Saturday, February 29, 2020

No city for old people

City Limits 

Florina, 62, and her husband, who is 63, haven’t paid rent on their rent-regulated Bronx apartment in months.

The husband has not been able to work in 16 years and is blind. Florina does sporadic cleaning work to bring in extra income but is otherwise retired. Neither receives any kind of disability or Social Security benefit, due to their immigration status.

In January of 2019, Florina received a notice saying that her rent would go up by 30 percent, an amount the family couldn’t pay.

The couple are one of a few dozen residents of a building in the Bronx who are now on a rent strike. 

The couple, along with their children and grandchildren, with whom they live, are protesting a Major Capital Improvement – a rent hike on regulated units intended to fund building-wide repairs that they said raises their rent beyond what they can pay. The hike was approved prior to last summer’s rent reforms, which curtailed the practice. They are also protesting deteriorating conditions in their home.

In response, their landlord took the couple to court in an attempt to evict the family. Their hearing has been postponed until March, thanks to the intervention of a lawyer. But Florina and her husband still fear they will be evicted, along with their working age children and young grandchild.
Florina is fortunate, she says, that she lives with children – her son, 39, works at a bakery and her daughter, 30, is a home-health aide. While their combined income does not pay for the increased rent on their apartment, being partially supported by a younger generation is not something all elder New Yorkers have.

Many elder New Yorkers without such family ties and with little retirement savings end up displaced, segregated to an adult home, or worse, shuffled into the city’s homeless shelter system when they become ill.

“Sadly a lot of older, disabled people believe ‘they can’t throw me out into the street’,” says Justin La Mort, a housing lawyer with the group Mobilization for Justice who works with elders. “The bad news is, in fact, they can. It’s just a matter of time.”

The city uses a patchwork of social services and subsidies to keep elders aging in place, but they can be difficult to qualify for and their funds are limited. For those without savings or income from work, federal programs—SSI, SSDI or social security—can come too late and, when they do arrive, may not meet the high cost of rent in New York City. The result is a permanent sense of precarity among the city’s most vulnerable, sometimes culminating in homelessness or displacement.

A lack of retirement savings compounds the problem. According to the commissioner of the city’s Department of Consumer Affairs, half of New Yorkers 55 and older have no money in traditional retirement accounts. 40 percent of New Yorkers between 50 and 64 have less than $10,000 saved in such accounts. Nationally, 29 percent of adults above 55 have neither a pension nor retirement savings, according to the Government Accountability Office.

This lack of assets can have material effects when older adults face hardships: a recent study from the non-profit Robin Hood looked at material hardship, spurred by housing insecurity, job loss or illness. The study found that 53 percent of New Yorkers experienced such hardship for at least one year in the survey’s four year timespan.

According to the same report, 23 percent of respondents experienced poor health between 2012-2018. The study also found housing subsidies and rent regulations had reduced the poverty rate by 5 percent.

Elders who become disabled suddenly can find themselves in a grey area where social services can’t help them. Awaiting disability benefits, for which they may be rejected, they could find themselves in arrears and face evicted for unpaid rent. Still others who receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) may be surprised to learn that their income is less than what they owe in rent but too much to qualify for a city or state subsidies to prevent homelessness. 

As City Limits has reported, the percentage of older adults in New York City’s shelter population is increasing. There is no way to determine how many elders become homeless each day through eviction, as eviction data made public by the city does not include age as a data point. While the number of adults in city shelters who are age 65 and above increased 300 percent between 2004 and 2017, older adults who are evicted don’t always enter shelter. And seniors don’t have to be formally evicted to be displaced by the threat of eviction; if they move out ahead of being uprooted by a marshal, or take a buyout, the result can be the same. Few elders are fortunate enough to find more affordable housing in the city, and some are forced to relocate to other states.

Evictions have been decreasing overall across New York City, thanks to a raft of pro-tenant legislation that closed loopholes for regulated apartments and provide access to counsel. Evictions executed by city marshals decreased 25 percent between January 2019 and January 2020. But for tenants who can no longer gain any income from work because they are elderly or disabled, eviction or displacement are more difficult to put off.

Friday, February 28, 2020

AOC drops out of EDC's Sunnyside Yards development committee


The Sunnyside Yards Steering Committee, organized by the Economic Development Corp. (EDC), officially lost two members in Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Justice for All Coalition Chair Sylvia White.

The EDC is leading a multibillion-dollar effort to build new land atop Sunnyside Yards, a 180-acre rail yard considered one of the busiest in the country, partly owned by Amtrak, MTA and the city. 

They created the Steering Committee with citywide and local leaders to advise and guide them through their Master Planning process.

But after several months of the EDC’s community outreach portion of the process, many Queens residents and leaders are protesting the project and calling for the city to instead use the funds they want to allocate for the project toward the community’s more immediate needs.

Justice for All Coalition (JFC), a community organization based in Astoria and Long Island City, is one of the organizations leading the fight against Sunnyside Yards. In November 2019, they sent letters to several elected officials asking that they step down from the EDC’s Steering Committee.

In response, Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer and Ocasio-Cortez sent a joint letter, obtained by The City, in which they emphasized that their roles in the Steering Committee didn’t “imply endorsement of the project” and that the EDC’s current proposal “reflects a misalignment of priorities.”

Senator Michael Gianaris also sent a letter, stating that while his name and office appeared in the  Steering Committee, he never accepted the invitation. Gianaris added that although the planning process includes some public input, “that input does not appear to be reflected in the public facing materials released about the project and rather tinkers around the edges providing a few token benefits.”

On Jan. 24, Ocasio-Cortez sent the EDC her letter of resignation. She wrote that while she understands that the ambitious project requires a “lengthy, complex, and multi-stakeholder driven planning process,” she felt the need to resign due to the project’s proposal.

“Despite the many outreach meetings that you have cited, I have yet to see sufficient inclusion of the feedback from those meetings in the current plan,” Ocasio-Cortez wrote in the letter. “This feedback, both from community members and from my office, includes but is not limited to community land trusts, truly affordable housing, and public and green infrastructure of the scale necessary to meet our 21st-century housing and environmental justice challenges.”

Neir's may yet be destroyed - by the de Blasio administration

Bioswale BS may be the biggest fraud perpetrated on city residents other than ThriveNYC and the homeless shelter industry. What the hell are they doing here? Watering rocks?

 Admin note:

It was only a few weeks ago when de Blasio invited Loy to the state of the city address at the American Museum of Natural History to witness his promise to save the small businesses of this city right to his face. They featured the bar on the city's website

Such a bastard. -JQ LLC

Mayor de Blasio's basement housing initiative is not making any steps

Hilarious illustration by the Real Deal 

The Real Deal

Across the city, tens of thousands of people live in illegal basement apartments. The de Blasio administration aims to turn these units into legal affordable housing, but it’s not clear how the city will address the challenges associated with bringing these units up to code.

Earlier this month, Mayor Bill de Blasio proposed a citywide legalization initiative that would build on a pilot program launched in East New York last year. The mayor projects that it will add 10,000 affordable units over the next decade.

However, financial and logistical obstacles abound, including high costs, engineering issues, a lack of political will to shutter illegal apartments, and persuading homeowners to let the city randomly choose their tenants.

Experts say upgrading a basement or cellar unit can cost tens of thousands of dollars. The city’s building code requires, among other things, ceiling heights of at least eight feet, windows in every bedroom and many other rooms, a sprinkler system and at least one exit in basement apartments and two in cellars.

(Basements are partly below curb level but have at least half of their height above it. Cellars are more than half below curb level.)

“This idea has been kicked around for a while, but there’s no actual proposal of how it’s going to work or how it’s going to be safe,” said Stuart Saft, leader of Holland & Knight’s real estate group. “Even if money was no object, even if the city came along and said ‘we’ll pay for it,’ you still have the logistical problem of doing it.”

Though the mayor hasn’t released specifics on his plan, he has indicated that the city will fund low-interest loans for homeowners to bring below-ground units up to code. Jane Meyer, a spokesperson for the mayor, said the projects would be subject to regulatory agreements that lay out income restrictions in the same manner as other city-financed projects.

Former city planner Eric Kober, a fellow at the Manhattan Institute, was skeptical that subsidized loans would be enough to incentivize landlords to legalize already-occupied units.

“You could raise the fines and penalties, but then you have to be willing to throw people out on the street,” Kober said, referring to tenants in illegal apartments. “And that raises a whole other set of issues about what happens to that household.”

Queens BP candidates rolling in taxpayer funded dough

NY Daily News

Taxpayers are footing a huge bill to help experienced politicians bids to win a largely ceremonial office.

Three current and former City Council members raked in a whopping total of $1,897,914 in “public matching funds” for their campaigns, the New York York City Campaign Finance Board announced Thursday.

Former Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley got $867,202; Councilman Costa Constantinides, $584,079; and Councilman Donovan Richards, $446,633. All are Dems running in the March 24 special election to succeed Melinda Katz, who resigned as borough president to become Queens district attorney.

They received $8 in taxpayer funding for every dollar they raised on their own. The candidates had to get at least 100 contributions from Queens residents and raise at least $44,614.

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Burning Two Bridges from de Blasio's "affordable" housing program

The L in LES doesn’t stand for luxury.

A state judge barred a developer from building four high-rise towers that had been set to offer hundreds of pricey apartments.

Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Arthur Engoron upheld a previous ruling finding that the project violated local zoning rules.

Activists had sued the city, which approved the project on the East River between the Manhattan and Williamsburg Bridges in 2016. The proposed project included 2,800 units, and one of the towers would have been more than 1,000 feet tall.

“It would drive up the rent and more people would be facing displacement,” said Zishun Ning, an organizer for the Chinese Staff and Workers’ Association, one of the groups that sued the city.

He singled out Mayor de Blasio, who expected the project to include affordable units and said in 2018, “The legalities made quite clear that this development could go forward."

“With this decision, we’re very excited to prove that the city is wrong, Mayor de Blasio is wrong,” Ning told the Daily News. “He’s with the luxury developers. He represents their interests.”

De Blasio declined to comment on the suit. A city Law Department spokesman said, “We are evaluating next steps including whether to appeal this decision.”

Ning hopes the developer will go back to the drawing board and come up with a plan more in keeping with the feel of the nabe, which is full of walkups that have long been home to immigrants.

A spokesman for builders including L + M Development and CIM Group said they’ll appeal.

Too bad Alicia Glen was not around to see this, maybe she lit a candle for her bestie who was behind this tower pestilence. Bet current HPD commissioner Vicki Been has a lot of explaining to Glen's old employer Goldman Sachs.

Meet the MTA's Train Nanny

NY Post

Sarah Feinberg, a former Obama transportation official who has served on the MTA board since last year, will be the new interim chief of New York City’s buses and subways following the resignation of Andy Byford, the agency announced Tuesday.

Feinberg, 42, served under President Barack Obama as chief of the Federal Railroad Administration and chief of staff for the US Department of Transportation. She is known to have a close relationship with Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who appointed her to the agency’s board last February.

“This might actually be the best job in transportation in America,” she told reporters at a press conference in Lower Manhattan on Tuesday. “There’s no bigger thrill than being able to deliver for 8 million riders a day.”

Byford, a British railway professional popular with many MTA staff and transit advocates, abruptly resigned last month amid tensions with Cuomo, who appoints the agency’s chairman and the majority of its board.

Glendale homeless shelter is open for business

Queens Chronicle

 It’s open.

After community residents voiced concern and anger repeatedly over the project, which was on-again and off-again for several years, the homeless shelter for 200 single men at 78-16 Cooper Ave. in Glendale has started receiving residents.

“Today, we proudly open our doors at the Cooper Rapid Rehousing Center, the first and only transitional housing facility in the Maspeth community, which is now providing high-quality shelter and dedicated employment services to single adult men experiencing homelessness as they work hard to restabilize their lives,” a Department of Homeless Services spokesperson said in an email Friday.

A Manhattan Supreme Court judge last week threw out a lawsuit filed by shelter opponents who said the city bypassed environmental reviews required for the project.
But Councilman Bob Holden (D-Middle Village), a longtime critic of the shelter, said his office was told last Friday that eight men had moved in “despite no contract yet signed nor the property having a certificate of occupancy.”

According to the lawmaker, his chief of staff spoke with the deputy commissioner of DHS and was told the men were moved in without a contract because City Comptroller Scott Stringer had given the green light and the contract was “ready to go.”

Holden said the Comptroller’s Office said that no contract had been registered or signed and that what DHS was doing wasn’t approved by the Comptroller’s Office.

A spokesperson for the Comptroller’s Office told the Chronicle that the office “had no communication with DHS before they moved people in and no contract has been submitted to our office.”

Holden asked Department of Buildings Commissioner Melanie La Rocca and her staff why the property was granted a temporary certificate of occupancy, “considering there is an ongoing audit of the plans and permits, with 14 challenges, two of which are safety issues. The DOB claims that they did their due diligence in granting the temporary certificate of occupancy and will continue the audit.”

A spokesperson from the DOB said safety issues from the audit were resolved on Feb. 12. On the same day, the applicants received a temporary certificate of occupancy after it was determined that the building was safe to occupy.

Holden said challenges filed by the Glendale-Middle Village Coalition would likely have delayed the shelter from opening for six to 12 months, which is why the DHS opted for placement using the temporary certificate of occupancy. The coalition filed objections on various grounds, including zoning and fire code. The next step for the coalition is the Board of Standards and Appeals.

“This is the DHS’s disgraceful attempt at circumventing the legal process that is currently underway from the Glendale community,” Holden said.

“No contract has yet been signed, and there are still legal actions on DOB grounds. This fight is not over, despite the DHS acting as a rogue agency and usurping laws, regulations and process.”

The DHS did not immediately respond for comment.

State Sen. Joe Addabbo Jr. (D-Howard Beach) spoke at different protests against the shelter. He found out about the opening from Glendale residents, not city officials.

“It’s been, I guess, a trademark, really, for this administration not to incorporate the community or the electeds,” he told the Chronicle Monday.

Ozone Park residents want state troopers to help bring down crime

Queens Chronicle

 State lawmakers are asking Gov. Cuomo to assign state troopers to an area of Ozone Park that has been the scene of several brutal street crimes in recent months.

The precincts that cover the area known as Cityline in the western part of Ozone Park are “spread too thin,” said Assemblyman Mike Miller (D-Woodhaven). “We wanted to get as much help as we can.”

Miller, Assemblywoman Stacey Pheffer Amato (D-Rockaway Park) and Assemblyman Eric Dilan (D-Brooklyn) made the request last Friday.

State police are already a presence in the city at state-owned bridges and tunnels and on some roadways. But stationing troopers in neighborhoods would be new in New York City.

Last year, at the request of Nassau County Executive Laura Curran, troopers were dispatched to the Village of Hempstead on Long Island to aid the local police with a growing gang violence problem.

The appeal for police help is the latest development to come out of community uproar over a rising tide of crime on the western edge of Ozone Park and on the other side of the Brooklyn border in Cypress Hills.

The area, whose residents are largely Bangladeshi, lies at the junction of three different precincts — the 106th, 102nd and 75th — and is therefore overlooked by regular police patrols, local leaders contend.

“It’s a unique area,” said Pfeffer Amato.

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Judgement pay means death for NYC small businesses

It’s been six months since Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a law barring the practice of making small businesses sign away legal rights in exchange for high-interest, high-risk cash advances.

But that change doesn’t apply to New Yorkers.

The so-called confessions of judgment are illegal — but only for lenders located out of state. The law, passed after a Bloomberg News expose, was aimed at ending a flood of nonpayment cases clogging county courts.

A review by THE CITY of state court records found that small businesses in New York are continuing to sign papers with in-state lenders that leave them defenseless if they struggle to make payments amid interest rates hitting as high as 200%.

The court records show confessions of judgment being used to collect debts from everything from local restaurants to nail salons to a nightclub to an accounting firm, among other small businesses. Cab drivers who borrowed to buy their own taxi medallions have been hit hard by the judgments, too, as highlighted in a New York Times series.

On Feb. 11, a Midtown food hall outpost of the Chinese street food mini-chain Mr. Bing and its owner, Brian Goldberg, were sued in state Supreme Court by Lower Manhattan-based Capital Advance Services after accepting a $25,000 cash advance less than a month earlier, court records show.

To take the money — at a 25% interest rate — Goldberg signed a confession of judgment, a statement that admitted failure to honor the debt. That meant if he could not make his daily payments of $465.63, the lender had the right to collect the advanced sum in full.

Capital Advance Services is demanding $30,731 plus interest.

“We’re trying our best to deal with it. I can’t say anything more,” Goldberg told THE CITY when reached by phone.

Capital Advance Services did not respond to a request for comment.

Goldberg’s legal battle follows the shuttering of another Manhattan foodie magnet, City Bakery, just days after a cash advance company obtained a judgment against its owner — who also signed away his right to defend himself in court.

“The biggest loser, unfortunately, in this legislation are New Yorkers,” said Shane Heskin, an attorney who works with small-business borrowers ensnared by high-interest cash advances.

Bushwick bike spite racks

"Hi I saw your post about the spite racks and wanted you to know that Ridgewood is not alone.
I took these pics early Sunday morning (before 8am) along Irving Ave in Bushwick. It's the same story - the bike racks were installed last year and they didn't bother to put bikes in them. And judging by the lack of bikes all these months later, there isn't much of a market here as none have migrated over from racks in other neighborhoods." - anonymous

Monday, February 24, 2020

City Council's tunnel visions for the BQE

NY Daily News/MSN

 New York City officials on Monday pitched an $11 billion tunnel to keep cars off a crumbling stretch of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway.

A consulting firm hired by the City Council last year floated the tunnel idea as an alternative to the city Department of Transportation’s previous plan to fix the dilapidated road, which would have cost $4 billion to repair and to build a temporary highway above the beloved Brooklyn Heights Promenade during construction.

The tunnel would stretch 3 miles from the Gowanus Expressway where it meets the Prospect 

Expressway to the BQE’s south Williamsburg trench near Bedford Ave. It’s modeled after similar projects in other U.S. cities, such as Boston’s 1.5-mile “Big Dig” tunnel that ended up costing the city $22 billion.

The Council’s consultant also recommended another $3.2 billion idea pitched by architecture firm Bjarke Ingels Group last year to build a park atop a new capped six-lane highway adjacent to the promenade.

Council Speaker Corey Johnson called the rebuilding of the highway a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” but declined to endorse either pitch.

If the city goes with the tunnel option, it would cost more than the estimated $7.2 billion price tag for the first two phases of the Second Ave. subway, which hopes to extend the Q line to East Harlem over the next decade.

The tunnel, which the consultant said would take seven to 10 years to construct, would cost about 35% more. The MTA expects the first two phases of the Second Ave. subway will draw an additional 290,000 daily riders, while the Council’s consultant said the proposed tunnel would be used by some 153,000 vehicles a day.

The BQE tunnel idea was met with skepticism by other Council members, who questioned the city’s ability to build large-scale projects.

“We haven’t been able to build anything on this scale since the ’60s,” said Councilman Joseph Borelli (R-S.I.). “I am less concerned about the price tag than I am over whether a future mayor will have the intestinal fortitude to see it through.”

The DOT is in the middle of an environmental review process for all of the proposals to fix the BQE that is expected to drag on for at least another year.

Mayor de Blasio is utilizing a shady app to avoid keeping records of his communications

NY Daily News

Mayor de Blasio has joined the 21st century — and found a way to hide his communications.

Hizzoner joined encrypted messaging app Signal over the weekend. The tech lets users send disappearing messages to one another and protects the content with encryption.

So if the mayor wanted to discuss something controversial with an aide or campaign contributor, all he’d have to do is time his messages to disappear after a few minutes and the public would never know.

De Blasio’s use of the app poses legal and ethical problems, said Alex Camarda, a senior policy adviser for good government group Reinvent Albany.

“We don’t think that any elected official should be using an app that does not preserve communications that are subject to the Freedom of Information Law and the records archiving laws,” he said.

Under state law, “any information kept, held, filed, produced or reproduced by, with or for an agency ... in any physical form whatsoever” is subject to FOIL requests requiring agencies including the mayor’s office to turn over the info.

“We don’t see how it’s possible to use that kind of app and be in compliance with those laws,” Camarda said of Signal.

This is SOP for our secretive and above all laws mayor. I tend to think he's been pulling this craven stunt for years during his daily Park Slope Y workout routine.

Sunday, February 23, 2020

Immigrants have been very very good for NYC

NY Post

Immigrants love New York — they always have.
And they are having the greatest economic effect here, out of all the states, according to a new report.
The WalletHub study compared the economic impact of foreign-born populations on the 50 states and the District of Columbia. It used 23 indicators to determine which states benefit the most — and least — from immigration.
New York was No. 1 because “foreign-born population is almost 23 percent, second-highest in the country, and more than 12 percent of its households are made up of second-generation immigrants,” the report said, adding, “The percentage of income generated by immigrant households is over 25 percent, the highest in the nation.”
WalletHub analyst Jill Gonzalez attributed New York’s immigrant bounty to a number of factors.
“Some of the reasons immigrants have the highest economic impact in New York include the third-largest share of foreign-born workforce, over 27 percent, and the second-largest share of foreign-born business owners, over 25 percent,” she said. “The state also has the second-largest share of active physicians who are international medical graduates, 37 percent.”
In addition, New York has a large number of international students and enjoys the “brain gain” and innovation brought by immigrants.

Liz Crowley and generational nepotism infects faculty staffing at a public school 
NY Post

The sister and nephew of Liz Crowley, an ex-city councilwoman running for Queens borough president, are getting special treatment as teachers in a city middle school, a whistleblower charges.

The politician’s sister, Patricia Crowley, returned to IS 5 the Walter Crowley School — named for their late councilman uncle — after a higher-paying Department of Education assignment to land an easy gig supervising kids in a detention room, insiders told The Post.
In what one staffer called “cronyism,” Patricia’s son, Eugene Cullivan, a day-to-day substitute, was filling in for an art teacher on leave. But when that teacher returned in November, Principal Kelly Nepogoda let Cullivan keep the class full-time instead of returning it to the licensed specialist.
“This is not just about favoritism. It’s about hurting students,” a veteran DOE teacher said. “The art students are subjected to a substitute when an experienced, licensed teacher is available.”
The veteran called it “preferential treatment” for the politically-connected duo. The Crowley sisters’ cousin is Joe Crowley, the longtime congressman and former Queens Democratic Party boss defeated in 2018 by primary challenger Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
Patricia Crowley declined to discuss the arrangement. Nepogoda did not return a call or answer an email. Liz Crowley did not return calls. A special election for borough president is set for March 24.
Patricia Crowley, 50, is licensed to teach children in pre-K to 6th grade, and special education. She taught 6th grade science at IS 5 before taking a special, two-year DOE assignment as a “peer evaluator” in other schools, making $141,300 last school year.
Since returning to IS 5 in September, her salary reverted to $121,862,  the DOE said. She doesn’t teach a class, but supervises the SAVE, or in-house suspension, room. Typically five to 10 students at a time come from various classes with work assigned by their regular teachers.
A SAVE teacher may help kids with questions, but no lesson planning or grading is required. It’s considered an easy, less stressful job.
Crowley could be teaching a regular class, or helping reduce class size, the DOE veteran said: “Her services should be utilized helping students with the greatest need, instead of being put in a practically phantom job.”
Her son Cullivan, 27, was subbing for an art teacher on medical leave when the school year started, Nepogoda granted his request to keep the class after the art teacher returned on Nov. 22.  Nepogoda assigned the art teacher a class of students scheduled for music, replacing a music teacher she had removed for alleged misconduct. The school is now without a music teacher.

Flushing middle school children are contemplating thoughts of suicide Post

Kids aren’t talking about soccer or English class in the halls of JHS 189 in Flushing.

They’re talking about killing themselves.

Sixty students have expressed suicidal thoughts in the past year, Principal Magdalen Radovich told a recent gathering of nearly two dozen elected officials and community leaders. The Department of Education claimed Radovich “misquoted” the figure but refused to give The Post any data.
None of the children made good on their threats, and parents were called in each case. But shocked local lawmakers are calling it a crisis.

“If 60 kids on the Upper East Side talked about suicide, Mayor de Blasio would be there interjecting himself,” Assemblyman Ron Kim fumed of Hizzoner, whose wife, Chirlane McCray, has made mental health her signature cause.

“Sixty … is a staggering number, but even one is too many,” said City Councilman Peter Koo, who attended the Feb. 7 legislative breakfast at the school along with Kim and Flushing Chamber of Commerce’s John Choe.

Just the mention of the 60 cases — about 8% of Daniel Carter Beard School’s roughly 740 sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders — sucked the oxygen out of the room, the men said.

The movers and shakers had even been scheduled to tour the school but ran out of time because they peppered the principal with so many questions about the suicide talk.
“It is shocking to me that central DOE has not yet communicated this data with us,” Kim said. “How could DOE have dropped the ball in addressing these issues?”
Radovich brought up the figure after she asked for the group’s buy-in for a mental health and wellness center on campus.

“She was trying to make the point that she had never seen anything like this in her years of being an educator,” Kim said.

Kim also wants a deeper discussion of what is behind the scary talk. He and Choe, the Chamber’s executive director, contend the crisis doesn’t stem from peer pressure or group think, but from Flushing’s lack of affordable housing and skyrocketing commercial rents.

De Blasio kicks meeting attendee out for exercising First Amendment right

For those who don't have facebook and are viewing this on other browsers besides Chrome. Here's the whole hearing. Where our mayor shows contempt and gives condescending responses to every other citizen who had the mike. Start it at the 25 minute mark to save time. JQ LLC

Ridgewood bike spite racks

"Last fall, Citibike expanded into Ridgewood.
I walked around Ridgewood this weekend and was struck at how few bikes were in the newish CitiBike racks in the hood.
At first glance, it looks like the program is quite popular in the neighborhood as there's hardly a bike to be found.
But upon further discussion with neighbors, the truth came out. "They put the racks in last year but never stocked them with bikes." "They took away parking spots for this but didn't supply any bikes." "Why did they do this? Anyone here who wants to ride a bike already owns one."

And there you have it. Anything to make life more inconvenient for drivers, eh Polly?" - Anonymous

This post by New York Gentrification Watch (which focused on Citibike's expansion into yet to gentrified mostly Black neighborhoods in Brooklyn, they do still exist) last summer predicted and now confirms this spiteful disservice to the citizens of Ridgewood. This should qualify as a land use issue.- JQ LLC

 Last week on Curbed, via the NY Daily News, it was reported that a nonprofit, New York Communities for Change, commissioned a study to look at how well Citi Bike was serving NYC residents. Conducted by the Urban Politics and Research Governance Group and called “Bridging the Boroughs,” it came to the totally shocking, unseen and far out of left field conclusion that Citi Bike is being used exclusively by a young white affluent demographic

 Initially, my reaction to the Bridging the Boroughs study was, “No DUH. Of course.” But a few minutes into reading about it, alarm bells immediately started going off. Here’s why:

That Citi Bike is exclusively catering to a demographic that doesn’t include the poor and people of color shouldn’t have been a surprise to anybody. It’s so obvious that I can’t even believe people would waste time creating a study based around this very obvious fact. After all, this is who that service is for–tech-oriented, upper middle class white millennial-age transplants who have the money and the time to waste on what’s essentially a luxury.

Why is Citi Bike a luxury? Because no one needs it to commute by bike in NYC. They just…well, don’t. Wanna commute? No problem. Go to a bike store, a Sears, a Target, a local NYC bargain basement, Craigslist or a thrift shop. Pick any one of a number of bikes available. Take it home. Then take it out whenever you need to go somewhere. If you don’t have the space to store a bike, then get a folding bike.

Easy peasy, right? That’s what I did. That’s what hundreds of thousands of people around NYC did and continue to do. Did we need a Citi Bike to start bike commuting? No.

 But you see, here’s the thing–some people don’t want to get into bike commuting the “easy peasy” way. For one, to go out and buy a mass-produced bike like any Tom, Dick or Harry would make you like everyone else. If you’re a privileged snot from a particular demographic, you can’t do that because you’re not like everyone else. Your bike has to be niche. It has to come in a unique design and color and be associated with something distinctive that sets it apart from the bikes that everyone else is using.

Furthermore, it’s simply too mundane, “lo-tech” and old-fashioned to grab a mass-market bike and roll it out the door like every other human being. Gadgetry must be involved, as well as a highfalutin way of acquiring and using said bike. This is so your ride acquires a level of sophistication and coolness that makes you superior to the dumb, older, unsophisticated masses who aren’t smart or cool enough to use a bike that requires a smartphone. If you have to spend more money than necessary on a service to get this experience, all the better. That only makes it worth paying more money for, because this turns it into a luxury that most can’t afford.

It was people like this for whom Citi Bike was created, people who have the disposable income–and the waste of time–to use a system in which they have to jump through hoops to commute by bike. Urban planners, Big Development and their political cronies know this. It’s why Citi Bike was rolled out in the first place. Contrary to everyone’s assertions that it was about making bike riding more accessible to New Yorkers, Citi Bike seems to me to have been a cynical strategy to alert certain affluent demographics on the west coast and perhaps in Europe that NYC was now “up to their standards” and worth moving to.

Saturday, February 22, 2020

REBNY bought their man for Queens Post

The powerful Real Estate Board of New York is throwing its muscle behind Councilman Donovan Richards to become Queens’ next borough president — and is helping to fundraise for the Far Rockaway Democrat, The Post has learned.

“We firmly believe Council Member Donovan Richards would best serve in this role,” wrote REBNY president James Whelan in an email that was sent to the organization’s board last week and obtained by The Post.

Whelan pointed to Richards support for rezonings and for controversial public-private partnerships to pay for rehabbing decrepit public housing developments as reasons for backing him.

“We can’t expect to see eye-to-eye with every elected official on every issue,” he added. “We can expect, and should support, those candidates who are willing to have direct, honest conversations about ways we can work together to move the City forward — and we believe Donovan is that candidate.”

Whelan’s Feb. 14 email called for REBNY’s deep-pocketed members to contribute to Richards’ campaign and included an invite to a Feb. 19 fundraiser organized by Queens real estate broker Eric Benaim.

They got theirs...

Friday, February 21, 2020

5 Pointz hits the jackpot, judge rules against Wolkoff

5Pointz in January 2013. Photo courtesy of Ezmosis via Wikimedia Commons.

In a sweeping 32-page decision eviscerating the legal arguments of a disgruntled Queens real estate developer, a US Appeals Court affirmed the rights and monetary damages awarded to a group of graffiti artists whose works were destroyed without warning or consent in 2013.

The artists sued the developer, Gerald Wolkoff, in 2013 for violating their rights after he whitewashed their work at the famous 5Pointz graffiti art mecca in New York to make way for condos. A jury ruled in favor of the artists in November 2017, but it was up to a judge to determine the extent of the damages.

In February 2018, Brooklyn Supreme Court judge Frederick Block awarded the artists a total $6.75 million in a landmark decision. The sum included $150,000—the maximum legal penalty—for each of the 45 destroyed works at the center of the case.

The trial was a key test of the Visual Artists Rights Act (VARA), which grants visual artists certain “moral rights” for their work. Previous VARA cases rarely made it to trial, and were instead settled privately.

But the act, which was added to copyright laws in 1990, disallows the modification of works in ways that could be considered harmful to artists’ reputations, and grants protections to artworks deemed to be of “recognized stature.”

In his appeal, Wolkoff challenged practically every aspect of the decision by Judge Block, from the amount of the award, to the suggestion that the graffiti murals at 5Pointz merited protection under the “recognized stature” clause.

But Wolkoff was rebuffed on all points in the latest ruling, and the court took the additionally extraordinary step of citing his own lawyers against him. “Wolkoff’s own expert acknowledged that temporary artwork can achieve recognized stature,” according to the decision.

The ruling also took Wolkoff to task for making misrepresentations about how his business would have been harmed if he did not move to immediately whitewash the works. In his arguments, Wolkoff claimed that certain tax credits available to him would have expired if he did not move quickly to paint over the works.

Yet he did not even have a demolition permit for the building when he began his campaign to cover up the murals.

Congratulations 5 Pointz, you all earned every penny from this disingenuous arrogant jerk.

Andrew Cuomo is mad that President Trump is ruining his congestion pricing plan

NY Post
Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Thursday claimed that President Donald Trump is holding “hostage” plans to pay for key subway upgrades through congestion pricing as retaliation for New York’s refusal to grant federal immigration authorities access to driver’s license records.

“Will they hold congestion pricing hostage? Yes,” Cuomo told reporters at an unrelated press conference. “That’s how they do business.”

“It doesn’t happen without the federal government’s approval and right now, they’re not approving it,” he said.

The comments came in response to reports in the Wall Street Journal and Politico that the Trump administration has refused to say for months whether the tolling program can move forward without a full environmental review.

MTA officials have said congestion pricing will pay for $15 billion of the agency’s $51.5 billion plan for needed subway and commuter rail improvements.

State officials hoped to have the tolls in place by the start of 2021, but federal environmental reviews typically take two years or more to complete.

Well, maybe the state can come up with the funding if Cuomo would stop jerking off and finally legalize pot, that way taxes accrued from the sales can pay for improving the subway and highways instead of extracting it from car owners and occupational drivers wallets.

When fences make bad neighbors

Well folks, Gothamist has done it again. The blog that hates anything associated with perceived outer borough "whiteness" recently featured in an article the story of a loving Asian family who bought a home in Broadway-Flushing and wanted to erect a fence "to protect their kids" but was being thwarted by the big bad white homeowners association. Except that is not the case at all. Paul Graziano, urban planner, put together this rebuttal which also serves as a great Queens history lesson and a guide to others with, or seeking to buy, property in a deed restricted neighborhood. I'll also add that the homeowner in the Gothamist article has owned his home for 17 years and therefore must have been well aware of what he could and could not do with it. If not, then shame on him. Happy reading!

Gothamist Response RE Broadway Flushing Deed Restrictions February 21st 2020 by queenscrapper on Scribd

Gothamist Response RE Broadway-Flushing Deed Restrictions - Addendum - February 21st 2020 by queenscrapper on Scribd

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Worker crushed to death at development site in Jamaica


 One construction worker is dead and another injured after a construction collapse in Queens Thursday.

Firefighters rushed to the site on 94th Avenue in Jamaica to try and save the workers after a wall collapsed at the site.

The Department of Buildings say it permitted demolition to take place at the the existing three story building where the collapse took place.

The DOB has issued a partial stop-work order at a neighboring lot, but that didn’t prevent Thursday’s demolition.

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

CB7 tells future lower income tenants of Flushing Creek towers, let them have buckets

Very Oniony hoax article concerning greenpoint pipeline

Citibike rolls out new fleet of illegal ebikes

NY Daily News

Citi Bike riders are about to get a boost.

The bike-sharing company will roll out a new line of e-bikes Wednesday, 10 months after its entire fleet of electric two-wheelers was pulled from service after a braking issue catapulted several riders over the handlebars and sent them to the hospital.

The new e-bikes, which give riders a little extra pickup when they pedal, were designed specifically for New York City, said Citi Bike spokesman Cory Epstein. Unlike the old models, they have a motor on the back wheel, instead of the front, and have drum brakes that do not lock up.

Citi Bike’s old e-bikes had “roller brakes” that did not have power modulators, skirting the brake manufacturer’s specifications.

 The new rides appear to be safer. During a test ride Tuesday, a Daily News reporter slammed an e-bike’s front brake at top speed. The bike came to a comfortable stop instead of throwing its rider to kingdom come.

As I documented for at least a year on social media with #EbikesAreMotorcycles, the safety issue isn't just with these bikes but the people that use them 

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Violent anti-violence activist earned more city money than the mayor last year


NY Daily News

An embattled anti-violence advocate accused of threatening a neighbor with a Bloods gang attack was paid a whopping $282,990 salary using city money, documents reveal.
Shanduke McPhatter’s astonishing earnings for fiscal year 2019 exceeded Mayor de Blasio’s salary of $258,541.

City Hall ordered McPhatter to reduce his salary following an audit by the Mayor’s Office of 

Criminal Justice. McPhatter’s paycheck was slashed to $157,828 in July, a mayoral spokeswoman confirmed.

The advocate’s nonprofit, Gangtas Making Astronomical Community Changes, has a $2.3 million deal for a wide array of services in 2020 to reduce violence behind bars and on the streets. 
Documents and tax records indicate the vast majority of the group’s funding comes from the city. A 

 City Hall spokesman confirmed the entirety of McPhatter’s salary was paid by the city. The vast majority of G-MACC’s funding comes through city contracts, documents show.

“Many millions of taxpayer dollars are allocated to community based organizations across the city and the integrity of the process is paramount,” said Councilman Joe Borelli (R-Staten Island). “I hope the city can come together with us in the Council to ensure this doesn’t happen in the future.”

McPhatter’s group, commonly known as G-MACC, has partnered with the city since 2014 on anti-violence initiatives. Its members have led conflict mediation at Rikers Island and juvenile detention facilities. G-MACC also ran a program called “Mackin’ to Be Elite” through the Education Department.

City Hall credits G-MACC for no shootings in a roughly six-block stretch of East Flatbush between May 2019 and January 2020 .

McPhatter’s salary steadily increased as G-MACC expanded its partnership with city agencies including the Department of Correction, Administration for Children’s Services and Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice. He earned $85,000 in 2016 as the group’s CEO, according to filings with the Comptroller’s Office. That figure jumped to $115,585 in 2017 then $134,196 the following year before ballooning to $282,990, tax records show.

Landmarks Preservation Commission has spent over $60,000,000 on new office space that's still not done


It took nine months and $8 million to build a two-story library near Van Cortlandt Park in The Bronx last year.

Meanwhile, a project to repair office space and construct a hearing room for the city Landmarks Preservation Commission’s new home has ballooned to an estimated $62 million — and the completion date has been delayed four years.

The budgeted cost has jumped by $33 million since 2016 due to structural problems discovered inside the historic Postal Telegraph Building in Lower Manhattan, according to records from the city’s Department of Design and Construction (DDC).

The expected bill dwarfs the commission’s $7.2 million annual operating budget.

“DDC has to get better with rolling with scope changes,” said Jonathan Bowles, executive director of the nonprofit Center for an Urban Future.

Near the end of Mike Bloomberg’s mayoral tenure, the commission asked for additional space, noting its staff had grown 35% “to meet demand for the increasing number of permit applications.”

The Landmarks Commission’s move — from the Municipal Building at 1 Centre St. into six floors at the landmarked 253 Broadway, near Murray Street  — was approved by the city’s budget office and the department that oversees office space.

The expanded office space and modern hearing room inside the city-owned building initially was expected to be ready by December 2017, records show. But the project is currently 39% complete and is now set to be finished in Spring 2021, according to DDC.

“A lot of additional work was added since the project was created,” said Ian Michaels, a DDC spokesperson, noting some of the repairs were tied to unavoidable safety measures.

Engineers discovered a leaky roof, asbestos and damaged terra-cotta ceilings, he said. They also cited needs to remove abandoned wiring, repair water damage from old leaks, restore sidewalk vaults and install a new central exhaust line for bathrooms to get up to code.

The issues have led to 119 so-called “work change” orders so far, Michaels said.

Mayor Robert F. Wagner created the Landmarks Preservation Commission in 1965 to protect historic and architecturally significant structures. The agency, comprised of a panel of 11 commissioners supported by a staff of 84, receives around 14,000 applications a year from property owners seeking to make changes to their landmark buildings.

Mayor de Blasio and NYC's First Lady will only pay less than $9,000 in property taxes for their two homes next year


 A sneak peek at Mayor Bill de Blasio's anticipated property taxes next year has hizzoner's online critics wondering: "How is it that @NYCMayor only pays $4493.33 on a $1.76 Million dollar Park Slope home, when other NY'ers are taxed through the roof?" 

Twitter user @odonnell_r posed this question along with a photo of de Blasio's and his wife Chirlane McCray's notice of property tax for their 11th Street property. The Jan. 15 notice and the amount has been confirmed by Patch through public Department of Finance record

But it doesn't tell the whole story — a twisty tale of multiple homes and New York City's antiquated tax system that many, including the mayor himself, have criticized as unfair and due for change.

For one, it's not de Blasio's and McCray's only high-dollar Park Slope property on 11th Street — they own a $1.88 million home also with an estimated $4,493.33 in upcoming taxes.
That's about $9,000 in expected taxes on just shy of $4 million worth of property, for the math-averse.

The homes' taxes at that time about $3,600 each, according to records.

So when the mayor received notices dated Jan. 15, 2020 about his expected upcoming property taxes he actually learned his taxes would go up.

Several Twitter users expressed surprise at de Blasio's taxes.

"I pay 4900 for my home in Staten Island , it's worth is about 550,000. How does he do it," wrote @Joeyjoe15090312.

"I pay double that on an attached house in queens. Doubled since this fool took office. This has to change and fast," wrote @Onivasa316.