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.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

With development looming, Flushing River may get cleaned

From the Queens Courier:

Councilman Peter Koo and Commissioner Emily Lloyd of the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) met deep underground on Tuesday to tour the Flushing Bay Retention Facility, which serves as a storage area for raw sewage and is meant to keep the sewage from entering Flushing Creek, but can only hold so much. The small body of water receives more human waste per year than any other dumping site, according to city records, leading Koo to call the creek “shit’s creek.”

“Cleaning up this waterway has long been a top environmental priority of mine,” Koo said. “There is a popular phrase used by many when trying to explain they are in a bad situation: being up shit’s creek without a paddle. With the amount of raw sewage that still enters it, the phrase might as well be changed to, up Flushing Creek without a paddle.”

With Mayor Bill de Blasio’s announcement that calls for residential development along the Flushing waterfront, Koo and advocacy groups like Friends of Flushing Creek are hoping the spotlight will help spur the city and state to take action and reduce the amount of sewage going into the creek.

“Now that the city has officially announced they are looking to develop the land along the waterfront, this is a great opportunity to shine a brighter light on this longstanding problem,” Koo said. “I will continue my work with DEP, the Friends of Flushing Creek, and every stakeholder in the community so that we can ultimately see the day where people can safely swim in these waters again.”

“Do you know how much human waste that is?” said Alex Rosa, a consultant for Friends of Flushing Creek, which is advocating for the city and state to reduce the amount of filth going into the Flushing bodies of water. “I’ve never calculated how many people you need to make that much waste. But I’m sure it’s a whole lot.”

No, you just need Claire Shulman! And what's with Koo saying the word "shit"? This is conduct unbecoming a council member, no?

Exxon off the hook - for now

From the Daily News:

A federal judge is not convinced that the methane gas leaking from waste oil underneath a Queens building is a ticking time bomb ready to explode.

Brooklyn Judge Pamela Chen rejected a demand by Phoenix Beverage — which operates a large warehouse in Long Island City — to order Exxon Mobil to launch an immediate cleanup.

“There's not enough evidence that there is an imminent threat of an explosion,” Chen said Wednesday. “I, of course, hope it does not come to pass.”

...Chen sided with the Exxon Mobil lawyers who argued that the situation is being monitored and the risk of an explosion is merely speculation. Both sides have been litigating the case for years and Chen will ultimately have to decide who is responsible for cleaning up the boatloads of underground waste oil.

Briarwood subway entrance construction almost done

From DNA Info:

Construction work on the new main entrance to the Briarwood-Van Wyck F train station, which was initially scheduled to be completed last fall, is almost finished, the state Department of Transportation said.

Diane Park, a spokeswoman for the state DOT, would not, however, say when the entrance will reopen, leaving skeptical residents to wonder whether crews will meet the projected deadline after a delay of more than a year.

Park said that the project requires the cooperation of various state and local agencies, as well as Con Edison, and has to be approved by the MTA. But she noted that “things are progressing" and “we are in the inspection phase."

Photos provided by the state DOT show a complete entrance, but Park said the entryway is in the middle of "an active construction zone." The reopening, she said, will require installation of lighting, building a concrete walkway and other landscaping improvements, she said.

Special court for sex trafficking victims

From the NY Times:

In the hallway, they speak mostly in Mandarin, in accents from across China. Some speak Korean. They meet with their court-appointed lawyers in the hallway, often helped by an interpreter born in Fujian Province and hired by the city courts. A snazzy dresser, the interpreter bounces from one defendant to the next; he has found himself adding terms to his usual vocabulary: prostitution (“maiyin”), illegal massage (“feifa anmo”), unlicensed massage (“wuzheng anmo”).

This is the Human Trafficking Intervention Court in Queens, which is marking its 10th anniversary next month, and which serves as a model for a statewide 11-court program that began last year. The intention is to change the legal conversation around the multibillion-dollar sex trade by redefining the women in it as victims instead of criminals. Most are offered a deal: Take part in a set number of counseling sessions, usually five or six, and the charges will be dismissed and the record sealed.

After 13 months, the five New York City courts are still a work in progress, their success tracked more in individual stories than statistics.

“This court is not devised to solve the problems of trafficking,” Judge Serita said of the program, “but to address one of the unfortunate byproducts, which is the arrest of these defendants on prostitution charges.”

All defendants in the specialized courts are presumed to be victims at risk, the first of many assumptions made, in part, because of the silence surrounding sex trafficking. That silence also makes it tougher to shift social mores. Not only do the police and the justice system still treat prostitution as a crime, but the women themselves, most undocumented, often don’t define themselves as having been trafficked — whether out of fear, shame or choice.

The Queens court has changed significantly in the decade since Judge Fernando M. Camacho founded it. Dismayed at seeing the same American-born teenage girls reappearing in his court for prostitution, Judge Camacho said he wanted to break the cycle by offering them alternatives to a criminal record or incarceration.

Now, a majority of the defendants who sit in the worn walnut benches are either Latin American women or, even more often, older, undocumented immigrants from Asia, ranging in age from 30 to 50. According to statistics Judge Serita’s court has kept, Asian defendants represented 27 percent of the cases in 2010. In 2014, they have made up 40 percent.

Untouchables get props from NY1

From NY1:

"Some of them are abandoned," said Sergeant Alexander Cedillo of the New York City Police Department. "Some of them have no plates."

Cedillo has made quality-of-life issues a priority since joining the 103rd Precinct's Hillside Conditions team a few months ago.

"This was one of the big locations that we had numerous complaints, numerous complaints, was that vacant lot right there. There was about, I would say 25 to 30 vehicles," Cedillo said. "We took care of it. There was about two or three cars that were actually stolen."

The officers also do nightly checks of areas that often have drug problems, prostitution and squatters. They have also been helping community activist Pamela Hazel in her efforts to clean up some of the garbage-filled lots and abandoned property. She started calling the officers "the untouchables" a few months ago, based on the old crime-fighting police show.

"Cedillo and his team, they have been so instrumental in helping us and doing the things that other people couldn't do for us," Hazel said.

The officers are also working with some of the business owners to make sure they are keeping their property clean, and that appears to be working in some problem areas.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Schneiderman fines dirty developer

From the Queens Courier:

The developer of a Rego Park building was forced to pay a combined $100,000 in restitution and back wages after ignoring legal obligations for receiving tax benefits, according to Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.

The state settled with Tuhsur Development, LLC after the firm violated mandates of the 421-a program, which offers tax incentives from the city when constructing buildings.

In exchange for benefits under 421-a, landlords and developers must add properties to the rent regulation system, and building workers must receive prevailing wages.

However, Tuhsur neglected to pay prevailing wages to workers at 63-36 99th St. in Rego Park. The firm was forced to pay nearly $10,000 in back wages to three building service workers and $90,000 in restitution to the city.

Developers work on introducing "microsuites"

From DNA Info:

Through a friend of a friend, David Abramovich found a sunny room in a five-bedroom apartment in an industrial building near the Barclays Center when he relocated here from San Francisco this summer for his job at crowdfunding start-up Indiegogo.

The 33-year-old tech worker pays $895 a month. That's nearly 60 percent less than the average price for a Brooklyn studio, according to real estate firm MNS.

Altogether the Prospect Heights home has six roommates, a steady stream of guests crashing on the couch and the occasional small concert staged in the living room of the fourth floor walk-up that still has manufacturing companies on lower floors.

"A lot of people don't want to have five roommates, especially in their late 20s and early 30s, and once in a while, it's like, 'Yo, there are a lot of dishes in the sink,'" Abramovich said. "But it turns out I like to live with a lot of people. And price is important to me."

Some developers are now trying to create their own versions of these types of housing set-ups — albeit up-to-code (which Abramovich's apartment is not) — with sleeker amenities and even social directors like on cruise ships.

Recognizing the thriving underground housing market for single young professionals, whether out of college for a year or even a decade, who subdivide apartments — sometimes illegally — companies are eyeing a model based on "micro-suites," where up to three tenants, each with their own small room, share a kitchen and bathroom.

Each tenant will be on the lease — something that is rare in the underground housing market. Having only one or two tenants on a lease can be problematic if there are problems with the apartment but is a boon for those who don't have credit scores needed to rent their own apartments.

And here's an article from Crains about modular construction.

Subways will stay crowded

From NBC:

If you take the subway to get to work, you’ve noticed it: the MTA says subways are more crowded than they’ve ever been, and even as a fare hike is being proposed, the MTA says there’s nothing they can do about the overstuffed trains. Andrew Siff explains why.

Because the DeBlasio administration is all about the little people

From DNA Info:

Since he started his $205,180-a-year job, Silver has had sitdowns with Bette Midler, Dr. Ruth Westheimer, Donald Trump, billionaire real estate investor Douglas Durst and the wife of a Russian oligarch to discuss their pet park projects, according to his daily schedules.

But Silver's schedules show that he held scores of meetings with heads of powerful nonprofits, wealthy donors, lobbyists and celebrities while he only had five meetings with local community groups.

Do you believe police stats?

From the Daily News:

The city experienced the lowest crime rate in August, September and October since at least 1994, new statistics show.

Total crime, which focuses on the so-called seven majors — murder, rape, robbery, felony assault, burglary, grand larceny and grand larceny auto — is down 7.9% for the last three months as compared to the same period last year, data reveal.

Police Commissioner Bill Bratton said the record lows are proof that both his liberal and conservative critics need to back off.

“The reality of this city is that the city is getting safer and it’s getting safer because the cops are focusing on what they do and by and large are not paying attention to the left or to the right, which is appropriate,” Bratton said.

The way I look at it, if the police are refusing to take reports (and we all know they are), you can't claim that crime is down. Not to mention how much unreported crime there is because the victim is fearful or what have you.

Is the city safer than it was during the crack epidemic? Yes.

Is it safer than it was 10 years ago? I doubt it.