Saturday, March 30, 2024

You will take the train and you'll like it


Queens Eagle

After years of debate over one of New York City’s most controversial political topics, the MTA officially passed its final congestion pricing plan on Wednesday morning.

Initially passed by the state legislature in 2019, congestion pricing will add a toll for drivers heading into lower Manhattan south of 60th Street. The MTA, Mayor Eric Adams, Governor Kathy Hochul and other advocates hope the program will inject funding into the MTA’s public transit services and cut down on emission-emitting congestion in the busy borough.

But even with the MTA’s final vote, ongoing legal challenges from the governor of New Jersey, the teacher’s union and outer borough officials remain in the courts. Additionally, a handful of elected officials, including many in Eastern and Central Queens, remain frustrated with the program they claim will unfairly tax their car-dependent constituents.

The MTA board passed congestion pricing by an 11-1 vote on Wednesday – the only downvote coming from Long Island representative David Mack – and is the final stop on the plan’s path to implementation, which the MTA expects to happen in mid-June.

“Today’s vote is one of the most significant the board has ever undertaken, and the MTA is ready,” said MTA Chair and CEO Janno Lieber. “New York has more traffic than any place in the United States and now we're doing something about it.”

According to the MTA, passenger vehicles and small commercial vehicles – sedans, SUVs, pick-up trucks and small vans – paying with a valid E-ZPass will be charged $15 during the day and $3.75 at night, when there is less congestion, to enter the “congestion relief zone.” They will be charged once a day, regardless of how many times they enter or exit the area.

Trucks and some buses will be charged a toll of $24 or $36 during the day to enter the area, depending on their size and function, and $6 or $9 at night. Motorcycles will pay $7.50 during the day and $1.75 at night.

With congestion pricing’s implementation almost guaranteed, recent debates over the program have revolved around who would receive discounts or exemptions from the toll.

Yellow taxi, green cab and black car passengers will pay a $1.25 toll for every trip to, from, within or through the zone, and people taking ride-shares like Uber or Lyft will have $2.50 tacked on to their fee.

Qualifying emergency vehicles and qualifying vehicles carrying people with disabilities will be totally exempt, as will school buses, buses providing scheduled commuter services open to the public, commuter vans licensed with the NYC Taxi and Limousine Commission and specialized government vehicles.

Several officials and electeds celebrated the MTA board’s vote on the plan that many hope will bring help to the city’s transit riders, the environment and those who do need to drive to the city with less traffic in lower Manhattan.

“After nearly five years of gridlock, the MTA board finally paved the way for congestion pricing in New York City,” said city Comptroller Brad Lander. “Congestion pricing will ease traffic, cut carbon emissions and provide our beleaguered transit system with the resources it needs to modernize signals, boost accessibility, and serve more riders.”

Local Queens officials, like Western Queens Assemblymember Zohran Mamdani also celebrated the toll’s passage, but said he wanted to see the MTA meet the goals of bettering transit service for outer borough residents.

“The promise of congestion pricing has long been to transform our city’s public transit,” Mamdani said in a statement. “Congestion pricing cannot just make it more expensive for New Yorkers to drive: instead, we must deliver on this promise for New Yorkers by making public transit more frequent, reliable, and affordable from the very first day of the toll.”

Mamdani is currently pushing for his “Get Congestion Pricing Right” plan, which includes a $90 million infusion for buses to get into the final state budget next week.

On Wednesday when asked about the legislator’s plan, Lieber said the MTA is “always happy to increase service.”

However, not everyone is ready to pay the fare, including some Queens officials who argue the toll will be at the disadvantage of drivers in the World’s Borough who will have to routinely pay the toll to get to work.

"The MTA Board's approval of congestion pricing is a blatant assault on every New Yorker who's already struggling to get by,” Councilmember Bob Holden said in a statement. “It's a disgusting cash grab that punishes our most vulnerable — those with no choice but to commute from transit deserts.”

Although Holden’s office did not reply to follow-up questions, the Common Sense Caucus co-chair said that more legal challenges for congestion pricing could be on the horizon.

“This isn't just a policy failure; it's an act of war on the working class,” he said. “Mark my words: we're taking this fight straight to the courts. See you there."

Holden, who is already signed onto a lawsuit against congestion pricing, argued that the MTA pushed the plan through without conducting an environmental review or public input processes.

“They control this whole process,” Holden said. “The MTA is a fraudulent authority, and they wanted to do this so they rubber stamped it through and again, we're going to blame anybody that was for this, including the governor, we're gonna blame them and they might have a tough time next time when they're running for office.”

Queens Assemblymember David Weprin has long been a challenger of congestion pricing, and is a co-plaintiff on one of the two lawsuits looking to slow its implementation.

“It is a sham,” said Weprin. “Any testimony was all a show. We knew the foregone conclusion before the vote, and I don't think it's fair.”


City of God

 Queens Eagle

Mayor Eric Adams made a trip to Queens on Friday to announce a faith-based housing initiative that would allow houses of worship to more easily build affordable housing.

Adams, alongside South Queens clergy members and other elected officials, unveiled the plan, which he says will make it easier for faith-based organizations to add new housing on their property and generate income for their organizations through zoning law changes.

The initiative is included under the mayor’s expansive City of Yes housing program, which proposes zoning changes that would add “a little more housing in every neighborhood,” but has received some pushback from suburban areas in Queens and other boroughs from residents who are resistant to building up housing density in residential neighborhoods.

Highlighting one aspect of the plan on Friday, the mayor said the zoning law changes would allow faith campuses, which are typically large lots with multiple buildings on them, to create new housing on their available land.

“We cannot let old, outdated zoning rules keep us from building new housing and our mission driven, faith-based and community organizations can play a special role in this entire process,” said Adams from Antioch Baptist Church. “So, we say, ‘Yes, in God's backyard,’ today.”

As the city deals with an ongoing affordability crisis as well as an overcrowded shelter system, the hope is that programs like the one announced on Friday can open the door to more affordable housing in New York City neighborhoods, the mayor said.

“We're throwing open the door to new solutions and new housing that would help us solve the crisis by working with our churches, our synagogues, mosques and other faith organizations to build more housing and reclaim our city,” Adams said.

In Queens, Borough President Donovan Richards called the lack of affordable housing a “state of emergency.”

“We have 40,000 migrants in our care in this borough, but let me also add that we had a compounding issue with homelessness for a long time in our city as well,” he said at the church on Friday. “So, you add those two things together, and we are in a state of emergency – but there are some great signs of progress in the borough.”

Richards spoke in support of the faith-based housing plan, as well as City of Yes proposal more generally.

“This rezoning really gives us the opportunity to not just talk about the housing crisis but to get to be a part of the solution,” he said.

“I've heard from many of our leaders who want to be a part of the solution who want to do God's work, but who are really prohibited from doing it because sometimes…we have challenges in financing,” he added. “But one way to ensure we can move many of these projects forward is to do what God has called us to do and that is to take care of the least amongst us.”

The plan also aims to help the houses of worship. as well – a group that largely supported Adams’ bid for mayor – by allowing them to make revenue from the program.

“We have to have more flexibility,” Adams said. “We have to live in the real world. The ideal cannot collide with the real, and these faith-based leaders have been talking about this over and over again. They want to deliver more housing and we want to give them the opportunity to do so.”


Monday, March 25, 2024

Recidivist criminal kills cop in Far Rockaway

NY Post 

 An NYPD officer was shot and killed by a career criminal during a traffic stop in Queens on Monday evening, according to law enforcement sources.

The 34-year-old suspect, who has 21 prior arrests, shot through the window of the vehicle while seated in a passenger seat, striking the uniformed officer in the stomach around 5:50 p.m. near 19-19 Mott Avenue in Far Rockaway, the sources said.

The bullet hit the 31-year-old officer under his police vest, sources said.

Other officers returned fire, and the suspect,  a passenger in the vehicle, was struck in the back, according to sources.

The cop was rushed to Jamaica Hospital where he was later pronounced dead, sources said.

The suspect was also taken to Jamaica Hospital where police said his condition was not immediately known.

Other officers returned fire, and the suspect,  a passenger in the vehicle, was struck in the back, according to sources.

The cop was rushed to Jamaica Hospital where he was later pronounced dead, sources said.

The suspect was also taken to Jamaica Hospital where police said his condition was not immediately known.

Thursday, March 21, 2024

Vanishing New York bus service New York

 In December, the MTA unveiled its proposed final plan for the Queens Bus Network Redesign, part of a citywide effort to expedite bus service.

But some South Ozone Park residents say the elimination of key stops in their neighborhood is a problem, not a solution.

The Q10 bus serves as a link to JFK Airport and the subway. MTA's proposed plan would reroute riders, in some cases adding travel time.

"You're making people go from one bus to either two or three buses, for what reason? It doesn't make sense to me," South Ozone Park resident Nia Rollins said.

MTA's proposed plan would eliminate the 130th Street stop where she begins her daily commute to Midtown Manhattan, requiring her to pay double the fare for multiple bus transfers. She worries a consolidation of the Q9 and Q10 will intensify crowding on buses at rush hour.

Locals shared emotional testimony at the March monthly meeting of Community Board 10, objecting to proposed alternate routes they call unfamiliar, unsafe and unreliable. 

In a statement, a spokesperson for the MTA told CBS New York: "The proposed reroute of the Q10 is designed for a faster and more reliable riding experience by improving speed and reliability on the Lefferts Blvd corridor. We encourage members of the public to continue to provide feedback on the Plan at upcoming outreach events."

"It feels like lip service," district leader Richard David said. 

He says the neighborhood's trust in the MTA was lost last summer when a southbound bus stop at 130th Street and Sutter Avenue suddenly disappeared. Met with community outrage, the MTA vowed to reinstate the stop but has not yet done so.

David says a vague timeline for the potential bus route changes is keeping neighbors vigilant.

"To just keep an eye on the MTA and their process — and the potential that they might pull a fast one — is a full-time job," he said.

 Here's how you can keep an eye of the regulatory captured MTA and let them know how devastating their reroutes and bus stop removals will be for commuters. 

(Notice there are no pop-ups in Middle Village or Maspeth where buses are the only mass transit available. But you think they would do one by the M train on Metropolitan)

The Redesign team will be out in communities across Queens on the dates listed below from 4-7 p.m. In the case of extreme weather, events may be rescheduled so customers are advised to check the project webpage before heading out to an event.


    Monday, March 25: 165 St Bus Terminal, underneath the canopy of the bus bays
    Tuesday, March 26: Flushing-Main St ​, on the central mezzanine of the subway station
    Wednesday, March 27: Queens Center Mall, the northwest corner of Queens Blvd and Woodhaven Blvd
    Tuesday, April 2:  Jamaica-179 St ​, on the central mezzanine
    Wednesday, April 3: Myrtle-Wyckoff Pedestrian Plaza outside of ​​ subway station (between Gates Av and Palmetto St)
    Wednesday, April 3: Rockaway Park-Beach 116 St ​​(A) subway station main entrance
    Monday, April 8: Diversity Plaza near Jackson Heights 74 St-Roosevelt Av ​​​​​ (7) subway station (between Broadway & 74 St)
    Tuesday, April 9: Woodhaven Blvd southbound bus median outside the Rockaway Blvd ​ subway station (in front of PC Richard & Son)
    Monday, April 15: Queens Village LIRR Station, at the corner of Springfield Blvd and Amboy Ln  
    Tuesday, April 16: Union Tpke and Utopia Pkwy, on the southeast corner
    Wednesday, April 17: Lefferts Blvd AirTrain Station, near the Q3, Q10, and B15 bus stops
    Wednesday, April 17: Queens Plaza South and 28 St, on the southwest corner of the intersection


In partnership with the MTA’s Mobile Sales team, the Queens Bus Network Redesign team will be on-site at five Mobile Sales locations this spring to meet with bus customers, talk about the Proposed Final Plan and routes proposed in their neighborhood, and receive feedback.


    Monday, April 8 from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. in Astoria at Ditmars Blvd and 23 Av
    Tuesday, April 16 from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. at the Rochdale Village Senior Center
    Thursday, April 18 from 10 a.m.-12 p.m. in Jamaica at the Allen Community Senior Citizens Center
    Friday, May 3 from 1 p.m.-3 p.m. at the Rego Park Mall outside Marshall’s
    Monday, May 13 from 10 a.m.-12 p.m. at the Bay Terrace Shopping Center (Bell Blvd and 24 Av)


AOC goes from the Squad to the Biden Syndicate

Monday, March 18, 2024

Quid Blow Quo

A former police colleague of New York City Mayor Eric Adams claims in a bombshell new lawsuit alleging sexual assault that he exposed himself to her and demanded she perform oral sex on him in exchange for help with a job issue more than three decades ago.

The accuser, Lorna Beach-Mathura, first came forward in November by filing a notice of claim saying she planned to sue Adams for sexual assault. The brief November filing didn’t include specifics about the accusation.

NY Daily News

In response to the newly filed lawsuit, Sylvia Hinds-Radix, the city government’s corporation counsel who’s representing Adams in the sexual assault case, said the mayor vehemently denies Beach-Mathura’s accusations.

“While we review the complaint, the mayor fully denies these outrageous allegations and the events described here; we expect full vindication in court,” Hinds-Radix said in a statement.

The suit, filed Monday afternoon in Manhattan Supreme Court, alleges the incident took place in 1993, when Beach-Mathura and Adams both worked for the city Transit Police Department.

In addition to being a transit cop, Adams was at the time a top official for the Guardians Association, a Black police officers’ organization. Beach-Mathura, who was also a Guardians member, alleges Adams picked her up in his car after work in Manhattan and brought her to a vacant lot near the Hudson River after he had agreed to meet with her to talk about helping her get a promotion in the Transit Police Department.

Beach-Mathura said she went to Adams with the employment issue because she found him “inspiring” and thought he could help in his capacity as a Guardians leader. She alleges she first got to know Adams from working with him years earlier.

Initially, Beach-Mathura alleges in the lawsuit Adams was going to pick her up and give her a ride home to Coney Island to talk. Once in the car, she realized instead that he was headed to an area near the Hudson River, which made her “nervous and scared,” the lawsuit says.

Once in the empty lot, Beach-Mathura alleges Adams asked her to explain her employment issue. After she did, “Adams told Plaintiff that he thought he could help her but that he ‘also needed some help’ and began rubbing his penis through his clothes with his hand,” according to the lawsuit.

Adams then told her he wanted oral sex from her in exchange for his help, the court paper says. The lawsuit says “while repeatedly cajoling, demanding, and begging Plaintiff for oral sex, Defendant Adams unzipped his pants” and exposed himself.

Beach-Mathura alleges she “repeatedly and adamantly refused” Adams’ overtures. The suit claims Adams then “assaulted” Beach-Mathura “by grabbing her hand and placing it on his exposed” genitals and told her to masturbate him.

Beach-Mathura alleges she again refused, repeatedly saying, “No,” and trying to pull her hand away. Beach-Mathura “feared that she would be raped” by Adams, but “tried to remain calm,” the lawsuit alleges.

“Plaintiff was frightened not only due to Defendant Adams’ appalling conduct, but also because she knew that he, as a police officer, had at least one loaded gun in the car,” her lawsuit charges.

Beach-Mathura claims that after several more attempts, Adams stopped trying to talk her into a sex act, and instead started masturbating. Court papers say semen from Adams landed on Beach-Mathura’s thigh and stocking.

After the alleged assault, Beach-Mathura claims in the suit that Adams told her he needed to get back to work. He then drove her to the Chambers St. subway station in Manhattan where he dropped her off, according to the suit.

She alleges Adams never helped her with the employment issue. She left city government in 1994 and currently lives in Florida, where she has worked as a public school teacher.

Beach-Mathura claims she told “numerous people” about the alleged assault, including current and former NYPD officials as well as her two daughters, according to the suit.

She said she never formally reported the incident out of fear of retaliation from Adams, the Guardians or the NYPD, all of whom are named as defendants in her lawsuit. In addition to accusing Adams of sexual assault and battery, Beach-Mathura’s suit says the Guardians and the NYPD violated anti-gender violence laws by having “enabled” his alleged behavior.

The NYPD and the Guardians did not immediately return requests for comment on Beach-Mathura’s suit, which is seeking $5 million in damages.


Squatter restorative justice

Soon you can make your own "City Of Yes"

Fringe bike zealot org demands more bike lanes to Ridgewood Reservoir 


A group of residents who have formed Ridgewood Rides — an advocacy group of bicyclists that calls for safe streets — have launched a petition demanding safer access for cyclists and pedestrians to the Ridgewood Reservoir.

The Ridgewood Reservoir, located within Highland Park, is situated on the border of Brooklyn and Queens neighborhoods, including Bushwick and Cypress Hills. The group has garnered approximately 800 signatures in its quest to make access to the 1.18 miles of park space safe to enjoy the neighborhood’s greenery.

Advocates of the petition are calling for protected bike lanes and wide, unobstructed sidewalks along Cypress Avenue and Vermont Avenue — citing unsafe conditions for cyclists and pedestrians. They plan to present the petition to the NYC Department of Transportation and city officials once the petition is fully signed.

Bree Mobley, speaking on behalf of Ridgewood Rides during a Community Board 5 meeting this month, said that it is unsafe for people like her who rely on bicycles and mass transit to get to the reservoir. She called on the board to write a letter of support.

“It’s one of the closest and largest greenspaces that many of our neighbors have access to and it’s primarily a place for motorists,” Mobley said. “For people like me who don’t have access to a car, it’s really unsafe and difficult.”

Ridgewood Rides argues that access to the Ridgewood Reservoir from Ridgewood, Glendale and northern parts of Brooklyn, especially from Cypress Avenue and Vermont Place, is dangerous given that drivers often speed. They also say there is not enough roadway space for cyclists.

I thought these people wanted to take the bus there?

Thursday, March 14, 2024

Resorts World wants to make their world bigger

Queens Chronicle

Resorts World NYC last Thursday laid down its markers for the public — and the state — in its efforts to bring full casino gambling, 10,000 construction and permanent jobs and “a world-class entertainment resort” to South Ozone Park.

Resorts World is pursuing one of three downstate casino licenses that have been approved by the state Legislature but have yet to be awarded.

Officials of the international gaming giant were joined in the lobby of their complex next to Aqueduct Race Track by government officials from Queens as well as celebrity chef Marcus Samuelsson, who has agreed to bring a restaurant to the proposed project. There also was a reception hosted by hip-hop artist and Queens native Nas.

Included in what the company is calling a $5 billion investment in Southeast Queens and the city would be a 7,000-seat arena; a combined 350,000 square feet for entertainment, meeting and conference space; a 1,600-room Crockfords luxury hotel on top of the 400 existing rooms at the Hyatt Regency; and 10 acres of publicly accessible open space.

Robert DeSalvio, president and CEO of Genting Americas East, which operates Resort World NYC, said the site already has pumped billions into the state economy, particularly for education funding. Speaking with the Chronicle after the press conference, he said there would be no need for downtime between receiving a state license and breaking out the shovels and hammers.

“We could begin immediately,” DeSalvio said. “You heard me say we could have full table gaming up in six months. It could take three to four years to build it out fully, but we could start right away.”

State Sen. Joe Addabbo Jr. (D-Woodhaven) is chairman of the Senate’s Racing, Gaming and Wagering Committee. He also is about as staunch an advocate for a full Resorts World casino as DeSalvio.

The senator said as of now there is no hint of when decision will be made.

“That’s the frustrating thing — there’s no timeline yet,” Addabbo said. “Some of the proposals need things like zoning issues which the state would like to see cleared up. I’ve told the state they can’t wait forever.”

New York Mets owner Steve Cohen, who is seeking his own casino license for what is now the parking lot at Citi Field, did not need to be mentioned by name when Addabbo was asked if Queens could support two casinos.

“Somebody would have to make that case,” he said.

Betty Braton, chairwoman of Community Board 10, said Resorts World has proven to be an outstanding member of the community since opening; something she said the state should take into account.

“Who’d have thunk it in 2010 when we stepped outside for the groundbreaking?” Braton asked. “It was hard to envision what we would see. It was a leap of faith, as I’ve said before, and that faith was well-placed. Resorts World has been a true corporate citizen in the best way. We have a proven entity. Everywhere else where there is a proposal, it is a new thing. Our community knows what we are gonna get. The State of New York State knows what it is gonna get.”

Borough President Donovan Richards went into hard specifics.

“There’s a big difference between jobs and careers,” Richards said. “Resorts World has created careers. Sen. Addabbo and I talk about the days of Hurricane Sandy in the Rockaways when we were devastated and we needed to get food on the table for our residents. Resorts World was providing food every single day.

“Then we needed assistance with Covid-19 for testing and the vaccinations, and this institution opened its doors for the community.”


Stable housing in Aqueduct?


City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams laid out her annual vision for the city Wednesday, focusing on the affordability of living in the city ahead of another budget battle with the mayor.

The speaker delivered her State of the City remarks at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, praising its cultural significance before pivoting to the rising cost of living in the five boroughs. 

“For too many New Yorkers, the housing and affordability crisis has presented an impossible dilemma: you cannot afford to live in the city, so you struggle or you leave,” she said. “The situation is dire.”

Despite her enthusiasm, key initiatives from the speaker’s previous State of the City address last year remained unfulfilled or paused. As she did last year, Adams stressed the importance of hiring at understaffed agencies across the city, but many roles are still empty.

An exodus of working and middle-class residents, she said in Wednesday’s speech, points to a failure of civic leadership — and has disproportionately impacted communities of color. 

“As a government, we are not fulfilling our duty to New Yorkers,” she said. 

Adams, who has represented neighborhoods in Southeast Queens since 2018, announced initiatives to help with the cost of housing, education and child care. She focused on rebuilding a government and city hobbled by the pandemic, and stressed strengthening libraries and the City University system.

“Our economic and job recovery has been uneven, and we must provide opportunities for people at every level to succeed,” she said.

One package of bills touted Wednesday aims to tackle deed theft, which predominantly affects working-class communities of color. The legislation will require the city to inform homeowners and people who inherit property of the fair-market value of their homes, and will also provide legal assistance to help them protect their assets. The move comes in response to an investigative series from THE CITY.

“We must build a city where all New Yorkers, especially working people who make up the backbone of our communities, can build their legacy right here in our city,” Adams said. 

The speaker also discussed the possibility of transforming the Aqueduct Racetrack in South Ozone Park, saying the 172-acres of state-owned land in Queens “represents a generational opportunity” to build more housing and amenities. The land is also next to a city-owned site near the A train, which would also be a good location for housing, she said. 

“Repurposing the land for housing and other amenities can uplift this community district — which has produced the lowest amount of housing of any in Queens,” she said. 

Adams did not mention the pending proposal from the site’s operator, Resorts World Casino, to obtain a coveted state casino license and fully develop the site.

Saturday, March 9, 2024

Green life sentence


The Adams administration is adamant it’s not on track to close Rikers Island jails by a legally mandated 2027 deadline — but meanwhile it’s detailing how to turn the island into a hub for renewable energy and greener public works.

On Monday, the same day Mayor Eric Adams’ budget director, Jacques Jiha, declared to the City Council that “We know it’s not going to happen by 2027,” two city entities delivered reports ordered up by the Council declaring it feasible to build a new wastewater treatment plant on the island, along with solar, battery storage and new equipment to feed offshore wind power into the electric grid.

The reports came as a result of the Renewable Rikers Act, signed into law by former Mayor Bill de Blasio, which seeks to reinvent Rikers as a hub for renewable energy.

But for the city to realize the multi-billion-dollar green vision for Rikers Island, the jail complex on Rikers Island must shutter. That rests on the completion of four borough-based jails, at a cost that Jiha testified has now reached $12 billion. 

Another impediment to closing: the current Rikers population of more than 6,200 is significantly higher than the planned 4,160 capacity of the borough jails. Outside criminal justice experts say the Adams administration can and should do more to divert people from jails while awaiting trial.

But Adams continues to cite the size of the jail population as a reason to be skeptical Rikers will close by 2027 and has called for a “Plan B.” 

For backers of Renewable Rikers, the reports are a bright spot at a difficult time for those pressing to close the notorious jails.

The reports “reaffirm we can move forward with Renewable Rikers,” said Councilmember Sandy Nurse (D-Brooklyn), chair of the Council Committee on Criminal Justice. “Given the deplorable conditions on Rikers, the cuts to programs that get people out of Rikers and now more announced delays, it is a good thing there was something to show.”

Darren Mack, co-director of Freedom Agenda at the Urban Justice Center and an organizer of the campaign to close Rikers, described frustration at a climate of disinvestment in city communities that rely on government for services and opportunities.

He says he would like to see the Adams administration “restoring all these proposed cuts to all the city programs and agencies that vulnerable people and marginalized communities rely upon,” in addition to “making investments on top of that…with the construction of these facilities.”


Friday, March 8, 2024

Operation Hochul Drop


Gov. Kathy Hochul on Wednesday announced the latest in a series of subway safety initiatives, placing MTA police officers, state troopers and 750 National Guard members at some of the city’s busiest stations to conduct bag checks.

Following some headline-grabbing incidents underground — including the slashing last week of a conductor that led to what a top transit official called “some kind of work-stoppage charade” by the transit workers union — Hochul said beefing up the uniformed presence in stations will curb rider and worker fears.

“There’s a psychological impact, people worry they could be next, anxiety takes hold,” the governor said. “And riding the subway, which would be part of your everyday life, is filled with stress and trepidation.”

Hochul unveiled a “five-point plan to rid our subways of people who commit crimes” while standing alongside police officers, National Guard troops and MTA Chairman and CEO Janno Lieber at New York City Transit’s Rail Control Center in Midtown.

The five elements are: deploying about 1,000 more uniformed personnel for bag checks; accelerating the installation of cameras on every train and in conductor cabs; a proposed bill that would allow judges to ban people convicted of assault; expanding the number of mental health response teams; and holding regular meetings between transit personnel, police and prosecutors.

The MTA’s police force, which patrols the Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North, already posts officers at subway stations connected to commuter rail hubs.

The latest anti-crime effort in the subway comes as NYPD numbers show transit crime in 2024 through March 3 is up by 13% from the same period last year and just last week TWU International President John Samuelsen said assaults on workers have increased by nearly 60% from last year.

“No one should have to go through what Alton Scott went through,” Lieber said, citing the veteran subway conductor who was slashed in the neck last week.

Overall, crime in the subway system is rare. According to the MTA’s latest data from January, less than two major crimes took place per one million riders that month. Major crimes are defined by the NYPD as burglary, felony assault, robbery, grand larceny, rape and murder.

Richard Davis, president of Transport Workers Union Local 100, praised the plan to put more police in stations, while saying the union’s calls for beefed-up subway security were ignored for months.

“As a result, riders and workers alike have suffered,” Davis said. “While MTA leadership willfully looked the other way, blood has been spilled.”

Hochul and Mayor Eric Adams — who pinned his absence from the latest subway safety announcement on a scheduling conflict — have previously unveiled multiple versions of plans to cut into subway crime and homelessness by increasing the number of police officers in stations.

In an interview on WPIX-11 Wednesday along with Chief Michael Kemper, head of the NYPD Transit Bureau, Adams insisted the new bag checks would not lead to racial or ethnic profiling. 

“We’re not profiling, we’re random based on the count, a number,” the mayor said. “And people who don’t want their bag checks can turn around and not enter the system. You don’t have to come through and do the bag checks, but they are random.”

Caption Donnie and Danny


Tuesday, March 5, 2024

Still need congestion pricing?


NY Post

The MTA could potentially find another $600 million in savings in its bloated plans to extend the Second Avenue Subway, a Post investigation found — as the agency faces pressure to prove it’ll spend its upcoming congestion toll windfall wisely.

New York is potentially just about three months away from launching a controversial $15 daily charge on cars that drive below 60th Street in Manhattan, raising $1 billion a year for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to spend on projects, such as its expansion of the Q line to East Harlem.

“MTA management is ineffective, and handing more money to unelected bureaucrats will not fix the MTA’s problems,” testified real estate agent Lucas Callejas, 38, of Inwood, during a public hearing about the congestion fee plan Monday.

“I absolutely don’t trust the MTA with my money … They spend like crazy,” added Dana Matarazzo, 40 an oncology nurse at Memorial Sloan Kettering from Staten Island, who spoke to The Post after testifying against the toll.

MTA officials announced last month they shaved $300 million off the $6.9 billion total estimate to extend the Q line from its terminus at 96th Street another 1.5 miles up Second Avenue and then westward along 125th Street to Lexington Avenue.

But The Post’s analysis found another $600 million in savings in the MTA’s station designs, when compared to what it would cost to build a similar project overseas.

While the tunneling costs are in line with those of other major cities, such as London and Rome, the station costs and designs remain in an entirely different league, The Post’s analysis revealed.

Before the recently-announced trims, the MTA’s budget for tunneling, trackwork, stations and power, computer and radio systems was estimated to be $4.1 billion.

The new, “more efficient” station designs have helped lower the figure to $3.8 billion — still more than the $3.2 billion would cost to build a similar project in London, the most expensive of the European cities examined by The Post, in a worst case scenario.

Experts and researchers zeroed in on two major factors that have pushed the MTA’s station costs to levels not seen elsewhere: The amount of area set aside of passengers to circulate on mezzanines before heading down to the platforms; and the amount of “back of house” areas sealed away from public view that provide space for storage closets, mechanical functions and break rooms.

The feds granted permission to rework the 125th Street station design in 2020 in an earlier second round of reviews for the East Harlem leg, but officials not reveal the full scope of the overhaul until stories ran in The Post highlighting the size of the original 2004 design. The first round of tweaks approved by regulators in 2018 allowed the MTA to put the 116th Station in an empty piece of existing tunnel.

The three rounds of reviews have shaved an estimated 17% off of what could have been a $7.6 billion total price tag, records show. Officials have said the third round of reviews remains ongoing.

The overall now-$6.6 billion budget for the East Harlem expansion also includes $245 million for land purchases and eminent domain, $559 million for outside engineering, design and management firms, plus a whopping $943 million for a budget reserve.

The project’s construction costs alone could have been as high as $4.4 billion had the MTA re-used the station designs from the Second Avenue Subway’s Upper East Side extension, a much-delayed project that shattered cost records.

“That’s the hard part, turning this ship around,” said Eric Goldwyn, who lead a team of researchers at New York University that revealed how oversized the MTA’s Upper East Side designs were compared to those used in Stockholm, Rome and Istanbul, dramatically inflating costs.

“When people asked them about our research, they said ‘we were a–holes,’ basically,” Goldwyn added. “I’ve been encouraged by what I’ve seen, but there are absolutely things to keep looking at.”

Sunday, March 3, 2024

Maspeth's newest neighbor....

Commercial Observer 


Fly E-Bike — a manufacturer of electric bikes, scooters, moped and motorbikes — is establishing a presence in Maspeth, Queens.

The company signed a five-year, 52,000-square-foot lease to open a warehouse at The Davis Companies58-30 Grand Avenue, Crain’s New York Business first reported

The asking rent was unclear but Queens saw an average asking rent of $26.33 per square foot for industrial space in the fourth quarter of 2023, according to a Cushman & Wakefield report.

C&W’s Joseph Hentze, Joshua Kleinberg, Helen Paul, Rico Murtha, Gurpreet “Sonny” Singh and Amanda Gerhardt represented The Davis Companies in the deal while Pinnacle Realty handled negotiations on behalf of Fly E-Bike.

Names of the Pinnacle brokers were not disclosed, and spokespeople for C&W and Pinnacle did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Constructed in 1930, the building has a total of 156,792 square feet and sits at the corner of Grand Avenue and Rust Street.

Fly E-Bike was established in 2018 and has picked up a lot of momentum as it has grown to at least 40 retail locations throughout the tri-state area as well as Maryland and Pennsylvania, including four in Queens.

While the components for its products are fabricated in China, Fly E-Bike’s vehicles, which cater to food delivery workers, are assembled in warehouses in the United States, according to the company’s website.


Friday, March 1, 2024

Winnie Greco and the pay to play factory



FBI agents raided two Bronx homes owned by a top aide to Mayor Eric Adams early Thursday morning, along with the offices of a Queens mall that hosted Adams campaign operations. 

THE CITY previously uncovered strong evidence of potentially illegal straw donations tied to the mall. 

The aide, Adams’ director of Asian affairs Winnie Greco, was deeply involved in eight separate fundraising events at the New World Mall that generated tens of thousands of dollars for Adams’ 2021 mayoral campaign. 

She is on leave from her job, the Mayor’s press office announced Thursday. Greco is the third person associated with Adams whose home was raided by federal officials in the past four months. In November, the FBI raided the homes of Brianna Suggs, then Adams’ chief fundraiser, and Rana Abbasova, an aide in Adams’ international affairs office. 

One New World Mall worker told THE CITY that she was asked by employers to make a $249 donation — and later reimbursed. That would make it a “straw” donation, a criminal violation that has already led to the prosecution of one set of Adams fundraisers by the Manhattan District Attorney, as well as a separate investigation by the U.S. Attorney’s office into another set of donors with links to the Turkish government.  

 Another New World Mall employee told THE CITY she never made out a check to the campaign and didn’t recognize the signature on the check. Nearly two dozen others who donated claimed that they made their contributions at the behest of or with encouragement from mall managers.

The Bronx raids began at around 6 a.m., when FBI agents, acting in conjunction with the Brooklyn U.S. Attorney’s office, swooped down on two homes owned by Greco on Gillespie Avenue, sealing off intersections. The FBI later confirmed to THE CITY the sprawling New World Mall in Flushing as the site of a third raid.

One neighbor, who declined to give his name, told THE CITY that more than a dozen FBI officials were on Gillespie Avenue ready to enter the home. “They had all the blocks closed off, every intersection,” he said. “It was frozen for a bit. Nobody was allowed to leave.”

An Adams spokesperson said Thursday in a statement about the raid: “Our administration will always follow the law, and we always expect all our employees to adhere to the strictest ethical guidelines. As we have repeatedly said, we don’t comment on matters that are under review, but will fully cooperate with any review underway. The mayor has not been accused of any wrongdoing.”

Greco, who is paid $100,000 a year for her City Hall job, is already being probed by the city’s Department of Investigation in the aftermath of another story by THE CITY detailing allegations of ethical improprieties against her. One business executive alleged to THE CITY that Greco solicited a $10,000 donation for a nonprofit she had founded as a condition for attending an event at Gracie Mansion with Adams honoring the Chinese community. A former Adams campaign volunteer who obtained a city government job with Greco’s help told THE CITY that Greco demanded he supervise renovations at one of her houses for no pay.

A longtime advisor to Adams dating back to his start as Brooklyn borough president a decade ago, Greco has helped raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for his prior and current mayoral campaigns. Adams’ chief confidant and top political advisor at City Hall, Ingrid Lewis-Martin, once called Greco her “baby sister.” 

When asked by THE CITY about Greco in November, Adams said he had a “hands-off policy when things are being reviewed.” Greco still appeared with him at some public events, including in Times Square on New Year’s Eve for the ball drop and at a women’s focused event later in January.

However, Greco was conspicuously absent from or played a smaller than usual role in Adams’ recent Lunar New Year celebrations.