Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Council members want hostels to come back

From AM-NY:

Several City Council members are pushing to legalize youth hostels in New York City, five years after a citywide crackdown wiped them out.

In 2010, the state legislature passed the "Illegal Hotels Bill" that outlawed using residential units as hotel rooms, shutting down virtually the entire hostel industry in New York. Fifty-five hostels across the city were shuttered for either violating zoning laws or operating under conditions that the city deemed dangerous.

Former City Council member Mark Weprin introduced a bill in February to regulate hostels, allowing them to open and operate in commercial zones. After Weprin resigned in June to work for Gov. Andrew Cuomo the bill was taken up by Council Member Margaret Chin.

Like Weprin, Chin also claimed that the city lost millions in revenue over the past few years because many young travelers can't find affordable accommodations and skip the city.

"What we're doing is resolving this unintended consequence in legislation that would allow hostels to operate in a reasonable manner and take advantage of this pool of global tourism," said Paul Leonard, a spokesman for Chin, a Democrat who represents lower Manhattan. A spokesman for Mayor Bill de Blasio said that the administration is reviewing the legislation and has no official position yet.

Other sponsors of the bill are council members David Greenfield, Jumaane Williams, Rafael Espinal Jr. and Karen Koslowitz.

About five hostels currently operate in the city but they categorize themselves as hotels on the city's books while advertising as hostels or offer "hostel-like" amenities, with the exception of the nonprofit organization Hostelling International that received a special permit by the city in 1989 to operate as a hostel.

If there are hostels operating legally in NYC, then why do we need new laws to make them more available? There is already a pathway to operation.

Still no cameras at Forest Park

From the Queens Chronicle:

Two years after Assemblyman Mike Miller (D-Woodhaven) secured $250,000 for surveillance cameras in Forest Park, the state Division of Budget earlier this month approved the funds, according to a spokesman at the agency.

Now, Miller said in a phone interview on Tuesday, the money must be released to the NYPD, which will purchase and install the cameras. The assemblyman hopes that process can begin before the new year.

The surveillance cameras were a major topic of discussion at last Saturday’s Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association meeting, where several residents said they would help with deterring crime in the park.

“Just like how we’re not going to let people force things down our throats, we’re not going to let people sit on things that we really need in our community,” WRBA President Martin Colberg said. “We’re at a point where there is no reason where this should still be sitting there.”

There have been some incidents in Forest Park recently that residents claim could’ve been deterred, or more easily solved by police, if cameras were present.

About two weeks ago, a body was found in the park near Woodhaven Boulevard and Myrtle Avenue. In June, a homeless man was accused of murdering a jogger around the same area.

There have also been a series of car break-ins near the park in the past few years.

Getting Silver is gold

From the Wall Street Journal:

Sheldon Silver’s conviction Monday in one of New York’s highest-profile public-corruption cases in decades could signal a shift in the business of Albany and spark further investigations of a capital with a long-standing reputation for questionable conduct.

The Democratic speaker of the state Assembly for more than 20 years, Mr. Silver was found guilty by a 12-person federal jury in Manhattan of four counts of honest-services fraud, two counts of extortion and one count of money laundering.

At the heart of the case was the question of whether procedures and conduct that are commonplace to Albany are, in fact, a violation of the law, or whether they are simply the perhaps objectionable but also unavoidable consequence of having a part-time Legislature.

As one of Mr. Silver’s defense attorneys, Justin Shur, put it during proceedings: “Throughout this trial, the government has pointed to things that have gone on in Albany which [are] standard practices in terms of how grants are reviewed, in terms of how member items are allocated, and suggested that they’re improper.”

The jury decided those actions and others taken by Mr. Silver were illegal, bringing an end to his lengthy political career.

Albany, roiled by Mr. Silver’s arrest in January, now faces a crisis of conscience on whether and how to respond to the conviction of someone who dominated state politics as long as most legislators or anyone in New York’s political orbit can remember.

Beatdown in Jackson Heights

From CBS 2:

Police are looking for a man who nearly killed a transgender woman in a beating in Queens.

Around 4 a.m. Sunday, the attacker followed the 35-year-old victim — whose given name was Ricardo Sal but goes by the name Kathy — to the front of Sal’s apartment on 93rd Street in Jackson Heights, police said.

CBS2’s Young reported neighbors said some of the transgender or cross-dressing renters in the neighborhood congregate late at night under the elevated No. 7 train tracks.

“They’re in the Roosevelt Avenue, you know?” a neighbor said. “Then they like to get some drunk guys, you know what I’m saying?”

The assailant followed his victim home to a gate on 93rd Street, which leads to a small basement apartment. The attack was quick as it was violent.

Police late Tuesday did not know the motive and were still looking for a suspect.

Neighbors said the attack was only the most recent and violent in a series of incidents linked to the overnight street activities along the Roosevelt Avenue strip.

“I’m not surprised, it’s always happening,” one local business owner told 1010 WINS’ Al Jones. “At night time…it’s really dangerous over here.”

So if this regularly occurs, why hasn't anything been done about it?

Monday, November 30, 2015

149th St Bridge may actually be repaired soon

From the Queens Chronicle:

Officials announced Thursday that the long-awaited reconstruction of the 149th Street Bridge in Flushing will soon begin.

The deck on the newly built but unsafe bridge needs replacing, and that will cost the city $1.6 million, Department of Transportation Queens Borough Commissioner Nicole Garcia said Thursday.

In the meantime, while the city is chipping in those additional costs, it is also suing Gandhi Engineering, the firm responsible for what Garcia referred to as the bridge’s “poor design,” and is hoping to retrieve back $4.2 million.

Perfetto Contracting Co. has been selected as the new contractor, and the preliminary work like applying for permits is set to start Nov. 30, Garcia said.

Parkway Hospital is open and unguarded

From DNA Info:

A long-vacant hospital building which sits near one of the most coveted elementary schools in Forest Hills poses a potential danger to local children, some parents said.

The former Parkway Hospital, at 70-35 113th St., has been an empty eyesore with its windows boarded up since it closed in 2008.

The building is usually covered with graffiti, people are able to go in and out, and, on Oct. 20, a suspicious fire broke out inside, parents said.

Since the hospital closed, the property has been in and out of auction. Last year, Jasper Venture Group, a New York-based real estate investment firm, which holds the mortgage on the building, said that it was considering replacing the former medical facility with a residential tower. But earlier this year, the company announced that the property was up for sale again.

Local parents and elected officials were hoping to convert the building into a school to alleviate overcrowding in the area, but the Department of Education didn't find the proposal feasible.

Developer walks away from project

"FYI, the front construction fence around this house has (finally) been taken down, and there is activity (people going in and out):


Last Thanksgiving's exploded house still not repaired

From the Queens Chronicle:

Almost a year after an explosion blew a gaping hole in the rear of a house in South Ozone Park last Thanksgiving, a full-vacate order is still placed on it and there have been complaints of illegal construction going on there, according to city Department of Buildings records.

The house, located at 107-55 108 St., was the scene of an explosion due to the misuse of a stove in an “illegally renovated setback apartment,” FDNY officials told the Queens Chronicle last December.

A full-vacate order was immediately placed on the property by the DOB, due to the structural stability being affected, which at press time on Nov. 24 was still effective.

A Chronicle reporter saw last Friday that the hole in the back of the house had been fixed, though any work done to the house may not have been done lawfully.

There have been two complaints of illegal construction on the house, city records state, the first of which stated there was no building permit posted on March 17.

Fool me once...

From the Brooklyn Paper:

The city must ensure developers can’t weasel out of a proposal that would require them to create below-market-rate housing when building on rezoned land, says a panel of Bushwickians that tentatively okayed the scheme on Wednesday night.

Locals are still angry after the developers of the derelict Rheingold brewery on Flushing Avenue were able to blow off a promise to include below-market units in the property with no consequences, and said they don’t want to see that happen again.

“The Rheingold is such a terrible precedent,” said Anne Guiney, a member the Community Board 4’s housing and land use committee, who voted to support the plan. “I think that has made everybody very, very cautious and concerned, specifically about enforcement.”

Board members voted 17–11 to approve Mayor DeBlasio’s so-called Mandatory Inclusionary Housing scheme — which would require developers looking to rezone land so they can erect big buildings to set aside at least 25 percent of units for so-called “affordable” housing — but on the condition that the city find an air-tight way to police the program to prevent fiascos like the Rheingold redevelopment.

In that case, the city agreed to rezone the old brewery site for residential high-rises in 2013, after owner Read Property Group signed a pledge to include hundreds of below-market units in the new towers there. But Read then sold land to two other real estate companies earlier this year, both of which have refused to make the same commitment and aren’t beholden to the original agreement.

City reps claimed that they are already working on an enforcement strategy and will have one set in stone by the time the new rule takes effect, or not long after.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Murdered developer's project vacated by DOB

From PIX11:

It's a high-rent building that was constructed by a developer who was murdered last year. Now, the building he built has suddenly been condemned, just in time for the holiday season. The ordeal has left dozens of residents without homes in the latest chapter in a story with many twists and turns.