Thursday, May 30, 2024

Senator Ramos kills Cohen's casino

 Queens Chronicle

After more than a year of deliberation, state Sen. Jessica Ramos (D-Jackson Heights) on Tuesday announced that she will not be introducing the legislation necessary to make way for Mets owner Steve Cohen to build a casino next to Citi Field. 

Instead, she is introducing her own plan.

“We’re not in a place to host a casino,” Ramos told New York magazine, which first reported the decision Tuesday morning. “The people who are here, they’re hoping to build generational wealth. And I just don’t see how a casino helps us meet that goal. I mean, it’s literally the opposite. It’s the extraction of the very little wealth we have.”

In a statement, she elaborated, “Whether people rallied for or against Metropolitan Park, I heard the same dreams for Corona. We want investment and opportunity, we are desperate for green space, and recreation for the whole family.

“We disagree on the premise that we have to accept a casino in our backyard as the trade-off. I resent the conditions and the generations of neglect that have made many of us so desperate that we would be willing to settle.”

Since the parking lot at the stadium is legally parkland, in order for anything to be built at the site, the state Legislature must pass parkland alienation legislation allowing the spot to be used for that purpose, be it a casino or otherwise. While Assemblyman Jeff Aubry (D-Corona) had introduced that legislation to back a casino as part of Cohen’s Metropolitan Park plan — which would include a casino, a hotel, 25 acres of green space, a concert hall and a Queens food hall — Ramos had not, and said Tuesday she will not do so. Aubry did not immediately respond to the Chronicle’s request for comment on the matter. 

The senator’s alternative plan, parkland alienation legislation that she introduced Tuesday, essentially includes Cohen’s entire proposal, minus the casino. Instead of 25 acres of green space, she’s calling for 50 acres. 

Ramos’ decision follows several town halls on the issue over the last year and a half, some of which she has hosted and others of which Cohen has. The senator also conducted a poll on the project within her district, which found that 75 percent were opposed to a casino; Cohen’s own poll, meanwhile, showed that 62 percent were in favor of one, with 75 percent backing the plan as a whole.

Throughout the process, Cohen and his chief of staff, Michael Sullivan, have been adamant that the project cannot go forward without a casino, saying there would be no year-round economic driver for the complex without it. But Ramos called that idea into question while speaking with reporters via Zoom Tuesday afternoon. 

“Cohen is worth an estimated $18 billion-plus, to my estimation, and so math would dictate that a casino would not be necessary to build out any part of the remaining project,” the senator said. “My hope is that he sees that people are counting on him to do the right thing here. He will remain our neighbor as long as he is the owner of the Mets, and he can gain trust and good public will by being responsive to our neighbors’ desires.”

When the Chronicle asked Aubry about Ramos’ desire for Cohen to foot the bill without a casino, the assemblyman cut in, “Stop. Just stop.”

“She isn’t hoping that they would — she’s only trying to cover up so that no one will blame her that she has denied the kind of real benefits that the community would get if the whole plan is going,” Aubry said. “You don’t take out the money-generating portion of this plan, and then say, ‘Oh, well, do everything else.’”

Meanwhile, Cohen’s camp still thinks a casino is the only way to build anything financially feasible at the site, which the team has under lease for another 81 years. Asked whether Cohen and his team will consider Ramos’ proposal, Karl Rickett, a spokesperson for the project, told the Chronicle, “Year-round entertainment is core to any realistic vision for this area, and casino gaming is that economic engine. So it’s an absolutely critical part of this process.”

As such, per Rickett’s statement, Cohen and his team “remain committed” to making Metropolitan Park a reality, and to getting the parkland alienation and one of three downstate casino licenses the state Gaming Commission will award in 2025.

Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Sanctuary City For Sale

It was already dark when Mayor Eric Adams and his security detail pulled up to the curb of the Wyndham Garden, a drab hotel next to a strip mall in Fresh Meadows, Queens.

At the time, his administration was paying for the hotel to shelter more than 100 formerly incarcerated New Yorkers integrating back into society after their release.

But the mayor wasn’t here to check in on one of his criminal justice initiatives. On that November evening nearly two years ago, Adams was visiting Winnie Greco, a top mayoral staffer, who had recently moved into one of the rooms at the Wyndham Garden.

Adams got out of the car, walked through a side door and went up to Greco’s specially arranged suite on the 11th floor, according to two sources with knowledge of the visit.

The mayor had been to the hotel before. Its owner, Weihong Hu, had thrown two campaign fundraisers with Adams present when he was running for mayor in 2021. Now Hu, who was reaping millions of dollars in city business through this very facility, was housing Greco in a room paid for by taxpayers, business and government records obtained for this story show. 

Greco ended up staying at Hu’s hotel for more than eight months, initially as she recovered from surgery, according to two sources with knowledge of her stay.

The lodging arranged for the mayor’s advisor is just one facet of a mutually beneficial relationship between Adams, an aggressive campaign fundraiser, and Hu, an ambitious hotel operator who bundled tens of thousands of dollars in campaign checks for his mayoral campaign and subsequently scored behind-the-scenes benefits and millions in contract dollars from his administration, an investigation by THE CITY, The Guardian US and Documented reveals.

The details of how this relationship blossomed in the odd setting of a hotel-turned-shelter offer a rare window into the way transactional dealings have taken shape in the Adams era. 

This report is based on a review of thousands of pages of city and business records and interviews with more than 20 of Hu’s former associates and current and former government officials. Nearly all sources spoke on the condition of anonymity citing fears of retaliation from Hu or the administration. Several provided reporters with photos, text messages, emails and videos to back up their claims.

In Hu’s case, multimillion-dollar city-funded contracts to her companies’ hotels continued to flow as she befriended a tightly knit core of the mayor’s longtime associates, some the subject of law enforcement investigations and ethical controversies who multiple sources say pledged to go to bat for her with city agencies.

It was at a 2021 fundraiser with Adams at her hotel that Hu became acquainted with a longtime pal of the future mayor, John Sampson. Formerly a state senator, Sampson had been released from federal custody only a month earlier, after being sentenced to a five-year prison term for trying to obstruct a probe investigating allegations that he embezzled more than $400,000. 

Hu named Sampson as CEO of one of her hotel companies in early 2023, and, according to a former city official familiar with the situation, he committed to helping her land a lucrative contract for a migrant shelter at a hotel she operates in Long Island City, Queens. A month later, the Department of Homeless Services approved a city-funded migrant contract slated to disburse $7.5 million annually to the hotel.

Hu also enlisted the help of another trusted Adams advisor, Rev. Alfred Cockfield II, whom she introduced to colleagues as a “consultant,” according to one former associate who said he attended business meetings with Hu and Cockfield. The former associate and another source with direct knowledge of the matter said Hu enlisted Cockfield to help her reverse city orders halting construction at two major hotel developments in midtown Manhattan.

Cockfield is a politically wired pastor who, after Adams won the mayoral primary, launched a political action committee, Striving for a Better New York, which he told Politico was intended to uplift “moderate,” “pro-business” candidates in the Adams mold. 

“The work I’m doing is God’s work,” he said. 

Yet campaign finance records show the PAC paid Cockfield $144,000 in wages and consulting fees — many times more than what it ever gave to an individual candidate. It also gave $60,000 to a charter school Cockfield leads. Last year, the school returned the entire sum after the state’s Division of Election Law Enforcement sent inquiries to the PAC about some of its allocations. 

The mayor’s son, Jordan Coleman, dressed in black and pushing a roller suitcase, and an unidentified woman also stayed in a room in November 2022 at the Fresh Meadows hotel where Greco was staying, according to a former worker at the hotel. That room, too, was among the 148 paid for by taxpayers.

Coleman hung up on a reporter and didn’t respond to text messages seeking comment. In a phone call, Hu’s attorney, Kevin Tung, denied that the mayor’s son stayed at the hotel overnight, but said he may have visited to discuss business with Greco, who has at times accompanied him to events.

The administration’s largesse flowed back to Hu in a variety of ways, the investigation’s findings show. After Adams came into office, his administration authorized the renewal of Hu’s six-month shelter contract at the Fresh Meadows hotel four times, reaping her business $6.2 million a year in income. 

It also finalized a second contract sending $6.3 million a year to Hu’s hotel in Long Island City, despite a history of elevator breakdowns and minimal housekeeping detailed to reporters by former workers and claimed in court documents. 

Last year, the Department of Homeless Services twice approved a more lucrative arrangement for the Long Island City hotel, bumping its annual potential revenue to a total of $8.8 million, government records show.

The help a close Adams ally can offer was evident on two occasions in which, according to sources, Hu tapped Cockfield for assistance with city authorities.

After a building inspector halted construction at one of her hotel developments, near Bryant Park on West 39th Street, citing a serious safety issue, the minister made a late-night call to top Department of Buildings officials and urged them to allow construction to proceed, according to a source familiar with buildings department operations. 

Roughly an hour later, the agency reversed the stop work order, which department records show was lifted just after 11 p.m.

At the second hotel development, Hu retained Cockfield to help lift a city Department of Buildings stop-work order issued after Hu’s team had begun an illegal demolition of rent-stabilized apartment buildings on West 35th Street in Manhattan, according to a source who said he attended meetings with Hu and Cockfield about the situation. That source said Cockfield and another individual he couldn’t identify promised to call city agencies on the hotel owner’s behalf. 

In late 2022, the Department of Buildings gave Hu permission to resume construction on that site, approving a plan that ignored a previous commitment to neighborhood leaders and the city’s housing agency to preserve affordable apartments.

Monday, May 27, 2024

Low Standard Mayor lowers qualifications for lifeguards


Rockaway Beach welcomed back tens of thousands of New Yorkers on Saturday as the city reopened 14 miles of public beaches, one day after Mayor Eric Adams announced a surprise deal between NYC Parks and DC37, the union representing lifeguards, so more beaches could open during the Memorial Day weekend.

During a hastily scheduled press conference at City Hall on Friday, the Mayor and NYC Parks Commissioner Sue Donoghue said an arbitration panel issued an award in the city’s ongoing negotiations with the DC37 bargaining unit that will “functionally pave the way” for the city to be able to hire more lifeguards, allow more swimming capacity at beaches and pools, and improve operations of the city lifeguard program.

 “Today’s a big win for public safety at our pools and beaches means we’ll be able to hire more lifeguards for this summer and get even more in the pipeline for summers to come,” Adams said. “All our lifeguards will still be trained in CPR, first aid, and rescue skills, and we’ll be able to have our strongest swimmers focused on our beaches, where conditions are rougher.” Like the beaches along the Rockaway peninsula where rip tides can be particularly dangerous, posing a threat over the last several years due to chronic lifeguard shortages.

“Since the pandemic, it’s been an enormous challenge throughout the country, we know, to hire lifeguards and New York City has been no exception,” Donoghue said. “At Parks, we have been working hard to rebuild our lifeguard ranks and have implemented new policies to bring as many lifeguards as we possibly can.”

Fully staffed beaches are crucial to the economy in the Rockaways, but after multiple fatal drownings in recent years, Council Member Joann Ariola has reservations about the lifeguard deal.

“We absolutely should not be slashing standards in such an important area,” Ariola told QNS on Saturday. “Our lifeguards need to be supremely qualified to ensure that, if a crisis happens, they are in the best condition possible to save a life. The city should be devoting more resources towards swimming education, so that young New Yorkers will have the opportunity to develop the skills necessary to make them excellent lifeguards. Cutting standards like this is dangerous, and I can’t see anything good coming from it. It is a tragedy waiting to happen.”



In Memoriam

Saturday, May 25, 2024

Queens is burning by the open streets


Photo by Shebbie

 Eyewitness News

Several people, including a mom and her baby, were rescued by firefighters after a fire broke out at an apartment building in Queens Friday.

FDNY officials say the fire broke out just after 7 p.m. on the second floor of a four-story apartment building located at 34-09 83rd Street in Jackson Heights.

They say the fire originated in the kitchen area. When firefighters arrived, they encountered the fire coming from an open door leading to the public hallway.

As first responders began searching the building, they found several people trying to escape from the flames.

One of the tenants was located on the fire escape, while another tenant, a woman with a baby, was located on the roof of the building.

Firefighters rescued those tenants and brought them to EMS.

Officials say three civilians suffered minor injuries. It's not clear if those are the same three people rescued by first responders.

No firefighters were injured.

The fire was placed under control just after 8 p.m.

FDNY Deputy Chief Joseph Jardin said an e-bike or lithium-ion battery scooter was discovered near the kitchen, but it's not clear if that was what sparked the fire.


Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Liquor Store owner shoots shoplifter by accident while pistol whipping him  


The owner of a Ridgewood liquor store was arrested and charged for shooting an alleged shoplifter from Brooklyn on Monday evening.

Francisco Valerio, 53, was taken into custody and booked at the 104th Precinct in Ridgewood on a first-degree reckless endangerment charge after he accidentally shot a 20-year-old who was assaulting him during a chaotic struggle inside his Franja Wine and Liquors shop at 785 Wyckoff Ave., according to the NYPD.

Upon further investigation, Edwin Poaquiza and Kevin Pullutasi, 20, both from Brooklyn, entered the shop just before 7:45 p.m. and began to take bottles of liquor without paying. Valerio noticed the shoplifting in progress and chased both men out of his store. Both men returned a short while later and assaulted Valerio, who had a registered handgun. As the struggle escalated, Valerio allegedly fired a shot that struck Pullutasi in the abdomen. His accomplice Poaquiza ran from the store but was arrested moments later around the block at Ridgewood Place and Putnam Avenue.

EMS responded to the crime scene and rushed Pullutasi to Elmhurst Hospital where he was listed in stable condition and placed under arrest, police said


Saturday, May 18, 2024

City Of Don't Mess With Us

 Queens Chronicle

None of the members of Community Board 12’s Land Use Committee were for Mayor Adams’ City of Yes housing plan after listening to a presentation from the Department of City Planning on May 7.

In fact, many felt downright disrespected by the proposal, which they said was created without any community input.

The mayor’s plan calls for upzoning single-family areas to make way for denser multifamily buildings.

The measure would allow low-density housing areas with three to five stories to be eligible for higher density; more houses to be built by subway stations; basement, attic and garage apartment legalization; and religious institutions dedicating parcels of their land to housing. The purpose of the plan is to build enough units to help bring down the costs as the city goes through a housing crisis.

Rene Hill, a CB 12 member, said she does not consider herself a “not in my backyard” person, but she along with others on the committee and the community board bought their homes because of the area’s low density. She doesn’t believe the housing plan will work as intended, and worse, it will drive up prices in residential areas, pushing homeowners out.

“We are trying to keep our homes,” Hill said. “We are middle-class people who want to stay here. We do not want to move into Long Island.”

Hill said developers are renting single bedrooms for upwards of $3,000 a unit and if the administration wants to solve the housing crisis, probably it should put a cap on rent instead of investing in high-rise hotels.

“It should be $650 or $750,” Hill said about rent at apartment complexes. “This is ridiculous, this is an insult, this is disrespectful to us and you should tell the mayor stay away from us. He needs to because he will not be elected again. You can let him know that ... We are going to vote Republican if we have to.”

Michelle Keller said instead of the DCP trying to defend the mayor’s housing plan, it has sent different representatives to the board’s meetings trying to “cajole us.”

“You need to listen to the taxpayers and the constituents here,” Keller said. “You are trying to tell us here that having these high-rise buildings or [accessory dwelling units] is going to be minimal and is going to help us. The elephant in the room is that you are helping these people who are coming from these other countries and now you want us to be onboard with that. I’m not on board with it.”

“Stop acting like you are for us,” Keller said to the DCP representatives. “I do not even know where you live, but when that happens most of us will be in a pickle and we will have to deal with the taxes on our homes and the quality of life has already gone down the drain.”


Wednesday, May 15, 2024

Mayor Adams wet blow back gaffe

Fox 5 News 

 New York City Mayor Eric Adams on Tuesday called for migrants to be allowed to work as lifeguards as the city faces a shortage for the role -- arguing that many are "excellent swimmers."

Adams was asked at a press conference about a lifeguard shortage in the city as Memorial Day nears and with the summer months approaching.

He said the situation could be helped "If we had a migrant and asylum seeker plan that states those jobs that we are…in high demand we could expedite."

"How do we have a large body of people that are in our city, and country, that are excellent swimmers and, at the same time, we need lifeguards -- and the only obstacle is that we won’t give them the right to work to become a lifeguard," he said.

"That just doesn’t make sense."

He listed off other occupations, including food service workers and nurses, where the Big Apple may face shortages.

"We have all these eligible people waiting to work with the skills we need to fill the jobs but we are unable to allow them to work because bureaucracy is in the way," he said. "That just does not make sense."

The city has been grappling with a migrant crisis that has enveloped the city in recent years. Officials recently said that there have been more than 1950,000 migrants who have entered the shelter system since 2022, and more than 65,000 are still in the shelter system.

Subway Dick quits
Photo by JQ LLC


The MTA executive in charge of running New York City’s subways and buses is slated to leave his job to become CEO of the Massachusetts Port Authority, according to people with knowledge of the decision.

New York City Transit President Richard Davey joined the agency in May 2022 and led it as transit ridership rebounded from the COVID-19 pandemic. His departure is the latest example of turnover at the prominent post that’s had four leaders in just over four years. Davey is responsible for more than 5 million daily commuters.

His exit comes as the MTA prepares to launch congestion pricing, which aims to push drivers into mass transit.

Transport Workers Union International President John Samuelsen, who represents NYC Transit’s workforce, said he’d been told Davey is leaving New York.

"My trade union counterparts in Boston confirmed to me that Davey is just waiting on an approval vote from the Massport board,” said Samuelsen, who holds a seat on the MTA board.

Davey neither confirmed nor denied his new job during a news conference on Tuesday.

 "I do get calls from time to time because I got a great team that makes me look good," he said.

Scooter pollution coming to town,744 


 New York City is set to expand its e-scooter share pilot program to several neighborhoods in eastern Queens this summer, three years after launching the program in the Bronx with the aim of expanding micro-mobility to new corners of the five boroughs.

The city’s Department of Transportation (DOT) exclusively told amNewYork Metro that the expansion of the pilot, announced last year, will commence at the end of June across four community boards in eastern Queens, all of which are in reaches of the city with relatively limited access to the subway.

The pilot will extend from Flushing and Auburndale in the north, past Kissena Park through Fresh Meadows and Hillcrest, passing through Jamaica, Briarwood, and Hollis, and reaching down to St. Albans, Rochdale Village, and Springfield Gardens just north of John F. Kennedy Airport. The pilot area will cover about 20 square miles.

The expansion comes after three years of operation in the eastern Bronx, where 3.8 million trips have been logged by 157,000 unique users, DOT says. All three scooter companies participating in the Bronx pilot — Lime, Veo, and Bird — will join the pilot’s expansion in Queens.

“We are very excited for this summer’s arrival of e-scooter sharing in Eastern Queens following our successful East Bronx pilot, where nearly 4 million rides have been taken since August 2021,” said DOT Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez. “This expansion is an equitable way to bring a popular, safe, and environmentally sustainable mode of transportation to underserved neighborhoods in Queens, and we look forward to continuing our work with these communities as e-scooter share expands.”

 Here is where all these scooters are going to wind up abandoned. These neighborhoods have plenty of modes for transportation, the only thing that's sustainable about them is to sustain the bankrupt Bird which is run by former Transporation Alternatives CEO Paul Steely White. Like Johnny Cash sang, guess things just happen that way.,700

Saturday, May 11, 2024

City of what again?


Queens Chronicle

Paul Graziano lives in Flushing, but he had a direct message Monday night for his neighbors in Forest Hills.

“We are the target of City of Yes,” said Graziano, a planning and land use expert, said to a room of more than 200 people at an emergency town hall meeting of the Forest Hills Community and Civic Association. “The intent of City of Yes is to eliminate owner-occupied housing and replace it with rental units ... The aim, essentially, is to allow developers to build whatever they want as of right.”

City of Yes is a three-pronged initiative from the Adams administration which the Mayor’s Office said will reduce carbon emissions, stimulate jobs and businesses and increase the construction of housing.

The carbon portion was approved by the City Council in December.

The reasons for Monday’s emergency meeting, according to civic President Claudia Valentino, were the city’s presentation on the economic development portion to Community Board 6 scheduled for last night, May 8; and a hearing before the City Council on the housing portion on June 4.

Even residents who are not members of the FHCCA turned out in force at the parish hall of Our Lady Of Mercy Church on Kessel Street. A good meeting, Valentino said, normally can draw about 50 people.

“They support City of Yes,” Valentino said of Board 6 leadership. “They rubber-stamped [the carbon emissions portion] without our approval.”

She told Monday’s crowd that they needed an equally strong turnout at Wednesday’s CB 6 meeting.

Valentino dislikes numerous aspects of the economic development and housing plans, pointing out they would allow businesses to open in residential neighborhoods where they cannot now, and could allow massive apartment buildings in single-family home neighborhoods.

“It’s complicated,”she said of the proposals running more than 1,000 pages apiece. “You’re not expected to dig through it ... That’s deliberate.”

She had letters ready for signatures to Councilwoman Lynn Schulman (D-Forest Hills) demanding that all present one- and two-family housing zones must remain in place; that corner stores not be allowed in those same neighborhoods among other things.

Graziano pointed out that most of the community boards in the city, and all but three in Queens, including CB 6, have voiced opposition to City of Yes thus far.

“They never mention that,” he said of the administration. He and Valentino counseled residents to not just accept City of Yes as a fait accompli. Valentino said she heard the same thing 25 years ago when residents and the city told her she could not succeed in downzoning large swaths of residential neighborhoods in Forest Hills.

“They forgot about me,” Valentino said of administration officials. “Unluckily for them, I didn’t die. I know what I’m doing.”

Queens Chroncle 

Hundreds of people were in attendance at a City of Yes housing presentation at Cambria Heights Library last Saturday.

Throughout the forum Paul Graziano, an urban planner, said the city is actively trying to destroy single-family zoning through upzoning, to make way for dense multifamily buildings.

Graziano said approximately 50 percent of single-family housing throughout Queens, Staten Island, Southern and Central Brooklyn and Northern and East Bronx would be impacted by the city “eliminating” existing zoning.

According to stats from Graziano, while the Big Apple is the largest big city by population — more than 8.3 million — it has the smallest share of single-family homes — 15 percent — across the country. In comparison, LA, second in terms of population — over 3.8 million — is 75 percent single-family homes. Washington, DC, has a population of 670,050 but double the single-family homes in New York.

Graziano was thankful to Assemblymembers Ed Braunstein (D-Bayside), Nily Rozic (D-Fresh Meadows) and Alicia Hyndman (D-Springfield Gardens), along with state Sen. Leroy Comrie (D-Jamaica), who prevented a state version of the housing plan to get through in 2022. He now wants to raise awareness about Mayor Adams’ housing plans, which he said also would push through transit-oriented development, more mandatory inclusionary housing, town-centered housing units, religious housing and legalized accessory dwelling units.

“The electeds here were some of the hardest fighters in shutting that down,” Graziano said. “They essentially walked out of [budget] negotiations and [Hochul] dropped everything.”

Graziano said Queens folks should leverage the 2025 election to get municipal leaders to say no to City of Yes, Adams’ rezoning plan. Residents, who fought since 2004 to stop overdevelopment in residential communities, approved downzoning plans for the neighborhood and now the city is pushing against the interest of the people.

“This administration has stated publicly that lower-density neighborhoods are the cause of the housing crisis,” said the urban planner. “We have a target on our backs.”

Graziano also called out mainstream news outlets like the Daily News, which said in an April 14 editorial that “those who want to live in a suburb, we’ll remind you there are several in the vicinity of the five boroughs. This is New York City.”

“If you take our communities out of the mix, there is virtually no single-family zoning in the City of New York,” said Graziano. “The transit zone is going to allow apartment buildings all over the place that is cross-hatched [on a map he showed]. This is Rosedale, Laurelton, Springfield Gardens, Addisleigh Park and Queens Village, just a few blocks north of Murdock [Avenue].”

Low-density housing areas or commercial buildings with three to five-stories would be eligible for higher density; more houses will be built by train and subway stations; basement, attic and garage apartments would be legalized; religious institutions would be allowed to dedicate parcels of their land to housing complexes; and much of the proposed developments would come with little to no parking and take up some green spaces under Adams’ plan.

“That [plan] just went to the City Council and they are going to vote on this at the end of the month,” said Graziano, to the crowd, which also included people and civic leaders from St. Albans, Rosedale, Queens Village and Bayside. “There is no affordable housing. [ADUs and TOD would] replace older occupied homes with market-rate rentals ... There is an affordability thing with higher density buildings ... but its [virtually] nothing.”

Development soon to begin at the Rikers next door

Queens Chronicle 

The Adams administration has awarded a $3.9 billion contract to design and build the new Queens community jail.

The city’s Department of Design and Construction has chosen the Leon D. DeMatteis Construction Corp. of Elmont, LI, for the project. In a related matter, the DDC awarded a $2.9 billion contract for the new Bronx jail.

In an email, a DDC spokesman said construction on the Queens facility will start in August.  It will have a maximum height of 195 feet, and will total 764,350 square feet. Construction is scheduled to begin in August. It will be built behind the Queens Criminal Courthouse, on Queens Boulevard in Kew Gardens. Work on adjacent buildings and a nearby parking garage already are well underway.

The DDC email stressed while the contract with DeMatteis runs through 2031, that does not mean construction will take that long; and that the city will work with the firm to find some time savings.

The city by law is required to shut down Rikers Island as a jail by 2027, though Mayor Adams and numerous other public officials have expressed concern over whether it will be accomplished on time. New jails in each borough except Staten Island are slated to have space for just over 4,000 inmates. The present population of Rikers is about 6,000.

The jail will have 1,040 beds. Queens is the only site for female detainees and will have 590 beds for men and 450 for women. It will require duplicate admission and transport areas, visiting areas, health services, cafeteria and elevators. It also will have a nursing area for women. All that, the DDC said, accounts for the higher cost.

Tuesday, May 7, 2024

Rockaway small businesses going away for little housing


Permits have been filed for a six-story residential building at 181 Beach 116th Street in Rockaway Park, Queens. Located between Rockaway Beach Boulevard and Ocean Prom, the lot is one block north of the Rockaway Park-Beach 116th Street subway station, serviced by the A and S trains. Tom Lawlor under the 185 Beach 116th Street LLC is listed as the owner behind the applications.

The proposed development will yield 31,108 square feet designated for residential space. The building will have 35 residences, most likely rentals based on the average unit scope of 888 square feet. The steel-based structure will also have a 30-foot-long rear yard.

35 units, 888 square feet? That's putting the little in the "little more housing" slogan from the City of Yes.

Monday, May 6, 2024

We like Marty 

 Bronx Times


U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez officially faces a challenger in the upcoming Democratic primary. 

Marty Dolan, 66, has received notice from the NYC Board of Elections that he will be on the ballot for the June primary against Ocasio-Cortez, who will face a primary challenger for the first time since 2020.

Dolan, who is a retired Wall Street insurance executive, needed 1,250 signatures from registered Democrats who live in the district in order to get on the ballot — and he said he got 7,300. The Bronx Times reached out to the Board of Elections for confirmation of these numbers and is awaiting a response.

Dolan said he’s been hitting the streets talking to prospective voters throughout District 14, which covers neighborhoods in the east Bronx and northern Queens. Stopping at grocery stores, churches and parks, he said he has seen a lot of enthusiasm for his candidacy — and some even hugged him and said, “I love you.” 

“The feedback continues to be really positive,” he said. 

Dolan, who was living outside the district when he last spoke with the Bronx Times, said he has now found a place to live in the Bronx at “the bottom of White Plains Road,” and he’s also looking for a place in Queens — which he sees as a way of meeting people where they are in a large, highly varied district. 

Fundraising has picked up recently, he said. Records from the Federal Election Commission showed that for the period ending March 31, the campaign had $20,893 cash on hand after expenditures, factoring in $17,075 in individual contributions and Dolan’s loan of $225,000 to his own campaign.

He takes pride in running a simple, relatively low-budget campaign. “What you need to do is be on the ground, shaking hands with people, sitting outside the supermarket and really making yourself available to the voters.” 

As for his opponent, “She’s on the GQ [magazine] cover. She’s on the Late Show. She’s not in the supermarket,” he said. 

Ocasio-Cortez’s office declined to comment for this story but is in the process of arranging an interview with the Bronx Times.

Dolan wants his campaign, and his tenure in Congress should he win, to maintain a predictable, easy-to-find presence that stays laser-focused on the district — not on charged political and international issues such as the War in Gaza, which he called “not a central issue for people in the district.”

In the heavily Democratic 14th District, Dolan emphasized the importance of educating people about the June 25 primary. More voters should have their say when more options are on the table, he said.

“There’s a lot of anxiety about the current representative, and we’re offering a choice,” said Dolan.

He said a campaign van — “Rollin’ With Dolan” — is coming soon, which will help him cover more ground as he campaigns as an unknown against one of the world’s most recognizable political figures. 

But Dolan said he has been well-received in the district by those dissatisfied with the current state of progressive politics. Some have “profound reactions” to him, he said, and it’s often younger people with low to moderate incomes who respond most positively. 

“The younger voters with families and houses are thrilled to see us,” said Dolan.

While canvassing in the district, Dolan said he has met many people who are “barely getting by” and cannot focus much on broad issues. They are mostly concerned with how those issues trickle down to their neighborhoods — for instance, how immigration in the United States affects the local economy. 

Many constituents view Ocasio-Cortez as an “egomaniac,” Dolan said. “Her focus is on becoming a national franchise,” and she has succeeded while ignoring the reality of what constituents are concerned about, he argues. 

 If he wins — or as Dolan said, “when we’re in Congress” — he plans to have a mobile office instead of a brick-and-mortar one and travel around the district to make himself accessible. And “we’re gonna spend 99% of our money in the district,” he said.

Thirsty for taxes


Photo by JQ LLC

NY Post 

Mayor Eric Adams plans to implement what critics claim is a “hidden tax” that would make homeowners’ water bills soar 8.5% – despite boasting his new budget plan won’t include more taxes. 

The city plans to charge its own Water Board at least $1.4 billion in rent over four years to lease water and sewer systems, The New York Times first reported. 

In turn, the city’s Department of Environmental Protection wants the Water Board to raise rates in July for homeowners and landlords by 8.5%, according to a proposal released Friday by the board.

If approved, the rate increase would only cover some of the rent charges, with the rest likely picked up by funds that usually cover water and sewer system capital project upgrades.

Owners of single-family homes pay $1,088 on average for water each year, and the proposal would add on nearly another $100 a year, according to the city.

Councilman James Gennaro (D-Queens), who chairs the Committee on Environmental Protection, said the city is bringing back a “hidden tax” that was implemented in 1985 and used for decades until then-Mayor Bill de Blasio discarded it seven years ago.

He added the old “budget trick” might be legal — but it doesn’t make it fair.

“It’s using water and sewer monies to pay for parts of city government and services that have nothing to do with water and sewers,” he told The Post Saturday.

Landlords usually pay for water but pass along the cost to tenants in their monthly rents, making the plan nothing more than a regressive tax that will ultimately hurt low-income households the most since, they historically use more water than average New Yorkers, according to critics


Sunday, May 5, 2024

Noise annoys,800


A State Supreme Court Justice required the operators of Forest Hills Stadium to reduce their noise pollution in compliance with the city’s noise code before the start of its outdoor concert season.

The stadium, which is being leased to TieBreaker Productions by the historic West Side Tennis Club until 2034, must now obtain a permit from the NYPD to use sound amplification tools during concerts. The April 10 order also required an independent organization to monitor noise levels emitted from the stadium, which the court will need to approve of. 

The order was based on a lawsuit filed against the club by the Forest Hills Gardens Corporation, representing a large number of homeowners living around the stadium. In affidavits submitted in the lawsuit against West Side Tennis Club, residents explained how they believed their quality of life decreased as concerts increased in regularity in recent years.

In addition to the noise that residents say causes their apartments to vibrate, local homeowners also explained that concertgoers trespassing on their properties is a major inconvenience of living near the stadium.

Last month, State Supreme Court Judge Joseph J. Esposito sided with the residents and ordered measures to reduce the volume emitted during concert nights. Prior to the Judge’s order, an expert obtained by FHGC found that the overly debilitating noise that residents complained of was 100 times the legal limit for residential areas set by the city. 

“There was no evidence of record that playing of music louder than permitted by law was a significant and necessary part of the stadium’s operation and income,” read Justice Esposito’s order. 

The expenses associated with noise monitoring will fall on FHGC, not the stadium. However, the independent agency will provide noise readings after each show for both parties.

While some nearby residents have said that they do not mind the concerts, given that residents closest to the stadium receive free concert tickets and other perks, those who led the lawsuit were content with the judge’s decision. 

“Our community was forced to sue the West Side Tennis Club after the club and its for-profit concert operator, Tiebreaker, brazenly refused to coordinate with us over the use and closure of streets, noise levels, concert logistics and TRIPLING the original number of events they promised when concerts returned to the stadium ten years ago after a halt of over a decade,” said Forest Hills Gardens Corporation Board of Directors President Anthony Oprisiu in a statement.


Wednesday, May 1, 2024

The Expendable


An FDNY firefighter has died from a heart attack after he was fired as part of the city's initiative to allocate funds for its migrant crisis, leaving his widow and children struggling to run their home. Derek Floyd, 36, suffered cardiac arrest and died on April 15, just four months after the city fired him as part of a budget crunch to fund migrant services.

Floyd was one of the about 10 Fire Department employees categorized under the "long term duty" — people either injured on the job and assigned office work or absent due to prolonged illness. They were terminated just weeks before Christmas, as per sources within the FDNY.

Floyd's death has left his grieving widow, along with his six-year-old son Ethan and two-year-old daughter Abigail, facing the daunting possibility of being unable to afford their home.

Floyd, a veteran who completed three tours in the Middle East with the Marines, had been assigned to a desk job within the Fire Department chaplain's office because he had suffered another heart attack in 2019 while he was in the Fire Academy.

 While working in the chaplain's office on modified duty, Floyd helped coordinate the funerals of deceased FDNY members.

Despite being a married father of two young children, he was striving to get medical clearance to return to active duty as a firefighter before his termination.

Floyd was close to qualifying for additional medical benefits for his family and over $600,000 worth of death benefits when he was dismissed, leaving his family without any support despite his years of service.

Following his dismissal from the FDNY, Floyd found a job with a non-profit organization helping veterans. However, the salary was a lot lower than what he earned with the FDNY, the benefits were limited, and the demanding hours prevented him from spending time with his 6-year-old son and 2-year-old daughter.

"He used to be so present for, like, our kids and stuff," Cristine said. "Being a firefighter was something he was really passionate about. He was really a big-time, like, family person, he was all about his kids.

"If Derek would have stayed on, he would have had a life insurance policy with the FDNY. That would have helped out financially because right now, it's really bad. I'm honestly swimming in a lot of debt," his grieving widow revealed.