Saturday, July 4, 2015

Happy Independence Day from Queens Crap!

Flag burners run away from flag protectors

Daily News photo
From the NY Post:

Nothing says “rebel” quite like being saved from a pummeling by the men and women you’re protesting against.

The anti-cop group “Disarm NYPD” staged a pre-Fourth of July flag-burning Wednesday night in Fort Greene Park — but the protesters’ plans went up in smoke when a group of furious bikers moved in to teach them a lesson.

The activists had publicized the event as a response to “systemic racism” in NYPD policies. They originally intended to burn a Confederate flag to (somehow) make that point, then changed their minds, opting instead to light up Old Glory. “We maintain, unwaveringly, that both the Confederate flag and the American flag are symbols of oppression,” the group announced.

But when the handful of protesters arrived at the park, they were met by dozens of counter-protesters equipped with water guns.

Then members of the Hallowed Sons Motorcycle Club lit into the flag-burners — at which point New York’s Finest came to the rescue, sheltering the protesters and escorting them safely out of the park.

Seeking solutions for Fresh Meadows flooding

Daily News photo
From the Queens Tribune:

The Department of Environmental Protection is not doing enough to stop the flooding that has plagued Fresh Meadows for decades, residents said at a town hall meeting last Wednesday.

Billed as a meeting “to educate homeowners on how to protect their property from rainwater” and to inform them about recent infrastructure developments to reduce flooding, the town hall at the Utopia Jewish Center turned into a platform for homeowners to vent their frustration about a problem that’s been plaguing their neighborhood since the 1940s.

The strategies addressed two kinds of flooding, both of which occur in Fresh Meadows. The first is sewer backups, caused when sewers exceed their capacity due to heavy rain, and overflow out of basement toilets or floor drains. The second is street-level flooding.

Causes of flooding can range from cooking grease in the sewer pipes to tree roots to roads that slope the wrong way. In Utopia, chronic flooding has led to an abundance of theories on the causes – like a special valve that prevents flooding to LaGuardia airport and redirects the water towards Utopia.

That rumor was dismissed by the DEP. But either way, it’s clear that the problems with flooding in Utopia and Fresh Meadows are systemic. The question is how much the city can, or will, do.

Shelly won't reveal his income

From the Daily News:

Former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver is already taking the Fifth about disclosing his outside income.

In a financial disclosure statement made public late Thursday afternoon, Silver (D-Manhattan) declined to answer questions about his non-government jobs or outside salary in 2014, citing his looming corruption trial.

“Given pending proceedings in Federal Court it is inappropriate to answer this question,” Silver wrote. “However, this answer will be amended upon completion of the proceedings.”

Cocklofts will hopefully be phased out at some point

Photo from the Forum
From the Queens Chronicle:

When state Sen. Joe Addabbo’s (D-Howard Beach) plan to give tax credits to property owners who seal off cocklofts passed the state Senate on June 18, he grabbed the bill and ran to Assemblyman Joe Lentol (D-Brooklyn), who was sponsoring the legislation in the lower chamber.

“I said ‘Joe, it just passed the Senate we got to get it passed,’” Addabbo told the Queens Chronicle in a telephone interview last Friday.

But the bill sat in the Ways and Means Committee, of which Lentol is a member, as the legislative session in Albany came to an end on June 25.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Appeals court rules that mall on FMCP parkland violates law

(QUEENS, NY) Today, State Senator Tony Avella, along with the City Club of New York, Queens Civic Congress, members of Willets Point United Inc., and nearby residents/business owners opposed to the “Willets West” mega-mall proposal, announced that the Appellate Division of the First Department issued a historic decision in their favor which will keep parkland public.

The lawsuit filed by State Senator Tony Avella, City Club of New York, Queens Civic Congress, members of Willets Point United Inc., and nearby residents/business owners against the “Willets West” mega-mall proposal, challenged the give-away of 47 acres of Queens parkland worth an estimated $ 1 Billion to build the "Willets West" mega-mall adjacent to CitiField.

The suit sought a declaratory judgment to invalidate approvals already granted to the project, as well as a permanent injunction to prevent the construction of a megamall on City parkland without the proper State legislative authorization or proper zoning. The Supreme Court of New York had ruled against Senator Avella and Petitioners, and the group appealed last August.

Today, Senator Avella, along with appellants, declared that the appellate court had announced its ruling in favor of Petitioners. In a unanimous decision, the appellate court granted injunctive relief and declared that the development can go no further without state legislative approval.

“Today’s decision sends a message loud and clear – our parks are not for sale. The fact of the matter is, this land was intended to be parkland, not the development of a shopping mall. In a city where public land is in short supply, simply handing parkland over is a betrayal of the public trust. The court has affirmed what we have been fighting for all along, and I am thrilled to see this decision come down on the side of justice,” said Senator Tony Avella.

“I am very pleased that the Appellate Division, in blocking the development of a shopping mall on parkland next to Citifield, has upheld the ancient common law doctrine that requires any government agency to obtain the approval of the State Legislature before disposing of parkland. This extra layer of protection for parkland has evolved in recognition of the fact that parkland is a scarce and precious resource. It makes it a little bit more difficult for our government to give such land away. It makes sure that we think twice before doing so, no matter how worthy or expedient the proposed project may be,” said John Low-Beer, Attorney for the Petitioners.

“We’d like to thank Senator Avella for being part of this important suit. This decision confirms first that our parks are for our people, and second that city government must comply with the law, just like the rest of us. There are many people who have contributed enormously to this effort. The City Club of New York is delighted to have been instrumental in launching this case, together with Senator Avella, Save Flushing Meadows Corona Park, Queens Civic Congress, Willets Point United, and many other civic organizations and local residents, and in particular, the wonderful group of Plaintiffs” said Michael Gruen of the City Club of New York.

“Since 2007, we have battled the City at all times over its plans for Willets Point, which expanded in 2012 against the community’s wishes to include the gigantic proposed ‘Willets West’ mall on public parkland,” “Today the Appellate Division agrees with what we’ve said all along: The City and developers failed to follow lawful procedure and now as a result their whole project cannot proceed. If Queens residents knew as much as we do about the horrendous traffic gridlock and other negative impacts of this Willets West/Willets Point Phase One project, they would be celebrating this court victory together with us. Today’s court decision absolutely vindicates all of our efforts and strengthens our resolve to continue challenging and opposing bad development propositions for our area. We’re especially thankful to Senator Avella, who has always done right by his constituents, City Club of New York which spearheaded the lawsuit, and stellar attorney John Low-Beer,” said Gerald Antonacci, leader of Willets Point United.

"We are very pleased with the decision case. It is disgraceful that these developers are attempting to seize 48 acres of public parkland and the Mayor and City Council supported it,” said Geoffrey Croft, President of NYC Park Advocates, Plaintiff.

“The Queens Civic Congress is thrilled that justice has finally been served and Flushing Meadows Corona park will remain available for use by the people of Queens. QCC, as a party to this action is deeply indebted to Senator TonyAvella, our fellow parks advocates and especially to the City Club and its attorneys for their diligent hard work in making this happen,” said Richard Hellenbrecht, Vice President of Queens Civic Congress.

“The entire premise of this parkland having to be developed in order for the rest of the Willets Point development to be completed was proven wrong in this decision. This shows that the taking of public land cannot be used for private gain,” Paul Graziano, Plaintiff and Urban Planner.

Bike crackdown in western Queens

From LIC Post:

The 108th Precinct has been targeting law-breaking bicyclists.

The precinct–which covers Sunnyside, Woodside and Long Island City—issued 352 bicycle summonses over the past 28 days, compared to just three for the same period a year ago.

The summonses were for a range of offences—such as going through red lights, riding against traffic and failure to adhere to a multitude of road rules.

Captain John Travaglia, the commanding officer of the 108 precinct, said that 560 bicycle summonses have been issued in the precinct year to date, up from 75 for the same six-month period last year. He said the number also included wayward bicycle delivery people.

Travaglia said the clamp down is partly the result of adhering to Vision Zero, a concept that aims to reduce traffic fatalities to zero.

He said that the precinct has yet to have any traffic fatalities so far this year and that this push is to help minimize deaths.

“We have all witnessed it,” Travaglia said. “Some bicyclists are like dare devils; they go through red lights fast and yet they don’t know what is coming.”

He said that he has been targeting bicyclists just like motorist to reduce injuries and fatalities.

Army Corps to clean up Fort Totten spot

From the Queens Chronicle:

The U.S. Coast Guard doesn’t use its 9.6 acres at Fort Totten anymore, but the government will be cleaning it up.

Gregory Goepfert, project manager for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, announced plans for removing lead-contaminated soil during a meeting Tuesday in Bayside.

The area is near the northern part of the fort between the ballfields and the old fortifications.

“We would like to go ahead and clean up the soil that has been impacted and replace it with clean material,” Goepfert said.

The 20,000-square-foot site would be refilled with clean soil from elsewhere. The endeavor will cost about $200,000.

Goepfert said the plan was preferable to alternatives like doing nothing, just fencing it off to the public or covering it with a landfill cap, but that would require additional maintenance in the future.

The Army Corps determined that it is the only one of five areas they tested at the fort that requires remediation.

Big drug & fraud bust in southeastern Queens

From the Queens Courier:

Authorities charged 17 people connected to a major credit and debit card fraud ring based in Queens following a year-long investigation, prosecutors announced on Thursday.

According to Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown, the suspects used the stolen credit and debit card account information to make purchases at department stores and other establishments in New York City, Long Island and Rockland County between December 2014 and May 2015. Police allege that several of the suspects were active gang members.

During its investigation and ensuring court-authorized searches, police reportedly recovered card readers, embossers and other equipment used for credit and debit card forgery along with more than $11,000 in cash, three vehicles, a loaded .40-caliber Glock firearm, 41 marijuana plants, two 5-gallon containers full of marijuana and high-intensity lights known to be used for growing pot indoors.

Some of the establishments targeted by the ring include Saks Fifth Avenue, Macy’s stores in Flushing, Douglaston and the Queens Center mall, W&H Liquors in Hollis, Target stores in Nanuet and Long Island, a Pathmark supermarket in New Hyde Park, and Waldbaums supermarket in College Point.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

How landmarks in Queens are really celebrated

From George the Atheist.

Smith & Tabone receive their sentences

From Capital New York:

Former New York state senator Malcolm Smith was sentenced Wednesday to seven years in prison after being convicted of trying to bribe his way onto the Republican ballot in the 2013 race for New York City mayor.

Smith, a Democrat and the former Senate majority leader, was convicted in February of wire fraud, bribery and extortion.

Co-defendant Vincent Tabone, a Republican party leader in Queens who was convicted of taking a bribe from an undercover FBI agent, was sentenced to 42 months in prison.

“Bribes and kickbacks should never play a role in the selection of candidates for public office,” U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said in a statement. “By attempting to buy and sell a spot on New York City’s mayoral ballot, Malcolm Smith and Vincent Tabone corrupted one of the most fundamental tenets of the democratic process, that candidates cannot bribe their way onto a ballot.”

Sampson not the smartest tweeder

From the Daily News:

State Sen. John Sampson coached a shady Queens businessman over drinks at an Italian restaurant in Mafia boss John Gotti’s old neighborhood, on how to fool the feds, it was revealed Tuesday.

Federal prosecutors played tapes secretly recorded inside Vetro restaurant in Howard Beach by star witness Edul Ahmad who had loaned Sampson $188,500 so the Brooklyn Democrat could repay foreclosure funds he had allegedly embezzled.

Ahmad was instructed by the FBI to show Sampson a check register documenting the loan. “This opens up a can of worms,” Sampson allegedly said at the Feb. 22, 2012 sit down. “Make sure you lose a couple of pages here and there…You don't have to give it to them.”

Speaking in a loud voice, Sampson advised Ahmad not to lie to the feds, but then whispered suggestions that he falsely claim the loan was payment for years of legal work that Sampson had performed for him.

Samaritan Village tries again for permanent Pan Am homeless shelter

From DNA Info:

The operator of a controversial homeless shelter in the former Pan Am hotel has re-applied for a permanent contract despite multiple unresolved fire safety complaints, DNAinfo has learned.

Samaritan Village re-submitted its application on June 12 for a $42.7 million contract to operate the Boulevard Family Shelter at 7900 Queens Blvd., records show.

Comptroller Scott Stringer denied the shelter's original application in May citing major health and safety issues at the shelter, including fire code violations and lack of kitchens inside each unit, which are required by law.

According to the Department of Buildings records online, two complaints, one for insufficient sprinklers and the other for a lack of fire-stop doors in the building's long hallways, were added to the DOB's site on June 26th.

There are also open Environmental Control Board violations regarding construction issues from May and January.

The current list of violations kept by the Housing Preservation and Development show complaints about raw sewage accumulation, bed bugs, roaches, lack of running water and no heat throughout the shelter.

Protesters slam Schneiderman for phoniness

From the Daily News:

Anti-gentrification protesters tried to drown out state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman Wednesday in Brooklyn as he announced plans for an affordable housing development.

Demonstrators shouted “Affordable for who?” and “Stop gentrification!” as Schneiderman revealed plans for 3,740 new affordable rental units in New York State, including 2,500 in New York City.

He also said Citibank and the Bank of America will provide over $75 million in low-interest loans to developers of affordable housing.

The press conference occurred outside the Sunset Park Library on Fourth Ave., which is slated to for expansion with new affordable rental units on top.

But protesters charged the development was approved without consulting the local community and said it will take away their library for two years for construction.

1) Why is the attorney general announcing an affordable housing initiative? That's not what his role is.

2) Wow, 117 units for Queens? That will sure go a long way!