Wednesday, December 31, 2014

DeBlasio acting more like Bloomberg every day

From DNA Info:

While Mayor Bill de Blasio was personally coaxing the city’s police union presidents to meet with him, his top aides were on the phones with lawmakers urging them to blast PBA President Patrick Lynch and other officers for turning their backs on the mayor following the assassinations of two of New York’s Finest, DNAinfo New York has learned.

As late as Monday afternoon — the same time de Blasio was speaking with police union leaders to set up Tuesday's détente to possibly mend their fractured relationship — the mayor’s government affairs honchos were privately cold-calling the city’s Democratic delegation of city and state elected officials, asking them to publicly criticize Lynch and those officers who dissed the mayor.

“City Hall wanted me to blast the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association for turning their backs on him,” a Big Apple legislator told “On The Inside.” “They called up Monday, said they were calling all of us, and that it was our obligation to stand up defending the mayor."

There was an expectation from City Hall that "because they were calling that we should do whatever they ask," the lawmaker said.

And it didn't stop there.

Grimm resigning

From the NY Observer:

It’s official: Congressman Michael Grimm will serve just five days of the term he won in November.

Mr. Grimm, a Republican, confirmed late Monday night in a statement that he would resign from the House of Representatives effective January 5. The resignation comes after he pleaded guilty last Tuesday to a single count of felony tax evasion at a restaurant he owned before running for Congress.

“This decision is made with a heavy heart, as I have enjoyed a very special relationship and closeness with my constituents, whom I care about deeply,” Mr. Grimm said. “The events which led to this day did not break my spirit, nor the will of the voters. However, I do not believe that I can continue to be 100% effective in the next Congress, and therefore, out of respect for the Office and the people I so proudly represent, it is time for me to start the next chapter of my life.”

Dan Donovan is considered the strongest candidate to replace Grimm.

Silver under investigation

From the NY Times:

Federal authorities are investigating substantial payments made to the State Assembly speaker, Sheldon Silver, by a small law firm that seeks real estate tax reductions for commercial and residential properties in New York City, according to people with knowledge of the matter.

Prosecutors from the United States attorney’s office for the Southern District of New York and agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation have found that the law firm, Goldberg & Iryami, P.C., has paid Mr. Silver the sums over roughly a decade, but that he did not list that income on his annual financial disclosure forms, as required, the people said.

The prosecutors, from the office of the United States attorney, Preet Bharara, and the F.B.I. agents were seeking to determine precisely what Mr. Silver, a Manhattan Democrat, has been doing for the payments, the people said. Spokesmen for the F.B.I. and Mr. Bharara’s office declined to comment.

Part-time work by legislators has long been a focus of federal investigators because corrupt lawmakers have used payments for ostensible part-time jobs or consulting work to mask political payoffs. It has also been a source of concern among government watchdog groups because of the potential for conflicts of interest.

Flushing madame busted in NJ

From the Daily News:

A Queens woman was arrested for running a New Jersey brothel after police found her in a car filled with hundreds of new condoms, authorities said.

Jing Hong Xia, 51, of Flushing, has been charged with promoting prostitution and maintaining a brothel.

Police first discovered the Englewood bordello after someone reported women were held there against their will.

Investigators forcibly entered the rental house to find no one living there Dec. 23.

"The home was set up strictly for prostitution," Englewood Police Detective Capt. Timothy Torell said in a statement. "It was a self-contained operation, complete with washing machines and driers to clean bed sheets and towels."

Officers kept watch over the house as they waited for a search warrant.

Xia and three women drove up to the house in a 2013 Lexus the next day. Police took them in for questioning and later searched the house with a warrant.

Investigators found and seized financial records, computers, televisions and a closed-circuit television system that they said shows prostitution has taken place on the grounds.

Xia was taken to Bergen County jail on Christmas, where she was held on $11,500 bail.

3,000 more homeless people since October

From the Huffington Post:

The number of New Yorkers struggling with homelessness has reached unprecedented levels under a leader that vowed to take on the growing crisis.

In Mayor Bill de Blasio's first year in office, the number of people living in homeless shelters rose to 58,913 -- an all-time high -- WNYC reported. Although de Blasio inherited a dire situation (homelessness jumped 71 percent on Mayor Michael Bloomberg's watch, according to the Coalition for the Homeless), about 3,000 more people are living without stable shelter now than in October, despite new programs designed to fight homelessness that went into effect this past fall.

The current mayor's administration says that although they cannot specify exactly when the city can expect homelessness to begin declining, the initiatives -- namely, programs targeting disproportionately affected groups -- should improve conditions down the road.

As long as NYC has a huge welcome mat on its doorstep for anyone from anywhere to come and squat in housing we pay for and collect our generous benefits, the problem is only going to get worse. Check this out:

A fiery debate erupted between one resident and Hevesi while discussing the proposed Glendale homeless shelter. The resident, who wished to remain anonymous, accused Hevesi and other elected officials of helping to create the crisis.

“You’re the cause of the problem,” the man argued. “This whole homeless thing is the fault of the judges, politicians and lawyers.”

Hevesi responded with shock and dismay to these accusations: “In the past year, has there been anyone who stood up more against this shelter than I have? Any elected official or anyone in this room? The very idea that when we are in a crisis, not only as a city but as a community, that your response is to point fingers is outrageous. The only way to get through this is to problem solve together."

Sounds like Mr. Anonymous touched a nerve. Perhaps because of this?

Fewest pedestrian deaths on record

From the Daily News:

The number of pedestrians killed in traffic accidents this year — 131 as of Sunday — is the lowest on record, de Blasio administration officials told the Daily News on Monday.

With just a day left before the ball drops in Times Square, the city almost certainly will end 2014 with the fewest pedestrian deaths since 1910, when officials began to keep reliable statistics, a mayoral spokesman said. Back then, streetcars and horse-drawn wagons also were on the road.

The previous all-time low was in 2007, when there were 142 pedestrian fatalities, officials said.

Of course, as Joe Moretti points out, there still is pretty lax truck enforcement. They could have had the number even lower if they focused on that as well.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Boxes everywhere!

Dear Karen (Koslowitz),

The growing number of newspaper vending boxes at Queens Blvd and 71 Av (south side) now stands at an astounding 17, and take up nearly a quarter length of the block. The boxes are eyesores and restrict the flow of pedestrian traffic. DOT advises that there is no limit to the number of boxes that may occupy a sidewalk. This is absurd and unacceptable.

This particular location sits at a major transit hub that includes a busy taxi stand. The boxes hinder commercial, pedestrian, and emergency traffic. There is an obvious need for legislation to change where and how many boxes may be placed on a sidewalk. I am urging you, as my City Council Representative, to consider addressing this long-overlooked problem . Our sidewalks have become obstacle courses for thousands of pedestrians just in Forest Hills alone.

We are always looking for more pedestrian space in our city but we need not look any further than the space that should be available to us but is unfortunately being taken up by ever-multiplying newspaper boxes and the like.

Please see the attached photo taken 12/29/14.

I hope you will see the obvious, that this issue has gotten out of control and something needs to be done about it.

Thanks again for your time and attention.

Happy New Year!

- Steven

So, how does one tell whether or not a permit was obtained for this?

This is what she gets paid to do?

From NBC:

A Manhattan congresswoman is accusing Mayor de Blasio of not supporting her efforts to bring two pandas from China to New York City.

In August, Rep. Carolyn Maloney visited panda preserves in China with hopes of bringing two of the bears to the Central Park Zoo. After the trip, Chinese officials asked for a letter from the mayor or governor supporting her plan, Maloney said Sunday morning on John Catsimatidis’ radio show on AM 970.

"The mayor was not interested," Maloney said.

She then approached Gov. Cuomo who sent a letter earlier this month in support of bringing the pandas to the Big Apple, she said. She is now awaiting a response from Chinese officials.

According to the New York Post, though, a city official said that neither the Central Park Zoo nor Bronx Zoo were interested in housing the pandas, which are "incredibly expensive to maintain."

A spokeswoman from the mayor's office said regarding Maloney's pandas there were "more pressing concerns for New York City at the moment."

Ya think?

Meeting about burned-out building

From DNA Info:

Residents who have ideas for the future of the damaged Bruson Building can share them at an upcoming town hall sponsored by local pols, officials said.

The building — which was heavily damaged in a multi-alarm fire last April — is currently undergoing renovations and is looking to fill multiple empty storefronts and offices by next year, according to a member of the trust that owns it.

The meeting will be held Jan. 22, 2015, at 7 p.m. at the Jewish Center of Jackson Heights, and is co-sponsored by by Sen. Jose Peralta, Rep. Joe Crowley, Assemblyman Michael DenDekker and Councilman Danny Dromm.

Craig Bruno, who is part of the trust that owns the Bruson Building, told DNAinfo New York earlier this month that he'd like to see "major" chains, including Popeye's and Burger King, fill up the stores on 37th Avenue.

Ah, they want your crappy fast food ideas.

Man dies at Spa Castle

From NBC:

An 84-year-old man died after being found submerged in a hot tub at a luxury spa center in Queens by another patron when she stepped into the water, the woman's friend and police tell NBC 4 New York.

Hock Ma, of Forest Hills, died Sunday evening after being pulled from the water of the rooftop hot tub at Spa Castle in College Point, police said. It wasn't clear how long he had been under the water or if he suffered some type of medical emergency before becoming submerged.

The Health Department says spa pools are required to be monitored on a regular basis by an aquatic supervisor, though it wasn't clear if any were watching the tub Ma was in. Pescatore said she didn't see staff members walking by regularly to check on people in the pools and that the area wasn't lit well.

Meanwhile, NBC 4 New York's I-Team found the 100,000-square foot spa in College Point has had 28 critical violations at its indoor and outdoor facilities over the last two years, including citations for inadequate life-saving equipment and lack of qualified pool supervisors, according to inspection data from the city Health Department.

Inspection records show the outdoor facility was cited in April 2013 for not having a developed and updated pool safety plan. The indoor facility was cited in April and September over inadequate life-saving equipment and lifeguard chairs, pool overcrowding and insufficient qualified supervisory staff on duty. The facility has also been knocked four times for "operations records not maintained/submitted monthly," records show.

The Health Department said the facility corrected all its violations at the time of the last inspection in September. It has A grades for the food service establishments in the facility.

The agency said it is investigating the facility, including its safety plan, following Ma's death.

Koreans push for Flushing pedestrian plaza

From the Queens Courier:

In response to a Flushing group’s demand for more public space, the city is considering a pedestrian plaza for Leonard Square.

Between all of the construction and rush hour traffic, residents and local politicians say there are too few places for people to just stop and take a break.

The Korean association applied to the Department of Transportation’s plaza program. The department will make a decision early next month, according to a spokesman. And if the Flushing square is chosen, city officials would work with local officials and the community to hold public workshops and develop a design.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Whitestone A&P seeks brownfield status

From the Times Ledger:

The site of a former dry cleaners’ service, which is part of a shopping center in Whitestone, is now being considered for the state Brownfield Cleanup Program.

On July 14, the Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company, a supermarket chain based in Montvale, N.J., submitted an application on behalf of the former Johnny on the Spot Dry Cleaners on 152-45 10th Ave. to the state Department of Environmental Conservation’s Brownfield Cleanup Program.

It is a voluntary program that helps repair and redevelop brownfields, or contaminated properties. The application was completed by Oct. 29, according to the state Department of Environmental Protection.

The site is part of the Whitestone Shopping Center, a 62,000-square-foot property on 153-01 10th Ave., which includes the Waldbaum’s supermarket, Subway restaurant, Sunshine Spa & Hair Salon, Cascarino’s Pizza, Cascarino’s upcoming Café 154, J.D. Opticians and the Astoria Bank, which is adjacent to the site.

It was unclear what and if A&P planned to build on the site, but a brownfield application indicates the company may have a project in mind, said Paul Graziano, an urban planning consultant and a historic preservationist.

“If they want to redevelop the site in any way, they have to go through a brownfield cleanup,” Graziano said. “It’s in a manufacturing zone and my guess is if they want to do something besides what’s existing, then they are looking to go through this cleanup.”

The A&P has a 40-year lease on the property, according to an agreement between Feil Whitestone and Waldbaum’s Inc. dated Feb. 27, 2004.

A&P could not be reached for comment after repeated attempts.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Thousands of cops turn backs on DeBlasio

From the NY Post:

Mayor de Blasio tried to make peace with the NYPD Saturday but again collided with the Blue Wall of Resentment.

As he took the podium Saturday at the funeral of slain Officer Rafael Ramos, thousands of cops outside the church turned their backs to the video monitors showing the mayor delivering his eulogy inside.

In a gradual wave, the assembled cops nearest the screens and speakers on Myrtle Avenue in Queens began to about-face, until the entire sea of blue stretching two blocks had their backs to the image of the city’s leader.

“Our hearts are aching today. We can feel it physically. We feel it deeply. New York City has lost a hero — a remarkable man because of the depths of his commitment to all around him,” de Blasio said of Ramos.

As he acknowledged the fallen officer’s family, the mayor reached out to the rank-and-file.

“I extend my condolences to another family — the family of the NYPD that is hurting so deeply right now,” said de Blasio.

Officers outside maintained a stony silence throughout the eulogy until de Blasio began to speak in Spanish, which prompted snickers.

And the ones in the photo aren't even NYPD, for the most part...

Another basement fire leaves man critical

From the Daily News:

A man was critically injured in a Queens house fire, officials said Saturday.

The blaze broke out just after 11:30 p.m. Friday in the basement of a three-story home on 66th St. near 50th Ave. in Maspeth, according to FDNY officials.

Firefighter Frank Busener of Ladder 136, met with choking smoke and heavy fire in the rear of the building, found the victim unconscious near a stairwell.

With help from Firefighter Roger Rudzewick and Captain Brian Neville, Busener brought the victim outside to waiting EMS workers, officials said.

The victim, who appeared to be about 30 years old, was in respiratory arrest, but EMS workers managed to get his pulse back as they rushed him to Elmhurst Hospital, where he was listed in critical condition.

What Katz did while in office for a year

From the Daily News:

It's been anything but a sleepy first year for Queens Borough President Melinda Katz.

Since her January inauguration, Katz has boosted Queens’ status as “The World’s Borough” and helped oust the free-spending head of its library system.

“The library situation just blew up,” said Katz, 49, who was focused on attracting businesses to the borough when problems at the Queens Library came to light.

“It seemed like there was something else in the news every day about what was wrong there.”

In a series of bombshell articles, Daily News columnist Juan Gonzalez revealed Queens Library CEO Thomas Galante made almost $400,000 in salary, raked in another $140,000 from a side job and spent tens of thousands of dollars on meals and concert tickets with the approval of the library’s Board of Trustees.

All of it was charged to his library corporate credit card.

The scandal sparked an aggressive campaign by the normally reserved Katz to force the board to open its books after it refused to make its financial records public.

So the only things she's done for the entire year are:

1) Promote tourism (yawn)
2) Remove the library head (because the media exposed it)

Meanwhile, every other pol has publicly expressed their condolences after attending yesterday's funeral, but the last thing on Katz's Twitter feed is a picture of a party for Leroy Comrie.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

DeBlasio drops in on wake at the last minute

From the Daily News:

Mayor de Blasio made an 11th-hour call at the viewing for Officer Rafael Ramos after hours of uncertainty over whether he would attend.

The mayor spent Christmas Day and most of Friday in Connecticut with relatives. His public schedule stating he would come to the viewing wasn’t published until 9 p.m., a couple of minutes before he arrived at the Queens church where well-wishers — including many politicians — had streamed in since 2 p.m.

Donations pour in to Daily News fund to help slain cops' families — FIND OUT HOW TO CONTRIBUTE

He stayed for about 10 minutes.

City Hall aides didn’t explain the mystery surrounding the mayor’s schedule.

No mystery. He's scared shitless.

Danny Dromm wants community board term limits

From an Op Ed by Danny Dromm:

In the City Council, members are limited to two four-year terms. Why shouldn’t community board members also face term limits? For all the same reasons I believe in term limits for elected officials, I believe in term limits for community board members.

When term limits was first instituted in the City Council people predicted the city would fall apart especially because we had just suffered the tragedy of 9/11. But that didn’t happen and the new City Council got us through the crisis.

Please bookmark this for when Danny runs for his third term (he's grandfathered in because of when he was originally elected).

Bronx renters can't afford to live there

From the Daily News:

THE BRONX is the least affordable county in the country for renters, a new report shows.

Tenants in the city’s northernmost borough can expect to spend a whopping 68% of their earnings on rent — or almost $2,000 a month for a three-bedroom apartment, according to a study.

The real estate company analyzed more than 500 U.S. counties, using rental data from the U.S. Department for Housing and Urban Development to compile the list.

It compared the average fair market rent of a three-bedroom apartment and divided the annual median household income of each county.

A real peaceful protest

From NBC:

A group of retired and current NYPD officers say they flew a banner along the Hudson River Friday that said "de Blasio, our backs have turned to you" in protest of the mayor's policies toward the department.

The small banner, which traveled up and down the Hudson River Friday morning, was paid for by officers upset over what they called "the mayor’s incendiary rhetoric, and for facilitating the current hostile climate towards the NYPD."

The plane made several passes between Battery Park and the George Washington Bridge at about 9 a.m.

In a statement released Friday morning, the group of officers condemned the mayor for his comments about worrying about the safety of his interracial son at the hands of police following a Staten Island grand jury's decision not to indict an officer in the chokehold death of Eric Garner. They said de Blasio's comments fanned flames of civil unrest following the grand jury decision "potentially to the deaths of PO Wenjian Liu and PO Rafael Ramos, as well as the continued threats against NYPD personnel."

"We no longer have confidence in Mayor de Blasio, nor in his ability to lead New York City and promote the values that both the NYPD and the good law abiding citizens of the city hold dear," the officers said. "Mayor de Blasio turned his back on us long before we turned our backs on him."

Multi-precinct vigil set for Tuesday

Friday, December 26, 2014

Dope who threatened cops arrested

From WPIX:

A man who allegedly made threats to kill police officers was stopped in his tracks Wednesday, officials said.

Elvin Payamps, 38, was allegedly on his cell phone at TD Bank on 79-55 Metropolitan Avenue when a male witness overheard him having a conversation about killing cops and having firearms at his house.

The witness notified police who reported to the bank after Payamps left. They transmitted a description of the man over the department radio, and then canvassed the area for him.

During the search, a man fitting the description of Payamps was found entering a vehicle at 66-26 Metropolitan Avenue.

Uniformed officers in a marked patrol car followed him. After a short distance, they conducted a car stop at Metropolitan Avenue and Rentar Plaza. During the stop, they found a small bag of marijuana in plain view in the front seat of the vehicle.

Police identified the man as Payamps, arrested him and brought him to the 104th Precinct in Queens for further investigation.

They went to his home on Edsall Avenue and obtained verbal and written consent from his spouse to search the home.

Police uncovered two firearms, two bullet proof bests, brass knuckles and a holster. Payamps has since been charged with three counts of criminal possession of a weapon and unlawful possession of marijuana.

Judge tosses JFK runway lawsuit

From the Daily News:

An appeals court rejected a lawsuit by homeowners in Queens seeking to stop the Port Authority from expanding a runway at Kennedy Airport.

The Eastern Queens Alliance argued in its federal lawsuit that the runway project would result in more noise for residents near the airport.

“We understand the concerns expressed by members of certain communities near the airport,” the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan ruled on Tuesday, stating each of the alliance’s objections was either not raised early enough or were “unfounded.”

The eagles have landed

From the Queens Chronicle:

Two adult and two immature bald eagles have been spotted flying around Queens for some time now, according to Jeff Kollbrunner, a photographer from Briarwood.

“I’ve seen the four of them since September and some eagles as far back as six years,” Kollbrunner said.

Williamsburg diner is likely toast

From Brownstoner:

New building applications were filed today for a six-story building with stores and 10 apartments at 225 Wythe Avenue, where a 1950s metal diner currently stands. It was home to the Wythe Diner from ’68 to ’88, Relish from ’97 to 2010, and currently houses Soho Mexican joint La Esquina.

Avella gets somewhere with DOT

From the Queens Chronicle:

Score two for state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) for getting the city Department of Transportation to take action on two problematic locations in Flushing and Little Neck.

The worst of the two is the area around the Flushing Commons construction project at the former municipal parking lot in Downtown Flushing. Avella and others, including the developer, have complained that lack of signage has backed up traffic on 37th and 39th avenues from Union to Main streets and on Union from Roosevelt Avenue to Northern Boulevard.

In addition, there is no pedestrian walkway on part of Union Street, making it dangerous for people who must walk in the street.

Avella has held two press conferences at the site and met with Queens DOT Commissioner Dalila Hall there seeking solutions to the problems.

On Friday, Avella announced that Hall had agreed to amend a stipulation with the developers to require them to provide traffic control agents for the duration of the construction, which is scheduled through 2021.

Hall has also agreed to install a temporary pedestrian walkway on Union Street.

In Little Neck, Hall has OK’d partial resurfacing and repair of Depew Avenue. It is scheduled to be completed in January.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas from the Queens Machine!

This card is real.
This card is not.
But the winner for holiday messages has to be John Liu.

Hey folks, he wasn't serious about running against Tony Avella, he was just "dabbling" in politics! I bet the moronic Queens County machine and its minions were just thrilled with this holiday greeting from Johnny.

Beware of who washes your car!

From the Daily News:

A dopey Queens car wash employee mistakenly slammed his foot onto a car's gas pedal instead of the brake — and ended up plowing into four lanes of traffic.

Dramatic dashboard camera footage shows the 2009 Lexus IS250 first being slowly driven through the cleaning machines in Long Island City, reports

As the vehicle emerges from the garage, however, it suddenly lurches forward.

The driver is heard swearing in Spanish as the car narrowly avoids hitting another customer and speeds across the road.

It sideswipes one vehicle before finally coming to a stop on the opposite sidewalk.

NYPD is the wrong target

Why Did the Protesters Go After the Cops When It Was Elected Officials That Control the Prosecutorial System That Let the Garner Chokehold Cops Go?

Pols Set-Up Cops: Blame Game

Community activist Tony Herbert who introduced a family member of officer Rafael Ramos, said it the best: elected officials are using the cops, turning the community against them. 

Herbert asked why are the elected officials forcing to the cops to raise money for the city? The relationship between the community and the police is strained, Herbert said, cops are forced to give out parking tickets, act as tax collectors for government. That creates tension between the community and cops. 

Herbert also has complained about why the cops are forced to deal with people who have mental problems, when it was the elected officials who have not properly dealt with that population. Police did not cause bad schools, high black unemployment, homelessness or the inequities of the criminal justice system that puts male blacks in jail at a much higher rate, elected officials did. 

In other words, he says, the pols use the cops. Yet they have to deal with the problems that are created by government failure. The pols have escaped any blame with the Grand Jury system which they control. It was the Grand Jury run by the Staten Island DA Donovan that failed to indict the cop who put the chokehold on Garner. Yet the words out of de Blasio, Sharpton and dozens of elected officials many, who have a say on how the state's prosecutorial system works, have all been directed to blame the cops.

Peace on Earth, goodwill to men.

A unique tree stree

From WPIX:

New York City is known for its interesting and diverse neighborhoods. A tree is the talk of E 70th Street in Bergen Beach, Brooklyn.

The homeowner says about 7 years ago he started attaching stuffed animals to the branches of a tree in his front yard. Since that time, neighbors and families have traveled to his house to add to the collection.

Some neighbors love the display and others seem to tolerate it. Eugene Fellner has lived on the street for more than 15 years. He bought the house and is a former city employee. Many of the neighbors on the street have also been there for a long time.

Fellner has recently removed some of the items and repositioned others. He estimates there are 1,033 toys on the tree (give or take a few bears).

More violations for house that went "boom"

From the Queens Chronicle:

A Thanksgiving Day explosion at a South Ozone Park house was caused by the misuse of a stove inside an illegal apartment, according to Fire Department officials.

“The location of the explosion was an illegally renovated setback apartment,” an FDNY spokesman said in an email. “The explosion was caused by misuse of a stove on the premises.”

According to city records released last week, the owner of the house was given two violations by the city Department of Buildings on the day the back of the first floor spontaneously exploded.

The house, located at 107-55 108 St., was illegally altered from a one- or two-family dwelling to accommodate four or more families, DOB records state.

An illegal canopy at the rear of the house was also placed by the homeowner, according to records.

The homeowner, identified by the DOB as Boonness Harrychand, is scheduled for a hearing at the Environmental Control Board, the tribunal body that administers penalties to people who violate DOB regulations, on Jan. 13.

Harrychand did not respond to requests for comments on the violations by press time.

The DOB did not respond to requests for comment on whether or not gas work was done inside the illegal units.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

That worked out well, Bill!

From the NY Post:

More than 1,000 anti-cop protesters defied Mayor de Blasio and flooded Manhattan Tuesday evening, marching through the Fifth Avenue shopping district before heading uptown.

“The mayor says stop that, we say f–k that!” the mob chanted at one point.

Other slogans were of the sort that Hizzoner has denounced as “hateful” and “inappropriate” in the wake of Saturday’s assassinations of two city cops.

“NYPD, KKK, how many kids did you kill today?” the protesters shouted.

The demonstrators, some carry­ing a banner that read “Stop Racist Police Terror,” started marching south from 59th Street on the sidewalks, but later blocked traffic on Fifth and Madison Avenues.
They then turned around and started marching toward Harlem to demonstrate in front of a police station house.

“We’re protesting tonight because the mayor specifically said not to,” said marcher Tarik Grand, 25, of Brooklyn.

Meanwhile, members of the City Council — who protested the grand-jury decision by staging “die-ins” — jumped on the sympathy bandwagon and held a pro-cop news conference inside City Hall.

AirBnB costs woman her rent controlled apartment

From the Daily News:

An unemployed Upper West Side woman using Airbnb to rent out rooms in her huge Central Park West apartment has been ordered to stop doing it by a Manhattan judge.

Supreme Court Justice Carol Edmead said in a decision that Noelle Penraat, 62, appears to have made a substantial income over the past two years through Airbnb and that’s a violation of both rent control and zoning laws.

Penraat, a photographer who has been mostly unemployed since 2006, said in a court affidavit that she was forced to use Airbnb to pay her $4,477 monthly rent and other mounting bills.

The owners of her building at 315 Central Park West estimated that she could have made as much as $8,883 a month if she had rented out all four bedrooms in her rent controlled unit, which has views of Central Park. She charged $75-$150 a night or $450-$1,000 a week, depending on the size of the bedroom.

Penraat had the right to stay in the apartment because she grew up there and always lived there; it was first rented by her father, architect Jaap Penraat, a wartime hero who saved 406 Dutch Jews from the Nazis by smuggling them from the Netherlands to France where the Resistance got them out through Spain. He died in 2006.

Jeffrey Turkel, the lawyer for Brookford LLC which owns the building, said Edmead in her decision clarified changes made in 2010 to the rent laws when the legislature barred landlords from turning residential buildings into hotels because health and fire standards are much more strict in the hotel industry.

Eventually, he said, his client will seek to evict Penraat from the unit, which on the open market can earn three or four times what she is paying.

Public authorities spend like mad

From Capital New York:

New York’s largest public authorities have increased their spending by $3.5 billion since 2013 and their combined debt has grown to more than a quarter of a trillion dollars, according to a new report released by state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli.

DiNapoli’s report found that 95 percent of the state’s public debt has been issued by public authorities, much of it through debt issued without ever being approved by voters—a process critics have dubbed “backdoor borrowing."

And the cost increases at state authorities, whose spending isn’t accounted for in the state’s budget, are being used to disguise hundreds of millions of dollars in extra state spending, DiNapoli's report shows.

The 1,180 state and local authorities employ 153,578 people, costing the state $10 billion a year in personnel charges and salaries, with nearly 13 percent of those employees earning more than $100,000 annually. By contrast, less than 8.7 percent of state employees, and 14.7 percent of New York residents earn that much.

But the authorities’ spending is also subject to fewer oversight and accountability measures, despite repeated audits showing failures among authorities to adhere to contracting rules and rein in improper spending.

Something the governor should do right now

From the Huffington Post:

Even after a reportedly mentally ill ex-prisoner, Ismaaiyl Brinkley shot New York City Police Department officers, Liu Wenjin and Raphael Ramos, New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo is refusing to sign a bill (S7818) that passed both houses and is on his desk right now.

The "Prisoners Mental Health Discharge Planning Bill" would require prison officials to make sure prisoners with mental illness who are being released are

  • given a discharge plan,
  • an appointment with a community program,
  • and enough medications to last until the appointment.
  • It also adds parole officials to the list of people who can refer someone with a mental illness to a hospital for evaluation.

Media reports say Ismaaiyl Brinsley who shot officers Liu Wenjin and Raphael Ramos was reported by his mom to be mentally ill, and reported himself to have been previously institutionalized. He was also previously incarcerated. While Brinsley was not a New York resident, this bill would help prevent violence by similarly situated people who do leave a New York prison. Cuomo should sign it today.

The bill was sponsored Senator Catharine Young and Assemblyman Danny O'Donnell. Supporters include Mental Illness Policy Org, the NYS Association of Chiefs of Police and the National Alliance on Mental Illness of NYS

We also note that Mayor DeBlasio's Task Force on Mentally Ill at Riker's Island Jail failed to include expansion of Kendra's Law in their recommendations. Kendra's Law reduces homelessness, arrest, violence and incarceration by mentally ill ex-prisoners by keeping them in mandated and monitored community treatment.

Sunnyside wants to keep its theater

From the Sunnyside Post:

Nearly 175 Sunnyside residents—many accompanied by children—turned out for a rally Sunday afternoon in an attempt to save Sunnyside Center Cinemas from the wrecking ball.

Many residents who attended the rally, which took place outside the Queens Blvd.-theater, had been going to Center Cinemas for the past 40 years. They turned out in hope that it would not be demolished and some sort of agreement could be struck between the landlord/developer and the owner of the theater.

The cinema’s last day in operation is scheduled for Jan. 4 , and most believe that if John Ciafone, the landlord, and Rudy Prashad, the owner of the theater, can’t work out a deal by then the theater will be demolished to make way for a seven-story building.

“I grew up with this theater,” said Lisa Deller, a Sunnyside resident, who was at the rally. “I’ve been coming here for 40 years—since I moved to Sunnyside when I was 2 years old.”

Meanwhile, John Siscaretti, 51, who started the online petition to save the theater, went to the Center Cinemas when he was a young child. “My first movie here was Jungle Book,” he said.

The two organizers of the rally—Ty Sullivan and Pastor Jon Stork—made it clear from the get-go that the rally was not an anti-landlord event. However, both wanted to send Ciafone a clear message: Sunnyside is a tight-knit community and that it deserves to know what is going on.

Sullivan and Stork said they invited Ciafone to attend the rally and speak. They assured him that he would be made to feel welcome. He did not attend.

In related news, I got my hands on the renderings for what will replace it...

Cuomo doesn't play by the rules

From Capital New York:

While spending $34.4 million to win re-election this year, Governor Andrew Cuomo apparently ignored a legal requirement to itemize how the advertising firms he retained spent his campaign cash, according to an analysis of his campaign filings and disclosures of payments to television stations submitted to the Federal Communications Commission.

Cuomo's re-election committee and the New York State Democratic Committee paid $26 million over the past two years to AKPD Message and Media, which made a number of large buys of television ads on the campaign’s behalf. The committees also sent almost $10 million combined to three other outside groups: Mission Control Inc., Buying Time LLC, and Red Horse Strategies LLC.

If the recipient of funds from a committee sends a certain amount to a third party—more than $10,000 in a year for parties and statewide candidates and $5,000 for other committees—the committee needs to disclose the ultimate recipient of its money. For example, if a committee pays an advertising firm $20,000 to purchase commercials with one station, it would need to identify on its financial disclosure report that the station was the recipient of the money.

These requirements are detailed in §6200.8 of the executive regulations, are given two pages in the Board of Elections’ Campaign Finance Handbook and were confirmed by a spokesperson for the board.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Katz won't reveal what constituent cops think about this mess

From True News from Change NYC:

Katz dodges every question about the breakdown in police relationships, she gave the same talking points over and over about how she had a great relationship with the mayor and people are working to fix the problem. No specifics at all.

Click photo to watch video. Katz starts to spin like a top around 11:00.

Protesters not interested in calming down

From Epoch Times:

A coalition of activists issued a scathing statement Monday, addressed to NYPD Police Commissioner William Bratton and police union leader Patrick Lynch.

The letter, signed by over a dozen grass-roots organizations, including Black Lives Matter and Brooklyn Movement Center, charges the NYPD with attempting to silence the protests of those “seeking justice for victims of police violence,” as well as “reckless attempts to conflate constitutionally protected protest activities with the tragic murders of officers Ramos and Liu.”

On Monday, de Blasio and Bratton held a press conference inside the police department’s Manhattan headquarters, asking that protesters put on hold their demonstrations against police brutality in the wake of Garner and Brown’s deaths. For weeks, they have marched through city streets and staged peaceful protests to call for reforms in how police interact with communities of color.

“Let’s just focus on the families and what they have lost. I think that’s the right way to move toward building a more unified and decent city,” said de Blasio.

“We’ve responded by meeting in our homes, offices, and school—and walking out of them, with our hands up. Thousands of others have organized small actions that when woven together have tremendous impact. The problem isn’t the diverse voices that participate in dissent, a cornerstone of our democracy,” the letter stated.

The activists asked those “who stand on the side of justice to join us.”

While there have been a number of vigils held for the police officers by protesters in the last few days, today saw the continuation of protests against police use of force. A group of youth protest leaders in New York rallied in Union Square on Monday. Another group intends to hold a press conference Tuesday announcing plans for a New Year’s Eve protest.

Boy, this guy just can't make anyone happy lately.

The latest images of the RKO Keith's

From Brownstoner Queens:

A Q’Stoner tipster was able to get into the construction site and see what’s gone down as of late. And here is their report:
The old RKO Keith’s is a beautiful wreck. The seats are long gone, and most of the stage is demolished, leaving a muddy, graffiti-covered hole. But plenty of intricate wooden details around the stage have survived, like carved scrolls, twisting columns and cherubs. As you go further into the building, most of the details have been stripped, salvaged or demolished.

Little remains of the upper lobby except for a few arched doorways and some urinals, and a damaged but elegant balcony is the only interesting piece left in the rear mezzanine. Unfortunately, the landmarked part of the lobby was locked, so you can’t see what it looks like now.
It looks like more of the interior has been demolished since Matt Lambros, the author of After the Final Curtain, took photos in 2011. But Jonathan Karlik assured us that none of the landmarked portion has been touched: “We have a landmark preservation consultant on board with us and we have spent significant time and money to ensure this. There has been no demolition to the landmark space whatsoever. Any work that has been done was done with a LPC approved soft demo permit to clean up and protect the area. We plan to restore the landmarked area to its original condition. We have over 100 crates of salvaged material in storage and plan to implement pieces into our final product.”

Grimm to plead guilty and may head to the pokey

From the Daily News:

After vowing to fight his criminal indictment “tooth and nail,” Rep. Michael Grimm of Staten Island has agreed to plead guilty Tuesday to a felony charge of tax evasion, the Daily News has learned.

Grimm’s admission of guilt will place his congressional career in danger, exactly seven weeks after he won reelection by an overwhelming margin.

Grimm was scheduled to enter the plea Tuesday before Judge Pamela Chen in Brooklyn Federal Court.

A Republican who served in the Marines and worked as an FBI agent, Grimm was charged in a 20-count federal indictment in April with hiding more than $1 million in sales and wages at an Upper East Side restaurant he co-owned, and with hiring undocumented immigrants.

He pleaded not guilty, and his trial was to begin in February.

Despite the indictment, Grimm trounced Democrat Domenic Recchia 55% to 42% on Nov. 4 to win a third term.

Recchia made the criminal case a central issue of his campaign, and at a debate on Oct. 17, Grimm was asked, “If found guilty, would you resign?”

“Certainly, if I was not able to serve, then of course I would step aside and there would be a special election,” he replied.

But if he can escape prison time, Grimm is expected to try to hold onto his seat, arguing he would still be “able to serve,” a source familiar with his thinking said.

Under federal law, Grimm faces up to three years behind bars on the tax evasion charge. As a first-time offender, however, he might not have to serve any time. That decision will be up to Chen when she sentences him sometime next year.

If Grimm is spared prison and refuses to resign, it would up to House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) to decide whether to force him to step down.

CB12 doesn't want any more shelters

From DNA Info:

The Jamaica community board is asking the city to stop building homeless shelters in the area.

Ten out of 22 homeless shelters in Queens are located within Community Board 12, which includes Jamaica, Hollis, St. Albans and Springfield Gardens, according to the city’s Department of Homeless Services.

“We have more shelters than any community board in Queens county,” said Yvonne Reddick, the board's district manager.

The board recently passed a resolution requesting a moratorium on building or expanding homeless shelters in the area.

“The city’s practice of concentrating excessive numbers of homeless ... populations within Community Board 12, Queens has been pervasive for several years,” the resolution read.

The document also requests that the DHS adopt “a policy regarding the equitable distribution" of homeless shelters among all community districts in Queens.

Local City Councilman Daneek Miller said he supports the resolution and pointed out that some community boards in the borough don’t have any homeless shelters.

Shelter placement should go by the number of people coming from the district in which they are located. If a district isn't producing a large number of homeless people, it shouldn't be burdened with a large number of homeless people.

Queens loves its chain stores

From the Queens Courier:

The consumer market for national retailers is expanding faster in “The World’s Borough” over anywhere else in the city as a new report showed national brands have opened more new locations in Queens during the year.

Dunkin’ Donuts, 7-Eleven and T-Mobile were among retailers that added the most new branches in the borough, and the number of national chain retail locations in Queens increased 6.4 percent to 1,770 stores this year from 1,663 in 2013, according to the Center for an Urban Future’s State of the Chains.

While Manhattan still has more than 1,000 more national chain locations than Queens, Manhattan only added .4 percent or 10 new locations. Brooklyn, which has 1,593 chain stores, saw a 3.4 percent gain, and the Bronx added 4.2 percent. Staten Island is the only borough that didn’t see an increase.

T-Mobile, which had the most new locations in Queens, added 17 new outlets to bring their total in the borough to 55, followed by CVS, which opened 14 new locations to expand to a total of 48 stores. Dunkin’ Donuts, which added seven stores, still tops the list in total locations in Queens with 161 stores.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Vigils set for tonight and tomorrow

From the Times Newsweekly:

Candlelight vigils are scheduled outside three local police precincts [tonight] and Tuesday, Dec. 22-23, honoring the two NYPD officers assassinated in Bedford-Stuyvesant on Saturday afternoon, Dec. 20.

The 104th Precinct Community Council announced it would hold its vigil at 7 p.m. Monday night in front of the 104th Precinct's stationhouse, located at 64-02 Catalpa Ave., two blocks east of Fresh Pond Road.

People of all faiths are organizing a similar candlelight vigil tomorrow night at 6:30 p.m. at the 108th Precinct's Long Island City headquarters, located at 5-47 50th Ave.

Finally, the 112th Precinct Community Council will honor the lost officers at the precinct's Forest Hills stationhouse, located at 68-40 Austin St., at 6 p.m. Tuesday night.

DeBlasio a no-show at officer's home

From the Daily News:

The family of Rafael Ramos, one of the cops killed during an ambush in Brooklyn, said they were disappointed Mayor de Blasio didn’t visit to express his condolences Sunday.

“It would be nice for him to come here and say something to us that can lift our spirits and give us hope for the future,” said Ronnie Gonzalez, 54, a cousin.

Gov. Cuomo visited the Ramos family at their Cypress Hills, Brooklyn, home.

Building needs to clean up its mess

From Cleanup Jamaica Queens:

164-03 89th Avenue. From looking at this building you would not think anything, but a closer inspection, which I did, shows a major garbage issue with this building, some of it in clear view for all to see.

7 Queens residents caught counterfeiting

From the Times Ledger:

Authorities seized more than $2 million worth of counterfeit goods in Queens bearing logos of such designers as Gucci, Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Michael Kors, The North Face and Versace.

Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said seven borough residents were charged in connection with the investigation that enabled authorities to confiscate some 13,000 fake items, ranging from belts and handbags to watches, boots and scarves.

“Trademark counterfeiting is not a victimless crime,” Brown said. “Small counterfeit operations like this one discovered as a result of this investigation fuel an underground economy.”

Dubbed “Operation Treasure Hunt,” the probe began last summer and it was led by the NYPD, U.S. Homeland Security Investigations and Brown’s office.

According to five criminal complaints filed by the DA, the knockoffs were seized from storage facilities located in Jamaica and College Point.

“They are cash businesses that pay no taxes, damage the reputations of reputable brand owners and lower consumer confidence in the name brands by foisting inferior products into the marketplace,” Brown said.

During the operation, police arrested Naqing Zhang, 31 and his wife, Wei Wei Dong, 32, of Whitestone; Chin Chu, 43, and his wife Jian Xia, 38, of Flushing; Sai Chen, 39, of Flushing; Wei Liao, 41, of Jamaica; and Pizhong Zhou, 22, of Douglaston.

The defendants face up to four years in prison if convicted of trademark counterfeiting charges. They were released on their own recognize.

Meng gets bill passed that might fund historic sites

From the Times Ledger:

U.S. Rep Grace Meng’s (D-Flushing) bill to study the viability of the National Park Service supporting Queens historic sites associated with the signing of the Flushing Remonstrance passed the Senate last Friday night.

The Flushing Remonstrance Study Act would require the secretary of the Interior, who oversees federal parkland, to consider the possibility of giving Flushing sites, such as the John Bowne House and the Old Quaker Meetinghouse, support from the National Park Service.

The bill passed the House 20th century in September. If President Barack Obama signs the bill, the National Park Service will be able to look at whether the sites meet the requirements for national significance, suitability and feasibility.

It could also lead to the sites becoming either a national historic park or a national historic site or creating partnerships to support the facilities.

While this sounds like something positive on its face, the reality is that the National Parks budget is frequently subject to budget cuts, and more often it's the local governments that have to step up with funding to save national parks than the other way around.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

No words

Bus company needs to clean up its act

From the Queens Chronicle:

Ozone Park resident Eduardo Venegas has been waking up at 5:30 a.m. to the sound of idling school buses for the past two years, and he’s sick of it.

Venegas’ house neighbors Logan Bus Co.’s Ozone Park depot, located at 97-14 Atlantic Ave.

He said the school buses depart via 95th Avenue, a quiet residential street, in the early morning hours and idle their engines in front of people’s houses.

The buses often double-park on the narrow road, he added, causing people stuck behind them to honk.

When they’re parked curbside, he claims the drivers are behind the wheel either sleeping or eating before they begin their routes.

Venegas said in addition to waking up residents along 95th Avenue, the drivers are throwing their garbage in front of their houses and on the streets.

Venegas said he has brought his complaints regarding the depot to Community Board 9, but has not reached out to any elected officials about the situation yet.

He brought his complaint to the board at its Dec. 9 meeting.

Corey Muirhead, a representative for the owners of Logan Bus Co., said the company is aware of the situation and is working to correct it.