Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Katz taps Liu's former aide for cushy spot

From the Forum:

Queens Borough President Melinda Katz last week announced the appointment of Sharon Lee as communications director.

Immediately prior to joining Borough President Katz’s office, Lee, a borough resident, served as campaign manager for Assemblyman Ron Kim’s (D-Flushing) successful re-election bid. Previously, Lee served as senior advisor and press secretary to former Comptroller and City Councilman John Liu.

Oh, Sharon Lee? You mean this Sharon Lee?
A key aide to embattled city Comptroller John Liu may have talked her way into criminal charges yesterday by admitting under oath that she offered to illegally fund donations to his mayoral campaign.

Sharon Lee testified that she phoned about five friends and relatives and offered to reimburse their contributions to help meet a $1 million fund-raising goal while working as a Liu campaign volunteer in July 2011.

Asked if she knew what she was doing was wrong, Lee answered: “I didn’t realize how bad it was, truth be told.”

After getting scolded by Manhattan federal Judge Richard Sullivan for repeatedly not answering the question, she finally said: “Yes.”

Glad to see we're maintaining a long-standing Borough Hall dirty hack hiring tradition.

Dirty developer's deals detailed

From the Daily News:

A developer connected to a 1,700-unit luxury complex on the Queens waterfront in the final stages of city approval allegedly bribed representatives of a Greek bank to get his way in the past, court documents show.

Efstathios (Steve) Valiotis, a principal of Alma Realty, the developer behind the Astoria Cove project, was spotlighted in a 1995 federal court decision for bribing a Greek intermediary in order to secure a multimillion-dollar loan for his separate cargo vessel business.

According to evidence introduced to the court, Valiotis and another director of shipping company Levant Lines paid a bribe to a third party after a meeting with an official of the Greece-based Banque Franco-Hellenic de Commerce in order to secure a $5.7 million loan from the bank in 1990.

Levant, which operated a cargo vessel service between the United States and the Mediterranean, had failed in loan requests to more than 10 banks, to acquire two aging ships, the Spirit and the Pride, court documents note.

The shipper eventually acquired the loan it sought, and a judge noted there was “convincing evidence” that a bribe by Valiotis helped make it possible, though Valiotis was not a party to the lawsuit and the court did not explicitly adjudicate his role in the matter.

The lawsuit was between the bank and another investor who claimed he did not have to repay a related loan because it was secured through illicit means.

Goodbye, Queens Plaza Clock Tower?

From the Queens Courier:

Those looking to preserve the Long Island City Clock Tower may be running out of time.

Queens Plaza Park Development LLC bought the tower, which was the former Bank of Manhattan building, and an adjoining vacant site for a combined $77 million, according to property records filed with the city on Saturday.

Community members are hoping to landmark the building on 29-27 Queens Plaza North to avoid its development, according to recently published reports, after LIC Clock Tower LLC bought the tower in May for $15 million, city records show.

In just a few months, the price of the tower doubled and sold for $30.9 million. The buyer also purchased the vacant land at 29-37 41st Ave. for $46.3 million.

The vacant site has more than 205,000 buildable square feet. Queens-based developer Steve Cheung purchased the vacant site for $8 million in 2011, city records show, and last year he filed with the Department of Buildings for a 30-story residential tower with 242 units at the vacant site.

Plans for the Clock Tower site have yet to be filed with the Buildings Department.

There goes the green: unhappy ending

And because every blade of grass in the borough must be paved over, I present this latest crappification from Maspeth.
Yes, that pile of dung on the right (four 3-family homes) replaced an empty corner lot. Well, empty doesn't accurately describe it - it was actually a beautiful collection of trees.
Now it's just crap. I called this one back in 2007...

A warning from Landmark West!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Fish going belly-up at Willow Lake

From the Daily News:

Dozens of fish are turning up dead in a Queens lake — and no one is sure why.

Carp have been seen floating on the shores of Willow Lake, a part of Flushing Meadows Corona Park that the city is turning into a wild preserve.

More than a dozen dead fish were seen floating or washed up on shore during a visit to the lake on Friday.

A large number were spotted on the western edge near the walking bridge. More washed up by the bird blind on the eastern side of the lake.

The city has been transforming Willow Lake in Flushing Meadows Corona Park into a wildlife preserve with hiking trails. But in recent weeks scores of dead fish have been spotted floating along the lake's edge. No one is sure why but some speculate herbicides might be the cause.

But there were signs of life near the dead fish and tires floating in the water. Other fish were seen jumping in the air.

An eyesore for almost 20 years

I stumbled upon this house after making a wrong turn in Brooklyn this weekend. I just had to find out what the story was here.

You'd think after 19 years, the city would do something with this property instead of allowing it to bring down the area. The rest of the homes here are well-maintained and it's ridiculous that the neighbors have had to put up with this eyesore for so long, especially since ACRIS records reveal that there are outstanding property taxes due.

Kim calls out shady towing company

From the Daily News:

Assemblyman Ron Kim said drivers have been victimized at the parking lot on 156th & Northern Boulevard in Flushing by a predatory tow truck company. The lawmaker has been working with the Legal Aid Society and the city Department of Consumer Affairs to document the firm’s bad practices and educate the public.

Queens drivers should be on the lookout for tow trucks from a Brooklyn company waiting to rip them off, officials said Monday.

The city is trying to rescind the license of All About Automotive II Inc. after determining it has been overcharging victims and demanding drivers pay cash to get their cars back, Assemblyman Ron Kim (D-Flushing) said.

“We’ve had dozens of people complain at the lot on 156th and Northern Boulevard, and we suspect hundreds have been victimized by AAA’s predatory towing,” said Kim, who is working with the Legal Aid Society and the city Department of Consumer Affairs to document the firm’s bad practices. “We want to make sure the public understands their rights when parking at these lots and report to us they’ve been victimized.”

The company refused comment when reached at its Brooklyn offices.

Paul Vallone's year in review

Front page story: Vallone brings back historic budget. Actually, the council's rules were changed, so everyone got the same-sized slice of budget pie with adjustments based on poverty level. Vallone's district is one of the wealthier ones, so he actually got a smaller amount of funding than many other council members.
At least he included something useful in this taxpayer funded waste of paper. The rest can be used as a bird cage liner.
(Click for larger version)

Now here is what he's really been up to: Sponsoring a handful of meaningless resolutions and not getting any of his 9 introductions passed. What a legislator!

Brinckerhoff Cemetery sidewalk is a mess

Following your recent post on Brinckerhoff Cemetery in Fresh Meadows, I've decided to pay a visit to the site.

As you can see, it's in decrepit condition. The sidewalk is cracked by the tree roots and the wooden picket fence guarding the property has a huge gap.

Behind the cemetery, the home of F. Rich is being enlarged by architect Albert Aronov, AIA. We should keep an eye on the backyard to make sure that the property line is respected.

As long as Linda's Cai Trading Company owns the property, it should keep the site in good condition. I've taken the liberty of making a 311 service request for the broken sidewalk under the number C1-1-1038148511. Will the city respond to this service request or dismiss it? You can follow the status of this request via the 311 website. If enough of your readers make the complaint, perhaps eventually Ms. Cai will give up her fight to develop this cemetery.

-Fresh Meadows resident

It's more effective to pressure the legislators to have the city obtain the property than to call in 311 complaints about a sidewalk, but that's just my opinion. - QC

Monday, November 24, 2014

Gluttons for punishment

There are some people who are outraged at this photo, which is of prosecutors posing for a photo at a holiday party. How dare they display gang signs?

Perhaps the outrage should instead be redirected toward the mayor, speaker, city council and president, who are hell bent on making it easier for Trinitarios, Latin Kings and MS-13 to stay in the country.

From the Observer:
Local Councilman Daniel Dromm was the first elected official to arrive, and spoke to the crowd in Spanish. He praised the president’s action on the issue over the resistance of the Republican-controlled Congress, but said that it was necessary to provide full amnesty to all of the foreign nationals living in the country.

And who's paying? We are, of course:
Millions of undocumented immigrants will be able to apply for deportation relief and work authorization in just a matter of months under executive action announced by President Obama this week. In many cases, that relief will also come in the form of other benefits, like health care and educational opportunities -- but the extent of those benefits will depend largely on the state in which they live.

Precise details of the new program for undocumented parents of U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents are still unclear. But it will most likely be modeled after the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which has garnered around nearly 600,000 beneficiaries since its launch two years ago and will be expanded to cover even more young immigrants under Obama’s executive action. On the whole, DACA recipients have been able to earn more money, drive, open bank accounts, build credit and go to college, but their experiences vary greatly by state. That will likely also be the case for the new group of protected immigrants.

...a handful of states -- California, New York, Massachusetts, Washington and Minnesota -- offer coverage for low-income deferred-action immigrants through state-based funding.

And if you can't get your kid into his or her preferred school, this may be why:
New York has sent a warning to its schools: Expect more illegal immigrants.

The city Department of Education has told principals it plans this year to enroll 2,350 migrant children from Central America who crossed into the United States unaccompanied — with many more to come.

“It is expected that children will continue to arrive in large numbers in the coming years,” says a DOE memo to principals obtained by The Post.

The notice comes as the city rolls out a $50 million red carpet for 1,662 minors who crossed the border this summer to escape ­violence and gangs in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.

In the “surge,” 5,000 of the 63,000 migrant kids caught trying to cross US borders — or who turned themselves in for refuge — have been released to relatives or other “sponsors” in New York state.
Most live with other illegal immigrants.

In the city, Queens has received the highest number of unaccompanied children, 732, followed by Brooklyn (434), The Bronx (433), Manhattan (63) and Staten Island (less than 50), federal reports show.

The recent arrivals join an estimated 350,000 children of illegal immigrants already in New York state — about 12 percent of the public-school population.

The DOE refused to discuss the exact numbers of recently enrolled children, claiming it would violate student privacy. Officials ignored questions about the cost.
Congratulations, suckers! Now please go back to being outraged by guys in suits making funny hand gestures. But before you do, read this Op-Ed, which pretty much sums it up:
Illegal immigration is not up for ethical debate. It shows contempt for the law. It insults legal immigrants, including yours truly. It enables feeble politicians to score empty political points. It also emotionally blackmails American taxpayers into laying out the red carpet and footing the bill for any old riffraff.

America was built on the backs of legal immigrants who endured a strict federal vetting process, resisted welfare, and toiled to assimilate. The illegal human rivers pouring into the open southern border — 290,000 in the past year alone to join the 11 million already here — are burdensome, walking diseases in comparison. Crafty and dishonest, too, for knowing how to play the system and exploit legal loopholes. Most do not show up for their court date after being released on their own recognizance, while adults brazenly enroll as kids in public schools, somehow knowing school districts are federally mandated not to verify their ages.

Criminal aliens are America’s sordid secret. The Federal Bureau of Investigation has records on more than five million of them, while murderers, sex fiends, drug dealers, and kidnappers were among the 2,200 prisoners released from immigration jails last year in a federal cost-cutting measure.

Illegal immigration is a migraine, and its minions should be required to pay an amnesty loan if granted a reprieve. A sealed border, a constitutional amendment denying citizenship to anchor babies, and a national commitment to upholding the law would also go a long way in relieving the preposterous problem.

Sad Japanese-style home in Kew Gardens now for sale

From DNA Info:

A Japanese-style house in Kew Gardens, which the Department of Buildings declared unsafe in 2009, has been listed for sale on Craigslist for $1,200,000.

The house, at 84-62 Beverly Rd., was built in the 1920s and was initially a neighborhood attraction. But neighbors said the owners moved out more than a decade ago, allowing the house to decay.

An inspector who came to examine the house in September 2009 — after the agency received complaints that it was unguarded — found the front door and garage door left open, according to records provided by the Department of Buildings.

The agency then issued two unsafe building violations, which remain open.

In January 2010, the DOB obtained a court order to seal the building by pouring concrete into its windows in order to make it safe, the agency said.

But the ad on Craigslist describes the 3-story property as a “huge beautiful 1 family house.”

"Tons of options," the listing says.

The ad also notes that the 3,600 square-foot house features a garage and a driveway. The lot, where the house sits, is 7,000 square feet, the ad says.

A man whose phone is listed in the ad declined to answer questions on Friday.

They just never learn

From WPIX:

More than 30 people have been displaced after a 4-alarm fire ripped through several homes in Brooklyn.

Firefighters were called to 85 Hemlock St. around 2:30 p.m., Saturday afternoon in the Cypress Hills section of the borough.

The fire started on the first floor of the home but quickly spread to three other homes.

So was there an illegal conversion present? But of course! It was even previously vacated for such and received several violations for failing to correct the condition.

If Parkside isn't Dems' preferred vendor, then who is?

From Progress Queens:

A spokesman for the New York State Democratic Party has denied allegations that candidates for the State Senate were forced to use a preferred campaign vendor, according to a report by Zach Fink from NY1 and published on the Time Warner Cable News Web site, State of Politics.

In news reports, the preferred campaign vendor has been identified to be The Parkside Group.

A recent report by Ross Barkan, published in The New York Observer, noted how the New York Democratic Senate Campaign Committee, or DSCC, headed by State Senator Michael Gianaris (D-Queens), required that "DSCC-backed candidates must use Parkside to print their campaign mail, an arrangement some Democrats have long bristled at."

The report in The New York Observer was followed by a report in Progress Queens showing how almost a decade ago, the Brooklyn District Attorney's Office filed charges against the former chair of the Brooklyn Democratic Party for coercing judicial candidates to use a preferred campaign vendor. Queens District Attorney Richard Brown was unable to comment on the Progress Queens report.

District Attorneys in New York City run for public office with the consent of the respective county committee of the Democratic Party, the dominant political party. Government reform activists have long claimed that district attorneys avoid investigating political corruption, because, in order to first run for office and to keep running for re-election, the district attorneys must campaign with the approval of the chair of their respective Democratic Party. In other parts of New York state, the chair of the dominant political party will have a say in determining which candidate for the respective, local district attorney's office will receive institutional campaign support. In Queens, conflicts of interest for the District Attorney's Office may also arise through the various campaign consultants and lobbyists employed by other politicians, who share relationships with the chair of the Queens County Democratic Party, some government reform activists say. The chair of the Queens Democratic Party is U.S. Representative Joseph Crowley (D-Queens). In the past, Rep. Crowley has also employed the services of Parkside.

Workers' wages being stolen

From the Daily News:

New York is a great city, but as Marco Lino can attest, a workers’ paradise it is not.

For four years, Lino, 53, worked 13 hours a day, six days a week stocking shelves at Rosemary’s Farm, a small grocery store in Flushing. His weekly salary was $350, that is, about $4.65 an hour. In October 2008 he was fired after protesting to his boss about his meager — and illegal — salary and filed a complaint at the Department of Labor. Six years have passed, and Lino is still waiting for justice.

“I am tired of waiting,” he said.

“(Wage theft) has become a crime wave here in New York State,” said Joann Lum, executive director of the National Mobilization Against SweatShops.

“Under Gov. Cuomo, the DOL is not enforcing labor laws. We need a DOL that does its job, not one that promotes wage-theft crimes. If the DOL will not do this, we will sue them.”

Currently, over $1 billion in wages are stolen from New York workers in low-wage industries each year.