Sunday, September 24, 2017

More city workers = more city vehicles

From the NY Times:

If it seems like traffic in New York City might be a bit worse than before, there may be an unexpected factor: city workers.

New York City’s sprawling municipal work force is driving more than it used to, city statistics reveal. City vehicles logged 102 million miles on the road in the last fiscal year, which ended in June, 25 percent more miles than in 2014, Mayor Bill de Blasio’s first year in office.

Accidents are also up: Workers driving city-owned cars for the Department of Buildings were involved in 98 crashes last fiscal year, an increase from 22 crashes four years ago. Department of Correction vehicles were involved in 116 crashes, nearly double the number four years ago. The Department of Transportation and Parks Department fared no better.

The city’s fleet — everything from take-home cars to garbage trucks — now exceeds 30,000 vehicles, 10 percent larger than when Mr. de Blasio took office.

Crowley, Van Bramer, under investigation for breaking DOE rules

From Progress Queens:

Allegations that New York City Councilmembers Elizabeth Crowley (D-Maspeth) and Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) were campaigning on the day before the September Democratic Party primary on school property have been referred to the Office of Special Investigations of the New York City Department of Education. Information of the referral was provided to Progress Queens by a source. According to Chancellor's Regulation D-130, "no candidate for public office, including an elected official seeking reelection, may visit any Department of Education school building during the 60 calendar days prior to a primary and/or election," except in accordance with some exceptions.

In particular, Chancellor's Regulation D-130 generally prohibits the use of school property for electioneering work during after-school hours. In a prior report, Progress Queens published a photograph showing Councilmember Van Bramer standing next to Councilmember Crowley, who was hiding behind a gentleman. The officials were standing on the playground of Queens P.S. 229. According to information received by Progress Queens, the photograph of Councilmembers Crowley and Van Bramer was taken after children were let out of class on Monday, 11 September. The only exceptions to the general prohibition of after-school use of school property for electioneering work would be for candidate forums, provided, however, that all candidates would have been invited for the forum, or if public officials were engaged in use of public school property in a manner that was directly related to their official public duties and responsibilities.

After publication of the prior report by Progress Queens, a representative of Councilmember Crowley's committee to reelect declined an opportunity to issue a statement to Progress Queens in response to the prior report. Councilmember Van Bramer has not answered prior requests for interviews, and he did not immediately answer a request for comment for this report.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Beware of the Metro Ave ticket trap

From CBS 2:

On Thursday night, CBS2 shared a story about drivers in Queens who felt they were being forced into a ticket trap, with police standing by to write them up for blocking the box.

In the 24 hours since, more drivers have come forward with the same complaint. So CBS2’s Jessica Layton demanded answers from the NYPD.

The corner was empty of the NYPD traffic enforcement officers Friday, which came as a welcome sign for drivers like Angela Taveras, who said for weeks the agents have been pouncing on people who get caught in the chaotic intersection while doing nothing to help traffic move along.

Finally, some good news...

What a difference it makes not having Mary Beth Betts around!

Friday, September 22, 2017

2 construction workers die on the job

From NY1:

A deadly fall brought work at the site of the Manhattan West development to a standstill after two men tumbled out of a bucket lift to the ground below.

Video shows the moments after the accident at the 62-story mixed-use building going up at 9th Avenue and 33rd street.

EMS crews rushed one victim to the hospital with head and body trauma. The other was pronounced dead at the scene.

The victims were both 45 years old. Witnesses say both men appeared to be wearing safety harnesses but may not have had them secured.

It happened just hours after another fatal fall in Lower Manhattan Thursday morning. Police say Juan Chonillo fell through an open hole and dropped 27 stories to his death at a construction site on Maiden Lane. According to relatives, the 43-year-old father of six was supporting family in Ecuador.

Great moments in overdevelopment history

From DNA Info:

More than half of the city’s 1.1 million public school students attend overcrowded schools, according to a new report from the watchdog group Class Size Matters.

Despite the Department of Education’s addition of more seats and new buildings, many families feel the situation is getting worse as existing seats are being chipped away due to lost leases, schools being co-located together, or the elimination of annexes, mini-buildings and trailers housing temporary classrooms, according to the report released Thursday.

As trailers housing temporary classrooms — with nearly 8,000 seats — are expected to be phased out entirely, it may further strain school buildings, the report warns.

Roughly 575,000 students attended schools in 2015-2016 that were at or above 100 percent capacity, the report said, citing Department of Education enrollment data.

From the Queens Chronicle:

School Construction Authority officials on Monday said they have the money ready to alleviate overcrowding in overutilized school districts, such as SD 24 in southwest and western Queens, but a lack of available space remains their main obstacle.

“The hardest job of the SCA is to try and find real estate,” Michael Mirisola, director of External Affairs at the SCA, told members of the Borough Board during the annual update of the agency’s five-year capital plan. “We have brokers in every borough, in every district. We are constantly doing tests to see if a site will hold a school. We go through that exercise many times during the week and some of them just don’t pass muster.”

School District 24 has consistently been one of the most overcrowded in the city — as of February of this year, its average school utilization rate was 115 percent.
Mirisola said the SCA is always open to tips on available space to fit a school, yet many suggested sites are ultimately deemed unfit for an educational facility.

“Generally, the No. 1 reason is size,” he said. “If it’s a funded need and we don’t have a project, it’s because we’re looking for a location.”

Lots suitable for a new school site must be 20,000 square feet, the SCA official said, in addition to “other specifications and other requirements.”

They're all connected

More from Progress Queens:

In Queens, faith in Government institutions was revealed to be severely lacking after New York City Council candidate Paul Graziano filed a civil petition in New York State Supreme Court for Queens County, alleging criminality, such as fraud and forgery, in the ballot petitioning process carried out by incumbent Councilmember Paul Vallone (D-Bayside). On the Queens Crap blog, which attracts some of Queens most formidable civic-minded activists, some of the comments posted by readers to news of the court filing expressed concern that the justices of the Queens County court system would not be able to independently oversee the Court case. To some Government reform activists in Queens, the Graziano Court petition served as a symbolic Rorschach test, providing insight into the public's lack of faith in the Queens County court system. Many comments on the Queens Crap post raised questions about the "allegiance" that justices in the Queens County court system owed to leaders of the Queens Democratic County Committee, expressed concern that Mr. Graziano would not be able to receive a "fair hearing," and invoked the resignation that the "the [Queens] Machine will work to stop this at all costs."

Concerns about possible interference by the Queens Democratic County Committee were rooted in the fact that the County committee supports the reelection of incumbents as a way to earn political allegiance and to create a lockstep on power and authority over local elected officials. The role of money in politics is also a factor, because the County committee can marshal resources to support the reelection of incumbents, leaving primary challengers at a distinct financial disadvantage. Indeed, as reported by Progress Queens, Mr. Graziano ultimately discontinued his Court petition due to the high anticipated costs of having to litigate his case, reaffirming the belief to some Government reform activists that the role of money in politics even extends to being able to successfully petition the Government for a redress of grievances. The allegations made by the Graziano campaign against the Vallone campaign heightened new fears about the integrity of the voting process in Queens. In the 2016 election cycle, it was revealed that the New York City Board of Elections purged large numbers of voters without cause, triggering the filing of a Federal civil rights complaint in Brooklyn Federal Court that was later joined by both the U.S. Attorney's Office, headed at that time then by Mr. Capers, and by the office of the State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman (D-New York). To some Government reform activists, it has appeared that Queens voters have been disenfranchised for two years in a row, first, in 2016, when some voters were purged from the rolls, and, second, this year, when Federal prosecutors did nothing to investigate the allegations of criminality in the Graziano petition against the Vallone campaign, thereby allowing voters to cast their ballots for an incumbent, who may later be investigated for wrong-doing, although there is no indication that Federal prosecutors are presently conducting any such investigation. The press office of the U.S. Attorney's Office in Brooklyn did not answer advance questions submitted by Progress Queens for this report.