoria to Sunset Park. The mayor's announcement came after a group of real estate developers somehow had the same idea, and donated nearly $250,000 to de Blasio's nonprofit, but the mayor assured everyone that the BQX would pay for itself, thanks to rising property values.

A year and many "visioning sessions" later, Sunset Park residents fought to take their neighborhood off the BQX's map, leaked documents and independent reports showed the city's funding scheme to be extremely dubious, the streetcar route was found to be susceptible to serious flooding, and the BQX looked to go the way of the carriage horse ban: a full-throated promise backed by stacks of cash that turned into a whisper in the wind.

But the BQX wasn't dead, just dormant. The de Blasio administration released a new plan for the streetcar in 2018 with a shorter, 11-mile route from Astoria to Red Hook and a bigger price tag, $2.7 billion.

This week the city's Economic Development Corporation and Department of Transportation pledged to start presenting their case to the public early next month, with the goal of coming up with a final design by 2023, and finishing construction in 2029—eight years after Mayor de Blasio leaves office.
In the short-term, the city is aiming to get a draft Environmental Impact Statement done by 2021, de Blasio's final year in office.

“From community board presentations and on-the-ground outreach to briefings with elected officials and public workshops, NYCEDC and NYC Department of Transportation are moving forward with a far-reaching process that provides multiple opportunities for feedback prior to the environmental review phase," the city said in a statement.

Hate to say that I told you so, but I told you so.


Thought this interview with the dope from park slope needed to be included, as the Blaz tells Errol Louis (who hilariously presumed that this was dead) that even though the city is earmarking another 2 billion to get the BQX started, it's going to need federal funding. Surely because everyone in the towns that it will traverse and the district council members are all dead set against it. Just quit it, Bill.

Mortality rates of homeless people went up


More homeless New Yorkers died last year than in any other in the past decade — despite promises by Mayor Bill de Blasio to make their lives better.

Homeless deaths from July 2018 through June 2019 totaled 404 — a staggering 39% increase from the previous fiscal year and the highest number since 2006, when the city began recording the deaths.
Sixty percent died in a hospital. The rest died outdoors or in other places that the city didn’t specify in its annual report, which is mandated by law.

The top five causes of the deaths: drugs, heart disease, alcoholism, unspecified accidents and cancer.
Ten people were killed; 15 killed themselves.

Far more men died than women — 313 to 91.

Even with the deaths, the homeless population spiked in fiscal 2019 — reaching an all-time high in shelters of 63,839 in last January, according to the Coalition for the Homeless.

The number of homeless has climbed nearly every year since the de Blasio took office, and spending on city homeless services has more than doubled.

This, despite the mayor’s repeated promises to “turn the tide” on homelessness.

“An ever-growing homeless population is unacceptable to the future of New York City . . . it will not happen under our watch,” de Blasio said days before his swearing-in on Jan. 1, 2014.
In response to the skyrocketing number of deaths, a coalition spokeswoman called on the state and the city to provide more affordable housing.

“No person should have to live — or die — without stable housing,” Jacquelyn Simone said. “This report should serve as a tragic reminder why Mayor de Blasio and Governor Cuomo must both step up with housing solutions at a scale to meet the need.”

Saturday, January 18, 2020

The Great NYC Ferry Subsidy Robbery and city bus austerity


NY Post

Ferries help the poor? That’s rich.
Mayor Bill de Blasio has insisted that his administration’s heavily-subsidized ferry service would help poor New Yorkers get around, but newly revealed data shows it’s been a plaything of the rich almost from the jump — figures the city sat on for months.
An internal survey taken in July 2017 — two months after the service’s inception — found that the median rider’s income ranges between $100,000 and $150,000, a trend that held as of another poll conducted in the winter of 2018.
The results of the surveys were obtained by The Post through an eight-month Freedom of Information 

Law battle with the Economic Development Corporation, the city-controlled non-profit that manages the ferry service and solicited the data.
The EDC for months rebuffed The Post’s requests as it claimed it was still searching for the records — but City Councilman Antonio Reynoso had a different explanation for it.
“The city was being misleading about what information they had, and also didn’t want to give the information because it would prove a point that many of us were already making,” said Reynoso (D-Brooklyn/Queens).

Impunity City

“The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few”
                                                                                                S’chn T’gai Spock.

The NY Post reported the other day that the prime demographic that frequently uses the NYC Ferry are upper class people making six figures.

But we all knew it.

The fucking New York City Economic Development Corporation knew it.

The goddamn New York City Mayor knew it.

And both of them fucking spent every second of city time trying to hide it for two years.

The NYC Ferry is mostly used by the wealthiest commuters by the river towers that are owned and run by all of Mayor deFaustio’s developer overlord donors. Notably at the ports on the west Brooklyn coast line where it’s a leisure walk away from them (plus Hunter’s Point in Queens).

The current cost for each taxpayer for each $2.75 ride across the rivers and under the bridges is currently at $9.75. A seven dollar loss for each ride millions of people don’t take or don’t bother to take because they don’t live near the ports. And because they probably have no need and use for the boats because they are just plain inconvenient for where they are located and where they need to go.

If they are not the overvalued rental market rate rent paying tower people, it’s tourists and hipsters going to Rockaway Beach. Which is probably the most popular destination of the city gentrification yachts. Which is where some of this profligate spending on this boondoggle is located.

Because whats constantly overlooked about this obscene and overtly useless and consistently vacant aqua transit service is that there is a free shuttle bus service when you get off the ferry. Although ever since this started, you have to pay another fare to get on a city bus. 


 Now above is the Rockaway port, the picture was taken in 2017 late in the summer when it first started. It should be noted that these stylish shuttle buses weren’t available until late August and the city was actually using big ass charter buses to transport upper class denizens to the beach.


Above is the city bus stop for the Q22, now why are free ferry shuttle buses necessary when you can just set up a free transfer from the city bus to go to your desired destination, because both buses go to the same places east and west of the peninsula. Why clearly spend money irresponsibly on some private company buses when you got a long time city transit service right there in front of your face?