Saturday, September 30, 2023

Mayor Party Hardy Means Tardy

Hellgate NYC

Ten hours after the National Weather Service issued a flash flood warning, five hours after the heavy rain began to fall across New York City, three hours after social media platforms began to be deluged with photos and videos of floodwaters stranding vehicles and commuters, 90 minutes after the MTA essentially told riders the trains were all too broken to be of any use, and 40 minutes after the press conference was supposed to start, Mayor Eric Adams spoke to New Yorkers for the first time about the flooding that continues to pummel the city that is under his control.

"We're ready, and you should be as well, to be prepared for this moment," Adams said.

What took him so long?

The mayor—flanked by a coffee mug and a tall paper cup, his voice sounding markedly more craggy and halting than usual (Adams had a "birthday fundraiser" in Inwood on Thursday night)—told reporters that he didn't need to be the first official to address New Yorkers about the flooding, because his deputies had already done so, in the form of sending out some Notify NYC alerts, appearing on 1010 WINS and Fox Weather on Thursday, and forwarding a press release to reporters at 11:08 p.m. on Thursday night. (Some of those deputies, including Deputy Mayor for Communications Fabien Levy, who earns an annual salary of $250,000, went even further, and snippily alerted reporters to all the alerting that had previously occurred.)

"Leadership is not only the mayor," Adams said. "It is all of those that are placed in those positions, and that is what you saw."

At the start of the presser, Adams said that he "got a firsthand look at the impact of the rainfall and what it is doing moving around the city," but later revealed that this was a little bit of serendipitous multitasking. On Friday morning, he had actually gone to a wake for a retired NYPD officer, and had driven back home through East New York, Canarsie, and Sheepshead Bay. 

Just six families had been successfully evacuated from flooded basement homes so far, according to Levy, but with two to four more inches of rain on the way, where could New Yorkers who live in basements go if their homes flooded? Where was the "higher ground" that NotifyNYC told basement apartment-dwellers to seek? The mayor didn't say, though he assured everyone that was being taken care of.

"We will have sites for those who can't go with family and friends, we will always provide shelter for those in need and we will navigate that," Adams said.

Zach Iscol, head of the mayor's Emergency Management division, assured New Yorkers they were "monitoring continuously," and "in very active response mode right now," but the evidence provided for that was simply more assurances.

"We're taking this extremely, extremely seriously," Iscol said.

For an event featuring the mayor, Governor Kathy Hochul, the head of the MTA Janno Lieber, and many leaders of City agencies, not a whole lot was revealed at this press conference. Despite the chaos on the street, everyone had convened to convince New Yorkers they were doing their jobs, and that the system is working, more or less. After the mayor thanked the governor, the governor thanked the mayor. "Mayor, you've been fantastic," Hochul said.

What about migrants staying in tent structures? No major leaks or flooding have been reported, Levy said.


Friday, September 29, 2023

Breaking Ground


 NY Post

As New York City sinks under the mass of its own weight, some hotspots are sinking faster than others, including LaGuardia Airport, Arthur Ashe Stadium and Coney Island, according to a new NASA report.

Researchers with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and Rutgers University identified several key locations within the five boroughs that are sinking faster than the average 1.6 millimeters per year experienced by the rest of New York City.

LaGuardia’s runways and Arthur Ashe Stadium – home of the US Open – both saw the most rapid sinking from 2016 to 2023, falling at 3.7 and 4.6 millimeters per year, respectively, researchers published Wednesday in Science Advances.

Scientists warned that while the city’s sinking might seem slow, the addition of rising sea levels could prove disastrous during powerful storms like Sandy. 

“Protecting coastal populations and assets from coastal flooding is an ongoing challenge for New York City,” the researchers wrote. “The combined effect of natural sea level variations and destructive storms is being increasingly exacerbated by ongoing sea level rise.”

Along with LaGuardia and Arthur Ashe, the study found that Interstate 78, which passes through the Holland Tunnel that connects Manhattan to New Jersey, was also sinking at nearly double the rate of the rest of the city.

The same was true for Highway 440, which connects Staten Island to the Garden State.

Other areas sinking faster include Coney Island, the southern half of Governors Island, Midland and South Beach in Staten Island, and Arverne by the Sea, a coastal neighborhood in southern Queens.

Tuesday, September 26, 2023

The Habitat For Humanity Horror

Impunity City 


Yesterday afternoon, Mayor Eric Adams enthusiastically announced plans for the city to build 100,000 affordable apartments in the next 5 years in his “City Of Yes” program. The City Of Yes program/doctrine will make it easier for the NYC housing and building departments to expedite building permits faster with little regulation and even community input under the rubric for the need to stem the housing affordability and homeless crises in the five boroughs. While noble and necessary, it still needs to be ratified into law by City Council.

But it was only a year and a half ago when Mayor Adams and his “team” went to Southeast Queens to announce an affordable housing program initiative for to give the opportunity for lower income earning residents to own their own houses. Partnering with Jimmy Carter’s Habitat for Humanity, the city’s Housing and Preservation Department took over 16 houses that were neglected and then abandoned by the notorious NYCHA  and had them demolished so they can build new environmentally sound “green” houses in their place. During the presentation which also announced new infrastructure to mitigate constant flash flooding from extreme storms, early SE Queens native Mayor Eric Adams promised that these homes will revive the neighborhoods that were neglected by past administrations.

One of those homes is this corner on 126th and 116th avenue. 

Promises made, promises slept.


Pre-City Of Yes housing development in stillborn state


 This is nice set of rowhouses between 75th and 77th St on Jamaica Ave. I caught in January 2020 the day after Neir's was saved from closing permanently and a few months before the pandemic lockdowns that has destroyed this city. 



3 and a half years later, it's still caged and unoccupied.




The only thing that's living here are the vegetation and the graffiti (looks like the work of Five Pointz).


Mayor Adams and his technocrats at NYC planning want to build a city of yes when they didn't even have the motivation to get people in housing that already exists. I wonder how the City Of Yes doctrine will apply here with these buildings that are already completed. Maybe it needs 5 more stories.

Department of City Planning bringing "workshop" for another revival of Jamaica


On September 19, the New York City Department of City Planning announced the date for the first public Jamaica Neighborhood Plan meeting. The meeting will take place at York College on September 30 at 11 a.m. and offer attendees the chance to learn about existing issues in the neighborhood and express what they would like to see changed.

The Jamaica Neighborhood Plan is aimed to create a vision driven by the local community for Jamaica’s future. The Plan focuses on the downtown Jamaica area, around a 300-blockradius and includes transportation corridors, manufacturing districts, institutions and community parks and transportation. The September 30 meeting will address the results of Jamaica’s Neighborhood Plan survey, the planning process for making changes to the neighborhood, and how to stay involved.

The event will begin with an open house from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. allowing community members to learn about the current issues surrounding the neighborhood. From 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. there will be family activities for all ages that include stories about neighborhood planning and planning for the future artwork collages. Finally, from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. there will be a workshop with both Spanish and Bangla translators on site, where community members can voice the changes, they would like to see in their community with agency staff.

Borough President Richards and Councilmember Williams, DCP will continue to host workshops throughout the fall and meet with a steering committee, composed of the leaders from the local community, businesses, and faith leaders. To RSVP for this event, click here.

Department of City Planning Director Dan Garodnick said, “As we start this collaborative process to create an even brighter future for Jamaica, we want to hear from our neighbors! From income-restricted homes to good-paying jobs, from improved open space to enhanced resiliency, it’s with the input of everyday New Yorkers that will shape the Jamaica Neighborhood Plan to best meet the needs of this vital community.”

Speaker Adrienne Adams said, “Downtown Jamaica is a central commercial, residential, and transportation hub that is vital to the success of Southeast Queens and our entire city. The Jamaica Neighborhood Plan presents an opportunity for residents to help shape a long-term strategic vision for the area and yield much-needed investments that will benefit our community. I encourage all residents to engage in this critical process and attend the open house and workshop at York College on September 30. With the partnership of elected officials, city agencies, and the residents of Jamaica, we will achieve the progress and change that our community deserves.” 

 I like how this news blog put this municipality's announcement out 6 days later. This is the 4,080th plan to revive Jamaica, but maybe they're serious this time since this is tied to the "City Of Yes" doctrine. It should be an interesting turnout considering all the new luxury public housing towers that have sprouted between Jamaica and Archer Aves. Oh, these workshops are obligatory bullshit to give the optics of community input but the plans are already set and decided. 

 The picture above is of a luxury hotel on Archer Ave. that just opened, it's now a shelter for migrant families.


Saturday, September 23, 2023

Caption Mayor Adams and his top NYPD brass


This is turning out to be a daily thing. Eric Adams really can't help himself with these photo ops.

The World's intake center

NY Post

 Queens is bearing the brunt of the Big Apple Migrant Crisis, with more settling in the borough than anywhere else in the city, immigration court data shows.

At least 39,131 migrants listed a Queens address on their initial paperwork upon entering the country this fiscal year through through the end of August, edging out Brooklyn, where at least 36,579 migrants planned to settle, according to stats tracked by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC), a nonprofit at Syracuse University.

At least 18,910 and 16,151 migrants indicated they would be staying in the Bronx and Manhattan respectively, and 2,462 said they were headed to Staten Island, the data shows.

Meanwhile, the number of incoming migrants coming to Queens and Brooklyn are surging, with nearly 10,000 declaring their intention to move to Queens, and just under 9,000 heading to Brooklyn, in July and August alone.

“I don’t see it slowing down as much as people think it will,” Queens Borough President Donovan Richards Jr. said. “This problem is not going to go away anytime soon.”

“Before we saw this we were dealing with a housing crisis, so we had 40,000 New Yorkers in shelters, and of course with this crisis it just exacerbates that issue,” he said.



Friday, September 22, 2023

Caption Jenifer and Eddie


Food app delivery workers ebikes and illegal motorcycles block sidewalk egress

 Queens Chronicle

“Oh, thank God.”

A man walking on 63rd Drive in Rego Park expressed that opinion last week when learning the Chronicle was taking photos for a story on how delivery riders of e-bikes, scooters and other two-wheeled vehicles have had a recent tendency to clog the sidewalk in front of a Taco Bell, Popeyes and bagel shop that adjoin each other.

His comment was little different from complaints the Chronicle has received via email about the site. At one point during the Sept. 14 visit, a senior citizen with a walker and one using a personal mobility chair simultaneously tried to navigate their way through 11 parked vehicles and their drivers.

State Sen. Joe Addabbo Jr. (D-Woodhaven) said in an interview on Tuesday that his office and the 112th Precinct are well aware of the situation and that the police are working to resolve it.

“My office has reached out to the 112th Precinct,” he said. “I’m planing to talk with all four precincts in my district. I’ll ask them, as I frequently do, ‘What can I do on a state level? What legislation can be done?’”

He said there already are laws requiring that some classes of two-wheeled vehicles be registered, and their operators licensed.

“But obviously, some are not,” Addabbo said. “And I’ve got a feeling that for every illegal one the police get, 10 more pop up in its place. Like the pot shops. It’s just a daunting task. That’s what law enforcement is up against here.”

In emails from their offices, Assemblyman Andrew Hevesi (D-Forest Hills) and a spokesman for Councilwoman Lynn Schulman (D-Forest Hills) said they have gotten similar complaints from constituents about other areas, but not that section of 63rd Drive specifically.

Both said their offices work directly with the 112th and other precincts on the problem.

“The NYPD is empowered to confiscate unlicensed scooters and e-bikes that don’t meet city regulations. I know that the 112th Precinct has been successful at increasing the number of scooters and bikes confiscated,” Schulman’s spokesman said. “With regards to what pedestrians can do, I would suggest that they call 311 and report the situation, especially if the scooter is blocking the sidewalk or intersection. If 311 does not solve the problem, they can reach out to our office and we will work directly with the NYPD to assist.”

Hevesi in his email said the vehicles play a huge role in the city for everyone from commuters to service providers.

But he also said the regulations for e-bikes and scooters are very clear.

“If the rules are not followed, it becomes a matter of enforcement,” Hevesi said

Bowling for housing and parking

CB 7 OKs building at Whitestone Lanes 1

Queens Chronicle

Community Board 7 on Monday approved plans for a nine-story residential building at 30-05 Farrington St., replacing the legendary Whitestone Lanes.

The push for the proposed nine-story apartment building is being led by Marco Macaluso Jr., the owner of Whitestone Lanes. His attorney, Eric Palatnik, spoke on his behalf at this week’s CB 7 meeting.

“Mr. Macaluso [Sr.] built this building with his blood, sweat and tears, by the skin of his teeth some 40 or 50 years ago — you never thought he’d be here today asking you to rezone the property,” Palatnik said. “It wasn’t his intention. Bowling alleys were the newest, biggest fad at the time — tells you how long ago it was.

“They’re not a fad anymore. It’s over, and they are over, too, and they know it.”

Plans for the new building were first reported in June; publicly available documents filed with the Department of City Planning proposed that the site be rezoned from an M1-1 zone to an R7A zone to construct a nine-story building with 413 units, 113 of which would be affordable, and 200 parking spaces below ground. It also included plans for publicly accessible outdoor space.

But First Vice Chair Chuck Apelian said Monday that through discussions with the board’s Land Use Committee, the Macalusos and the developers, the group had “come to an agreement” on an alternative plan: Instead, the building would have no more than 350 units, 91 of which would be affordable, and at least 300 parking spaces.

Given Whitestone Lanes’ location right off the Whitestone Expressway and that it is lined by two narrow streets — Farrington Street and Linden Place — traffic congestion was a significant concern for board members. With that in mind, Palatnik said while cars will be able to enter the garage both on Farrington Street and Linden Place, they can only exit on Farrington Street, heading northbound. Those entering on Linden Place can only be heading southbound, and from either direction on Farrington Street.

Arguably the largest change from the previous plan, however, was that instead of outdoor space, complete with benches, tables and the like, the board put forth the idea for a “parking garden,” which would add 35 more parking spots and be filled out with plenty of plants, trees and other greenery. It would sit in back of the building along Farrington Street.

Apelian said it was board member Arlene Fleischman who first articulated the committee’s hesitations toward open green space. “Arlene voiced concern that in this climate, in this environment of homelessness, of migrancy and other things that have taken place, that improper use would take [the] place of this altruistic idea of creating a public access area,” he said. A parking garden was proposed as an alternative.

Thursday, September 21, 2023

City of Yes or else

 NY Daily News

Mayor Adams announced Thursday a sweeping package of proposed zoning changes — including the elimination of parking minimums and allowing garages to be legally converted into homes — aimed at facilitating the creation of about 100,000 new homes in the next 10 to 15 years in a move that’s a direct response to New York City’s ongoing housing crisis.

Adams touted it as “the most ambitious changes to zoning in the history of New York City.” Rather than concentrating new housing in certain parts of the city, the measures would try to create “a little more housing in every neighborhood” by easing some of the strict zoning rules currently in place.

“So many of the issues we face as a city are rooted in this ongoing crisis,” Adams said. “We must change the restrictive laws that were put in place 62 years ago [with the 1961 Zoning Resolution].”

The citywide approach contrasts with the neighborhood-level and spot rezonings that have been used to ease zoning restrictions to allow for more and often taller housing.

“This is not tinkering around the edges,” Adams said. “Today, we’re proposing a slate of new rules that, if passed by our City Council, remove longstanding barriers to opportunity and usher in a new golden age of housing in New York City.”

In neighborhoods with smaller and fewer buildings the proposals would attempt to cut municipal red tape to make it easier for owners to adapt their homes.

Among other things, it would allow for certain types of “accessory dwelling units” to be built, such as backyard cottages and basement apartments, and conversions of attics and garages into housing. It would also aim to “safely legalize” existing ones.

One of the buzziest components announced Thursday is the elimination of parking mandates for new homes, space the city says it would rather use for housing.

“If you want to build parking spots, you still can,” Adams explained. “But we will not force people to build parking they do not want.”

The rules would also enable two to four stories of housing to be built above squat, single-story commercial buildings to match the height of neighboring ones.

  The new plan would enable conversion of under-used commercial buildings.

The city currently gives leeway for the creation of affordable senior housing, allowing for increased heights, an exception the administration is proposing extending to now include all forms of affordable and supportive housing in denser neighborhoods.

 The new plan would allow accessory dwelling units for single and two-family homes.

Under the new proposals, housing could also be built on various “large campuses” around the city, such as in the parking lots of houses of worship or on NYCHA property. Other changes include allowing three-to-five-story apartment buildings to be built on large lots near transit hubs as a way of blending in with the community; and making it legal once more for “modest apartments” to have common facilities such as shared kitchens and bathrooms.


Thursday, September 14, 2023

Developer gave Eric Ulrich a discount on a lux apartment hoping he would condemn a supportive housing building for the homeless across the street


On the evening of Aug. 10, 2021, Eric Adams joined a rooftop party in Brooklyn where a crowd of real estate industry figures awaited him, each of them bearing gifts. It was a month after Adams’ victory in his hard-fought race to become the Democratic mayoral nominee and he was busily harvesting donations from those eager to show support for the man overwhelmingly favored to become the next mayor of the City of New York.

That morning, a breakfast fundraiser at a Manhattan law firm active in land use issues netted the candidate $38,750 in contributions. He picked up $20,250 more at a later event with healthcare executives and doctors. Another soiree, at a hotel in the Rockaways, yielded $25,925 for his campaign coffers. 

But his biggest haul of the day came on the Brooklyn rooftop. The host was a successful developer and investor in commercial and residential projects around the city named Mark Caller. The party was held atop Caller’s office building on Nostrand Avenue in Brooklyn’s Midwood neighborhood where his firm, The Marcal Group, is headquartered. 

Once all donations from the gala had been collected, Adams’ campaign was $47,050 to the better. Almost a third of that money, $15,400, came from members of Caller’s family, with the rest from his friends and business associates, records obtained by THE CITY via a freedom of information request show. 

Even in a campaign that ultimately took in nearly $9 million in private donations, it was the kind of political generosity that stood out. 

Now, the previously undisclosed fundraiser stands out for a much different reason. 

In coming days Caller is expecting to be indicted by the Manhattan district attorney on charges that he provided a luxury apartment at below-market rent to Eric Ulrich, a former City Council member and Adams appointee, in exchange for official favors. 

Ulrich, a Republican ex-Council member from Queens who bucked his party in 2021 to support Adams’ mayoral bid, is also expected to be charged. After Adams took office, he was appointed a senior advisor to the mayor.  A few months later, Adams named him city buildings commissioner.  The post put Ulrich, who held no management experience other than handling his Council staff, in charge of a sprawling agency of some 1,700 employees, one that is crucial to the city’s construction industry and notoriously prone to corruption.

The job didn’t last long. In November, five months after his appointment, Ulrich was forced to resign after it was revealed that the DA had seized his cell phone during an investigation into a mob-tied gambling ring. 

It’s unclear what favors Ulrich is alleged to have provided for Caller. The developer has been involved in significant construction projects that needed city approvals. Since 2020, Caller has built at least four new projects in the Rockaways, part of Ulrich’s former Council district. Just two weeks before he hosted the Adams fundraiser, Caller won a zoning change approval from the city planning commission to add a gym to a new condominium project he built on Beach 116th Street in Rockaway Park. That’s the complex where Ulrich lived in a fifth floor apartment near the ocean with two bedrooms and two baths. Units there currently range from $700,000 to $1.4 million; listed rents go from $3,000 to $4,100.

Campaign records show Caller was an early supporter of Adams’ mayoral bid. In December 2019, nearly a year before Adams officially announced his candidacy, Caller and his wife, Rivka Spitzer, made donations of $1,000 apiece to Adams’ campaign. After Adams became an official candidate, the campaign returned $600 of Caller’s own donation. That’s because, due to his quest for city land use assistance for his Rockaway condo project, he is considered someone doing business with the city and limited to donations of $400 to candidates for citywide office. His wife’s donation was unaffected.


One of the more disturbing allegations involved Ulrich’s effort in 2022 to shut down a hotel housing the homeless because it enraged Caller, the real estate developer. Prosecutors say he made this corrupt effort to aid Caller at the same time he was negotiating to obtain a discount apartment across the street from the hotel from Caller.

At one point in March 2022, while he was a senior advisor to Adams, Caller let Ulrich know he wanted to shut down a hotel at 158 Beach 116th Street that was housing homeless adults because it happened to be across the street from and adjacent to two of his upscale rental buildings.

In a WhatsApp exchange captured by prosecutors, Caller wrote to Ulrich, “There has to be a way to put 158 B116th out of business. It’s an absolute disgrace.”

 In response, Ulrich promised Caller to set up a “task force” of inspectors from the FDNY and the buildings department, writing, “They might be able to vacate the f...g thing. It’ll take months to get it reopened.”

Prosecutors described a conversation Ulrich had with a state Assemblymember described as Jane Doe #1. At the time, Stacy Pheffer Amato was the Assembly member representing the Rockaways. 

Ulrich is alleged to have requested that the Assembly member demand an FDNY/DOB inspection of the hotel, and instructed the Assembly member “to make sure FDNY and DOB issue a full vacate order so the occupants can be moved by the New York City Department of Homeless Services into alternative housing.”

Prosecutors say that shortly after several violations were issued at that address, but none involved a vacate order. Pheffer Amato did not respond to THE CITY’s questions Wednesday about this exchange.

While Ulrich was targeting the homeless shelter, he was simultaneously discussing with Caller obtaining an apartment at a discount rate in a building across the street from the hotel, an upscale address at 133 Beach 116th Street, prosecutors say.

Caller then offered Ulrich an apartment for $2,000 a month, the lowest monthly rental in the building, and said Ulrich could apply the rental toward a down payment on the unit at a reduced rate. He also threw in the furniture and offered to void the closing costs.

Ulrich moved into the apartment about a week before he was named buildings commissioner. Just before the appointment was made public, he called Caller to advise that their communications would no longer be direct.

“We have to be smart,” he said. “I have to be a little more careful because I can’t be conflicted. If you have to communicate with me about something directly, about something concerning a property you own, maybe it’s better if it comes from the councilwoman or the elected officials, so that we’re working on it at their requests.”


Wednesday, September 13, 2023

City council wants nothing to do with their law to close Rikers Island

 Queens Chronicle

City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams (D-Jamaica) and Member Carlina Rivera (D-Manhattan), chair of the Criminal Justice Committee, released a joint statement last Thursday in response to concerns voiced by Mayor Adams about closing Rikers Island.

During a fireside chat at New York Law School in Manhattan last Tuesday, he said the plan to do so “was flawed from the beginning.”

In their response, the councilwomen said the 413-acre facility cultivated a culture of brutal violence and dysfunction, then emphasized that the city must adhere to the 2019 law to close Rikers by Aug. 31, 2027.

“Public safety demands that we remain on-track to closing without delay,” said the joint statement. “To achieve this goal, it is imperative that Mayor Adams’ administration take responsibility for implementing the law, including working collaboratively with stakeholders involved in the criminal legal system to advance necessary progress.”

The mayor’s administration has missed several deadlines related to turning over unused parcels of land from the city’s largest jail complex for the development of an energy hub, reported the Queens Daily Eagle.

The Office of the Mayor said via email that Adams will always follow the law.

“It has become painfully clear that the plan passed by the City Council during the previous administration leaves open serious questions about the city’s ability to keep New Yorkers safe, while the costs are exploding,” a City Hall spokesman told the Chronicle on Aug. 31.

When conceived, the closure of the facility was estimated to be approximately $8 billion. In October 2022, the Independent Commission on New York City Criminal Justice and Incarceration Reform said it would be closer to $10.2 billion due to inflation.

“This is due to: necessary environmental remediation and landfill stabilization; the island’s isolation and single bridge on and off; and the presence of active jails, which would limit construction hours and require a staggered schedule to maintain sufficient capacity during construction,” according to the report. “In addition, the city would have to pay over $800 million to demolish the existing jails on Rikers. The city has already spent $500 million on design, demolition, project management, and site preparation for the new borough-based jails.”

The commission also said scrapping the shutdown plan and modernizing Rikers would cost 15 percent more than the $10 billion price tag and take years longer. Smaller borough-based jails will save the city $2 billion in operating costs annually, it said.

The city must make consistent investments in pretrial services, alternatives to incarceration and re-entry services, while addressing unacceptable lengths of stay with the courts, district attorneys and public defenders, said the councilwomen’s joint statement.

The mayor also blamed the city’s courts for failing to process cases. Commissioner Louis Molina of the city’s Department of Correction said that he believes the jail population will hit 7,000 by 2024, reported the Queens Daily Eagle. The new jails will have room for no more than 4,200 inmates, the mayor has said.

Asked about the rising costs of the jail and where the detainees will be placed during the transitional period, a City Council official said it’s up to the mayor to address.


Monday, September 11, 2023

President Biden blows off NYC 9/11 ceremony

 NY Daily News

We like round numbers: 20th anniversary, 30th anniversary, the Golden Jubilee.

But the 22nd anniversary of an evil terrorist attack on New York City and the rest of the nation is no less of a reason for the president of the United States to visit the World Trade Center and lay a wreath or something.

President Biden, it turns out, is in the midst of a nasty — and petty — feud with city and state officials over the city’s growing migrant crisis.

Instead, Biden will attend a 9/11 commemoration ceremony with military families on a patch of soil that seems about as far away from New York City as one can get — Anchorage, Alaska.

The president will be returning from a previously planned state visit to Vietnam on Sunday, which means he won’t attend the solemn event in Lower Manhattan for the second straight year.

That also means the tough-talking leader of the free world will avoid the awkward photo op with Mayor Adams and Gov. Hochul, who have been feuding with the president and each other over a migrant crisis that, to use Adams’ words, “will destroy New York City.”

And, Biden could have done more to make sure he wasn’t in Alaska, of all places, on one of the most solemn days in New York City.

Vice President Kamala Harris and Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff are expected at the Ground Zero event on Monday marking the 22nd anniversary of the deadliest terror attack on American soil, which killed nearly 3,000 people.

Planes hijacked that day also struck the Pentagon and a remote field in Shanksville, Pa.

Although it’s not a round number commemoration, the anniversary does mark a milestone moment.

The number of firefighters who have died from 9/11-related illnesses is now eerily close to the number of firefighter heroes, 343, who perished during the initial attack. To date, 342 FDNY members have died of World Trade Center-related illnesses.

“As we approach the 22nd anniversary of 9/11, the FDNY continues to feel the impact of that day. Each year, this memorial wall grows as we honor those who gave their lives in service of others,” said Fire Commissioner Laura Kavanagh.

“These brave men and women showed up that day, and in the days and months following the attacks to participate in the rescue and recovery efforts at the World Trade Center site. We will never forget them.”


Mayor Adams austerity nickels

 NY Daily News

Mayor Adams announced Saturday there would be cuts as high as 15% to all city agencies by next spring — including NYPD and health department — in response to the costly migrant crisis, which could further impact the delivery of city services.

The mayor made a surprise speech over the weekend telling New Yorkers that the lack of substantial support from the federal and state government regarding the crisis — at a time when COVID aid is drying up — has forced the city to impose austerity cuts.

“We are in the middle of a humanitarian crisis involving asylum seekers, a crisis that will cost our city $12 billion over three fiscal years,” Adams said. “While our compassion is limitless our resources are not.”

Those cuts, the administration said, intend to “minimize disruption to programs and services, and there will not be layoffs,” according to a press release on the announcement. The current budget stands at $107 billion.

The cuts must be submitted ahead of the city’s budget update in November. If the city doesn’t get more federal help between now and January, Adams warned that there could be an additional 5% cut in January and another 5% in April. Adams also intends to impose a 5% cut in the following four years. City agencies could stave off those cuts if more federal and state aide comes through, according to Adams.

Adams’ announcement comes as the city continues to take in thousands of migrants mostly entering from the U.S.-Mexico border. To date, there have been somewhere around 110,000 migrants arriving in New York City.

An estimated 60,000 migrants are currently under the city’s care, according to the government figures.

City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams — who leads the 51-member body that’s heavily scrutinized the mayor’s strategy on the crisis — released a joint statement with the council finance chair Justin Brannan, saying they’re reviewing the letter from the mayor’s office informing them of further cuts.

“There remains an urgent need for increased state and federal support to aid the City’s response to increased international migration,” they wrote. “Tens of thousands of people seeking asylum are arriving in our city at a time when we are already confronting a housing crisis, record homelessness, and the sunset of federal COVID stimulus funds. New York City cannot be expected to handle this on our own. The costs are considerable, and it is critical that the city receives more aid, while safeguarding funding that supports New Yorkers. The future of our city and its continued economic recovery relies on the investments we make into our communities and the essential services they rely on.”


Sunday, September 10, 2023

Beating the dead rail line horse

Queens pols and advocates are still calling for new transit service on a long-disused rail line that they say would shorten residents’ punishingly long commutes, but have to contend with the Adams Administration’s desire to build a park instead.

The Rockaway Beach Branch once provided Long Island Rail Road service between Rego Park and the Rockaway Peninsula in Queens. The southern half is still used by the A train between Ozone Park and Rockaway, but the northern bit has sat abandoned since 1962, with the rail infrastructure deteriorating and the right-of-way becoming overgrown with vegetation.

For years, local pols and advocates have been calling for its reactivation as a subway line, specifically extending the M train down from Rego Park all the way to Rockaway, providing an additional transit option for peninsula commuters and enabling a wealth of new transfers. An estimated 47,000 New Yorkers would use the line daily.

The proposal, called the QueensLink, has the support of virtually every political figure in southeast Queens, many of whom descended on City Hall on Wednesday to renew their call for the state, city, and MTA to study reactivating the line. The coalition of supporters stretches the partisan divide, from democratic socialist Assemblymember Zohran Mamdani to conservative Republican Councilmember Joann Ariola.

“We have a chance to bring modern rail to our district to serve the people of Queens. What more could you ask for than a modern right of way, and we have it,” said Central Queens Councilmember Bob Holden at the rally. “It’s there for the taking…you have the canvas now, an empty blank canvas with rail there already.”

While the project has been suspended in amber for years, supporters say now is the time to do it: the federal infrastructure bill has unlocked many billions of dollars for states and localities to get shovels in the ground, and the MTA is already neck-deep in another project to repurpose the LIRR’s underutilized Bay Ridge Branch, which the state hopes to turn into the Interborough Express between Brooklyn and Queens.

“It connects residents in transit deserts such as South Queens, and in so doing will serve at least 47,000 daily riders,” said Rick Horan, executive director of QueensLink, at the rally. “As such, QueensLink represents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reconnect the borough by using this strategic corridor for both transit and parks.”

At least the call for reviving the Rockaway Branch line has got less boring...

Present and accounted for

Queens Post 

Community Board 2 returned from summer break on Thursday, Sept. 7, at Sunnyside Community Services to discuss New York state’s Open Meetings Law with Allan Swisher, the general counsel and a senior policy advisor for the office of Queens Borough President Donovan Richards.

The law, which applies to all public bodies, makes it mandatory for community boards to meet in person. This requirement, however, ultimately fell victim to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, as then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo passed an executive order suspending particular provisions of the law as it related to in-person attendance.

“That was the status quo for about two years,” Swisher said. “The reason why public bodies, including community boards, are now back in person is because of the Open Meetings Law and reverting back to the status quo that existed before COVID hit.”

According to Swisher, the New York state Legislature amended the Open Meetings Law to include a provision allowing public bodies to meet “fully remotely” if an emergency order that prevented people from gathering in public were to come about. Until then, both Gov. Kathy Hochul and Mayor Eric Adams had emergency orders that related to COVID-19 in effect.

“That was the basis by which public bodies, like CB 2, were permitted to meet remotely,” Swisher explained. “That emergency order expired in July, which is why we’re in person now here today.”

Despite the return to in-person meetings, Swisher explained further to CB 2 that while meeting fully remotely is reserved for emergency orders, remote participation in meetings is still possible under “very specific, limited circumstances” with another provision that was added in 2022.

CB 2, along with any other community board, would have to pass a resolution that allows its members to participate remotely under “extraordinary circumstances,” which can include disability, illness, caregiver responsibilities, a tragedy, or something specific that “would prevent people from getting to a meeting.”

Sponge worthy 



A residential street in the Rockaways is the first in the city to be redesigned with groundbreaking infrastructure methods to absorb stormwater and reduce tidal flooding from Jamaica Bay.

The city’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) announced on Sept. 6 that construction on a $1.2 million project that transformed three roadway medians into green infrastructure “sponges” that mitigate chronic flooding on Beach 67th Street between Almeda and Thursby Avenues in Arverne have been completed.

 “Transforming these medians into working green infrastructure that absorbs stormwater helps reduce any flooding along Beach 67th Street while also protecting nearby Jamaica Bay,” DEP Commissioner Rohit Aggarwala. “In just the last several years we have constructed more than 12,000 similar installations that absorb stormwater and beautify neighborhoods across the city. We will continue to aggressively expand this critical work that is making our city more resilient to the changing climate.”

The completion of the project was announced just as forecasters began to warn of a potential hurricane threat to the East Coast forming in the Atlantic. Tropical Storm Lee was upgraded to a hurricane on Wednesday with the potential to become a category 4 hurricane by the weekend, but it is too early to predict the storm’s path.

“As peak hurricane season nears, these new green infrastructure sponged in Arverne are a welcome addition to the Rockaway community, which we know is extremely prone to strong storms and coastal flooding,” Queens Borough President Donovan Richards said. “Every new median helps as we leave no stone unturned to mitigate flooding and protect our shoreline communities.”

Work included removing the old median curbs, trees, plantings and the accumulated trash. Stormwater storage vaults and drains were installed five feet below the surface and covered with stones and engineered soil – all elements designed to maximize the amount of stormwater that the median will be able to contain. Modeling shows that the new medians will absorb approximately 90,000 gallons of stormwater annually.

Thursday, September 7, 2023

Bad Principal



Back-to-school anxieties are mounting at P.S. 398 in Queens in an ongoing standoff between its faculty and principal, at a school named after a revered local labor leader.

The school’s United Federation of Teachers chapter filed a grievance complaint in January alleging anti-union actions by the principal of the Héctor Figueroa School, where teachers have complained about what they call a “hostile” and unhealthy environment they say affects students.

Several teachers quit after they were advised by school principal Erica Ureña-Thus to transfer schools, they said. Another teacher was dismissed over the summer. 

In 20 letters sent to schools chancellor David Banks in June, staffers called out what they described as a “downward trend of disorganization and lack of communication that brings along with it disrespectful comments.”

The main complaint: They say Ureña-Thus second-guessed and micromanaged their work while making erratic decisions, making it difficult for them to serve their multicultural students.

In their letters to Banks, two staff described witnessing Ureña-Thus personally calling the state’s child welfare hotline with what they described as a “fabricated” story involving a student. They alleged she did so to prove that a social worker at the school was incompetent after the social worker had called in a report that the state concluded didn’t warrant opening a case.

Another staff member wrote Banks to say that Ureña-Thus had announced through the school’s public address system that “We have a doggie in the hallway” because a young student had innocently used a urinal for his bowel movement. 

A third said Ureña-Thus asked students performing in a concert to not recite remarks they had prepared in Bengali — a language spoken by many in Jackson Heights — leaving some students and their parents feeling ostracized.

Ureña-Thus and the Council of School Supervisors and Administrators, the principal’s union, did not respond to THE CITY’s questions. 

One of those hostile environments was the infamous 34th Ave. Open Streets...

 She also insisted on having kids play on the 34th Avenue Open Street, he added, over his objection that kids were injuring themselves on the rough road surface.

“You give her an inch and she takes a yard,” Thai said, adding: “She put the students at risk — their safety at risk — for her own aims.”

This is why you don't hire lobbyists to plan cities Jim. 

Wednesday, September 6, 2023

RIP Queens reporter Ruschell Boone


We have some deeply sad and personal news to report.

Ruschell Boone, an Emmy award-winning journalist and our beloved colleague here at NY1, passed away Sunday due to complications related to pancreatic cancer. She was 48. 

For 21 years, Ruschell was a member of our staff, as well as a friend and mentor to many.

Every New Yorker’s story starts somewhere, and Ruschell West’s story began in Kingston, Jamaica, where she spent her early childhood before immigrating to the Bronx with her family when she was 11 years old.

Ruschell’s path led her to Harry S. Truman High School and then to Baruch College in Manhattan. But she found her way into journalism by fate. When she was a senior in college, a classmate missed their radio slot, giving her the opportunity to jump in. This was the beginning of what became her life’s work, telling the stories of New Yorkers.

For someone who lived and breathed the five boroughs, NY1 was a perfect match, and she joined the station in 2002 as our Queens reporter.

She embedded herself in the borough, dedicating herself to issues that directly affected residents. From neighborhood controversies and police misconduct cases, to devastating events like Hurricane Sandy, Ruschell was all over Queens, pounding the pavement and following up, no story too big or too small.

Ruschell had a unique ability to connect with New Yorkers — through the screen and in person — in a way that made her feel like a trusted friend. Highlighting the city’s diverse communities was always a priority.

As a proud member of the Caribbean diaspora, attending the West Indian-American Day parade on Eastern Parkway each year was a highlight for Ruschell - and for the New Yorkers who got to celebrate with her.  

Ruschell was always comfortable in a crowd, whether asking New Yorkers about their thoughts on national politics or as a familiar face at some of the city’s biggest celebrations — the Annual Village Halloween Parade, and in Times Square for the ball drop. 

She took home numerous awards throughout her career, including Best Spot News Reporting from the New York Association of Black Journalists, a New York Press Club Award for Best Feature Reporting, and a New York Emmy Award for a series that was a creative labor of love for her: “New York: Unfiltered.” 

In 2018, she was the only television reporter to speak live with an underdog candidate for Congress who was about to become world-famous. In fact, she delivered the news to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. 

And at a time when thousands of people took to the streets of a pandemic-ravaged city, Ruschell was front and center, in the crowd and hearing directly from protesters who wanted someone to tell their story. 

Despite her long list of awards and accolades, Ruschell was always most focused on her family, including her mother, her siblings, her husband Todd and her two sons, Carter and Jackson. Todd and Ruschell met at NY1 and married on Sept. 24, 2005.

She also had so much love from her other family: the generations of NY1 colleagues who relied on her for friendship and advice, and some straight talk when it was needed.

After nearly two decades of telling the news from the street, Ruschell moved to the anchor desk in 2021, where she brought New Yorkers the latest each day at noon on News All Day, a show that highlighted her love of community, her passion for breaking news and her understanding of the way New Yorkers live. She also always found time each day for some joy — and for her trusted pair of Nikes worn around the newsroom, and on the anchor set. 

On June 2, 2022, Ruschell celebrated 20 years at NY1, surrounded by colleagues. Shortly after, she learned she had pancreatic cancer and began a grueling fight. 

Throughout a difficult process, Ruschell was open about her journey, sharing regular updates on social media. She made it back to the anchor desk and was joined by the mayor on her first day back. 

She was devoted to raising awareness about cancer and other health issues. And while she was facing a constant fight of her own, Ruschell felt it was important to extend a hand and help others in their time of need. 

Wherever Ruschell was, she always made time to laugh, to dance, and to celebrate life.

A mother, a wife, a daughter, a sister, a journalist, a Jamaican-American, a true New Yorker, Ruschell leaves behind a rich and loving legacy for her family, her friends and her city.

Ruschell covered and helped platform this blog 16 years ago. Wish we could have more of her out there giving voices to independent reporters and concerned citizens in the World's Borough. Rest In Power Mrs. Boone.

Here's a blast from the past. 

Setting the record straight

It was brought to my attention that Ruschell Boone from NY1 filed a story on Friday, December 3rd about a tree stump and a broken sidewalk alongside the Van Wyck Expressway service road in Jamaica.

Greg Mocker from WPIX reported on the same stump/sidewalk issue on Monday, December 6th, the same day I posted Ruschell's story here on the blog. Mocker said in his followup report after the stump was removed that the City was watching. Well, they are, but it's not him they're watching. Got this official statement from Parks:

"We saw the story on NY1. We haven't watched WPIX since Kaity and Jim got the boot."

And there you have it. On the trail of a reporter trying to take credit for someone else's work, I'm the Queens Crapper.

Tuesday, September 5, 2023



 CBS New York

Starting Tuesday, enforcement of a new law in New York City is expected to cause a big drop in the number of Airbnb rentals.

One expert says it could mean as much as 70% of listings will disappear.

If you search for an Airbnb in the city for next week and most of the results are apartments in New Jersey or boutique hotel stays.

Missing are short term stays, like a bedroom CBS New York saw in Bedford-Stuyvesant, or another one in Sunset Park. That's because starting Tuesday the city will enforce a law that prohibits Airbnb hosts from renting for stays of less than 30 days. (Wasn't that the rule in the first place?)

The only way it's allowed is if the host registers with New York City and they have to be present in the home for the duration of the stay.

Alex Thompson said he applied and hasn't heard back.

"Mine was application number like 9500 or something and they have approved like a few hundred at this point," Thompson said. "In the meantime, we're kind of in limbo."

Travel news site Skift said as of Monday, the city only looked at 25% of applications.

"Airbnb is going to lose about 70% of New York City's listings," Skift founding editor Dennis Schaal said.

He said it'll be bad for tourism, adding families will have to rent multiple hotel rooms for the holidays, instead of an Airbnb for a fraction of the price.

For those that decide to stay with a host, Schaal said, "How many times have you wanted to go, ya know, sit on the couch with your host and watch Netflix instead of enjoying some privacy in an affordable place?"

The goal of the legislation was for the city to crack down on illegal hotels and bad actors who deplete the city's housing stock. Public Advocate Jumaane Williams said he's urging the city to target them, instead of New Yorkers operating in good faith to try to make ends meet.

Sunset Park resident Gia Sharp co-founded a coalition of one- and two-family homeowners called RHOAR -- Restore Homeowner Autonomy and Rights. She said she needs her space intermittently for family, so she can't rent long term. Nut no one has booked it for the minimum 30 days required by law, either.

"As much as we can saving our money because we rely on short-term rental to help pay our mortgage and our expenses, so it's pretty scary," Sharp said.

Another homeowner, a retired city worker in her 70s, said by phone she'll keep renting and risk getting the $5,000 fine.

"If I decide I want to have people stay for four, five, six days, I don't see what I'm doing wrong. I pay property tax," she said.

Longtime Bed-Stuy resident Wayne Slater said he hopes regulation will make the neighborhood less transient.

"When I came here people bought these houses so they can raise a family and through this we became community," Slater said. "They have agencies that are purchasing the houses and then flipping them."

Airbnb told CBS New York, in part, "It has long been our goal to work with New York City to create sensible home-sharing regulations for our host community. ... The city is sending a clear message to millions of potential visitors who will now have fewer accommodation options when they visit New York City: You are not welcome."


Queens is burning again: Fire destroys Willets Point DOT warehouse building


 Eyewitness News

At least four firefighters were injured while battling a massive fire at a New York City Department of Transportation building in Queens.

FDNY officials say the five-alarm fire started at around 10 p.m. at the NYC DOT Harper Street Plant, a warehouse and maintenance space located on Harper Street in Willets Point.

Video from the Citizen App shows an orange glow lighting up the sky as smoke and flames pour out of that DOT facility.

As the fire grew in size, more fire crews were sent to the scene. Approximately 200 firefighters were tackling flames.

Officials say it took them over four hours to get the fire under control, with firefighters still dealing with hot spots into Tuesday morning.

Once all the hot spots have been put out, the fire marshal will investigate how the fire started.