Wednesday, January 31, 2024

City Council kills the Mayor's veto of how many stops bill

NY Post

NYPD cops will be forced to report on even their most minor interactions with the public after the City Council on Tuesday overwhelmingly rejected Mayor Eric Adams’ veto of the “How Many Stops Act’’ — which he and other critics argued would threaten public safety.

Adams, who fought the bill tooth and nail in recent weeks, failed to sway the two council members he needed to beat the override — which passed in a bruising 42-9 vote.

The Democrat-led council also voted to override Adams’ veto of another bill banning solitary confinement in Big Apple jails.

“These bills will make New Yorkers less safe on the streets, while police officers are forced to fill out additional paperwork rather than focus on helping New Yorkers and strengthening community bonds,” Adams said in a statement after the vote.

“Additionally, it will make staff in our jails and those in our custody less safe by impairing our ability to hold those who commit violent acts accountable.”

Under the NYPD bill, officers will have to record the “apparent” race, gender and age of nearly every person they question — even someone who could just be a potential witness to a crime, or other of the lowest-level encounters.

Adams, a former NYPD captain, and police advocates had been adamant that the bill would bog cops down in a sea of unnecessary paperwork and slow down investigations.

“Today’s override is one more step toward the city council goal: Destroy the world’s best police

department,” NYPD Detectives Endowment Association president Paul DiGiacomo said.

“Thanks to the politicians, the divide between the police and citizens will grow. And so will retirements of our best, most experienced detectives. Heartbreaking.”


Tuesday, January 30, 2024

Two man terror cell busted in Astoria

 Queens Post

Two Astoria brothers were criminally charged Monday after an arsenal of improvised explosive devices and ghost guns, including assault rifles, were found inside their apartment directly across Vernon Boulevard from the Ravenswood Generating Station.

 Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz announced that Andre and Angelo Hatziagelis were indicted Monday on 130 counts of criminal possession of a weapon and related charges after a Jan. 17 raid on the apartment they share with their mother and another brother at the intersection of 36th Avenue and Vernon Boulevard across from Big Allis, the name locals use for the massive Con Ed power plant on the East River.

Both Andrew, 39, and Angelos, 51, were remanded into custody, and their arraignment is pending.
“The city is safer today,” Katz said. “My Crime Strategies and Intelligence Bureau launched investigations every day so that we find illegal weapons, including guns and in this case explosive devices. We cannot measure the number of lives that were saved, but we do know that these weapons will never hurt anyone.”

Katz added that her office executed the court-authorized search along with the NYPD, Homeland Security and New York State Police and recovered eight fully operable bombs, several guns and numerous other weapons. According to the charges, based on prior intelligence, investigators the DA’s office launched a six-month probe into the purchase of firearm component parts, accessories, and the manufacture of illegal ghost guns by the Hatziagelis brothers.

Detectives from the NYPD were brought into the investigation to assist in the collection of additional data and a search warrant was secured.

On Jan. 17, law enforcement officials executed the search warrant on their residence resulting in their arrests and the seizure of eight IEDs, including one constructed with a trip-wire, two loaded AR-15 ghost gun assault weapons and other ghost guns, 600 rounds of ammo, three sets of body armor, 29 high-capacity ammunition feeding devices, numerous notebooks containing instructions on the manufacture of explosive devices and anarchist related propaganda. Investigators also discovered a radio set to the frequency of the 114th Precinct in Astoria.

“Today’s charges underscore the harsh reality that our communities contain a small number of people who conceivably harbor evil intent,” NYPD Commissioner Edward Caban said. “This cache of weapons — including explosives and untraceable, 3D-printed ghost guns — had the potential to wreak horrendous carnage.”

Upon the execution of the search warrant on the brother’s apartment, members of the NYPD Bomb Squad were called to respond and subsequently evacuated the building due to the discovery of the live IEDs.

“Along with our NYPD investigators, I thank all of our local, state and federal law enforcement partners for their persistence in identifying, investigating, and holding accountable anyone who poses a risk to New Yorker’s safety and well-being,” Caban said.

Jessica Ramos bad bill to deter shoplifting loots businesses more

NY Post 

 It’s criminal. 

An ill-conceived “worker safety” bill introduced by far-left state Sen. Jessica Ramos, a supporter of bail reform and defund-the-police, would saddle small businesses with hundreds of thousands of dollars of security mandates to combat rampant retail crime caused by the very policies she has pushed and promoted, critics told The Post.

The “Retail Worker Safety Act” would require retail shops to assess their stores for violent crime risks before developing and implementing plans for protecting their employees, such as installing better outside lighting and using drop safes.

Businesses would also be required to have staff undergo safety training, and stores hit by violent attacks would be forced to hire a security guard, according to the incendiary legislation introduced Monday.

The measure would also require employers to document and report violent workplace incidents, while those with 50-plus employees must install panic buttons.

“This need for security is because of her,” said a disgusted Francisco Marte, founder of the Bodega and Small Business Association of New York, which reps over 3,000 Big Apple storefronts. “Progressives have turned the city into chaos.”

Marte, who owns three bodegas in Norwood and Grand Concourse, predicted the bill’s mandates would cost “hundreds of thousands of dollars” that small business owners can’t afford.

 To be in compliance many stores will have to close down,” he said.

“It’s another [case of] blame the victim,” said Kenneth Giddon, co-owner of Rothmans men’s clothing store in Manhattan. “We’re getting robbed, and it’s our fault.” 

Giddon estimated the new legislation could run him well over $200,000, citing the cost of hiring a security guard during the store’s off-hours as well as paying a company to lead safety training for his staff twice a year.

The beleaguered businessman slammed Ramos’ bill as “offensive,” explaining that many retailers like himself are already doing all they can to keep staff safe in addition to minimizing job-crushing revenue losses to thieves.  

“Retail workers are on the front lines of violence in our society,” reads Ramos’ legislation. “Many employers have not done enough to take responsibility for the health and safety of their employees.”

But Ramos, a Democrat repping Jackson Heights, Woodside, and Elmhurst in Queens, has for years helped keep robbers out of jail and fewer cops on the streets, critics charged.

The legislation she co-sponsored in 2019 notoriously eliminated cash bail for nonviolent felonies, in addition to burdening prosecutors with onerous discovery requirements that have led to a massive spike in case dismissals.

Leadfoot comptroller breaks promise to slow down
 NY Post

He coulda, woulda, shoulda — but didn’t.

City Comptroller Brad Lander, who championed a law to crack down on reckless driving and once admitted “I should slow down,” was caught speeding in a school zone again.

Lander was hit with a $50 summons from a speed camera on Shore Parkway last May after he promised to improve his dismal driving record — which included eight prior tickets for speeding in school zones, city records reviewed by The Post reveal.

The former Brooklyn councilman also racked up five parking tickets since taking office as comptroller in 2022, according to records.

During his campaign for the seat in 2021, The Post revealed that Lander was hit with eight school-zone speeding tickets since 2016, even though he had publicly promoted speed cameras outside city schools and pushed legislation to crack down on unsafe driving.

Critics accused Lander of being a hypocrite and he admitted then, “I should slow down.”

He also added to his collection four tickets for parking in “No Parking Zones” during street cleaning since taking office — along 13th Street in Park Slope near his home on Oct. 29 and Oc. 31 in 2022, and July 17 and Oct. 2 of last year, records show.

The fine for the second parking violation in 2022 was for $75 and the three others were $65.

The comptroller also got socked with a $35 fine for failing to display a metered receipt while parking on Sept. 25 of last year, also on 13th Street.

Politicos who know the self-described progressive Lander said they weren’t surprised.

“It’s ‘Do as I Say,’ not ‘Do as I Do,'” said state Conservative Party Chairman Gerard Kassar, who lives in Dyker Heights, Brooklyn. “And he’s one of the top three elected citywide officials.


Monday, January 29, 2024

Fundraising blowback for Juan Anon

 Queens Chronicle

Beleaguered Assemblymember Juan Ardila (D-Maspeth) closed out the latest campaign finance filing period last week with less than $12,000 cash on hand, state records show. While an increase from last July, when he had $934.22 in cash on hand and had raised just $2,000 from one donor last February, his poor performance relative to his primary opponents, who have tens of thousands of dollars available, suggests his reelection bid may be feeling the effects of two women’s sexual assault allegations against him.

The end of the latest filing period provides Queens residents with the clearest financial picture of the race for Assembly District 37 thus far, and is the first since Ardila officially filed for reelection in November.

Ardila was accused of sexually assaulting two women at a 2015 party, allegations first reported by the Chronicle last March. Ardila denied the women’s accounts, and did not heed calls from many of his colleagues, as well as Gov. Hochul, for his resignation. Instead, he hired a lawyer to independently investigate the allegations and craft a report.

Ardila did not respond to the Chronicle’s requests for comment for this story by press time Wednesday.

In addition to becoming a pariah among many of his peers in Western Queens and in Albany as a result of the allegations, Ardila lost quite a bit of the financial support that had propelled him to victory in the 2022 Democratic primary, most notably from the Working Families Party and the Courage to Change PAC, a political action committee formed by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-Bronx, Queens) designed to support progressive candidates. Both groups rescinded their endorsements of Ardila in March, and neither has donated money to him in his reelection bid. In 2022, the WFP gave his campaign $43,665 — the most of all of Ardila’s donors — while the Courage to Change PAC gave $4,700.

Since then, Ardila, who had only been in office some two and a half months when the accusations became public, has struggled to raise money for his re-election bid. State campaign finance records show Ardila finished the cycle with $11,844.32 cash on hand, thanks in part to a $2,000 loan he gave himself right before the filing deadline and a $1,500 contribution he made to his own campaign. Together, the two account for $3,500 in his account, or about 30 percent. His largest donation (not counting from himself) is $1,000 from a Sunnyside-based veterinary clinic.


Sunday, January 28, 2024

Missing the 11

Queens Chronicle

After the MTA proposed a Queens bus redesign that would largely neglect those in the Centreville area of Ozone Park, three area elected officials are speaking out.

According to a press release from the office of state Sen. Joe Addabbo Jr. (D-Woodhaven), he, alongside Councilwoman Joann Ariola (R-Ozone Park) and Assemblywoman Stacey Pheffer Amato (D-Howard Beach) sent a letter to the MTA, expressing their “deep concern” over the proposed discontinuation of the Q11 bus service through Centreville due to the impact it would have on residents.

Currently, the Q11 and Q21 both provide service from Queens Boulevard in Elmhurst down the entire length of Woodhaven Boulevard and into Crossbay Boulevard. The Q21, however, serves Lindenwood and New Howard Beach, while the Q11 stops in Centreville and serves Hamilton Beach and Old Howard Beach.

According to redesign information on the MTA’s website, the Centreville Street/149th Avenue stop could be removed “due to new routing.” The MTA has drawn up a “final” bus route redesign plan it says it will present to the public for feedback.

While the Q11 in its redesign would still serve residents of Howard Beach and Hamilton Beach, the loss of the Centreville stops on its existing route may still impact those residents.

The area affected by the proposed discontinuation of the Q11 service, according to the elected officials, is home to approximately 3,500 residents. Their letter emphasizes the essential role the Q11 route plays for those who rely on its services.

The redesign would result in longer walking distances for residents who would have to access a bus stop on Cross Bay Boulevard instead of one closer to home. The politicians emphasized that the change would be burdensome and potentially dangerous for those who have come to rely on the safety and convenience of having a bus stop nearby.

The elected officials in their letter also cited “numerous testimonies and complaints from residents who utilize the Q11 for short trips to Old Howard Beach,” including those who often visit Our Lady of Grace Church, nearby Veterans of Foreign Wars meetings or quick stops at the butcher shop for groceries, all of which are accessible via the Q11.


Former City Councilman Paul Vallone dead at 56


Paul Vallone, a former City Council Member who was part of a Queens political dynasty, died suddenly this weekend. He was 56 years old.

Vallone most recently served as the city’s Deputy Commissioner of Veterans’ Services. His brother Peter, a fellow former Council Member who presently serves as a judge in Claims Court, confirmed Paul’s passing.

Peter Vallone said his brother was rushed to Flushing Hospital Saturday evening after suddenly falling ill at home, but could not be saved. The news was first reported by the Queens Chronicle.

In addition to his brother, Vallone is survived by his wife Anna-Marie and three children, as well as his father Peter Sr., formerly the City Council speaker and a giant of municipal politics.

News of Paul Vallone’s death stunned Queens politicos and spurred an outpouring of grief.

“Paul didn’t just carry on his family’s immense legacy of service — he personified and embodied it,” Queens Borough President Donovan Richards said in a statement. “He inspired me every single day to be a better elected official, but it’s his lessons in friendship, family, and fatherhood that I will cherish for the rest of time. Queens is a better borough because of Paul, and I am a better person for having had the privilege of calling him a colleague and a friend.”

Before entering politics, Vallone was a managing partner at his family’s general practice law firm, Vallone & Vallone LLP, founded in 1932 by his grandfather, Judge Charles Vallone. His father, Peter Sr., was elected to the City Council in an Astoria-centered district in 1973, and became the first Speaker of the City Council following the reorganization of city government in 1989.

Vallone Sr. was term-limited out of the Council in 2001 and was succeeded as Astoria’s City Council representative by Peter Jr., who served two terms.

After running unsuccessfully in 2009, in 2013, Paul Vallone contested the Democratic primary in northeast Queens’ 19th District, which includes the neighborhoods College Point, Whitestone, Beechhurst, Bayside, Bay Terrace, Auburndale, Douglaston, Little Neck, and part of Flushing.


The district at the time was represented by Republican Daniel Halloran, who during the 2013 campaign was arrested and charged in a broad federal corruption probe that also ensnared Queens Senator Malcolm Smith, Bronx Republican Chair Joseph Savino, and a slew of others.

Vallone narrowly won the Democratic primary and then prevailed in the 2013 general election. Per his City Council webpage, his mission from day one was to “put District 19 back on the map.” He won reelection in 2017, and at the end of his second term he told the Queens Chronicle he was proud to have added school seats to his district and helped launch a new free transit service for northeast Queens seniors. He also got underway efforts to build a new environmental center at Alley Pond Park and to renovate Bowne Park. He chaired the Economic Development Committee.

The moderate Democrat represented one of the most conservative districts in the city. At the end of his two terms, in 2021, the political pendulum had swung to the right and he was succeeded by Republican Vickie Paladino, an ardent Trump supporter and arguably the most right-wing member of the current City Council.

That same year, Vallone narrowly lost a race for Queens Civil Court to Republican Joseph Kasper, another sign of voters’ repudiation of the Democratic Party in northeastern Queens. The defeat meant a Vallone was not in elected office in the city for the first time in nearly 50 years.

Afterward, Vallone was appointed by Eric Adams to be the Deputy Commissioner for External Affairs at the Veterans’ Services Department under his new mayoral administration.

Members of New York’s political class expressed shock and dismay at Vallone’s untimely passing. Council Speaker Adrienne Adams, who reps southeast Queens, said she was “utterly heartbroken” by his death.

“Paul was a kind, beloved, and dedicated public servant who left an indelible mark on Queens and NYC,” said Speaker Adams. “My prayers are with his wife, children, and the entire Vallone family.”


Thursday, January 25, 2024

The DOT's spite delineators

 Queens Chronicle

When a loyal reader wrote us about new posts clogging up traffic crossing Queens Boulevard where 83rd and Hoover avenues meet, above, the Chronicle went to the scene.

The posts are set too far into the street, the resident wrote, preventing cars headed straight across the boulevard from going around those that have to stop to make a left. Thus traffic on 83rd Avenue, second photo, is getting backed up all the way to Kew Gardens Road, making things more dangerous for children going to PS 99 [see Letters to the Editor].

The delineators, which are popping up all over, are meant to protect pedestrians and calm traffic. But the ones on the boulevard at 83rd and Hoover take up space that had been actively used by cars, and the writer suggested the city Department of Transportation go back to the drawing board.

Then on Tuesday morning as the snow fell, at least one motorist drove right over the crosswalk to get around them — right in front of the courthouse, no less.

Shown the top photo, a city Department of Transportation spokesman said via email, “Last year New York City had the second fewest pedestrian fatalities on record thanks to street improvements that prioritize safety. Anyone who drives in a crosswalk or other pedestrian space should be ashamed and held accountable for endangering others.”


City sneakily converts Rego Park hotel into a homeless shelter


 DSS confirms men’s shelter for Rego Park 1

Queens Chronicle

Community Board 6 Chair Heather Beers-Dimitriadis says her board and her community have no issue with carrying their fair share to help with the city’s homeless crunch.

But she did tell the Chronicle that board members were surprised with the speed and lack of communication involved with the Department of Social Services’ decision to open a single men’s homeless shelter at the Wyndham Hotel, located at 61-18 93 St. in Rego Park, as early as March.

Beers-Dimitriadis said the board got the final word during a presentation from the DSS at its Jan. 10 meeting.

“We had been working with DSS on a project to bring family transitional housing to our district,” she told the Chronicle last Friday. “It’s new construction next to the [Rego Park]post office. And we were pleased to see it was coming. We were approached in the fall and told that they were going to be converting the Wyndham Hotel into a single adult male shelter, and basically the letter said, ‘because you don’t have shelters in your community.’ You know, we were sort of surprised, because as far as we were concerned, we thought the transitional housing was sort of us doing our part.”

Board 6, in fact, routinely requests funds for transitional housing on its annual list of priorities for city capital funding.

“And so when we found out this was going to be moving in the first quarter of 2024 — which could be potentially March, it might lead into April — I mean, we had very little time to respond, so we have been sort of scrambling to learn as much as we can.”

The shelter will be run by Community Housing Innovations, which Beers-Dimitriadis said is new to Queens but does operate in surrounding counties.

The DSS and the Department of Homeless Services did not pick up their phones for multiple calls last week, and the phone system did not accept messages. The DSS also had not responded to an email sent through its website to Commissioner Molly Park as of Sunday afternoon.

Councilman Jim Gennaro (D-Fresh Meadows), who inherited the area in the new redistricting after Board 6 was notified last fall, said in an email that he has been getting up to speed.

“We were not notified about this shelter until after the district lines moved in the new year,” he said. “In spite of that, my office has hit the ground running, and has already scheduled a meeting with the Dept. of Social Services to learn everything there is to know about the shelter and the shelter operator. I am committed to working with DSS and the community to ensure that, if this shelter needs to happens, it rolls out correctly and with full transparency.”

Beers-Dimitriadis said there are concerns that it is effectively across Queens Boulevard from the transitional housing project; literally across the street from the Lost Battalion Hall Community Center, which is undergoing massive renovations; and within walking district of PS 206, the Horace Harding School.

 Was the Maspeth protests against hotel shelter conversions that long ago?


Wednesday, January 24, 2024


The success or failure of Gov. Kathy Hochul’s marquee transit proposal, the Interborough Express (IBX) connecting Brooklyn and Queens by light rail, is centered on a short, skinny tunnel underneath a Queens cemetery that the MTA says requires the line to be routed away from existing railroad tracks and onto the street.

Based on a long-time dream of transit planners and aficionados, the IBX would utilize existing railroad tracks called the Bay Ridge Branch, which were built for the Long Island Rail Road but have long since been used only by freight, and only about one round trip per day at that. The 14-mile spur runs from Bay Ridge, Brooklyn to Jackson Heights, Queens; Hochul first proposed reactivating the line for passenger service back in 2022.

The project is set to bring rail service to several transit-starved neighborhoods and connect to 17 other train lines, while providing a crucial new link for Brooklyn and Queens residents to move between boroughs without having to take a train through Manhattan first. Hochul has described her vision for the IBX as a “transformative” investment in expanding the city’s transit.

After undergoing a “feasibility study,” the MTA opted not to endorse building a subway along the right-of-way. Instead, the MTA endorsed building light rail, which it has never constructed before in New York City despite being in many cities around the world; the agency said this would be $3 billion cheaper (the overall plan is projected to cost $5.5 billion) without sacrificing speed or capacity.

The basis for that claim lies buried among the dead beneath All Faiths Cemetery in Middle Village, Queens, just across the way from the M train’s Metropolitan Avenue terminus. The cemetery opened for business in 1852, and today its 225 acres are the final resting place for 540,000 people, including the grandparents, parents, and older brother of former President Donald Trump.

Also underneath All Faiths is a short tunnel, about 520 feet in length and 30 feet in width, that freight trains under the CSX banner travel under en route to and from Bay Ridge. The MTA says this tunnel is too narrow to add in passenger tracks alongside the freight ones, and expanding it would be prohibitively expensive and require disturbing final resting places above it.

That, in effect, kills the possibility of using subways on the corridor, the MTA claims. Instead, light rail can be routed out of the railroad right-of-way and onto busy Metropolitan Avenue, turning left on 69th Street before returning to the Bay Ridge Branch tracks after two-thirds of a mile.

 This is never going to happen. 


Tuesday, January 23, 2024

General Gouging Electric


Crains New York

New York ratepayers will be on the hook for a $1.2-billion Con Edison project to boost electric grid capacity in southeast Queens. The utility said the new networks and substations will meet the area’s surging demand, partially driven by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s efforts to electrify its bus depots and fleet.

The state Public Service Commission on Thursday approved cost recovery for Con Edison’s Reliable Clean City Idlewild Project. The effort will divide the existing Jamaica network in two and build a pair of substations so that the local grid can meet a surge in demand brought on by New York’s efforts to electrify its transportation and building systems.

Con Edison describes the current Jamaica network as its largest, serving more than 162,000 customers, including transportation hubs such as John F. Kennedy International Airport, the Long Island Railroad’s Jamaica Station and at least four major MTA bus depots. In the utility’s petition to state regulators, it claimed that without the investment, demand during times of peak usage would exceed what the network was designed to handle by 2026.

In a statement, PSC Chair Rory Christian backed the utility’s project “to promote the transition to a clean-energy economy while ensuring the reliability of the electric grid overall.”

Typically, the need for major utility upgrades are hashed out as part of the regular rate case process for utilities, but because Con Edison raised the need for load relief at the end of last year’s rate case, the utility was allowed to file a separate petition.

PSC commissioner Diane Burman, who voted against the expense, said the investment should have been scrutinized as part of the rate case process. She similarly took issue with the need for state customers to foot the bill for upgrades primarily supporting MTA and JFK projects.

“If these were customers that were private developers, we would probably be having a more detailed conversation on the cost allocation that they needed to pony up rather than being borne solely by the ratepayers,” Burman said during the vote. She added that it’s not “sustainable” for ratepayers to bear the bulk of the costs of electrifying New York’s economy moving forward.


Saturday, January 20, 2024

Army vet ROTC teacher gets carjacked as auto theft continues to climb

 NY Post

Six armed bandits carjacked a veteran teacher outside a Queens high school, pistol-whipping the educator in front of his family and taking off with his BMW and $7,000, cops said.

Christopher Dash was smacked in the head with a gun during the terrifying 5:30 a.m. heist on Jan. 11 outside Francis Lewis High School in Fresh Meadows – one in a recent series of luxury carjackings in Queens.

Dash, 59, was sitting with his wife and 18-year-old son in their car in a lot behind Horace Harding Expressway next to the school when two Dodge sedans approached and blocked them from leaving, cops said.

Five males and a female got out and brandished weapons while demanding the keys and belongings, the NYPD said.

As Dash, his wife, and son got out of the car, the thieves “forcibly removed” their wallets, taking  $7,000 in cash, a cell phone, ID, debit cards, and laptops. Cops did not know why he was carrying that large a sum of money.

One crook hit Dash in the head with a gun, causing a laceration, police said.


Friday, January 19, 2024

Empire State Tombs

Scott Rechler and Jon Wertheim  

60 Minutes

Looking for signs the U.S. economy can continue to stave off a recession? Avert your gaze from commercial real estate. City office buildings are in trouble. For a century, the towers have been propped up by two pillars. One, workers filling the buildings all week. Two, money flowing freely in the form of loans to borrow, buy, and build. Those days are over. As hybrid work hardens from trend to new normal, office occupancy rates have hit all-time lows. Meanwhile interest rates have spiked to historic highs… and now the mortgage comes due: $1.5 trillion in commercial real estate loans expire in the next two years. It's enough to make you rethink the future of cities. We criss-crossed Manhattan, talking to players big and small, about a sector rocked to its foundations.

What is New York City without its skyline? Monuments to commerce, standing proudly shoulder-to-shoulder. More office space than any city in the world. But peek inside all this vertical real estate and there's a fundamental question. Where IS everyone? More than 95 million square feet of New York office space currently unoccupied - the equivalent of 30 Empire State Buildings.

Scott Rechler: This building had a lot of law firms, had some government tenants… 

Scott Rechler is CEO of RXR, a New York real estate company with more than $20 billion in holdings. We walked through his property at 61 Broadway, near Wall Street. Every other floor—half the building—lies empty.

Scott Rechler: I think this is an existential moment. You know, I call it crossing the chasm

Jon Wertheim: What's the chasm specifically? 

Scott Rechler: This post-COVID world of higher interest rates, the changing nature of how people work and live. We're not going back to where we were. It's a different world. And it's gonna be turbulent.

It already is. The return to office has stalled out: Fridays are dead. Mondays aren't much busier. As tenants shrink their office footprint, office landlords are confronting the fact that some of their buildings have become obsolete, if not worthless…Ever the pragmatist, Rechler decided not to throw good money after bad at 61 Broadway, and defaulted to his bank on a $240 million loan.

Jon Wertheim: I could see people saying, "that's a lot of money. How did he sleep last night?"

Scott Rechler: We invest a lot of equity. If it works, we make a lot of money. If it doesn't work, the lender-- can take over the building. You gotta face reality, right? Reality's coming your way.

The reality is the price of office buildings is tanking, as much as 40% since the pandemic. Uptown at Columbia Business School, Stijn Van Nieuwerburgh, a professor of real estate, has modeled out the impact of hybrid work on pricing…and calls it a train wreck in slow motion.

Prof. Stijn Van Nieuwerburgh: And this is just the beginning. And the reason it's just the beginning is because there's a lot of office tenants that have not had to make an active space decision yet. "Do I want to renew this space? Do I wanna vacate? Maybe I sign a new lease for half as much space." This is what tenants have been doing for the last three years. So when you take all of those current and future declines of cash flows into account, we end up with about a 40% reduction in the value of these offices.

Consider this office building near Penn Station - one of a handful of sales in the city last fall. Built in 1920 and showing its age, eight empty floors with a 99-cent store on the ground level.

Real estate partners Tony Park and Elad Dror, told us they'd been eyeing that building for years, and, pre-pandemic, offered the owner $80 million. They didn't get very far.

Tony Park: He doesn't answer.

Jon Wertheim: He didn't even answer you guys?

Tony Park: He didn't answer, (laugh) yeah. We didn't have his attention, at all.

Jon Wertheim: So what do you think happened? 

Tony Park: The whole building is now empty.

In September, Park and Dror got the building for less than half their original offer. And they have plans to convert the place.

Jon Wertheim: Did you ever think of just keeping it as an office building? 

Tony Park: No. Never.

Jon Wertheim: You laugh. 

Tony Park: Anything that is not an office.


Thursday, January 18, 2024

Billionaires don't want Eric Adams to go to prison


Mayor Eric Adams has already spent more than $400,000 on legal costs for a federal investigation involving his 2021 campaign. The expense was revealed Tuesday, in the first disclosure of a fund he established to allow him to fundraise to pay off the bills.

Meanwhile a 2025 campaign filing also released Tuesday night shows Adams’ reelection bid doled out more than $181,000 over the course of six-and-a-half months to his former fundraiser, whose Brooklyn home was raided by FBI agents in November as part of the probe.

A campaign spokesperson didn’t respond to a request for comment about the unusually high payment to Brianna Suggs.

Adams still has almost $300,000 left in his Legal Defense Fund and plans to continue seeking contributions, a representative for the trust told POLITICO.

The bulk of his legal defense spending —$397,000 — went to WilmerHale, the white shoe firm employing Adams’ lawyers Boyd Johnson and Brendan McGuire. McGuire worked as Adams’ chief counsel in City Hall before resigning last summer.

A smaller payment of about $6,000 went to the firm Haystack for “forensic data collection” — a hire by the legal team to review electronic records, explained the representative, who was granted anonymity to speak freely.

Adams’ campaign compliance attorney, Vito Pitta, serves as counsel for the trust and his firm was paid $7,500 for its work to date. Artus Group, a firm of private detectives, was paid $18,664 to vet would-be donors.

The trust is overseen by the city Conflicts of Interest Board and must adhere to strict limits on who can give: City employees, lobbyists and their family members, among others, are prohibited from donating.

The trust reported raising more than $732,000 in eight weeks from about 223 individual donors, about half giving the maximum allowable donation of $5,000.

Contributors include Alexander Rovt, a billionaire businessperson who’s been accused of running a “fiefdom” through his board chair position in a Brooklyn health care system. Two of Rovt’s family members, Olga and Maxwell, also gave $5,000 each.

Assemblymember Jenifer Rajkumar, a steadfast ally of the mayor who’s regularly seen by his side at official events, gave $2,500. She appeared to be the only elected official to donate.

Former Mayor Mike Bloomberg donated, as POLITICO first reported ahead of the filing. “Mike thinks it’s in the city’s interest for Mayor Adams to succeed, and it’s not in the city’s interest for him to be distracted,” longtime Bloomberg adviser Howard Wolfson said.

Other billionaires who gave include cryptocurrency investor Brock Pierce and Russian-tied businessperson Leonard Blavatnik, the Daily News first reported.

Frank Carone, Adams’ former chief of staff who now runs a consulting firm, gave $5,000, as did three members of his family. People with business before the city aren’t allowed to contribute, but Carone — who remains close to the mayor — is not a registered lobbyist.

Tuesday, January 16, 2024

GOP candidate chickens out of debate for congressional seat to replace Santos

No Queens debate in special election 1

 Queens Chronicle

For weeks former Rep. Tom Suozzi has criticized his opponent, Mazi Pilip, the Republican Party’s nominee in the special election to replace George Santos, for her failure to commit to several televised debates.

The only one the Nassau County legislator has agreed to is one with News12 Long Island, which Queens residents cannot access.

“By hiding and refusing to debate the important issues that Queens voters care about, Mazi Pilip is showing the same lack of transparency that George Santos did,” Kim Devlin, senior advisor to the Suozzi campaign, said in a statement. The campaign also noted that the News12 debate is set for Feb. 8 — five days after early voting is set to begin.

While Suozzi, a Democrat, has repeatedly asked on social media and in press releases, “What is she hiding?” her failure to respond to requests from Telemundo and NY1 — as both outlets have confirmed (Suozzi says she has not responded to WABC, either, but the outlet did not answer the Chronicle’s inquiry) — to participate in their debates poses another question: Why would a candidate who is new to the Queens Republican scene not want to make herself known to roughly a third of the district’s voting population?

Aidan Strongreen, Pilip’s campaign manager, replied to that question just before the new year by saying Pilip “has opened a productive and enjoyable dialogue with the media and the public” on the issues, and that she is “interacting with many residents from Queens, and is accessible to people throughout the 3rd District.”

Pressed further on why Pilip has not accepted several debate invites, communications director Brian Devine told the Chronicle via email Tuesday that while Pilip “will continue to be a visible presence” in the Queens section of the 3rd Congressional District, “Unfortunately, her schedule has quickly filled up, making some other requested debate dates unworkable.”

But St. John’s University political science professor and analyst Brian Browne said both candidates’ approaches to the debates are strategic.

“This is a familiar tactic of Tom Suozzi’s,” he said. “He did this when he ran in 2006 in the primary for governor against then-Attorney General Eliot Spitzer ... He did this when him and Jumaane [Williams] were primarying [Gov.] Hochul two years ago.”


Mets world champion player and coach Bud Harrelson dead at 79


 Queens Chronicle

Bud Harrelson, the scrappy, switch-hitting shortstop for the 1969 Miracle Mets and the third-base coach for the 1986 world champions, died Wednesday night after a nearly seven-year battle with Alzheimer’s disease.

He was 79.

The two-time National League All-Star and 1986 inductee into the Mets Hall of Fame spent the first 13 seasons of a 16-year career in Flushing.

He also played for the 1973 “You Gotta Believe!” pennant winners, won the Gold Glove 1971, and received Most Valuable player votes in 1970, 1971 and 1973. He managed the club in 1990 and 1991.

“We were saddened to learn of Mets Hall of Famer Buddy Harrelson’s passing,” Mets owners Steve and Alex Cohen said in a press release on the team’s website.

“He was a skilled defender and spark plug on the 1969 Miracle Mets. The Gold Glove shortstop played 13 years in Queens, appearing in more games at short than anyone else in team history. Buddy was the third base coach on the 1986 World Champs, becoming the only person to be in uniform on both World Series winning teams. We extend our deepest condolences to his entire family.”

The team said Harrelson passed away at a hospice house in East Northport, LI.

“The Harrelson family announced they will have a celebration of his life at a later date,” according to the statement.

“Terribly sad to hear of the passing of one of the finest human beings ever to be associated with the @Mets, Bud Harrelson,”  said Howie Rose, a lifetime Mets fan and longtime team broadcaster, on X. “Apart from being a World Champion and National League Champion as a player, a World Champion as a coach and a manager, the Mets have never had better ambassador. There was no fan to whom he would refuse an autograph, a handshake or a conversation, no charity to which he would refuse a request for help, or an appearance, and no one who was any prouder to be a New York Met during and after his playing days.”

Derrel McKinley Harrelson was born in California on June 6, 1944 — D Day. He was signed by the Mets in 1963 and joined the team in 1965. He played for the Philadelphia Phillies in 1978 and 1979, and concluded his playing career with the Texas Rangers in 1980.

Harrelson was typical of the slick-fielding, light-hitting starting shortstops of his day, weighing 160 pounds. He hit six of his seven career home runs as a Met, and never more than one in a single season.

By comparison, Hall of Fame pitcher Tom Seaver hit seven of his 12 career home runs as a Met.

But his defense never quit, nor did his fighting spirit, the latter never more famously on display than in the 1973 National League playoffs in which the Mets upended the heavily favored Cincinnati Reds.

In Game 3 at Shea Stadium, with the Mets drubbing the Big Red Machine 9-2, Pete Rose tried unsuccessfully to break up  a double play with a dirty, late side. 

Rose had taken exception to comments Harrelson made to the media after Game 2. Harrelson, giving away 40 pounds to Charlie Hustle, got right into Rose’s face before Rose grabbed him, slammed him to the ground and began throwing punches.

After the multiple-contest bench-clearing brawl was brought under control and the inning ended, Rose went out to left field to a four-letter serenade and a shower of garbage from the Mets’ faithful until Reds Manager Sparky Anderson pulled his team off the field.

Manager Yogi Berra, Seaver and Willie Mays had to go out to left field to quiet the crowd down.

The unlikely Eastern Division championship club that won only 82 games in the regular season proceeded to finish off the Reds before losing the World Series to the eventual three-peat Oakland Athletics dynasty team in seven games.


Queens Eagle 


The NYC Parks Department recently shared that America’s bird was spotted amid the Pine Grove at Forest Park near Richmond Hill. 

Parks Dept. staff took the opportunity to poke fun at the rare sighting by tweeting “POV: You’re a squirrel in imminent danger” alongside photos of the bird casting a glaring look at the photographer from a branch above.

“Bald eagles can be spotted throughout the city, especially in the winter months,” wrote NYC Parks on X last week. “While they prefer a fish diet, they’ve been known to hunt for small mammals as well.”

 The bald eagle population has made a comeback across the state in recent decades. In 2017, there were over 400 known bald eagle nests across the state, mostly on public land. And while sightings of bald eagles are much more common up north along the Hudson Valley, city sightings of the eagle, with a wingspan that can reach over seven feet, are more possible now

Monday, January 15, 2024

City moving forward with congestion tax cameras despite multiple lawsuits


NY Post

Big Brother will soon be watching Big Apple highways – sparking concerns about a future toll.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority has begun installing camera equipment on New York highways to prepare to monitor a controversial $15 congestion toll to enter Manhattan’s central business district south of 60th Street as early as May, The Post has learned.

License plate readers have been attached to a pedestrian walkway above FDR Drive at East 25th Street that will be used to track vehicles that go into the toll congestion zone or stay on the highway.

The sensors are being installed on Route 9A/the West Side Highway for the same purpose, the MTA confirmed.

Both highways are excluded from the toll under state law.

But motorists who drive along the FDR Drive are worried that the equipment erected there is a fig leaf that the MTA could eventually use to charge tolls on the state highway.

The state Legislature would have to amend the law to expand the congestion toll to other locations.


“It’s the old game of `bait and switch’. Wanna bet that after a year, the MTA will go to the state legislature and say they need more money and the best way to get it is to put the congestion pricing toll on the FDR Drive and the West Side Highway?” one source who noticed the new detection equipment said.

“You can hear the MTA bureaucrats already saying that it’ll be easy because `we already have the equipment in place. As soon as you give us the green light, the bucks will just start flowing in.'”

The source, who requested anonymity added, “You can’t trust the MTA.”

Agencies that oversee the FDR passed the buck on who signed off on installing the sensors.

A spokesman for the state Department of Transportation — responsible for the FDR Drive’s upkeep — said it does not own the pedestrian walkway at 25th Street and urged The Post to check with the city DOT.

A city DOT spokesperson then urged The Post to contact “the MTA regarding the toll reading infrastructure.”

“It’s amazing to see the MTA turn into the MI6 spy agency when it comes to screwing drivers but it can’t even make a turnstile to prevent subway fare beating,” quipped Councilman Joe Borelli (R-Staten Island).

Borelli was also concerned about the MTA going to the legislature in the future to expand the congestion zone to include toll-free highways.

“The legislature expanded speed cameras in the city when it was still a pilot program. The legislature can expand the congestion toll to wherever they want,” Borelli said.

Saturday, January 13, 2024

Before and after the flood

Queens Eagle 

A rainy night means a sleepless night for residents of one section of East Elmhurst. They’d prefer to catch the disaster as it strikes, rather than wake up to it in the morning.

For years, residents of 77th Street and of nearby blocks in East Elmhurst say they’ve struggled with sewer water flooding their basements and apartments, causing them anxiety, health issues and thousands of dollars in damages. Most of the flooding comes after just an average rain, they say.

As climate change brings heavier and more frequent rainfall, locals are looking for solutions, which may not be as straightforward – or as immediate – as they might hope.

“On our block, sewer backup is what impacts all of us,” said Nabil Jamaleddine, an East Elmhurst local and software engineer who has lived in the area since 2017.

Pretty much whenever it rains, locals on 77th Street and surrounding blocks in the neighborhood, stress about sewer surges, which occur when the sewer system and catch basins can’t keep up with the demand brought on by the falling rain.

Heavy rain or a dangerous storm is bad, but just a little bit of rain, Jamaleddine says, can create an immense problem.

“Any amount of sewage in the basement, over a few inches, or even half an inch, is just terrible to deal with,” he said.

The flooding often leads to mold, which becomes a problem in itself. Cleaning the damage caused by the flooding creates more worries due to toxins in the sewer water that find their way into East Elmhurst basements.

Alvaro Cruz, another resident, got an infection in his legs several months after cleaning his basement after Hurricane Ida, which he attests to the dirty water.

“I was in the hospital three times,” he said.

The dangers of the water’s contents usually result in almost everything it touches, including important belongings and family heirlooms, needing to be thrown out.

Draining the basement is just half the battle – wallets are also drained.

“[I’m] just pouring money into this thing just to try to fix it,” said Jamaleddine. “But that thing gets very expensive. A lot of neighbors, they just don't have the funds to do this sort of thing.”

The problems first began to be noticed by residents after Hurricane Ida in 2021, which destroyed basements and flooded areas across the city, leaving 13 dead in the five boroughs, including 11 people from Queens.

The response to tha storm prompted a resurrected conversation on storm readiness, congressional hearings and even a visit from President Joe Biden, who stopped by a flooded block in East Elmhurst.


Senior citizen dies after an ebike rider hits him


Queens Post 

 A 75-year-old Elmhurst man died on Saturday, 10 days after he was struck by an e-bike rider while walking in the vicinity of Roosevelt Avenue and Broadway in Jackson Heights.

Kabrinda Nath Sen succumbed to his injuries at Elmhurst Hospital, a block away from his home on Ithaca Street, according to the NYPD.

Sen was struck in broad daylight in front of the Jackson Heights–Roosevelt Avenue/74th Street subway station at around 12:15 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 27, authorities said. 

Police from the 115th Precinct in Jackson Heights responded to a 911 call of a pedestrian stuck at the intersection and found the senior with injuries to his head. EMS rushed him to Elmhurst Hospital in critical condition. He died on Jan. 6, police said.

Further investigation by the NYPD’s Highway District Collision Investigation Squad determined that Sen was crossing Roosevelt Avenue at Broadway when a cyclist riding an e-bike westbound on Roosevelt Avenue plowed into him. Sen’s head stuck the pavement, ultimately killing him. 

The cyclist remained at the scene and was not arrested, police said Wednesday.


Friday, January 12, 2024

QBP Richards lied about education chairperson's removal

Queens Chronicle

Adriana Alicea, a Community Education Council 28 member appointed by Queens Borough President Donovan Richards who came under fire for posts on her social media, is still serving on the panel despite both Richards and the Department of Education saying her seat had been vacated.

The borough president expressed concerns about the handling of her status on the CEC in a Jan. 3 letter to schools Chancellor David Banks.

“I am writing concerning an individual whom I had previously appointed to Community Education Council 28, Adriana Alicea, and the lack of clarity in your agency’s position regarding her current status as a member of the CEC,” Richards wrote at the start of the letter, which was sent via email to the chancellor.

In the letter, obtained by the Chronicle, Richards wrote that he sought Alicea's resignation after reviewing her social media posts. Some on her personal X page contained hateful, pro-Palestinian and anti-white rhetoric regarding the Israel-Hamas war.

“While all are entitled to their personal opinions regarding this horrible conflict, after reviewing these statements, I concluded that several of them fundamentally were incompatible with her duties as an appointed public servant, including an explicit defense of Hamas and a justification for students targeting a Jewish teacher at Hillcrest High School on November 20, 2023,” Richards told Banks.

According to the letter, on Dec. 5, Richards’s general counsel spoke with Alicea, informing her of the borough president's request for her resignation. Richards wrote that Alicea “indicated that she acceded to this request.” 

Separately, Alicea also told the Chronicle at the time that she was being stripped of her appointment. She could not be reached again for comment.

“But later,” Richards wrote, “Ms. Alicea contacted members of the Family and Community Engagement team to either dispute or attempt to withdraw that resignation, instead characterizing what occurred as a removal. My office’s position has been and continues to be that this seat became vacant on December 5.”

Of her attendance at the following calendar meeting, Richards wrote, “On December 7, 2023, Ms. Alicea attended the CEC 28 meeting, and amidst the confusion that body’s president stated that absent a written communication from my office clarifying her status he would continue to recognize Ms. Alicea as a member. The controversy dominated that meeting at the expense of important business.”

To address the matter, Richards said his general counsel then met with senior members of the FACE team on Dec. 8, according to the email. FACE advised Richards to send written communication to the CEC 28 president, clearly stating the borough president's position and to appoint a new member to fill the vacant seat.

“On December 13, we submitted to FACE the name of my preferred new nominee and on December 15 I sent a letter to the CEC 28 president, copying FACE, clarifying my position that the seat was now vacant and that I would be appointing a new member shortly,” Richards wrote.

“On the evening of December 15, FACE notified my office that my preferred candidate had cleared their vetting, and then I formalized that appointment on December 19 by notifying the nominee as well as FACE.”

However, according to the letter, on Dec. 21, a representative from the DOE’s intergovernmental team informed Richards' office that Alicea's refusal to provide a written resignation would hinder the appointment of a new member. 

“My concern is that the conflicting messages from your agency to my office regarding this matter has hindered our shared ability to move forward in the best interests of the students and families of District 28 and generated unneeded confusion and controversy,” Richards wrote. “I look forward to working with you to resolve this matter.”

The Borough President’s Office on Friday told the Chronicle that it had not yet received a written response to the letter.


Three little congestion pricing hypocrites



In order to desperately flip Congress back to a Democrat majority, Assemblyman Harvey Esptein along with Reps. Jerry Nadler, Dan Goldman  and Ardillo Espillant are going to take a bus with Dem supporters to Bayside,Queens to back Tom Suozzi to win the house seat back in his district. 

Which is hilarious because Epstein, Nadler and Goldman are staunch supporters for the congestion pricing tax, yet they would rather take a fossil fuel burning charter bus than a hybrid city bus. Suozzi would probably be better off without their toxic support.

Thursday, January 11, 2024

Here comes gentrification


 NY Post

There’s a new contender for the hottest borough in town. 

A report released this week by listings portal StreetEasy predicts that this year will see Queens beat out ever-trendy Brooklyn in terms of residential interest. 

“Queens will reign supreme in 2024 after a record-breaking year for the borough in 2023, as both renters and would-be buyers looked farther from Manhattan in search of more affordability,” begins StreetEasy’s “10 NYC Neighborhoods to Watch in 2024”  survey, which lists the New York areas that saw the largest increase in searches on the website from buyers and renters between 2022 to 2023. 

In first place is Ridgewood, a Queens neighborhood adjacent to Bushwick that offers comparatively quiet, residential vibes and a median asking rent of $3,000 — 8% less than Bushwick’s median of $3,250. 

Ridgewood is one of five Queens neighborhoods to rank in StreetEasy’s top 10, with others including Jackson Heights — which is famed for its wonderfully diverse food offerings, from Indian to Tibetan — Kew Gardens and Woodside. Ridgewood saw buyer and renter searches rise by 10.7% from 2022 to 2023, showing its surging popularity among locals looking for a home. What helps in that end is the neighborhood’s collection of restaurants and bars, as well as vintage stores and art galleries.

Jeni from the block holds fundraiser in Manhattan with the Mayor


New York City Mayor Eric Adams showed up in support of Assembly Member Jenifer Rajkumar at a fundraiser she hosted at Manhattan’s Fish & Hunt Club.

 City And State

Assembly Member Jenifer Rajkumar threw a fundraiser at midtown Manhattan’s Hunt & Fish Club last night, asking attendants to donate $3,000 for a night of open bar, food and access to New York City Mayor Eric Adams. Aside from the mayor’s appearance and remarks, the event at the Times Square venue drew other well-known Rajkumar supporters, including Kathryn Wylde, president and CEO of the nonprofit Partnership for New York City. “Jenifer is very thoughtful. She’s very consultative. She represents a very diverse community and does it in a way that’s very balanced, where she pays attention to the concerns of business, residents and puts that all together. Jenifer is a terrific asset in the Assembly.”

Rajkumar, in her signature red dress, struck a pose as she addressed a crowd of supporters at the exclusive Midtown club. She credited Theodore Roosevelt’s “The Man in the Arena” speech for inspiring her commitment to making a difference as a politician.

“I’m going to change it,” she said of the Roosevelt speech from 1910. “I’m going to change it and I’m going to call it, ‘The Woman in the Arena.’ And it is not the critics that count. Not the man who points out how the strong woman stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done better. It belongs to the woman who is actually in the arena.”

Adams also spoke, throwing his support behind the candidate who made history as the first Indian American woman elected to state office. Rajkumar appeared on stage with Adams and proclaimed herself the first politician out of Queens to endorse the mayor for his 2025 reelection bid.

The mayor posed for several photos with supporters, asking at one point to make sure Rajkumar was included. He left shortly after the pair made remarks on stage, giving Rajkumar a warm hug and kiss on the cheek. City & State caught up with the mayor as he got into his Chevy Suburban outside on West 44th Street, a commercial strip known for its busy nightlife scene. The mayor was asked about his thoughts after Gov. Kathy Hochul’s State of the State address on Tuesday, a speech that hinted at little progress in solving the migrant crisis and other issues impacting the city.

“Without a doubt. I’ve been talking cannabis initiatives, I’ve been talking about housing initiatives, I’ve been talking about what we’re going to do about moving forward with so many other agendas, (from) the environment to all those things I’ve been talking about, which is really exciting,” he said as he entered the SUV, a rack of designer and tailored suits visible inside.

 So the governor is still not going to help us with the migrant dystopia. Thanks Kathy Clown.


Cop a feel and beat the fare

NY Post 

Forget swiping — or jumping.

Waving one’s hand over an ill-placed sensor is all that’s needed to get past a new set of $700,000 subway gates the MTA is testing to crack down on fare-beating.

The simple hack, first exposed in a TikTok video, was replicated by The Post this week — proving how embarrassingly easy it is to defeat the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s shiny new line of defense against turnstile jumpers.

In the video, posted by a user named kiingspiidertv, a man walks up to the gates at the Sutphin Boulevard-Archer Avenue station in Queens, then leans over the paddles of a neighboring gate and waves his hand over the exit sensor.

The doors fling open, letting him saunter through as if that’s how it was supposed to work.

“How To Avoid Getting A Ticket✅ “NEW NYC TURNSTILE HACK,” the clip is captioned.

But there was another flaw, as Post reporters discovered, namely that the doors stay open for about five seconds — giving fare-beaters plenty of time to scurry through on the heels of paying customers.

This happened several times at the Queens station — as did people going through in pairs with only a single ticket swipe.

“One person will pay and three will go through,” an MTA employee at the station told The Post. “Or someone goes through with a stroller and the others just walk through. When I see them, I say, ‘No, you gotta pay. I don’t let them through.”

It’s not quite the rollout the agency wanted for the new design, installed late last year as part of a test of potential remedies to the fare-beating plague that robbed $690 million from the city’s coffers in 2022.

A new building on the city's affordable housing program cheapest rent is nearly 4 grand a month

Queens Post 

Seven affordable housing units—all 2-bedroom apartments—are up for grabs in a Long Island City development with monthly rents starting at $3,835.

The units, located at 37-25 32nd St., are part of a 6-story, 15-unit development. The city has recently opened a lottery for the affordable units.

The affordable units are for residents who earn up to 130% of the area median income (AMI), ranging from $131,486 to $198,250, depending on household size. Each affordable housing unit is meant for between two and five people.

Amenities include a shared laundry room, a dishwasher in each unit, air conditioning, high-speed internet, a rooftop terrace, a virtual doorman, an elevator, security cameras, a parking garage, an accessible entrance and more.

Queens is burning again: Lithium ion battery inferno guts electronics store selling unregistered motorcycles and a house blaze kills a woman and her son who tried to save her

A two-alarm fire that broke out in a commercial building in South Richmond Hill on Saturday night was caused by an exploding lithium-ion battery that saw nearly two dozen e-bikes erupt in flames, according to the FDNY. Fire marshals based their determination on a digital video recording that showed smoke coming from a battery and within 20 seconds it exploded sending a wall of flame that consumed the shop.

The blaze took place inside King Electronic Hub at 119-07 Liberty Ave. just after 9:45 p.m. and firefighters were met by heavy smoke spewing from behind roll-down security gates. The two-story building included apartments above.

 NY Post

An 86-year-old woman was killed in a Queens fire along with her son, who fearlessly rushed back inside the burning home in a desperate attempt to save his mother, according to witnesses and the FDNY.

The two-alarm blaze broke out in the basement of a house on 164th Street between 108th and 109th avenues in Jamaica around 6 p.m., catching the attention of passerby Gersham McGowan, who stopped and called 911.

But before placing the emergency call, McGowan said he spoke to the 61-year-old man outside the house, who told him he had to go back inside to rescue his elderly mom.

“He never came out, his mom never came out either and later on I saw they took two bodies from the house,” McGowan said.


Big Mother Hochul's light rail project makes first baby steps


The proposed Interborough Express (IBX) light rail between Brooklyn and Queens is inching forward, with officials hoping the project can be designed and engineering challenges resolved starting this year, Gov. Kathy Hochul announced on Tuesday.

The governor’s 2024 State of the State policy book, accompanying her big speech to a joint legislative session in Albany Tuesday, notes that the MTA will “initiate formal design and engineering” on the IBX, which aims to convert the underutilized Bay Ridge Branch rail spur, owned by the Long Island Rail Road and currently used by CSX freight rail, into a light rail line between Brooklyn and Queens, sharply reducing commute times between the two boroughs.

The line would run 14 miles between Bay Ridge and Jackson Heights, running through many neighborhoods with few transit options while also connecting to 17 other subway lines. The MTA estimates the line would see 120,000 daily riders by 2045, and cost $5.5 billion to construct.

“The [IBX] represents one of the most impactful infrastructure projects initiated by Gov. Hochul,” the policy book reads, “with the potential to substantially cut down on travel times, reduce congestion, and link nearly 900,000 residents in Brooklyn and Queens to more than 17 transit connections.”

Gov. Hochul announced she would pursue the IBX in her 2022 State of the State address, crystallizing a longtime dream by rail advocates. The proposal was based on a long-floating plan by the Regional Plan Association called the Triboro, which would extend the line further into the Bronx, but the Boogie-Down portion was cut due to conflicts with the MTA’s Penn Access project on the same existing tracks.

The governor in 2022 directed the MTA to commence an environmental review for the project, which she has since described as her “baby,” and in the following year’s State of the State, she said the project would move forward as light rail.

Unlike a subway, a light rail can travel at the street level, and the MTA plans to briefly divert the right-of-way onto Metropolitan Avenue and 69th Street in Middle Village for about 2/3 of a mile before returning to the pre-existing tracks. How the MTA would actually go about doing that is one of the key engineering problems they must get to the bottom of, even before worrying about potential lawsuits from local residents.

Sunday, January 7, 2024

Fiends steals 4-year-old disabled child's wheelchair


A mother is seeking answers following the theft of her disabled son’s wheelchair by a group of thieves outside of her South Ozone Park home on Monday. 

Marta Escobar, a mother of a 4-year-old disabled child, says she left her home around 5:30 p.m. to run errands when a group of strangers took her son’s wheelchair stroller from the side of her home on Jan. 1. Her son, Anthony, is unable to walk or talk and is in great need of the wheelchair stroller.

Video footage, shared by Escobar on Facebook and Instagram, captures three trespassers entering the alleyway of her home a little after 5:45 p.m., minutes after she left.  

The intruders, with what appears to be a child, are seen on video entering the property and walking away with the wheelchair stroller, two other umbrella strollers, and packs of diapers. 

Escobar says her son’s prescription medicine was also stolen when the wheelchair and strollers were taken. On social media, Escobar claims migrants were responsible for stealing her son’s wheelchair, although this has not been verified. 

“It’s not fair that we are trying our best as a city to help these people and they are coming freely and walking into our private homes and stealing things that are so delicate and necessary for my child to be able to get to school every day,” Escobar wrote.

Weeding out the unregistered smoke shops



A new bill sponsored by Queens Assembly Member Jenifer Rajkumar aims to shut down smoke shops that are illegally selling cannabis in New York City.

Rajkumar’s bill, called the SMOKEOUT Act (A8428), was introduced in Albany last week, and would grant local municipalities the power to close smoke shops caught illegally selling cannabis. Currently, the industry is primarily policed on a state level and enforcement has been limited.

The bill aims to address the public’s concern about the proliferation of illegal smoke shops, which have emerged since cannabis use was legalized in 2021.

“My legislation puts the power back in the hands of the people and municipalities, so that we can stop the sale of unlicensed cannabis that is endangering our children and our neighborhoods,” Rajkumar said.

Rajkumar, a longtime proponent of Mayor Eric Adams, says the bill would provide the Adams administration with the ability to promptly shut down illegal smoke shops in the city. Adams, who supports the bill, said the city would take swift action following Albany’s approval.

Currently, the State Cannabis Control Board, the approval and oversight body of the Office of Cannabis Management, operates as the only state entity responsible for shutting down the thousands of illegal smoke shops in operation.

Rajkumar unveiled her new legislation during a Mayoral town hall in December. Adams, who was in attendance, acknowledged that there was a lack of enforcement, noting that OCM doesn’t have the personnel to get on top of the problem.

Currently, many shops are being issued with fines, but are rarely shut down.

“Right now, the State has the enforcement power and the State does not have the manpower to do the enforcement. And so many of these places are opening and they’re laughing at the fines,” said Adams during the town hall last year. “It’s the price of doing business. They’re making so much money that they’re just opening and continuing to sell to our children.”

A new bill sponsored by Queens Assembly Member Jenifer Rajkumar aims to shut down smoke shops that are illegally selling cannabis in New York City.

Rajkumar’s bill, called the SMOKEOUT Act (A8428), was introduced in Albany last week, and would grant local municipalities the power to close smoke shops caught illegally selling cannabis. Currently, the industry is primarily policed on a state level and enforcement has been limited.

The bill aims to address the public’s concern about the proliferation of illegal smoke shops, which have emerged since cannabis use was legalized in 2021.

“My legislation puts the power back in the hands of the people and municipalities, so that we can stop the sale of unlicensed cannabis that is endangering our children and our neighborhoods,” Rajkumar said.

Rajkumar, a longtime proponent of Mayor Eric Adams, says the bill would provide the Adams administration with the ability to promptly shut down illegal smoke shops in the city. Adams, who supports the bill, said the city would take swift action following Albany’s approval.

Currently, the State Cannabis Control Board, the approval and oversight body of the Office of Cannabis Management, operates as the only state entity responsible for shutting down the thousands of illegal smoke shops in operation.

Rajkumar unveiled her new legislation during a Mayoral town hall in December. Adams, who was in attendance, acknowledged that there was a lack of enforcement, noting that OCM doesn’t have the personnel to get on top of the problem.

Currently, many shops are being issued with fines, but are rarely shut down.

“Right now, the State has the enforcement power and the State does not have the manpower to do the enforcement. And so many of these places are opening and they’re laughing at the fines,” said Adams during the town hall last year. “It’s the price of doing business. They’re making so much money that they’re just opening and continuing to sell to our children.”

Queens is hungry



new report from the state’s Department of Health found that 30.9% of Queens adults — the second-highest percentage among the five boroughs — self-reported that they were “always, sometimes or usually worried or stressed about having enough money to buy nutritious meals in the past 12 months.”

Only the Bronx had a higher percentage among the boroughs, at 39%.

The research, conducted county-by-county throughout the state, paints a grim picture of health in New York. Within the New York City boroughs, Staten Island (Richmond County) reported the lowest percentage of food insecurity, but still came in at 22.1%. Statewide, food insecurity was reported by nearly one in four adults.

Bronx had the highest percentage among New York’s 62 counties, with Queens ranking second. Brooklyn ranked third, at 30.1%.

Lack of nutritious food can have serious health impacts.

“Hunger stresses the body and mind, and can result in malnutrition, inability to concentrate, anxiety and depression,” State Health Commissioner Dr. James McDonald said in a statement. “In addition, adults who experience food insecurity are more likely to report chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, asthma and cancer.”