Monday, December 5, 2022

City Council members call for caucus on crime with fellow electeds

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Queens Post

Three Queens council members who are members of the Commonsense Caucus say their legislative colleagues are out of touch when it comes to tackling crime and have called on them to get tough on improving public safety.

Council members Bob Holden, Vickie Paladino and Joann Ariola want their fellow lawmakers to take a hardline approach to crime which they say is spiraling out of control. Major crime in New York City is up nearly 27.5 percent this year compared to the same time last year, according to police data.

The lawmakers told the Queens Post last month that residents are living in fear with many afraid to walk the streets or take the subway— such is the severity of the situation. Others have left the city altogether, according to Holden.

The caucus members say it’s time for city and state lawmakers to start sticking up for law-abiding citizens by taking legislative action, engaging with their local police precincts and calling out crimes in their districts when they see them.

“I lived through the 70s and 80s and we’re going back to that,” said Holden, a Democrat who represents the 30th Council District in central Queens.

“My constituents are all worried. My wife, who is Asian American, will not set foot in the subway.”

The lawmakers argue that much of the city’s crime spike can be attributed to what they call “far-left policies” such as bail reform laws, the denigration of the police and their powers, as well progressive district attorney’s not prosecuting crimes.

These policies, the caucus members claim, have empowered criminals and led them to believe they won’t get punished. Many crimes, the lawmakers say, are caused by repeat offenders.

“It’s out of control because it’s absolute lawlessness,” said Paladino, a Republican who represents the 19th Council District in northeast Queens.

“If you don’t have a city that backs their cops or wants to do anything to change it then that’s a problem. And then we have our District Attorneys who aren’t doing their jobs either, they’re not prosecuting so it’s a turnstile system and it’s failing miserably.”

Many crimes too, the lawmakers argue, are being carried out by the mentally ill who they say should be forced to get treatment. Instead, many of these people are sleeping in the subways and roaming the streets putting residents at risk, the caucus members say.

However, many progressive lawmakers challenge this narrative and say that the city is in not in the midst of a crime wave.

They say that murders are in fact down by more than 12 percent from this time last year– and that crime is down compared to the Giuliani and Bloomberg years of the late 1990s and early 2000s.

Furthermore, they say that the rate of defendants being released under bail reform and then violently reoffending has seen little change since the reforms went into effect at the beginning of 2020. The rate went from 3 percent in 2019—prior to the reforms—to 4 percent in 2021, according to a report issued by the state Division of Criminal Justice Services.

Additionally, progressive Councilmember Tiffany Cab├ín has played down concerns about subway attacks, tweeting in September that violence on the system is a “one-in-a-million event.” She said that while the attacks were concerning, “let’s not let fear-mongering politicians and corporate media outlets scare us into thinking we have a dangerous, scary public transit system.”

Sunday, December 4, 2022

The night the traffic lights went out in Middle Queens

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QNS

Following rampant power outages in his district on Nov. 30, Councilman Robert Holden released a letter calling for a meeting with NYPD Commissioner Keechant Sewell, DOT Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez and OEM Commissioner Zachary Iscol to discuss what caused the outage and what steps could be taken to prevent it from happening again in the future.

Holden expressed concern over the city’s failure to swiftly address the Nov. 30 outages in Maspeth and Middle Village in which thousands of residents lost power for as long as five hours. Traffic in the area was drastically affected by this, according to Holden, as the outages occurred during rush hour.

 According to Holden, additional police officers were not deployed to the 104th Precinct until the end of the outages. Holden cited a desire to know what caused the outages and delayed response, as well as wanting to know how outages like this will be handled in the future.

“The areas affected routinely suffer due to overhead lines that cannot handle rain storms,” Holden said. “The transformers on Eliot Avenue blow often, including last year on Election Day. After two conversations with Commissioner Iscol, I still did not understand what additional resources our district would be receiving, nor what the emergency response was other than ‘monitoring the situation.’ It was only after 10:00 p.m. did the 104th Precinct receive additional police officers. Considering heavy rains and strong winds were forecasted, it would make sense that the Office of Emergency Management and NYPD would have coordinated for expected power outages in Queens.”

Holden said he wanted DOT Commissioner Rodriguez to take part in the meeting so his office could discuss plans for when a large amount of traffic lights go out. Holden is hopeful that such a meeting could help ensure each department is better prepared for the next massive outage.

Juniper Christmas

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I wonder if Transportation Alternatives will send their minions and moles to this too.

Friday, December 2, 2022

Citibike cancelled

 Citi Bike installation on pause for input 1

 Queens Chronicle

The city — make that Mayor Adams’ Office — has agreed to delay the installation of Citi Bike docking stations that are coming to Ridgewood, Glendale, Maspeth and Middle Village.

The delay, or “pause” as some are telling the Chronicle, came after a meeting two weeks ago at the district office of Councilman Bob Holden (D-Maspeth) that included civic and community leaders, city Department of Transportation officials and Mayor Adams’ Senior Advisor Tiffany Raspberry.

Community members have argued that the locations of between 50 and 60 docks were made without adequate community participation, particularly those that would be placed in the street at the expense of residential and business on-street parking.

The DOT ruffled many feathers in November upon announcing that installations would begin in December. Now that has been put off until January.

“When Mayor Adams heard that the community was upset that input wasn’t considered, he sent top officials from the DOT and his own staff,” said Eric Butkiewicz, chairman of the Transportation Committee of Community Board 5.

“I give him credit for this.”

Butkiewicz and Tony Nunziato, president of the Juniper Park Civic Association, said the community had offered a number of alternatives, including a report prepared by Christina Wilkinson of the JPCA and Newtown Historical Society that proponents said would have greatly reduced the number of street stations with only minor alterations to the DOT plan. Butkiewicz placed blame for the problems on the de Blasio administration

“It’s on pause pending community feedback,” Butkiewicz said. “We were pleased to hear that, because that’s all we wanted. We understand that contracts had been entered into a number of years ago, putting everyone into a situation that’s hard to get out of. What we want is the maximum benefit for the community while eliminating potential problems downstream.”

A DOT spokesman said in an email that the agency will be ready.

“Citi Bike has proven to be a wildly popular transportation option with ridership soaring since the pandemic,” he said. “DOT continues to thoughtfully incorporate community feedback and we’re excited to roll out new stations in January.” (STFU already, it's clearly not popular-JQ LLC)

Nunziato said the loss of parking spaces would be a hardship for many seniors who rely on cars to get around. A third-generation businessman, he said it could destroy small businesses still reeling from the pandemic.

“They’re pitting businesses against each other,” he said. “Citi Bike is a business. They’d be taking parking spaces from small businesses and giving them to a competing business. Small businesses built this city. Take parking away from small business and you close small businesses.”

 

Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Mayor Adams orders involuntary removal of mentally disturbed people from public places and the subway

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New York Times

Acting to address “a crisis we see all around us” toward the end of a year that has seen a string of high-profile crimes involving homeless people, Mayor Eric Adams announced a major push on Tuesday to remove people with severe, untreated mental illness from the city’s streets and subways.

Mr. Adams, who has made clearing homeless encampments a priority since taking office in January, said the effort would require involuntarily hospitalizing people who were a danger to themselves, even if they posed no risk of harm to others, arguing the city had a “moral obligation” to help them.

“The common misunderstanding persists that we cannot provide involuntary assistance unless the person is violent,” Mr. Adams said in an address at City Hall. “Going forward, we will make every effort to assist those who are suffering from mental illness.”

The mayor’s announcement comes at a heated moment in the national debate about rising crime and the role of the police, especially in dealing with people who are already in fragile mental health. Republicans, as well as tough-on-crime Democrats like Mr. Adams, a former police captain, have argued that growing disorder calls for more aggressive measures. Left-leaning advocates and officials who dominate New York politics say that deploying the police as auxiliary social workers may do more harm than good.

Other large cities have struggled with how to help homeless people, in particular those dealing with mental illness. In California, Gov. Gavin Newsom recently signed a law that could force some homeless people with disorders like schizophrenia into treatment. Many states have laws that allow for involuntary outpatient treatment, and Washington State allows people to be committed to hospitals if a judge finds that they pose a threat to themselves or others.

Officials in New York said the city would roll out training immediately to police officers, Emergency Medical Services staff and other medical personnel to “ensure compassionate care.” But the city’s new directive on the policy acknowledges that “case law does not provide extensive guidance regarding removals for mental health evaluations based on short interactions in the field.”

The policy immediately raised questions about who, exactly, would be swept up in it, and some advocates for people with mental illness warned it could face legal challenges.

Existing state laws allow both the police and medical workers to authorize involuntary hospitalization of people whose behavior poses a threat of “serious harm” to themselves or others. Brendan McGuire, chief counsel to the mayor, said on Tuesday that workers would assess people in public spaces “case by case” to see whether they were able to provide basic needs such as food, shelter and health care for themselves.

The city directive states that “unawareness or delusional misapprehension of surroundings” or “delusional misapprehension of physical condition or health” could be grounds for hospitalization.



 

Tuesday, November 29, 2022

This would be 17 million cheaper to fix than building a fake park in Jackson Heights

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Queens Chronicle

Nearly three years after the Flushing Meadows Corona Aquatic Center’s Olympic-caliber pool closed for what was supposed to be “at least six weeks” for an emergency roof repair, it remains off limits to the public as the Department of Parks and Recreation struggles to repair its unique movable floor.

Parks said in a City Council oversight hearing last December that the pool at the 14-year-old, $67 million facility — built as part of New York City’s unsuccessful bid to host the 2012 Olympics — would reopen by January or February 2022. But while the emergency roof repair was completed in July 2021, the pool remains closed with the department’s site now reporting that the closure is “due to needed repairs to the movable floor” that’s designed to move up and down to accommodate diving as well as swimming.

Whirling machine sounds reverberated from the direction of the pool when THE CITY visited the center on Tuesday as a father rushed in looking for a swim meet for his two children waiting in the car — only to be told he was at the wrong location.

“This part of the building is closed, that’s why we have this thing here,” Ashley Bernal, the facility’s deputy director, told THE CITY as she pointed to a black belt cordoning off a section of the chlorine-scented lobby.

Construction work on the floor began this September. Yet the Parks Department capital project tracker shows the $500,000 fix marked as “0% complete.”

Parks spokesperson Dan Kastanis told THE CITY the department plans to reopen the pool around January 2023, before closing it again for 12 to 18 months starting in the summer of 2024 for a complete reconstruction of its roof along with its HVAC and dehumidification systems. In the meantime, safety netting installed onto the ceiling in early 2020 would remain in place to catch concrete shedding from the roof.

Progress on repairing the movable floor has been slow, one source familiar with the project said, because it’s a custom item that does not exist in any other Parks-run aquatic facility and requires specialized materials that are not widely available. The parts are expected to arrive in December and be installed shortly after, the source said.

Queens Chronicle 

More than two years after its transformation began, the 26-block stretch of 34th Avenue between 69th Street and Junction Boulevard in Jackson Heights remains a source of joy to many and angst to others.

The 1.3-mile section of roadway has been part of the city’s Open Streets initiative since May 2020. The longest open street in the Big Apple, it’s considered the “gold standard” of the program. On Oct. 24, the New York City Department of Transportation’s major redesign of the corridor, a project called “Paseo Park,” was officially completed.

The new design includes more “shared streets,” where cars can travel at slow speeds and are directed by diverters and other road treatments, as well as eight traffic-restricted, fully pedestrian plazas. The stretch of the avenue serves as an open street between 7 a.m. and 8 p.m. seven days a week.

“We are very happy with this space and design,” says Jim Burke, co-founder of the 34th Avenue Open Streets Coalition, which had helped bring Open Streets to Jackson Heights and push for subsequent improvements. “And I think it’s a pretty fair compromise.”

Not everyone agrees. Cassandra Langer, a resident of Jackson Heights for the past 35 years, believes both the open street and new design have blighted 34th Avenue and the neighborhood in general. She wants the route returned to a standard, functioning street.

“This new design ignores the needs of the retired elderly population, handicapped people and others,” laments Langer, a community activist who works closely with the Jackson Heights Coops Alliance — which holds an anti-Paseo Park stance. “The changes might have made sense at the beginning of the pandemic, but not anymore.” 

Langer stresses that the Paseo Park design negatively impacts parking and the ability to get deliveries, and is “not pragmatic” for older citizens who cannot solely rely on biking or walking to get around. She also points out that barriers aren’t always removed when open-street hours have ended.

“The politicians are not listening to our side or even looking for a compromise,” Langer complains. “They just want a top-down approach. We’re the grassroots taking on the powers that be.”

She said more community meetings about the situation will be held and a lawsuit is possible. And she believes the upcoming winter months “will show how unworkable the Paseo Park design is.”

Jim Burke, unlike Langer, is satisfied with the open-streets format, which he had helped fight to establish. He notes the various family-friendly activities held on 34th Avenue: everything from gardening to arts and crafts to dance classes.

The longtime safe-streets activist also emphasizes that Paseo Park “is a way to get to other thoroughfares without a car,” which is important to many in Jackson Heights. Burke believes the new level of accessibility, along with the chairs and tables peppered throughout the 34th Avenue corridor, is partly responsible for the economic resurgence of some “mom-and-pop stores and vendors” in the area.

In response to those who criticize Paseo Park for being ill-suited to the needs of older citizens, Burke cites his mother: “She has been using Access-A-Ride without an issue.” (Jim Burke's mom lives in Rockaway Beach)

Councilman Shekar Krishnan (D-Jackson Heights), who was instrumental in bringing Paseo Park to the community, is proud to have such a space in his district.

"The 34th Avenue Open Street was designed by DOT, FDNY and NYPD to improve safety and accessibility for our community," Krishnan told the Chronicle. “It is a family-focused oasis on what was once a car-centric corridor, bringing together neighbors of all backgrounds and ages. ” He declined to speculate about future plans.

Really would like to hear what the NYPD and FDNY have to say about their role in the open streets that has impeded accessibility of ambulances, fire engines and patrol cars. And who actually from those departments approved this? This one mile of new fake park land is going to cost us 84 million dollars too, so this dumb experiment is going to leave that Flushing pool high and dry.

Mentally disturbed woman got rental aid and wound up stabbing another tenant.

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NY Post

A Queens woman who allegedly spent months harassing her neighbor and landlord was arrested Saturday for stabbing her fellow tenant, police and witnesses told The Post.

The alleged attacker and the victim each rented separate units in the multi-family home in South Ozone Park, where the landlord lived downstairs.

The bloody assault unfolded just before 8 a.m. when Najia M. Vaughn allegedly knocked on her neighbor’s door, began arguing with the woman inside, then pulled out a knife and cut the 31-year-old victim on the forehead, chest and leg, residents and authorities said.

Vaughn, 28, fled and was arrested about a block away, police said. She was charged with felony assault and criminal possession of a weapon.

The accused attacker, who receives rental assistance from the city, moved into the 127th Street home in May, and was referred to the property by the city’s Human Resources Administration, said her terrified landlord, who did not want to be named.

Caption Commissioner Sewell

 

 Image 

NY Post 

City straphangers have been more likely to be victims of crime in the last two-and-a-half years compared to before the pandemic, The Post previously reported.

Killings in the subway system since 2020 have also skyrocketed to the highest annual levels in 25 years as the city grapples with an overall spike in random violence, NYPD stats show.

The system had seen nine murders so far this year as of Oct. 31, compared to six during that time period last year, according to the newly released data, according to the newly released data.

The transit violence that has prompted officials to deploy more police officers underground, with the state footing the bill for overtime.

But noteworthy and heinous crimes have persisted, including back-to-back stabbings last Tuesday night that left three people injured including a good Samaritan. 

Usually I just post a picture and just leave it there, but this capture came from the presser announcing this new deployment and that look Commissoner Sewell was giving Adams while he was reading from a script claiming subway crime was down was just too perfect. 

Also from the same press conference, this picture of Mayor Adams presenting honors to two hero cops is just inexplicable.

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