Friday, January 28, 2022

OMNY sucks


 Queens Chronicle

Installation of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s new tap-and-go payment system, OMNY, is running more than a year late, the Gothamist news outlet reported Monday.

The system is 15 months behind schedule, Gothamist said. It quoted Amy Linden, the acting lead for MTA Fare Payment Programs, as saying, “Substantial completion for the project has slipped.”

Linden made her comments during a committee meeting that day, saying that despite the delays, a quarter of subway and bus riders now pay with OMNY, which stands for One Metro New York.

The system, which is set to replace the MetroCard, was supposed to have been rolled out entirely by 2023. Now, however, the final design for the Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North part of the project is not expected to be done until the end of that year or early 2024, according to Gothamist.

The article also said the cost of the entire project to convert all MTA trains and buses to OMNY will be at least $772 million, with some changes still being negotiated. The initial contract was for $573 million.

AOC lets Dr. Chok take over a town hall


 Queens Chronicle

A virtual town hall on Wednesday, organized by the office of Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-Bronx, Queens), was missing the U.S. representative herself.

Ocasio-Cortez brought on city Commissioner of Health Dr. Dave Chokshi to talk about Covid with her constituents, but was unable to make an appearance after what her office called an “unavoidable conflict” came up at the last moment. In her absence, Chokshi held down the floor, reiterating the importance of getting vaccinated and boosted in the face of the Omicron wave, and taking questions from constituents.

“We apologize for the inconvenience and hope to see our constituents at next month’s town hall,” said an Ocasio-Cortez spokesperson. 

Chokshi began his presentation by updating constituents about the progress the city has made fighting back the Omicron variant. As of this week, the seven-day case average per day has dropped below 8,000 — about a fifth of the 43,000-case-per-day peak earlier in January.

“We have climbed down from the worst of the Omicron peak, but we know we have more work to do,” he said.

Similarly the city has seen a decrease in Covid hospitalizations from a total of about 6,500 patients hospitalized citywide on Jan. 11 to under 4,700, according to the most recent state data. 

The guidance for preventing more cases has stayed generally the same in recent months: Get vaccinated and get boosted, wear a mask in public, but particularly a high-quality one like a KN95, KF94 or N95, and continue to get tested and stay home if you’re positive or feeling sick.

Chokshi acknowledged that breakthrough cases for the vaccinated have increased under Omicron, but said that inoculation still has been shown in those cases to be an important form of protection from severe disease and hospitalization.

When he began taking questions from the audience, one constituent asked about the risk of blood clots from the Johnson and Johnson vaccine. Chokshi recognized that there is a “small risk” of blood clotting, “most most significant for younger women” but said overall the vaccine’s protection exceeds the risks.

“The most important thing to know is that the benefits of vaccination far outweigh any small risks,” he said.

Whatever it was that was so important to abdicate her responsibility as a representative of the people to this gaslighting weasel, she could have easily rescheduled this for another day. Especially since this was on zoom. 

Apparently, Dr. Chok is more powerful than we thought.

Gerrymandering Nikki

 NY Post

Democrats who control the state Legislature are plotting to knock off Rep. Nicole Malliotakis — the only Republican member of New York City’s congressional delegation — by redrawing a legislative district to add liberal Brooklyn precincts to her Republican stronghold, sources told The Post Wednesday night.

The Democrat’s plan would drastically alter the 11th congressional district, which combines Staten Island, her political base, with some more conservative areas of southern Brooklyn, including Bay Ridge, Bath Beach and Dyker Heights.

Under the redistricting plan that would go into effect for elections later this year, the district would include Bay Ridge but then snake northwest and take in the more heavily liberal Democratic neighborhoods of Sunset Park, Red Hook, Gowanus, Windsor Terrace and Park Slope, legislative sources said.

“Those are big Democratic areas,” one legislative source said.

Legislative insiders said if a Democratic candidate can run up the score with 80 percent of the vote in the Brooklyn side of the district, he or she can win by capturing about 40 percent in more conservative Staten Island.

The 11th CD is considered a purple or bellwether district as currently constituted. 

 Malliotakis defeated one-term Democratic incumbent Max Rose in the 2020 elections, aided by a strong showing by former President Trump in the district. Rose is seeking the Democratic nominations again in a potential rematch.

Brooklyn Democrat Assemblyman Robert Carroll, whose district takes in all of Park Slope and who graduated from Xaverian HS in Bay Ridge and has family roots there, has told politicos he is considering running for the redrawn congressional seat, sources said.

The Democratic primary also includes Democratic socialist Brittany Ramos DeBarros, who, like Rose, is an Army veteran who served in Afghanistan.

Malliotakis told The Post she’s a victim of a partisan hit job. 

“The people of this district and the state of New York voted not once, but twice, for non-partisan redistricting. To gerrymander a blatantly partisan map dilutes the voice of my constituents, defies the will of New York’s voters, and is a direct assault on the state constitution,” Malliotakis said.

Thursday, January 27, 2022

Queens courthouse jail is in atrocious condition

NY Daily News  

Working conditions at the Queens Criminal Court complex’s detention center are so disgusting, correction officers have complained to state and federal workplace oversight agencies.

Rats scurry in the kitchen, roaches crawl in the locker room, and flies hover over hopelessly backed-up toilets, say filings with the state Public Employee Safety and Health Bureau and the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

“The appalling conditions in the Queens courts are consistent with the decaying infrastructure at our jail facilities,” said Benny Boscio, president of the Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association.

Photos obtained by the Daily News show an overflowing toilet, ripped-up flooring stained with water from leaks, peeling paint, black mold creeping up the walls, a trashed locker room, and a disheveled food storage area.

As if working conditions weren’t bad enough, the Correction Department’s staffing crisis has cut the number of officers regularly working at the Queens Detention Center in Kew Gardens.

Roughly 40 officers out of the center’s detachment of 173 were moved to Rikers Island, and an additional 12 officers have retired since May 2021, correction sources said.

On top of that, the Correction Department has been constantly “redeploying” or temporarily moving officers to Rikers from the Queens courts on a spot basis, further reducing available staff.

The complaint alleges a security entry gate in the intake area has been broken for months, forcing officers to leave the gate unsecured.

The complaint to state officials describes food being stored improperly, broken laundry machines and cleaning equipment, and a filthy kitchen and rest rooms. Devices that filter air and drinking water for the detainees have been broken for months, the complaint said.

A factor in keeping the facility clean is that those jobs are usually done by detainees from Rikers — but there hasn’t been such a work detail in months, said Correction Department sources.

The situation has slowed down court operations by delaying the production of detainees at court hearings, said the sources.


A sign of mindless D.O.T. incompetence

 DOT sign gives name of wrong borough president. 

NY Post

The Bronx got burned by a Department of Transportation mistake that listed the name of a Queens official on a welcome sign, sparking a jokey inter-borough beef.

A newly installed “Welcome to the Bronx” sign on the Hutchinson River Parkway coming off the Whitestone Bridge wrongly listed Queens Borough President Donovan Richards instead of the Bronx’s BP Vanessa Gibson.

Gibson, who just took office this month, tweeted “we’re trying” at the DOT Wednesday.

“I know it’s been a rough couple of weeks in the Bronx, but y’all didn’t have to get rid of me already,” she said.

Richards then jumped on the error, using the opportunity to flash some Queens swagger over the Boogie Down.

“Being the BP of by far the best borough in NYC comes with an understanding that everyone always has #Queens on their mind. It’s natural,” Richards posted in response to a NY1 reporter who tweeted about the typo. “But the Bronx and @bronxbp @Vanessalgibson deserve their due as well so I’ll happily cede this space and work with DOT to ensure that happens.”

Wednesday, January 26, 2022

The doors of safety perception


 Four years before the conflagration that claimed the lives of 17 New Yorkers at the Twin Parks apartments in The Bronx, a devastating blaze tore through another building in the borough under remarkably similar circumstances.

On a frigid night shortly after Christmas 2017, fire broke out in the kitchen of a first floor apartment at 2363 Prospect Ave. in Belmont. Within minutes, thick black smoke spread throughout the building, and when it was over, 13 tenants had perished, including an infant. Six firefighters were injured.

In both the Twin Parks and Prospect Avenue fires, the death toll was magnified by a simple but deadly flaw: smoke and flame caused by a fire in a single apartment rocketed throughout both buildings after doors remained open.

An open door also fanned the flames in a blaze that consumed a Jackson Heights apartment building, leaving dozens of families homeless.

Today despite a repeated cycle of outrage and reform — including tougher penalties against landlords following the Belmont tragedy — thousands of self-closing doors that do not function properly still fill New York City, fully known to housing and fire officials.

Those malfunctioning doors are especially prevalent in lower-income neighborhoods dense with apartment buildings, an analysis by THE CITY of city records has found.

Thousands of violations remain unresolved for either non-functioning or non-existent self-closing doors across New York City, code violation records kept by the city Department of Housing Preservation & Development (HPD) show.

Examining every door violation filed by inspectors from Jan. 1, 2019 through the end of 2021, THE CITY found 18,305 open violations remained in 10,610 buildings as of Jan. 11, 2022.

More than 4,800 of those open citations are at least two years old, dating back to inspections that took place in 2019.

“Those statistics show what I’ve been saying repeatedly, which is we need strong housing laws,” said Coumcilmember Oswald Feliz (D-The Bronx), chair of the Council’s newly formed Fire Prevention Task Force. “We also need a system that promptly detects violations and a system that takes quick action to make sure that violations once detected are quickly cured.”

Overall, including violations since certified as fixed, inspectors wrote up 74,448 citations across all five boroughs during the three-year period.

Any residential building with three or more units must have spring-loaded doors that close automatically, under state law and city codes.

Many of the buildings with doors in violation for lacking self-closing mechanisms are located near those that burned in The Bronx and Queens,

THE CITY found 378 open violations for non-functioning or non-existent self-closing doors in 233 buildings as of Jan. 11 in ZIP code 10458 — where the Prospect Avenue fire took place.

That includes a 48-unit rental building across the street from the fire with two open violations, both dating back to October 2021, and one open violation, also dating to October, at a 160-unit building around the corner on Southern Boulevard.

As of last July, thanks to a reform that followed the 2017 Belmont fire, all such violations get cited as “immediately hazardous,” the most severe class of housing code violation.

A 47-unit building at 246 E. 199th St. had 10 open citations for self-closing door violations as of last week, some of which date back to 2019.

HPD notified the landlord months ago, but as of Friday none had been resolved. All but one of the citations were classified as an “immediate hazard.”

Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Other cop gunned down from Harlem domestic disturbance call dies 

NY Daily News

Mora, 27, died at NYU Langone Medical Center, where he was transferred Sunday from Harlem Hospital. Fellow Officer Jason Rivera, 22, was shot along side Mora while responding to a 911 call of a domestic dispute between a Harlem woman and her ex-con son, with sources telling the Daily News the fight started in part over the shooter’s strict vegan diet.

“True heroes never die,” said Patrick Lynch, president of the Police Benevolent Association union. “Our brother Police Officer Wilbert Mora has left us, but he will live on in the heart of every New York City police officer from this day forward.”

The recently-married Rivera, only 22 years old with just 14 months on the job, died Friday evening.

Mora remained on life support since Friday evening after he and Rivera were shot inside the apartment of a woman who called 911 over a fight with her son. Gunman LaShawn McNeil, 47, was fatally wounded by NYPD rookie Sumit Sulan in the wild shootout and died Monday afternoon.

Man killed by dumpster at Flushing house where illegal renovation was going on

The victim was helping to unload a dumpster when he was hit in the head at a home near 191st St. near 42nd Ave. about 10:30 a.m., cops said. He died from his head injuries.

NY Daily News 

No city construction permits had been filed at a Queens home where a 32-year-old man was fatally hit in the head by a dumpster door, city Department of Building officials said Tuesday.

The inside of the home on 191st St. near Northern Blvd. in Flushing was undergoing a “full gut renovation” when the door to a massive dumpster in the driveway popped open, striking a 32-year-old neighbor in the head, according to city records.

First responders found the victim pinned between the dumpster door and the house. He died at the scene.

A truck was dropping off the dumpster when the door popped open, police said. Jiangtao, who lived down the street, was talking to a construction worker at the site when the door hit him.

City building inspectors issued a stop work order, halting all construction, after determining no work permits had ever been filed for the construction.

A truck was dropping off the dumpster when the door popped open, police said. Jiangtao, who lived down the street, was talking to a construction worker at the site when the door hit him.

City building inspectors issued a stop work order, halting all construction, after determining no work permits had ever been filed for the construction.

Kathy's clowned

NY Daily News

A Nassau County judge ruled Monday the state’s mask mandate can’t be enforced, scrapping an order reinstituted by Gov. Hochul amid concerns about a winter surge of COVID-19 cases.

State Supreme Court Judge Thomas Rademaker in Mineola decided the state Department of Health didn’t have the legal authority to implement the mandate, and that it was up to the state Legislature to do so if needed.

The mandate “is a law that was promulgated and enacted unlawfully by an executive branch state agency, and therefore void and unenforceable,” the judge ruled.

 The state had initially instituted a mask mandate in April 2020 that ended last June for vaccinated individuals. However, Hochul announced in mid-December it would go back into effect for at least a month. The mandate covers businesses and venues, as well as schools, public transit, homeless shelters, correctional facilities, nursing homes and health care settings.

Monday, January 24, 2022

Shelly dies in prison

US News 

  Former New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, one of the most powerful figures in state government for two decades before his conviction on corruption charges, has died in federal custody. He was 77.

Silver died Monday, the federal Bureau of Prisons said, adding that the official cause of death would be determined by the medical examiner.

Silver’s supporters had said he was in failing health from multiple medical conditions. He had been serving his sentence at the Federal Medical Center in Devens, Massachusetts, but was in a hospital in nearby Ayer, Massachusetts, at the time of his death, the bureau said.

The Manhattan Democrat, who told a judge he prayed he would not die in prison, was serving a more than six-year sentence for using his clout in state government to benefit real estate developers, who rewarded Silver by referring lucrative business to his law firm.

Silver’s conviction ended a nearly four-decade career in the Assembly. He first won a seat representing Manhattan’s Lower East Side in 1976. Although he cut a low-key figure in the halls of the state Capitol, carefully parsing out comments in a baritone mumble, he was a consummate practitioner of Albany’s inside game.

He became Assembly speaker in 1994, a powerful position that made him one of Albany's “three men in a room” negotiating annual budgets and major legislation with the governor and state Senate leader.

In all, Silver served as speaker during the tenure of five New York governors, from Mario Cuomo to Andrew Cuomo.

Developer brings down AMI qualifications for incremental affordable units in luxury public housing building at Trylon Theater


A zoning application for the proposed Trylon development in Forest Hills has been modified to allow deeper affordable housing units so more families can live in the community, according to newly elected City Councilwoman Lynn Schulman.  

After extensive negotiations and discussions with the developer, Trylon LLC., the mixed-use residential development at 98-81 Queens Blvd. will utilize Mandatory Inclusionary Housing (MIH) Option 1, which is more affordable for prospective renters. 

The project will bring approximately 40 housing units to Forest Hills with the majority of these units targeted for households making between $30,000 and $70,000, Schulman said. Under MIH Option 1, developers are required to set aside affordable units for residents earning 60%, 40% and 100% of the AMI.

“According to the NYC Housing Preservation and Development’s ‘Housing New York Open Data,’ only one new construction affordable housing project was located in Queens Community Board 6 during the entire eight years of the de Blasio administration. There are other conditions that were expressed by the community board which are still being explored with Trylon LLC., but the housing agreement is the most significant,” said Schulman, who thanked the community board and Queens Borough President Donovan Richards for their guidance and input in the process, as well as Trylon LLC. for working with the community. 

After public hearings and discussions regarding the demolition of the Tower Diner and Trylon Theatre to make way for the new development on Queens Boulevard, Community Board 6 in November 2021 voted in favor of the project, but with certain conditions.

Woman kills another woman inside Far Rockaway luxury tower


NY Post

 A woman has been charged with fatally stabbing her female neighbor in a beachfront high-rise in Far Rockaway, cops said Sunday.

Evelyn Cruz, 48, allegedly plunged a knife into the chest of Jessica Britt, 33, “multiple times” at 711B Seagirt Ave. in Queens around 11:40 p.m. Saturday, cops said.

 The victim was taken to St. John’s Episcopal Hospital, where she was pronounced dead.

Cruz was charged with murder and possession of a weapon.

Both women lived in the building, but it wasn’t clear what they were fighting about, cops said.