Tuesday, September 30, 2014

An environmentally friendly Kew Gardens Cinema

From DNA Info:

Kew Gardens Cinemas may be eight decades old, but the theater is at the forefront of the latest environmental trend.

The art deco indie flick venue, at 81-05 Lefferts Blvd., near Austin Street, is currently installing several solar panels on its rooftop.

The solar panels will cover about 6,000 square feet of the building's roof, owner Harvey Elgart said in an email Friday.

Energy produced by the panels will be used to power lights and movie projectors at the six-screen theater, according to its representative. It was not clear how many of the projectors would be powered by the panels.

Living wage expanded

From the NY Times:

Mayor Bill de Blasio plans to sign an executive order on Tuesday significantly expanding New York City’s living wage law, covering thousands of previously exempt workers and raising the hourly wage itself, to $13.13 from $11.90, for workers who do not receive benefits.

The change is also intended to frame a looming debate in Albany, where Mr. de Blasio hopes to win the authority to set the citywide minimum wage at the same amount. If Mr. de Blasio succeeds in matching the minimum wage to the living wage, all hourly workers in the city would earn more than $15 by 2019, according to the city’s projections.

The executive order will immediately cover employees of commercial tenants on projects that receive more than $1 million in city subsidies going forward. Workers who receive benefits such as health insurance will earn $11.50 an hour, compared with $10.30 before.

While cautioning that it was “notoriously difficult to develop projections related to economic development,” the administration estimated that about 18,000 workers would be covered over the next five years, roughly 70 percent of all the jobs at businesses that will receive new financial assistance from the city’s Economic Development Corporation.

Astoria Cove approved by planning commission despite objections

From DNA Info:

The City Planning Commission approved zoning changes that will clear the way for the massive and controversial Astoria Cove housing complex.

Ten out of 13 commissioners approved the entire project proposal on Monday afternoon. The City Council now has about two months to hold a public hearing and vote on the project, which is set to be built on 26th Avenue between 4th and 9th streets.

The Astoria Cove plan, which the developers said will not involve public subsidies, features five mixed-used buildings with nearly 1,700 apartments on the waterfront of Astoria’s Hallets Point.

The project, which will be constructed over 10 years, also includes 54,000 square feet of retail space, an elementary school, a children’s play area and 84,000 square feet of public open space.

Queens Borough President Melinda Katz and Queens Community Board 1 recently objected the project, asking the developers to include more than the 345 affordable units currently planned.

Twenty percent of the entire project is set to be affordable, according to the developers' attorney. But the community board asked that at least 35 percent of the project be allocated for affordable housing.

Local officials have also said they wanted the massive housing complex to come with more public transportation services.

Even more homeless on the streets and in shelters

From CBS 2:

More people are living on New York City’s streets now than at this time last year.

As CBS 2’s Hazel Sanchez reported, the number of homeless on the streets — 3,357 — is down by 24 percent since 2005, according to city data. But the number is up by 177 people, or 5 percent, compared to last year.

Overall, there are more than 56,000 people living in city shelters — a number that continues to grow, according to the DHS.

Brooklyn area eyed for affordable housing is already overpriced

From PIX11:

Residents and real estate agents in the East New York neighborhood of Brooklyn believe developers are moving in and purchasing property, dramatically raising prices.

“Land is starting to be speculated at 2-3 times what it was going for in just the last year,” said Kyle McCullers, a salesperson with Citi Habitats.

Last Spring Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the city would help build or sustain 200,000 affordable housing units in the five boroughs, with construction starting in East New York.

McCullers believes developers may be purchasing land hoping to benefit from an uptick in funds to build in the area.

“Once you get new development and developers have to cover their cost, what they perceive to be low rent may not be low rent for the folks who are from the neighborhood,” McCullers explained.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Why not just close LaGuardia Airport?

From Crains:

The obsolete Central Terminal building at LaGuardia Airport has drawn ridicule from business travelers. Now Gov. Andrew Cuomo wants to spend $3.6 billion to build a new one.

But this cost is much higher if one includes the diminished value of the properties of the 150,000 residents who live under LGA or JFK flight paths. LGA's key advantage, its proximity to Manhattan, would be all but eliminated if the Metropolitan Transportation Authority built one-seat ride express rail to JFK. For less than $1 billion, the MTA could restore the 3.5-mile disused LIRR Rockaway Beach line in Queens, producing a world-class rail link to JFK while speeding travel to Aqueduct and the Rockaways.

With this high-speed link, a strong case could be made for closing LGA. By handling displaced LGA passengers via larger aircraft at JFK, takeoff and landing noise would be drastically reduced and airline efficiency improved.

With LGA closed, this valuable 680-acre city-owned waterfront parcel could accommodate more than 30,000 units of housing toward the mayor's goal of 200,000 affordable units.

Mr. Cuomo should insist that full consideration of closing LGA be a key part of an FAA-mandated aviation noise study now underway.

—George Haikalis
President, Institute for Rational Urban Mobility

Red fox discovered in Queens

There's a blog called Queens Coyote that tracks sightings of unusual wildlife in the borough. It caught a red fox on its camera recently. The author will not reveal where in Queens it was spotted, other than "not in Alley Pond Park".

Giant Manhattan developer takes over Astoria megaproject

From Curbed:

Earlier this week, the Durst Organization bought the long-awaited development site at Hallets Point, paying "well over $100 million" for a 90 percent stake in the Astoria megaproject.

The Hallets Point development has been in the works for years, and developer Lincoln Equities finally got the greenlight from the city last fall. All told, the project will have 1,921 apartments (plus 483 affordable units), spread across seven buildings. The plans also call for an esplanade, a school and retail space, including a supermarket. Interestingly, the New York City Housing Authority struck a deal that will allow the developer to build and operate two affordable buildings on the grounds of Astoria Houses, the nearby public housing complex.

So the affordable housing will be on the grounds of the projects and the council went for this?? ROFLMAO!!!

What Resorts World must resort to

From Crains:

The jackpot at Resorts World Casino is a little leaner these days—though not for gamblers.

The 36-month-old racino at Aqueduct Raceway in Queens has enjoyed a run of record-breaking revenue and double-digit annual growth. But during the past year, its growth has slowed, just as its owner, Malaysia-based Genting Americas, is hoping to be approved by the state for a $1.5 billion luxury resort and casino in Tuxedo.

Resorts World's revenue this fiscal year, which ends March 31, 2015, will increase by "high single digits," compared with a 14% growth rate in the previous fiscal year, said Christian Goode, senior vice president of development for Genting Americas. Last fiscal year, it generated $792 million in revenue, of which $618.2 million went to paying fees and to Albany in the form of gambling taxes.

"Double-digit growth is simply not sustainable, but whether we get [a casino upstate], our efforts are full steam ahead in Queens," he added. "There is more we can do there."

Resorts World has not been as successful tapping into the robust tourism industry in the Big Apple as it would have liked. The vast majority of its customers are locals from Brooklyn, Queens and Long Island. To attract more visitors, Mr. Goode is considering developing a hotel near John F. Kennedy International Airport—one that would offer better amenities than the existing budget airport properties—and help the casino capture international travelers, who would be shuttled directly to Aqueduct.

"Revealing money's influence on politics"

The website "Maplight" was brought to my attention recently. You can look up who contributes to congressmembers by category. Here's an example: Joe Crowley.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Piss poor planning leads to parking nightmare

From the Daily News:

The city shuttered the decrepit Queensboro Hall municipal parking garage a week early on Wednesday after tagging the half-century-old structure a safety hazard.

But local leaders said the Department of Transportation has no concrete plan to accommodate hundreds of people — including jurors and court personnel — who use the roughly 500-space facility every day.

Workers handed out flyers to confused drivers Wednesday, outlining nearby private garages and bus routes.

The lot serves both Borough Hall and the Queens Criminal Court facilities in Kew Gardens.

Transportation officials originally planned to close it Oct. 1 but announced late Tuesday it would shutter the next day.

“This came fast,” said Queens Borough President Melinda Katz, who fears frustrated drivers will spend hours circling nearby streets, adding heavy traffic around nearby Public School 99.

“What we need right now is for the city to give us alternatives where people can park,” she said.

One of those options could be to shuttle people from Flushing Meadows-Corona Park and nearby colleges, Katz said.

The borough’s criminal justice system is also expected to take a big hit, a spokesman for District Attorney Richard Brown said.

“The garage’s closing will be extremely burdensome on crime victims, witnesses, jurors and defendants, as well as the surrounding neighborhood,” he said.

New Elmhurst LIRR station in the works?

From the Queens Courier:

The wheels of the LIRR might soon be making a stop once again in Elmhurst — or at least in the next five years.

In the MTA’s 2015-2019 $32 billion Capital Program, released earlier this week, $40 million is being set aside to construct a new Long Island Rail Road station on the Port Washington Branch.

“A new Elmhurst station will provide commuter railroad service to this vibrant community,” the MTA said in the five-year plan said.

The proposed station elements include two new 12-car platforms, staircases, platform railings, platform shelters, ticket vending machines, lighting, communication and security systems, and site improvements, according to the capital plan.

Something else to dislike about Astoria Cove

From the Daily News:

The development group seeking city approvals to build a luxury housing complex on the Astoria waterfront has come under fire because one of its principals hired a firm connected to a scandal-scarred contractor to do work on another Queens site, the Daily News has learned.

Alma Realty, the lead builder behind the Astoria Cove project, hired the company, SSC High Rise Construction, to do foundation work at another project it is developing nearby, on Vernon Blvd.

“This contractor may be working for Alma but will not be employed at the Astoria Cove site,” said a spokesman for the Astoria Cove developers. “In light of allegations that have been brought to our attention, we are asking Alma to investigate these claims further and take the appropriate action.”

SSC High Rise Construction is run in part by Michael Mahoney, according to court filings and a signed affidavit by a former employee.

Mahoney and six companies he controlled were ordered by a state Supreme Court judge to pay $1.6 million in back wages in 2011, in regards to a suit brought by then-Attorney General Andrew Cuomo.

Cuomo charged them with withholding millions of dollars in employees’ overtime and creating a racially tiered hierarchy of wages on construction sites, where white Irish employees were paid $25 an hour, black employees received $18 and Latino employees, $15.

Mahoney also pled guilty to felony tax evasion in 2011 in a suit brought by U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, and was sentenced to two years’ probation.

Forest Hills Stadium experimenting with sound blankets

From DNA Info:

Organizers of a summer outdoor concert series at Forest Hills Stadium said they are experimenting with ways to reduce noise from future performances after receiving complaints from community members.

They have been testing sound blankets, typically used at airports and construction sites, on the fence surrounding the stadium, said Jon McMillan, one of the organizers. They were also considering placing them at the top of the venue.

McMillan said that the group is trying to figure out whether covering large portions the fence with sound blankets is feasible and how to include entrances to the stadium into their sound mitigation plan.

Arrests of family shelter residents made in Rockaway

From the Rockaway Times:

There have been several arrests of individuals who reside at the new homeless shelter on Beach 65th St. have been arrested recently, according to police. Capt. Carlos Fernandez who oversees District 23 of the transit police, said there were nine arrests made in the last 28-day period of individuals who live at the shelter.

Those arrests were for theft of service and include violations including jumping the turnstile and entering the station illegally through the exit doors, he said. There have also been several quality of life summons issued there.

Police from The 100th Precinct also made two arrests: one of an individual who had an open container and had a warrant against him and another of an individual who was carrying a knife.

There was also a reported burglary within the shelter, during which a resident’s prescription medication was stolen, Capt. Craig Adelman said.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Former Elks Lodge added to National Register

From the Queens Gazette:

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced on September 22 that the New York State Board for Historic Preservation recommended adding 22 properties, resources and districts to the State and National Registers of Historic Places.

One of the locations is here in Queens. The Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, Lodge Number 878 on Queens Boulevard in Elmhurst is on the list. The 1923 building is a distinctive architectural example of a 20th-century fraternal organization building designed in the Italian Renaissance Revival style.

Elmhurst library construction is 2 years behind schedule

From the Queens Chronicle:

Don’t bother digging through your wallet and dusting off your library card just yet.

The new Elmhurst branch of the Queens Library, located at 86-01 Broadway, will not open this year, as previously reported.

Instead, the building, which is still under construction, is scheduled to be completed next spring.
When ground was broken on the new 30,000-square-foot structure in 2011, an original tentative opening date of 2013 was given.

Last year, it was reported that the $27.8 million library would open in 2014.

While a sign at the construction site says the Elmhurst branch will open in November 2014, replacing the crossed-out date of 2013, Queens Library spokeswoman Jennifer Manley confirmed Wednesday the building will not be completed until next spring.

“Construction is moving along and good progress has been made,” Manley said in an email. “The exterior envelope and major infrastructure [has been] completed. The target for construction to be substantially complete is spring 2015.”

Woodhaven wants housing left alone

From The Forum:

Perhaps the most ambitious project of his mayoralty, Hizzoner Bill de Blasio’s 10-year, five-borough affordable housing plan is not without its critics.

Just ask some residents of Woodhaven.

“It’s a cheap way for the city to provide ‘affordable housing,’” said Sherman Kane at last Thursday’s meeting of the Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association. “It costs the city nothing. We, as middle-class homeowners, would be providing the solution.”

In late July, the WRBA reached out to the mayor’s office via a letter expressing their concerns and requesting more information, and has even circulated a petition decrying the $41 billion project. The civic has not received a response.

“We just wanted to be more educated on what [de Blasio] is trying to do,” said WRBA President Martin Colberg last week.

Colberg noted that one of the main concerns is zoning, and how the plan will involve green-lighting basement and attic apartments. Published reports indicate that de Blasio is keen on converting previously illegal basement and cellar dwellings.

“We worked hard to keep the zoning the way it is, to keep the character the way it is,” he said. “Just shoving people into a basement or attic is not the answer.”

Colberg said the mayor’s sweeping response cannot come at the expense of a community’s character and the lives therein.

“We’re talking about safety—of the NYPD, of the FDNY, if they have to go into the [converted] house, the safety of neighbors,” Colberg posited. “Whether you’re a renter or a homeowner, you’re going to be affected by this.”

Hotel contractor has unsafe history

From DNA Info:

The subcontractor overseeing concrete work at the West 37th Street hotel construction project where a concrete slab crushed a worker Tuesday has a history of safety violations, records show.

Rodalfo Vasquez-Galian, 27, of 418 Liberty Ave. in Jersey City, was killed after the block fell on him while he was working on the foundation for the 22-floor hotel at 326 West 37th St. Tuesday afternoon.

A stop-work order was issued Tuesday for the entire work location because an approach pit, which gives workers access to space beneath the foundation, was not dug, according to the city Department of Buildings.

Federal Department of Labor records show that Park Side Construction, which was responsible for cement work on the project, was issued $11,900 in fines on May 27, because the company lacked safety equipment at an 81 Fleet Place project. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued the fine because the company had no fall protection for workers.

After Tuesday's fatal accident, the DOB issued a violation to the adjoining building where the slab became detached, 320 West 37th St., and also gave a partial vacate order for the first-floor storefront on the exposed side of the building, a DOB spokesman said.

New York State also sued Park Side in 2013 for failing to pay more than $174,000 in worker's compensation insurance, according to court papers.

City Council attempts to end harassment of rent regulated tenants

From AMNY:

Landlords who try to harass their rent-regulated tenants into abandoning their homes will be publicly shamed and hit with heavier fines, under a bill approved unanimously Tuesday by the New York City Council.

The bill, passed 49-0, doubles the maximum fine a landlord can face, to $10,000 from $5,000 per violation, in housing court. The city's Housing Preservation and Development agency would also be required to post online the names of the harassing landlords, who often can start charging market rates once the apartments are vacated.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Businesses to boycott

I saw the above front page story on the cover of this week's Ridgewood Times, and I said hmmm, signs are a problem throughout the city, so what can we do about it? Taking them down is one tactic, and reporting them to DSNY is another. But I had another idea: Compile a list of slobby businesses and let the world see just who they should boycott. I started a photo collection of ones I found in my travels, and I ask that you send me shots of the signs in your neighborhood as well and I'll add them to the album.

We can skip the lost/found flyers, the ones about yard sales and charity fundraisers. Let's go after the for-profit people who think city property, like lampposts and tree pits, are there to provide free advertising for them.

And here's the link to report them to DSNY.

Big Allis a big polluter

From the Queens Tribune:

The Environment New York Research & Policy Center released a report last week indicating that the TC Ravenswood Power Plant in Long Island City is the State’s most significant carbon polluter.

According to the center, Ravenswood produces about 2.3 million metric tons in emissions, which is the equivalent of about 500,000 cars.

These statistics were collected from U.S. Dept. of Energy 2012 emissions data. Ravenswood generating station is a 2,480 megawatt with the capacity to service 21 percent of the City’s peak energy load.

Rose Marie Poveromo sits on the Community Board 1 environmental committee. In response to the ENYRPC report, she said, “I believe it.”

The plant, known colloquially as Big Allis, has sparked moderate concern from residents throughout the years regarding noise, water and air pollution.

“All [power plants] have to become clean and green,” Poveromo said. “We who live in the communities [are] suffering from air pollution and noise pollution.”

Dorothy Morehead, vice chair of the Newtown Creek Alliance and chair of the environmental committee for Community Board 2, which neighbors the plant, said “emissions from power plants has long been a concern.”

A TransCanada representative disputed the findings of the report.

“Their conclusion is based on estimated data, not actual data. Based on real data supplied to the regulator, our CO2 emitting rates at the Ravenswood Generating Station are significantly lower than what the report claims,” the spokesperson said.

Win or lose, it's all about the money

From the Observer:

The Queens attorney, trounced this month in a three-way primary for indicted State Senator Malcolm Smith’s seat, quietly funneled more than $40,000 in campaign cash to his own law firm during and after the race. The eyebrow-raising move, while legal under New York State’s porous election law, has infuriated some of his bundlers and raised new ethical questions about the first-time candidate’s purpose for even seeking elected office.

But Mr. Avery claimed he simply selected the Law Office of Munir Avery because of its “experience, dedication and commitment to affordable legal services”–even though Mr. Avery paid his firm more cash than Gov. Andrew Cuomo gave to his ace election lawyer. “The campaign hired The Law office of Munir Avery for its experience in the legal compliance consulting field. If you look at the amount every other campaign spends for these services you will find this fee to be quite affordable and in sync with the industry as a whole,” Mr. Avery said in a statement.

“The campaign looked at several service providers and determined the Law Office of Munir Avery was the best option because of their experience, dedication and commitment to affordable legal services,” he added.

Practicing elder law and estate administration, Mr. Avery has served as a counsel to Queens Assemblyman Michael Simanowitz. The failed candidate’s law office website is a Tumblr page and sources say he is the firm’s lone employee.

Remarkably, the $40,852 spent on “legal compliance” fees to himself from July until 10 days after the primary represented about half of his total campaign expenses. In that time, he managed to raise more than $80,000, keeping pace with Mr. Comrie and Mr. Smith.

One government watchdog said it wasn’t “atypical” for a candidate to send money to his own law firm or staff, but questioned the sheer amount Mr. Avery spent and his lack of disclosure about its purpose.

Silvercup West proposal back for renewal

From the Queens Chronicle:

Silvercup West, the long-delayed mixed-use development next to the Queensboro Bridge, was brought before Community Board 2 on Sept. 17 to renew special permits and authorizations.

In 2006, when the project was going through the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure, Silvercup West was praised for providing waterfront public access, affordable housing and office space for the film and television industry — in honor of the project’s namesake, Silvercup Studios.

Within two years of CB 2 approval and City Council approval, the development was stalled for various reasons and has since remained in limbo.

Now with the special permits and authorizations about to expire, developers want to renew.

“It is important to know this project has already been approved, so your consideration should be based on the facts upon which the project was approved and whether or not those facts remain true,” Marcie Kesner, the attorney representing the Silvercup West developers, said.

The permits in question are for a Silvercup sign on the side of one of the new buildings; building setbacks, which would allow builders to pull back the height of the buildings from the proximity to the Queensboro Bridge; and 50,000 square feet of waterfront access on the East River. The special authorization would be for the construction of a 1,400-car parking garage.

Overall, board members seemed largely in favor of the plan, though the Wednesday night meeting was a public hearing.

Questions asked by members were clarifying ones to ensure the project would still provide affordable housing and build an adequate seawall.

“At the time, the community board asked for 10 percent of units to be set aside for affordable housing,” Kesner said. “The commitment that was made was for 15 percent of units in the two south towers or about 150 units will be built off-site as affordable housing and then it breaks down for low-income, etc. If the developers do not fill the north tower as an office tower, but instead build that as a residential tower, the equivalent of 20 percent of the units would be affordable.”

I like the "if/then" caveat. Stupid.

Council members want Clinton Foundation to stop using AirBnB

From Crains:

Nine members of the City Council are calling on the Clinton Global Initiative to end its partnership with controversial room-sharing startup Airbnb to provide accommodations to AmeriCorps volunteers.

In a letter sent Sept. 24 to Clinton Foundation CEO Eric Braverman, the council members claim that Airbnb is "the leading operator in the illegal hotel industry that is exacerbating the affordable-housing crisis in New York City." They urge Mr. Braverman to reconsider his group's partnership with the company, which was announced Wednesday during CGI's annual global meeting in midtown Manhattan.

"We believe in the Clinton Foundation’s guiding principle that 'we’re all in this together,' " they write. "But it appears Airbnb does not subscribe to this principle, as it is content to flout our laws, put tenants at significant risk, and deal a serious blow to our efforts to make this city more affordable for working New Yorkers."

The letter is signed by council members Helen Rosenthal, Daniel Garodnick, Corey Johnson, Ben Kallos, Rosie Mendez, Brad Lander, Mark Levine, Antonio Reynoso and Ritchie Torres.
An Airbnb spokesman dismissed the claims of the letter writers.

"We are proud to support AmeriCorps and more than 1,000 new corps members as they embark on their service in schools, health centers, parks and communities recovering from disasters across the country," the spokesman said, referring to the national service program launched during the first few years of the Clinton administration.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

City lets Boro Hall municipal garage fall apart

From the Times Ledger:

The DOT plans to shut the 500-spot municipal parking garage next to Borough Hall Wednesday due to structural concerns, elected officials said.

Despite politicians’ pleas that the mayor should have his transportation commissioner reconsider closing the lot at 80-25 126th St., Borough President Melinda Katz and City Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz’s (D-Forest Hills) said DOT maintained the disrepair required an imminent closure.

“The city engineers are saying it’s unsafe,” Katz said. “The city is working with us to get traffic agents to be able to guide folks to private lots and parking spots.”

She said the city has not been able to find extra street parking.

Michael Cohen, a spokesman for Koslowitz, said Department of Transportation intended to take down the 1963-era Queensboro Hall Parking Garage and operate a 300-slot surface parking lot in its place. He said the councilwoman’s team was not yet given a time line for this work.

Developer receives loan for St. John's hospital conversion

From The Real Deal:

A group of Asia-based developers led by Steven Wu secured a $32 million construction loan that will finance the completion of the final stage of the St. John’s Hospital conversion in Elmhurst, Queens. Madison Realty Capital provided the loan, which lined up an earlier $38 million acquisition loan for the property.

Leasing at the 266,322-square-foot property – which the developers bought in December 2013 for $55 million – will commence soon, Madison Realty Capital co-founder Josh Zegen told The Real Deal.

No major renovations were needed at the former hospital, which is located along Queens Boulevard between 57th Avenue and Woodhaven Boulevard, Zegen said. The development will ultimately hold 144 rental apartments divided among 148,109 square feet and will include about 118,213 square feet of commercial and community space.

Studios, one- and two-bedroom units will be located on the third through sixth floors, with a penthouse on the seventh floor with 15-foot ceilings. The penthouse will be one of eight such units in the building, and each will have a private roof terrace. The second floor will hold a community space, with retail space located on the ground floor and in the basement.

The building at 90-02 Queens Boulevard also comes with an 89,601-square-foot parking garage across the street that can hold around 290 spaces that will be used for the building’s future tenants as well as the commercial component of the development.

Oakland Lake closed for at least a year

From the Queens Courier:

The Parks Department closed Oakland Lake Park in Bayside last week to begin a huge one-year construction project. The project will include the installation of stone swales (similar to bioswales), cleaning the drainage system and planting new native wetland plants, according to the Parks Department.

The $2.5 million project’s aim is to improve water quality by reducing the amount of sewage water seeping into the lake during rainstorms, but some park-goers believe that closing the whole section of the park is a drastic move and it will leave many in the community at a loss for recreational activities.

City Council adds fine for leaving scenes of accidents

From AMNY:

Drivers who flee the scene of an accident will now have to contend with new fines up to $10,000 from New York City on top of any criminal charges under a bill the City Council passed [Monday].

The bill would add the first local civil penalties for drivers in hit-and-run cases. The most serious violators would get hit with a fine between $5,000 and $10,000 if someone dies.

No conviction during a prosecution for leaving the scene of a crime is required for a judge on a city panel that hears fines on quality-of-life laws, called the Environmental Control Board, to hand down the new penalties, though they can be appealed after they are paid.

Noise from Forest Hills stadium exceeds permissible levels

From the NY Times:

Before the music came back, most people in the brick townhouses and apartment buildings of Forest Hills didn’t give much thought to the crumbling, steel-and-concrete Romanesque stadium abandoned by the United States Open 37 years ago.

Its $120,000-a-year taxes, waist-high weeds and colony of feral cats were headaches for its owners, the West Side Tennis Club.

But rock shows have returned to the Forest Hills Stadium, with window-rattling sounds that pierce the neighborhood’s calm. Some people have simply left home at performance time. Others hunker down and console weary toddlers, put off homework or S.A.T. preparation, and reschedule family affairs.

The city’s Department of Environmental Protection has recorded sound in excess of permissible levels, and issued a notice of violation this week to the concert producers for the Replacements’ too-loud finale on Friday, which closed a show in which the opening bands had repeatedly been warned to turn it down.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Worker dies after concrete slab falls on him

From AMNY:

A 27-year-old construction worker was crushed to death Tuesday when a concrete slab fell on him while working on West 37th Street, police said.

The worker, who was not immediately identified, was excavating the site, between 8th and 9th avenues, at about 1:30 p.m., police said. The slab was part of the adjacent building's foundation wall and was not being moved at the time.

The man, from Jersey City, died at the scene, police said. A second worker narrowly escaped the falling debris and was found in the basement area with minor injuries, said FDNY Deputy Chief Joseph Carlsen.

The workers were excavating the soil around the foundation wall, which is standard practice, when the collapse occurred, said Department of Buildings Commissioner Rick Chandler. The building next door was evacuated as well.

The building is under construction to become an 18-story hotel, according to the DOB. The proposal was filed with the DOB in January.

The building is owned by Sam Chang and the McSam Hotel Group, which also owns several hotels in the area.

Did someone run out of money?


"Land For Sale On Busy Grand Avenue In Maspeth Queens. 75X150 Lot Size With Approved Plans For 2 Commercial And 3 Residential Dwellings In Prime Maspeth Location. Able To Build 3 (2) Family Homes On Adjacent 53rd Road. Property Is Being Sold As Is At Current Time Of Development. This Price Includes Foundations, Structural Steel, And Wood Framing On All 5 Properties." (It actually appears to be 6 residential dwellings if you believe the DOB permit.)

The price? $8,000,000.

7-11 owners plead guilty to fraud

From CBS 2:

Five people have pleaded guilty to charges that they exploited undocumented immigrant workers at 7-11 franchises they operated in New York and Virginia.

Prosecutors say Farrukh Baig, Malik Yousaf, Bushra Baig, Shahnawaz Baig, and Zahid Baig pleaded guilty Monday at the federal courthouse on Long Island.

They pleaded guilty to wire fraud and concealing and harboring illegal immigrants. Prosecutors say the defendants agreed to forfeit franchise rights to 10 stores in New York and four in Virginia.

Prosecutors say the defendants hired illegal immigrants and used stolen IDs to swindle more than $2.6 million in wages from the workers.
As part of the guilty plea, the defendants also agreed to forfeit five houses they owned. The homes are valued at over $1.3 million.


From Curbed:

After being soundly rejected by residents of Sunnyside, Queens, a currently homeless 1931 case study house known as the Aluminaire, which has been credited with bringing the International Style stateside, could be headed all the way to Palm Springs, California. The mayor of Palm Springs wants to raise $600K to bring the home out of storage and add it to Palm Springs' already strong collection of modernist homes.

Curbed LA has the full story.

The tweeding never ends

From DNA Info:

In the past two years, two city councilwomen went to bat for nonprofits employing their family members, writing letters of support for the groups to city officials deciding on their proposals to develop public land, records show.

City Councilwoman Maria del Carmen Arroyo and ex-city Councilwoman Diana Reyna each penned letters to officials at the city's Department of Housing Preservation and Development backing affordable-housing proposals, records obtained by DNAinfo New York show.

Arroyo's June 14, 2013, missive supported a Bronx nonprofit that had hired her ex-convict nephew six months earlier, while Reyna's Aug. 27, 2012, note praised a proposal by a Brooklyn nonprofit where her mother-in-law worked as a director.

Vibrant and diverse fishing habits

From the NY Times:

It may seem like an unusual spot to catch dinner, across the East River from Manhattan’s imposing skyline. And the tiny fish that a group of fisherwomen trap in these waters may not seem like dinner at all.

But the women, Bangladeshi immigrants who live nearby, show up nearly every day, along a stretch of Vernon Boulevard in Queens that overlooks a sheltered section of the East River known as Hallet’s Cove.

They wear long, colorful dresses and head scarves, and tote numerous metal traps that they toss into the river to lure small, silvery fish typically used by many anglers as bait and commonly called spearing or shiners.

Small fish like these happen to be staples of the Bangladeshi diet, often stir-fried with rice and vegetables. So these women appear this time of year when schools of the fish are plentiful in New York City’s warm waterways, even in this urban stretch of river where the coastline is dominated by power plants and sewage treatment centers.

The women, who lack a New York State-mandated recreational fishing license or a city permit to fish near a boat launch at the location, also seem to be far exceeding the strict limitations that state health authorities recommend for eating fish taken from the East River.

The woman said that when enough fish were in her bucket, she would, as usual, take them home to her family’s apartment in the nearby Astoria Houses public housing project, and serve them to her family for dinner, frying them and adding tomato sauce, garlic, onions, chili pepper and other spices.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Archer Avenue walls get a facelift

"Team P/J Clean Up Jamaica Now wins big on the trestle saga. Friday, 9/19/14, work began; the trestle was cleaned & painted. This is a result of a long fierce fight between team P/J and the borough president/Melinda Katz's staff.

The trestle, located on Guy R. Brewer Boulevard between Archer & Liberty avenues was a national disgrace. It is a few feet away from York College. Most appalling, is that residents had no choice. Residents had to stand in the unhealthy, despicable site because it is a bus stop.

For years the trestle, connecting walls and the entire area were neglected by the DOS and LIRR. They remained unkept and filthy with a mountain of garbage, grease and grime. That was until last year when team P/J decided on a relentless pursuit.

Method Of Operation -- WHAT EVER THE HELL IT TAKES.

Earlier this year, the LIRR president/ Helena Williams promised that the area will get a facelift around the third quarter. However, everyone was dragging their feet as time grew near.

Ms. Boranian/ liaison at the borough president's office could not give a specific time frame on which work would start. Further, told me, " If you cannot wait, you can clean it yourself."

That is exactly what team P/J and supporters attempted on Labour Day weekend; with my comrade-in-arms, Joe video taping. However, the area was so stink and dingy that it needed a professional undertaking.

Team P/J continued on the relentless pursuit with supporters' enforcement. That brings us back to the work in progress that began last week.

There is very positive feed back from residents. Here are some comments:
"I feel more comfortable when standing here now."
"Wow, is this the same trestle."
"Waiting here for the bus is no longer a scornful experience."
"It is long overdue."

Scenes from the trestle wall on Archer Avenue.

The manager, Bob said, that he does not know when the work will be completed. He was very friendly and polite. Also, he provided me with a follow up number.

Team P/J will remain on the case until its completion. Special thanks to my comrade. His video of clean up events, has proven to be our most effective tool yet." - Pamela Hazel

Astoria Cove battle is gonna get interesting

From Crains:

Later this month, the City Planning Commission will give its imprimatur to the Astoria Cove project in Queens and send it on to the City Council, where its final shape will be hammered out, setting the benchmarks for the mayor's affordable-housing plan. The key issues to watch are the percentage of affordable housing required, whether there will be a city subsidy (and, if so, what kind), and if union labor will be mandated.

Under the Bloomberg administration, developers received density or height bonuses in agreeing to build low-cost housing. If conditions changed, they could forgo the bonuses and not include affordable housing. Astoria Cove has agreed with the de Blasio administration to set aside 20% of the expected 1,700 units for lower-income residents no matter what. That's why it's called "mandatory inclusionary zoning'': The developer agrees to do it because the projected rents allow for a reasonable-enough profit.

However, 20% will not be the final figure. The City Council is certain to insist on a higher number, something like 30%, although no one is sure yet what it will be. The real question is whether the developer will accept a smaller profit or insist on a subsidy in return. If so, will the city offer low-cost financing, tax breaks or cash? Remember: The de Blasio housing plan allocated $8 billion over 10 years, and this will be the minimum for every subsequent proposal.

Also at issue is who builds Astoria Cove. In pre-de Blasio New York, almost all affordable housing was built with nonunion workers because the difference between the cost of union and nonunion construction work was as much as 30%, according to the definitive study of the issue from the Regional Plan Association.

The mayor says he is committed to requiring union workers in his housing plan, and his aides and the building trades are working on what's called a project labor agreement, or PLA, that's reported to cut costs by 40%.

Unfortunately, the RPA study shows that previous PLAs have actually produced a tiny fraction of the savings promised.

Man with a plan?

From GlobeSt:

Mayor Bill de Blasio has announced that New York City plans to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 80% over 2005 levels by 2050. The plan—called One City, Built to Last: Transforming New York City’s Buildings for a Low-Carbon Future—includes the intention to retrofit public and private buildings to dramatically reduce the city’s contributions to climate change while spurring cost savings and creating new jobs.

This effort makes New York the largest city to commit to the 80% reduction by 2050 and charts a long-term path for investment in renewable sources of energy and a total transition from fossil fuels. Nearly three quarters of New York City’s greenhouse gas emissions come from energy used to heat, cool, and power buildings, making building retrofits a central component of any plan to dramatically reduce emissions, according to the Mayor’s office.

Every city-owned building with any significant energy use—approximately 3,000 buildings—will be retrofitted within the next ten years, by 2025, with interim goals along the way. The city also will spur private building owners to invest in efficiency upgrades, setting interim targets and incentives and implementing mandates that trigger if interim reduction targets are not met.

Pied-a-terre tax may be on the menu

From Crains:

If Mayor Bill de Blasio pursues the Fiscal Policy Institute’s recommendation for higher taxes on ultraluxury apartments owned by foreigners, he’ll need Albany to do it. And Sen. Brad Hoylman has just the bill.

On Monday, the institute recommended raising taxes on apartments worth more than $5 million owned by noncity residents. An annual surcharge of 0.5% to 4% would raise $665 million a year for the city. The left-leaning think tank says wealthy foreign buyers, often shielded by limited-liability corporations, have been buying up property in Manhattan as vacation homes but pay no income taxes and low property taxes thanks to exemptions and the city’s outdated tax code. It points to a report by the Independent Budget Office that found that in some of the newer residential developments in Manhattan, the portion of pieds-à-terre could approach 50%.

Mr. de Blasio, who earlier this year failed to persuade Gov. Andrew Cuomo to allow him to raise taxes on wealthy city residents to pay for universal prekindergarten, says he is reviewing the proposal. But if Democrats win control of the state Senate in November, the issue could require his attention when the state legislative session begins in January.
Mr. Hoylman, a Manhattan Democrat, plans to introduce a bill Tuesday that would essentially accomplish what the think tank recommended.

Ultrarich property owners from beyond New York "aren't paying income taxes, and are utilizing city services, everything from our infrastructure to our police force, and aren't contributing," said Mr. Hoylman, who noted that several such properties, including 15 Central Park West and several high-rises on 57th Street, are in his district.

"A lot of these individuals are using New York as a tax haven," he added.

The bill would "bring New York in line" with other global cities that have similar surcharges, he said, citing London as one. "This isn't viewed as punitive."

Question about College Point storage yard

"Dear Editor of Queens Crap:

I live in this quiet neighborhood in College Point, NY. Lately, I have noticed all the construction equipment and materials are being stored between 125th street and 126th street on Lax Avenue next to the College Point Yacht Club. I am tired of looking at it and hearing the trucks coming and going 7 days a week at all hours of the day and night. This area is zoned for residential use, not for commercial use. What they are doing is illegal! The construction material company is called G&M equipment Leasing LLC. They told us that this residential vacant lot is approved by the CITY!!!! We called 311 many times, wrote to the state senator, city councilman, DOT commissioner to complain about this illegal storage, but we received no response at all! Please if anyone can assist regarding this matter!" - Anonymous

Monday, September 22, 2014

Major crappification comes to Elmhurst green space

This spot on 57th Avenue in Elmhurst, just east of 80th Street, was a green oasis for decades. It was a mapped street for a very long time, owned by the city. I personally used to play in that lot when I was a kid, even though it probably wasn't a good idea. But it was open space, and friends and I loved running around in it. Unfortunately, the city demapped the property and sold it.
And this is what is there now. The entire property has been denuded of trees and is in the process of crappification.
I expected 2 or 3 family homes, but it's worse than that. There will be seven 4-family houses here (which means there will likely be 5 or 6 families in each).
The green space was owned by the city, and it wouldn't have killed them to allow neighborhood kids to turn it into a community garden. But as someone here points out regularly, we're in Queens, we can't have nice things.

Just a bit crazy

We can add this ridiculously placed illegal sign at 69th Street and Grand Ave to the "you've got to be kidding" file.

Taking a walk on Sunnyside's wild side

Sunday, September 21, 2014

This is nuts

This video is a sad example of what people in America think is a priority.

City Council on climate crusade

From CBS New York:

The New York City Council on Friday proposed a package of bills intended to battle climate change by slashing greenhouse emissions, shrinking the carbon footprint of city operations, and cutting the number of cars on the road.

The legislation, which builds on environmental initiatives undertaken over the past decade, was announced ahead of next week’s United Nations climate summit.

A bill being introduced by Councilman Costa Constantinides (D-22nd), of Queens, would set a goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent from a 2005 baseline.

The package of bills includes measures designed to promote low-carbon transportation such as bicycles and to expand a car-sharing program for city-owned vehicles.

Because buildings are responsible for 75 percent of the city’s greenhouse gas emissions, several measures are intended to make large and small buildings more energy efficient.

One bill would require managers of large buildings to complete a training course in energy efficient operations of building systems.

There is also a proposal for a “Green Jobs Corps” program that would train New Yorkers in areas such as performing energy audits and retrofitting buildings.

James loved hotel after campaign contributions

From DNA Info:

Letitia James received thousands of dollars in campaign contributions last year from two real estate entrepreneurs hoping to build a hotel on city land in Brooklyn — and just three days after pocketing their donations, she penned a glowing letter on their behalf to city officials deciding on the proposal, records show.

Macro Sea and 21c were competing against other developers for the right to build on land in Fort Greene overseen by the city's Department of Housing Preservation and Development. Macro Sea and 21c proposed constructing and operating a boutique hotel with a 24-hour contemporary art museum on the site known as BAM North II.

In Letitia James' missive, written on her City Council letterhead, she addressed Belt but sent it to then-HPD commissioner Mathew Wambua, whose agency would ultimately choose the wining proposal. The letter was included in Macro Sea and 21c's proposal package, which they formally submitted to HPD on Feb. 1, 2013.

James also sent a copy of the letter to Robert Steel, the city's then-deputy mayor for economic development, and to then-Borough President Marty Markowitz.

"A 21c Museum Hotel, with its unique sense of design and community involvement, would be a great addition to New York City and the borough," wrote James, who as a councilwoman represented the area up for development.

James added that the hotel "would bring a new energy to the burgeoning creative character of the surrounding area, and will support neighborhood institutions." She also wrote that the hotel "would bring much needed jobs to the local workforce."

Just days before sending the letter, James received $3,000 from Belt on Jan. 10 and Jan. 11, according to campaign finance records. Greenberg also donated $1,000 to her campaign on Jan. 8, records show. Belt also gave $1,000 to James' campaign on June 23, 2012.

James spokeswoman Aja Davis said in a statement that the public advocate did not make choices based on campaign donations.

James' support for the hotel was surprising because the need for more housing in the city had been a central theme of her campaign.