Friday, July 21, 2017

Queens lady lets de Blasio have it in photo op gone wrong

Give 'em hell, Vickie!

Wills guilty, booted from City Council

From NY1:

A jury Thursday has found Queens City Councilman Ruben Wills guilty on five of six counts against him in his corruption trial.

Wills was accused of stealing more than $30,000 in taxpayer money, funneling it through his nonprofit group, then using it, among other things, on clothes, fast food, gas and, in one case, a $690 Louis Vuitton handbag.

After the verdict, he was upbeat and defiant. "I'm just going to sit here and make sure that my community knows that I'm innocent," Wills said to reporters. "I didn't steal any money. I'm disappointed in the verdict."

A city councilman representing southeast Queens since 2011, Wills now automatically loses his council seat.

Wills faces up to seven years in prison. His attorney plans to appeal.

Let's recall that the Queens Machine endorsed him while he was under indictment.

Now what happens? Do they pick his successor?

Whitestone asks FAA to reroute helicopters

From PIX11:

Neighbors in Queens are sounding an alarm after a helicopter with two people inside made a water landing off the south shore of Long Island on Wednesday.

"We Love Whitestone" is a group created a number of years ago. Members joined with some other neighborhoods and people in Astoria, Queens to bring attention to the air traffic above their homes.

Alfredo Centola is a founding member of the Whitestone group. He has shared videos with PIX11 of helicopters flying over their homes. They run a website where neighbors can file reports and they also say they have set up sensors that track aircraft.

They're asking the Federal Aviation Administration to review the official flight plan that brings choppers and sea-planes over northwestern Queens. The neighbors point out the same path requires aircraft to fly along the water farther south in certain parts of Long Island's North Shore.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Flushing & Jamaica Stations to undergo renovations

From NY1:

As renovations continue at Penn Station, the state announced Wednesday an improvement plan for dozens of Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) stations, including two in Queens.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the state is investing $5.6 billion to transform 39 LIRR stations.

He said the much-needed improvements will strengthen transportation infrastructure and increase rider capacity by 80 percent.

The Jamaica Station will undergo a major face lift, as it will be upgraded with higher speed switches and new signals.

Aging platforms are expected to be replaced, and some will be expanded to accommodate full-length, 12-car trains.

The station is also projected to be equipped with heated waiting areas and Wi-Fi.

Meantime, Flushing Station is expected to undergo general improvements.

Moya to publicly pledge his allegiance to the Queens Machine today

CORONA, N.Y. - On the heels of an appellate court rejection of a prior development project, Assemblymember and Council candidate Francisco Moya has issued a community-minded high bar for negotiations on the future of the redevelopment of Willets Point. These essential guidelines come in the face of a failed attempt to bring affordable housing to the area by scandal-tarred Hiram Monserrate, the former Councilmember whose deals with Mayor Bloomberg led to a decade of inaction and stagnation.

Moya's proposal comes shortly after a decision last month by the New York State Court of Appeals striking down the Willets West phase of the proposed redevelopment. The plan, which would have brought a shopping center and movie theater to the 30-acre site immediately west of Citi Field, was intended to be the first phase in the two-part redevelopment of the Willets Point Site. However, the Court of Appeals struck the plan down on the grounds that the land, which is technically parkland pertaining to the adjacent Flushing-Meadows Park, would first require state lawmakers' approval. Moya has pledged to work with colleagues in the legislature to secure the required parkland alienation provisions if his proposal moves forward.

...the leading City Council candidate will join Make the Road Action, Jackson Heights Green Alliance, Fairness Coalition of Queens, and local community leaders to rally in support of Moya's plan, and urge Mayor Bill de Blasio to join in support. The press conference and rally will coincide with the Mayor's week-long stint in Queens, working out of Queens Borough Hall.

Who: New York State Assemblymember Francisco Moya (D - Corona), Make the Road Action, members of Jackson Heights Green Alliance and the Fairness Coalition of Queens, as well as local community leaders.

What: Rally and press conference in support of Moya's Willets Point proposal

Where: Willets Point, 126th Street and Willets Point Blvd., Corona, N.Y. 11368.

When: Tomorrow, Thursday, July 20, 2017 at 2:30 p.m.

Nice collection of tweeder groups, Francisco! He also wants a soccer stadium in the park.

I'm kind of hoping Hiram shows up...

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Assembly bill seeks to unmask AirBnB rentals

From the Real Deal
From The Real Deal:

What could go wrong when sharing your address with thousands of strangers over the internet? A new bill sponsored by State Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal would force Airbnb hosts to do just that.

Anyone who lists an apartment on the short-term rental site in New York would have to include the unit’s address, down to the apartment number. Rosenthal argued the bill would create “an open and honest system that prioritizes transparency and safety” and make it easier to unmask illegal listings.

A spokesperson for Airbnb said the bill will “put thousands of lives at risk.”

People who post illegal listings (such as renting out an entire unit for 30 days or less if the tenant or owner isn’t also present) could face fines ranging from $1,000 to $7,500, the New York Daily News reported.

Landlord reports tenants to ICE, gets fined by City

From the Daily News:

A Queens landlord who reported his tenants to ICE after they complained about him to the city has been slapped with a retaliation charge, the Daily News has learned.

"Our message is loud and clear: we will hold landlords accountable for discrimination in our city," Mayor de Blasio said in a statement. "We stand with tenants, regardless of their origin, in Queens and across the five boroughs."

The city would not name the Ridgewood landlord, citing a continuing investigation, or the tenants, out of fear of further retaliation.

The city Commission on Human Rights initially served the landlord with a notice of complaint alleging discrimination in March, after immigrant-advocacy group Make the Road NY alerted them to problems at the building.

The landlord responded by denying the charges - and copying ICE on his letter, which contained the personal information of his tenants.

That, the commission says, violates the city's Human Rights Law, which prohibits people from retaliating after someone files a discrimination complaint. Sapna V. Raj, an assistant commissioner at the commission, said the commission will continue to go after anyone who retaliates against New Yorkers reporting discrimination.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Continued overdevelopment along 7 train line is probably a bad idea

From Brick Underground:

Anyone who has passed through Queensboro Plaza lately won't be surprised to hear that a development boom is afoot in this part of Queens. The area surrounding the elevated train station in Long Island City is a sea of cranes and residential high-rises, which have been sprouting up ever since a 2001 rezoning of the neighborhood.

And lately, developers have been pushing farther along the 7 train corridor into Queens, adding towers to the skylines of areas like Jackson Heights and Flushing. Last year, a report from Ariel Property Advisors predicted that growth would continue, eventually even mirroring Brooklyn's L train corridor in the changes to come, based on the area's (relative) affordability, transit and increasingly hip reputation. Even Anthony Bourdain, bad boy celebrity chef meets CNN anchor, recently featured Queens in an episode of his travel show, Parts Unknown.

The word is definitely already out in northwest Queens, home to Long Island City, Astoria, Sunnyside and Woodside. According to the most recent Douglas Elliman market reports, median rents have actually exceeded those of Brooklyn and the number of new leases grew by over 50 percent from last year.

But some Queens locals say that they're concerned about population growth along the 7 line, which isn't really free from the issues ailing the rest of NYC's subway network. (In fact, Brick previously covered how weekend subway shutdowns of the 7 hurt Queens neighborhoods.) A development boom could end up exacerbating overcrowding and delays that are already plaguing the train, these residents say, making a bad situation worse.

Rooftop farms are the latest thing

From AM-NY:

The seeds of New York’s rooftop farming industry, planted over the past decade, have yielded a harvest in recent years.

It has grown from a niche industry to a large-scale phenomenon, according to experts, thanks to a change in city regulations and a subsequent spur of investment.

And there’s potential for expansion in the years ahead, especially in Brooklyn and Queens.

“These large-scale greenhouses are advanced and expensive, but more and more consumers and businesses are supporting them,” said Nicole Baum, spokeswoman for Gotham Greens, a rooftop farm operator in Brooklyn.

The city changed its zoning laws in 2012 to allow rooftop greenhouses certain exemptions from limits on height and floor size on commercial and industrial properties. As a consequence, landlords have come to view them as a potential amenity and opportunity for profit.

The city offers plenty of ready-made locations to allow for the industry’s further expansion, according to the Columbia University analysis.
It concluded that there were more than 5,701 private and public roofs in 2013 that, combined, were capable of holding 3,000 acres of rooftop farms. That’s nearly three and a half times the size of Central Park. Neighborhoods with the most rooftop space were Maspeth, Long Island City, Greenpoint and Sunset Park, according to the report.

Trial not going well for Wills

From the NY Post:

Queens Councilman Ruben Wills flew into a rage in court Monday — slamming his fists on the table and yelling at the top of his lungs — as a judge all but threw out his defense in his ongoing corruption trial.

The pol grew infuriated when Queens Supreme Court Judge Ira Margulis barred his lawyer from calling five witnesses, saying they were irrelevant to the case.

The two then continued bickering out of the presence of the jury, which has been hearing evidence since the beginning of this month that Wills allegedly misspent $30,000 in taxpayer funds by blowing it on personal expenses.

“You cannot speak. You have an attorney to speak for you,” Margulis told the fuming Democrat.

Wills retorted, “But you are preventing my attorney from making a case!”

Margulis then issued a stern warning, “One more outburst and I will hold you in contempt!”

“I’m not going to allow these witnesses,” Margulis said before he was interrupted by Wills, who bellowed, “How can do you do that?!” while banging his hands on the defense table.

Wills was admonished a second time for slamming a giant stack of papers on the table and muttering loudly after Margulis refused to postpone the trial so that defense could call witnesses who were unavailable Monday.

The judge eventually allowed one witness — Kim Newsom — to testify Monday afternoon but told O’Donnell, “You’re asking to produce witnesses to testify as to what is in your client’s mind. How can they do that?”

I googled Ruben Wills and this came up first:

Hacked? Or just run by a hack?

Monday, July 17, 2017

Documenting the last days of the old Kosciuszko Bridge

"Remembering the old Kosciuszko Bridge before the demolition. How many frustrating hours of New York traffic did you spend in your life on this old metal rusted bridge? A lot and we hated every minute of it. Now that its gone in a way we are happy to see it go but are sad at the same time. We will always remember this green metal bridge. She served us well. May she go down in history. Enjoy this drone aerial video to remember the history of this fine bridge as we look to the future. I took my time to make this video for all of you my fellow New Yorkers and for anyone else out there who relates."

Activity at Civic Virtue site

"Hello Crapman:

Drove by Borough Hall today and noted that the green plywood fencing surrounding the Civic Virtue site was down. The workers were hosing the site with water. I spoke to them and they said that blue boxood and white lilies - the colors of the Queens flag - will be planted in the fountain area. Flower planting to come from somewhere in New Jersey. Will Katz have a ribbon-cutting ceremony very soon?

Check out my post here with today's photos of the renovated site.

All the best,

Glad to hear we're even outsourcing flower planting.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

What a strange question to ask!

I gotta say, I've never seen a reporter ask this question about other reporters' investigations. I haven't noticed anyone ask "Who's out to get Mayor de Blasio?" or "Who's out to get Andrew Cuomo?" or "Who's out to get Donald Trump?" when their shenanigans are exposed. So why ask this question about Joe Crowley who seriously deserves the scrutiny?

Here's the actual piece.

Engineer volunteering to help Kew Gardens bridge businesses

From the Queens Tribune:

A once-dim future for the Lefferts Boulevard bridge businesses in Kew Gardens appears to be getting brighter.

Recently, three engineers—from the MTA, city Department of Transportation and a volunteer retired engineer from Kew Garden—examined the bridge after the Metropolitan Transportation Authority told the business owners that the platforms on which their buildings are located must be demolished.

Al Brand, the retired engineer, floated the idea that an additional concrete slab could be installed underneath the bridge.

Concerns regarding this proposal include whether the slab would allow adequate clearance for Long Island Rail Road trains underneath and the possible cost of the project.

Michael Cohen, communications director for Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz (D- Forest Hills), said that Brand is volunteering his expertise and acting as a representative for the Kew Gardens community and Koslowitz in the MTA’s discussions.

Cohen noted that there are still many questions that need to be answered regarding the site. He said that Koslowitz is pleased that the MTA is considering the alternative. He added that the agency has committed to hosting a meeting before Aug 1. to discuss bringing in a third-party consultant to review this matter and making a recommendation.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

East Elmhurst hotel to close and make way for ....?

From the Queens Chronicle:

An East Elmhurst hotel previously thought to become a homeless shelter will close its doors on Oct. 1, due to “economic” reasons, according to a notice from the state Department of Labor.

The agency’s “Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification” website posted on July 3 that the Courtyard by Marriott LaGuardia Hotel, located at 90-10 Grand Central Pkwy., will close and 144 employees will be affected.

The reason was only listed as “economic” and no further details were available.

The hotel was in the headlines last October when East Elmhurst officials blasted the city Department of Homeless Services for failing to notify the community of plans to house 60 single men there.

“As with prior occasions, DHS has completely failed to inform both elected officials and community members of their plans to house any individuals at this facility,” Rep. Joe Crowley (D-Queens, Bronx), state Sen. Jose Peralta (D-East Elmhurst) and Assemblyman Francisco Moya (D-Jackson Heights) said in a joint statement at the time.

The DHS back then denied any plans to convert the hotel into a shelter — saying it had received no offers to put homeless services at the site. The agency says it still has no plans to use the location.

"Urban Renewal" is a concern in Far Rockaway

From AM-NY:

Some local merchants say they need more guidance on how to be part of a business boom the city seeks to spur in downtown Far Rockaway.

Under the city’s plan, larger residential buildings with retail spaces on the ground floors would rise where, today, a half-vacant shopping center and buildings with small businesses sit. To ensure that they can make it happen, the proposal includes a 13-acre urban renewal area, which allows the government to seize property and compensate occupants through a highly regulated process.

But if the City Council approves the plan, existing business owners said they are not sure where they will land amid the anticipated construction spree.
Lookran Jagdeo has run Far Rockaway Auto Glass Inc. in the targeted area for 21 years. Even if he is offered some sort of compensation to pack up, Jagdeo said he doubts he could find another nearby business location.

[Council Member Donovan] Richards said some merchants may have written off this plan because similar attempts have sputtered over the years.

He said the city is not eager to seize property classified for urban renewal, but said it may prove prudent, if the private market does not develop as planned.

Under the city’s plan, 16 businesses would likely be relocated from the urban renewal area, at least temporarily. Another dozen stores may be displaced if the real estate market proceeds as planned, city paperwork shows.

However, some shops in the urban renewal area have already struck deals to remain in the community long-term, Richards said. And the city’s Economic Development Corporation said it would help any merchant seeking advice.

Liu slapped with more campaign finance fines

From NY1:

A former city comptroller was hit Thursday with a hefty fine in connection with his 2013 run for mayor.

The campaign board slapped John Liu with $26,000 in campaign finance fines in connection with a straw donor scandal.

This comes after Liu's campaign treasurer and a campaign fundraiser were convicted of federal fraud charges.

They were accused of concocting a phony donor scheme to get Liu public matching funds.

Liu never received the funds, but the board determined that his campaign should be penalized for fraud.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Resorts World about to expand

From 1010WINS:

The Resorts World Casino in Queens has broken ground on a $400-million expansion.

First opened in 2011 in the retrofitted grandstand of Aqueduct Race Track the all-electronic casino already attracts more than 10-million visitors a year. It’s enough success, Casino President Scott Molina said, for the Malaysian conglomerate that owns it to invest another $400-million into it.

The two year project will include a new 400 room, four star hotel, and four new restaurants.

Silver skates but will be retried

From NY1:

Former state Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver's conviction on fraud, money laundering, and extortion was overturned Thursday.

The judge used a Supreme Court precedent involving former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell, which more clearly defined the kind of conduct that could be considered corrupt while in office.

"The court talks about certain acts that Silver was shown to have taken that no longer can be considered official acts, such as having a meeting," attorney Joshua Colangelo-Bryan said.

"It is not clear beyond a reasonable doubt that a rational jury would have reached the same conclusion if properly instructed, as is required by the law for the verdict to stand," Jose Cabranes of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals decision said in his decision.

In a statement, acting U.S. Attorney Joon Kim says he will re-try the case.

Ridgewood rowhouse on steroids is ugly (as predicted)

Just about a year ago, our blog featured this corner house at Stockholm Street and Cypress Avenue.
It was in the process of being altered, and the remark made was, "This will no doubt look incredibly stupid when all is said and done."
Aaaaand...another nail was hit squarely on its head by the Crapper.

Several more complaints have been lodged on this project as well.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

City contractors damage property then skedaddle

From NY1:

A busted pool, a broken shed, and a missing fence — that's just some of the damage Frank Harnisher says a city contractor did to his property while working on a project to alleviate chronic flooding on West 11th Road during high tide.

The 78-year-old has fought for months to get the contractor or the city to address the issue. "I can't get them down here, I can't get anybody to talk to me about how they are going to redo my property," he said.

Which was the agreement, according to a 2014 letter from the contracting firm EIC Associates.

Workers used his property at the end of the street to build a cofferdam, a watertight enclosure for construction below the waterline.

The company said it would return the area to its pre-construction condition, but instead Harnisher said it's been one problem after the other.

"When they erected the cofferdam a lot of my property deteriorated, and instead of building it back to its pre-existing condition, they shorted me five feet of property on one side, my existing rock bulkhead on the other side is three feet shorter, and now I'm subject to high tides," Harnisher said.

The contracting firm said it was told to vacate 11th Road to make room for Build it Back construction and couldn't go back.

But when NY1 reached out to the Department of Design and Construction, the agency overseeing the $28 million project, we were told that property that was removed or damaged because of the work will be restored.

Sunnyside rental scammer sentenced to probation

Photo from Sunnyside Post
From Sunnyside Post:

A Queens woman who owned a Woodside real estate firm and scammed 28 prospective tenants out of nearly $95,000 was sentenced last month to 3-years probation–and is required to repay all her victims.

Rosita Tsiklauri, a 48-year-old College Point resident, operated Fast Solutions Realty out of 47-20 48th Avenue, where she duped prospective tenants out of thousands in cash, according to the Queens District Attorney’s office.

Tsiklauri’s firm collected deposits, fees and rental payments on apartments that were not available.

She would often show the same apartment to prospective tenants and ask them for cash payments to cover the deposit and first month’s rent. She would then tell her victims that the apartment was suddenly taken and pocket the cash.

In cases where she did refund her prospective tenants, the checks either bounced or her bank account was frozen.

She was arrested last year at JFK Airport after returning from the Ukraine. She was charged with second-degree criminal possession of stolen property, third-and-fourth degree grand larceny, first degree scheme to defraud and issuing a bad check. She faced up to 15 years in prison.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Bill de Blasio, world traveler

From the NY Post:

Mayor de Blasio claims he has taken only “limited” excursions overseas, but he has actually flown outside the continental US 11 times since taking office, records show.

Besides last week’s jaunt to Germany to support protesters at the G-20 summit, the mayor has logged four trips to Puerto Rico, three to Italy and separate treks to Israel, England and France.

In all, he has taken at least 53 trips outside New York City over the past 3 ¹/₂ years — spending 77 weekdays away from City Hall.

Trips to Albany and Washington, DC, are not included in the count.

Former Mayor Mike Bloomberg logged just 44 workdays outside the Big Apple in his first four years.

Queens commutes suck

From Brick Underground: Residents of four different regions of NYC face commutes that rank among the nation’s top 10 longest ones, according to a study conducted by statistician Chase Sawyer and originally reported on by CityLab. Unsurprisingly, outer borough residents have the toughest slogs in the city: Queens residents have an average commute time of 42.6 minutes, Brooklynites have a 41.7-minute commute on average, Bronx residents 43 minutes and Staten Island residents 42.6 minutes on average. By comparison, Manhattanites' average commute time is about 31 minutes, according to the map. Interestingly, both Westchester County and Nassau County residents had shorter commutes than outer-borough residents — 32.9 and 34.9 minutes respectively, though we'd imagine the aforementioned "summer of hell," and recent LIRR woes may skew these numbers a bit the next time around.

63-story skyscraper next to clock tower

From the Queens Gazette:

The Durst Organization has filed plans to develop a 63-story tower in a lot next door to the landmarked Clock Tower Building at Queens Plaza in Long Island City.

The new tower will feature 763 residential units and a public park, plans show. The Durst Organization acquired the parcel from Property Markets Group in December 2016 for $173.5 million., contingent on the renewal of the New York State 421-a tax program that offers tax breaks to developers in exchange for the creation of affordable housing.

State lawmakers approved a new version of the program in spring 2017. Under the program, developers will set aside at least 28 per cent of the Durst tower’s 763 apartments as affordable housing.

An item on the Real Deal website in December said developer Kevin Maloney, of Property Markets Group, indicated that an acquisition note on the clock tower project was coming due, so he felt it was time to sell the property.

The new, 63-story Super Tower will rise 710-feet from ground level and will feature 8,702-square-feet of retail space, according to the plans.

The Durst Organization is not planning any changes to the Clock Tower building, which was awarded landmark status by the city in 2015, a spokesperson for the Durst Organization said.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

More restoration work at the Steinway Mansion

The portico roof of the Steinway Mansion is being reconstructed.

George the Atheist has a photo history.

Borough Hall has been moved to Missouri

And there you have it. This may be where the Mayor actually is as he is quite the jetsetter lately. Original link.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Cars being keyed in Oakland Gardens

From CBS 2:

Cars are being vandalized in a Queens neighborhood, and residents say it has been going on for months – all on one specific street.

As CBS2’s Erin Logan reported, a vandal or vandals are clearly making their mark on more than a few cars on a small stretch of 75th Avenue in Oakland Gardens, Queens.

“When her car was vandalized, there were other people’s cars vandalized. At that point, I proceeded to call the cops and told them what happened,” [Nerry] Nayzov sad. “At that point, we saw an elderly man who scratched my neighbor’s car right in front of me — while police were on scene.”

Police arrested that man immediately, and Nayzov thought the problem was solved. But the vandals did not stop there.

Two and a half weeks later, more cars were damaged. CBS2 counted at least three on one side of the street, and even more on the other side.

The owner of a maroon sport-utility vehicle and a black Nissan Maxima were also saying “enough is enough” Sunday.

Paul Guterman and his wife did not even realize their Maxima was damaged until Sunday night. They asked why everyone was hovering over the cars – and then sure enough, they saw the answer.

Van Bramer drops out of matching funds program

From Progress Queens:

New York City Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) continues to make fundraising appeals for his 2017 campaign committee to reƫlect, even after he has reportedly dropped out of the matching funds program of the New York City Campaign Finance Board.

In an e-mail distributed on Thursday, Councilmember Van Bramer's campaign committee sought campaign contributions, in part, because, "I need your help in order to face the very real and immensely important fights that are ahead. I've spent this year organizing the resistance against the devisive retoric from the White House."

The e-mail apparently referred to a protest march that Councilmember Van Bramer spearheaded last November to denounce the politics of then-President elect Donald Trump as an affront to "Queens values," a vague political construct that appeared to overlook the prominent conservative sensibility that exists amongst voters in the borough of Queens.

Councilmember Van Bramer's campaign fundraising drive continues in the face of a news report that his campaign committee has reportedly exceeded a fundraising cap and has dropped out of the Municipal matching funds program, according to an article published by The Gotham Gazette. Councilmemmber Van Bramer is a member of the City Council's Progressive Caucus.

For this report, Councilmember Van Bramer's office did not answer a request to explain why the incumbent candidate dropped out of matching funds program.

Queens Blvd will get new building at site of 2001 fire

From Sunnyside Post:

A developer filed plans Monday for a 6 story, 19-unit complex to go up Queens Boulevard on the empty lot next to Starbucks, according to Building Dept. records.

The building would go up at 46-11 Queens Boulevard, a lot that has been abandoned since a fire tore through the corner of 46th Street and Queens Boulevard in June 2001.

Since the fire, a new building went up on the corner of 46th Street/Queens Blvd that houses Starbucks—which opened in 2006—and T-Mobile. However, 46-11 Queens Boulevard has remained empty and the owner has faced complaints over the years about the construction fence being dangerous and garbage over the years.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

SI wetlands are too dangerous for development

From Crains:

The de Blasio administration is adding a new type of neighborhood to its zoning arsenal: ghost town.

The City Planning Commission will hold a public meeting next Wednesday on a proposal that would discourage new development in the three Staten Island neighborhoods hardest hit by Superstorm Sandy: Graham Beach, Oakwood Beach and Ocean Breeze. The areas proved to be so flood-prone that they were included in a state program that purchased damaged homes at prestorm prices, then tore them down so the area could be returned to nature. The city's zoning proposal aims to aid that process by preventing new houses from being built.

"In some limited locations … conditions are not appropriate for significant new development," a Department of City Planning spokesman said in a statement. "Given the high risk of flooding in these areas and their proximity to ecologically sensitive wetlands, [City Planning] is moving forward with a proposal that will limit future residential density while maintaining the ability of existing homeowners to invest in making their homes safe and resilient."

The new rules would allow only single-family homes to be constructed in the future and only if the builder is able to obtain a permit from the planning commission, which would likely frown on most applications.

Skipping hearings is costly

From DNA Info:

The already-indebted contractor overseeing a long-dormant Third Avenue construction site hated by neighbors has racked up about $35,000 in additional fines after blowing off two hearings over site violations, according to the city agency leveling the penalty.

The city will fine B Genco Contracting Corporation roughly $35,660 for failing to maintain the work site at 133 Third Ave., which sat largely untouched since 2012, after the contractor skipped two hearings on a host of violations, according to Departing of Buildings records and the Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings.

The contractor was supposed to appear before OATH on June 22 and June 29 for summonses issued by the DOB for cracks in the sidewalk, failing to secure the construction site, and violations related to the sidewalk shed, records show. Because a representative failed to show up, the corporation was hit with the default penalties for the violations, said an OATH spokeswoman.

DOB records show a fine of $11,660 has already been imposed for the jilted June 22 hearing. The default penalties for the June 29 summons will result in about $24,000 in additional fines, said an OATH spokeswoman.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

How affordable is it?

From Crains:

The city has not released adequate information about how much money it has spent on affordable housing three years into the mayor's plan to build or preserve 200,000 subsidized units, a fiscal watchdog group said last week. While the administration has touted the number of units it has financed, the group said, the missing data make it difficult to tell how much has been spent to accomplish the goal and how much more cash might be needed to finish the job down the road.

Mayor Bill de Blasio announced his Housing New York plan in 2014 and pledged $41 billion in public and private money over 10 years to make it happen, including $6.7 billion in city capital dollars. However, since that time the administration has not revealed enough information about how it is spending the cash, according to the Citizens Budget Commission.

"Without this basic data, whether the mayor's Housing New York plan is deploying its capital in the most cost-effective way cannot be evaluated," Sean Campion, a senior research associate at the nonprofit, wrote Friday.

The city typically releases information about how many units it has financed twice a year and includes the total cost of those apartments. The commission, however, wants to see more granular figures to find out whether taxpayer dollars are being spent wisely, and which programs appear to be the most efficient.

Figures such as per-unit costs are not released publicly, City Hall said, since developers could use the data to their advantage when negotiating on projects.

Albany preparing for possible con-con

From the NY Times:

Every 20 years, New Yorkers have the chance to vote whether they want to hold a constitutional convention to amend, tweak or otherwise improve the founding document of the state.

For the past half-century, voters have demurred. This year, however, academics, good-government groups and others believe the outcome of the ballot question in November may be different. And — perhaps no surprise — it has something to do with the current occupant of the White House.

“Trump’s election emphasizes how valuable it is for states to chart their own course,” said Peter J. Galie, author of “Ordered Liberty: A Constitutional History of New York” and a professor of political science at Canisius College in Buffalo. “We can put a right to clean air and water in our Constitution. If we want to add more labor protections, we can do it. That’s the beauty of federalism.”

But before voters confront the ballot question, they will no doubt be barraged by campaigns for and against a constitutional convention, affectionately called Con-Con.

Nonprofit groups interested in issues including campaign finance reform, redistricting, term limits and the legalization of marijuana have come out in favor of a convention. They argue that the state Legislature is unlikely to take up these thorny, politically treacherous topics. At the same time, unions like the United Federation of Teachers and state legislative leaders have argued against a convention, saying it could repeal hallowed protections.

There are some offbeat — some might say flaky — positions that advocates say could come about only during a constitutional convention. They include calls for a unicameral Legislature — doing away with the Assembly or Senate — and the division of the state into autonomous regions, with separate regional governors and legislatures.

If voters approve a convention, delegates would be elected in 2018, with the convention held the next year.

Photo op award winner

First prize goes to...

Friday, July 7, 2017

Wills finally on trial

From NY1:

Queens City Councilman Ruben Wills is the latest elected official to stand trial on corruption charges. In laying out their case Wednesday, prosecutors said he pocketed thousands of dollars in taxpayer money to use on clothing, meals, and even construction supplies. NY1's Bobby Cuza filed the following report.

Even before he was first elected to the City Council, Ruben Wills had already begun a scheme to defraud taxpayers, prosecutors said, stealing $19,000 in state grant money awarded to his Queens non-profit, and $11,500 in public campaign finance funds.

At opening arguments Wednesday, Assistant Attorney General Travis Hill said that for Wills, "stealing taxpayer funds was business as usual."

The trial is now finally underway after numerous delays, including Wills missing court appearances with an undisclosed illness.

He faces up to seven years in prison on six charges, including fraud and grand larceny, all of which he is vigorously contesting.

De Blasio has interesting priorities

From the NY Post:

Mayor de Blasio on Thursday skipped an NYPD swearing-in ceremony made somber by this week’s assassination of a cop — then hours later revealed he was busy preparing to jet off on a surprise trip to join leftist protesters at the G-20 summit in Germany.

Hizzoner’s overseas jaunt was kept under wraps until just 90 minutes before he took off from Newark Airport. A last-minute announcement said he “will attend several events surrounding the G-20 Summit, including Saturday’s Hamburg Zeigt Haltung rally.”

De Blasio will be the keynote speaker, organizers of the demonstration — Hamburg Shows Attitude — tweeted.

The mayor also made sure the free trip will include a visit with his son, Dante, a Yale University student who’s spending the summer on an internship in Berlin, a City Hall spokesman said.

Presumptive Republican challenger Nicole Malliotakis accused de Blasio of abandoning pressing issues in the Big Apple to pursue his progressive agenda in Europe.

“Unbelievable. Instead of jet-setting around the world, he should be here doing his job,” said the Staten Island assemblywoman. “A police officer was murdered, street homelessness has skyrocketed and people continue to get delayed on the trains.”

We sure do love our criminals here

From Epoch Times:

A once-deported Dominican man with a criminal record and felony arrest warrant was recently released on bail, despite immigration authorities requesting that he be handed over to them.

Instead, ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) had to locate and arrest Joselin Medina as he left the Bronx Criminal Court in New York on June 16, the agency reported.

Medina has a past felony conviction for the criminal sale of a controlled substance and a pending misdemeanor charge and felony re-entry charge, according to ICE.

“Even a federal criminal warrant issued by a United States magistrate is not enough for the city of New York to turn over a convicted felon to ICE,” said Thomas R. Decker, field office director for ERO New York. “It is unfathomable that New York would create such a public safety risk for the sake of political expediency.”

Medina is now in the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service and is facing up to 20 years in federal prison, after which he will be deported.

And if it was up to Joe Crowley, the sanctuary system will stay in place.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

How NYC protects the environment

From Brooklyn Daily:

The state has approved a permit for the city to pour up to 7.2 million gallons of contaminated groundwater into Coney Island Creek every day for up to two years while the city upgrades sewer and water mains in Coney’s west end.

The permit allows the city to overlook nearly a dozen heavy metals found in the water because only small amounts were discovered in the creek, and state officials say locals have nothing to fear because Coney creek flows into Gravesend Bay, which will dilute the pollutants. But with millions of gallons gushing into the inlet each day for years, experts and locals fear that the contaminates could amass to dangerous levels, and aren’t buying the state’s argument that being connected to a large body of water will mitigate the risks.

The project being run by the Economic Development Corporation will upgrade aging water mains and storm and sanitary sewers in an area bounded by W. 17th and W. 22nd streets from Neptune Avenue to the Boardwalk. Shovels are expected to hit the ground this summer and the project will last for roughly two years — with an embargo on Surf Avenue construction from May 15 to Sept. 15 so as not to clash with the swell of beach-goers, according to city records.

But to keep the construction site dry, the city applied for a State Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit to “dewater” contaminated groundwater from several sites by pumping it into Coney Island Creek — where people swim, students routinely wade for city-run education programs, and some congregations use the waters for religious rites such as baptisms.

Cops need safer command centers

From NBC:

In light of the slain NYPD police officer, there is talk of bulletproofing NYPD's mobile command centers. Chris Glorioso reports.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Hamilton Beach, Broad Channel rezoned

From the Queens Chronicle:

The City Council on June 21 unanimously approved a rezoning of Hamilton Beach and Broad Channel, which permits the construction of single-family homes on most lots in the coastal neighborhoods.

The initiatives were pushed through by Councilman Eric Ulrich (R-Ozone Park), who urged the City Planning Commission to approve the plans at its June 7 meeting — even though the panel had more time to review them.

The rezonings will take effect once signed by the City Clerk — which could happen in the coming days.

Under the rezoning, future residential developments in Hamilton Beach and Broad Channel will be limited to one-family houses, with the possibility of two-family homes only on lots wider than 40 feet in the former area.

In Broad Channel, new developments would be single-family only and the construction of community facilities with sleeping accommodations would be prohibited.

The new rules would also prohibit the construction of semidetached multifamily housing in both communities.

Larger homes are often less storm-resilient and out of character in the low-lying, shoreline neighborhoods.

Rego Park building gets upgrade and new name

From Forest Hills Post:

A 16-story building in Rego Park has been revamped and units in the fully-amenitized rental building are now available for lease.

The building, located at 62-60 99th Street, has been renamed ‘The Drake’ and 100 of the 419 apartments are now available with prices starting at $2,000 per month.

The building was purchased in 2016 by Madison Realty Capital for $135 million, the largest investment sales transaction in the history of Rego Park, according to local brokers. Madison bought the property from New Jersey-based Treetop Development, which had invested millions of dollars upgrading the 1960s-era building.

“Named after a historic cinema, which was a lively social and cultural center in the 1950s, The Drake honors Rego Park’s rich history, while delivering upgraded high-end apartments to an area dominated by Tudor-style homes,” said Eric Benaim, CEO and founder of Modern Spaces.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Happy Independence Day from Queens Crap!

Happy 4th of July! Stay safe out there.

May God Bless America and Save Us From The Tweeders.

Kew Gardens business has problems with MTA

From CBS 2:

A business owner in Queens blames the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and a company hired to oversee repairs for a loss in customers.

There are growing fears among store owners and residents that the problems will lead to stores shutting down.

Anil Argawal says for the past week, he’s had no electricity in half of his store, and it’s led to fruits and vegetables going bad.

He says it’s cost him thousands of dollars in lost business.

“I’m totally devastated, I’m totally ruined,” he said.

Argawal and his brother own the market on Lefferts Boulevard right off Austin Street in Kew Gardens. The property, along with others, is on a bridge above the Long Island Rail Road tracks — owned by the MTA.

The agency hired management company Zee N Kay to oversee repair work.

Agarwal says the repairs have taken too long to make. The management company disagrees.

“We have fulfilled each and every one of our obligations,” Kunal Kapoor from Zee N Kay said.

Last Thursday, an electrician the company hired started to fix a panel because the electricity had been tripping. But four days later, an MTA Fire Marshal issued a stop work order — saying the agency needed to approve all electrical plans beforehand.

“Typically, LIRR takes several months to get back to you and we couldn’t wait that long,” Kapoor said.

Merchants say they feel repairs are dragged out because of possible plans in the future by the MTA to shut down stores on the historic bridge.

Locals have come up with a solution to the bridge problem. Will the MTA listen?

Monday, July 3, 2017

Prime location that no one wants

So this eyesore on Metropolitan Avenue was originally slated to become a "World Financial Group" location as reported back in 2013 on this blog. However, that never happened, and the building has continued to deteriorate for 4 years. There was a change in the sign to indicate that "Legacy Panning Solutions" would be moving in, but that also never occurred.

Would someone please buy this building and fix it up?

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Dilapidated Jamaica home is raccoon heaven

"A seven year-old girl had to run for her life from a raccoon; but according to policy the raccoon has the right to stay. A woman reached out to CleanupJamaicaQueens after her child was almost attacked by a fierce looking raccoon on Sunday June 25th.

The woman is living next door to the raccoon dwelling. Her home is about six feet away separated by a short fence. The decade old abandoned property is located at 167-05 144 Avenue Jamaica Queens. And yes, she has reached out to the local leaders many times to clean up the site.

The woman, Ms. B said that she has seen: rats and lizards, but the raccoons appear to be the leader of the pack. She said, "I was sitting on my stoop, watching my daughter play in my yard; when a raccoon started walking towards her direction; she started screaming, crying and running." That is when I had to reach out to CleanupJamaicaQueens.

Well, I (Hazel) got to the scene around fourish; the Sunday afternoon was still bright. The raccoon was long gone home, but next door. I called 311 and reported the issue. The operator said, some one will come out to investigate, but the raccoon can stay if it does do not have rabies. He went on, "do you know if that raccoon has rabies?" I was so damn angry that I responded, "no I did not have time to investigate."

Photos were taken on 6/25/17. Location, 167-05 144th. Avenue Jamaica Queens.
And this is why the black communities remain a fourth world area in America. There is always a technicality NOT to resolve problems in black communities.

Borough President/Katz, please get off your ever promising ass. You are responsible for Jamaica; It is part of Queens.

Please have your henchwoman/Boranian call the appropriate agency. The raccoon house is surrounded by trees and bushes, where creatures run freely. The entire house is inhabitable and the neighbours are living in fear."

P. Hazel: Social Media Journalist for Justice.

Hi-tech building enforcement happening

From the Daily News:

The non-union Rhode Island-based Gilbane is currently building all over the city, including Hudson Yards on the far West Side and an expansion of New York-Presbyterian Hospital on the Upper East Side. After the crowbar incident, the Department of Buildings searched its internal system to locate every Gilbane site in the city.

They found 14 sites, and over the span of four weeks, inspectors were able to gain access to 12. There they uncovered 49 hazardous violations and issued 13 partial or full stop-work orders at four locations.

At one, a Gilbane site in Hell’s Kitchen, where luxury condos are under construction, inspectors were forced to issue partial stop-work orders three times within a month. They also learned a worker at the site had been hospitalized in April after injuring his head while delivering sheetrock.

The Gilbane sweep is part of a new tech-savvy approach Buildings Commissioner Rick Chandler is taking to find and shut down dangerous job sites citywide. Currently the public can check the safety of a site via the department’s public records system by entering the site address. Looking at a contractor’s safety record at multiple sites is impossible.

Eight months ago, the department's chief of enforcement, Tim Hogan, began mining inspection data to find contractors with patterns of unsafe conditions.

Officials say Gilbane got the message. During the first week of inspections, 12 Gilbane sites produced 19 hazardous violations and six stop-work orders. By week four, the sweeps produced nine violations at six sites and only one stop-work order.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Taxpayers on the hook for BDB legal fees

From the Daily News:

Mayor de Blasio has decided to “let” taxpayers foot most of the $2.3 million bill he owes the lawyers who defended him in probes that found he’d intervened on behalf of donors seeking favors from City Hall.

After months of insisting he would never ask the public to pay what he owed, the mayor put up a brief explanation of his reversal on early Friday entitled “Our Legal Bills.”

He revealed that “after giving this a great deal of thought,” he’s decided the city will pay $2 million for legal work “tied to my government service.”

Another $300,000 in legal work he said is related to his non-governmental service will come from private donors via an as-yet-to-be created legal defense fund.

From 2016 through March, the Manhattan U.S. Attorney, the Manhattan District Attorney and the state Joint Commission on Public Ethics investigated de Blasio’s fund-raising activities.

On March 16 the U.S. Attorney and DA both announced they had closed their investigations without finding evidence of criminal culpability against de Blasio or his aides.

Acting U.S. Attorney Joon Kim, however, made clear that he did find evidence that de Blasio and his aides “solicited donations from individuals who sought official favors from the City.” In turn, Kim noted, “the mayor made or directed inquiries to relevant City agencies on behalf of those donors.”

De Blasio raised $4.3 million for a nonprofit Campaign For One New York that promoted his causes. The News found at least $3 million came from entities seeking favors from City Hall.

Why trains derail

From NBC:

Exclusive video obtained by the I-Team shows MTA workers cleaning up dangerous, unsecured rail equipment Thursday, after an I-Team report on Wednesday identified multiple subway lines with loose spare parts scattered on their tracks.

BQX = gentrification

From the Daily News:

Rather than wrestle with real congestion problems, Mayor de Blasio is pushing an expensive boutique project for new transit infrastructure that will fail to address any of the city’s most pressing transit needs or significantly reduce traffic congestion.

The Brooklyn-Queens Connector, or BQX, would run from Astoria in Queens to Sunset Park in Brooklyn. It is the brainchild of a group of developers who are sprouting luxury towers on the Brooklyn-Queens waterfront. They corralled celebrities and willing non-profit groups to create Friends of the BQX, a vanity group set up by the developers . The mayor is using the city’s time and money to close the deal with this group.

It is time the city proposed long-term solutions that go beyond absurdly expensive projects like the Second Ave. Subway, No. 7 extension and BQX, which are more about promoting high-end real estate development than solving transportation problems.

A serious bus rapid transit system (Select Bus Service is a modest beginning) and improvements to pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure need to be part of the plan. The city must look many decades ahead and not just to the next election, and beyond the 20-30 years during which developers typically recover their investments.

Finally, it makes no sense to sink billions of dollars into a trolley line lying in one of the city’s most vulnerable flood plains. No one can be certain how many feet the waters will rise in decades to come. The added costs of elevating buildings, protecting infrastructure and buying flood insurance will be considerable. Protecting the BQX rails at street level during floods would be difficult if not impossible.