Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Supersized building to replace Forest Hills restaurants

From DNA Info:

The so called Forest Hills' "Restaurant Row" could soon be demolished in order to make room for a new mixed-use development, a plan that has immediately sparked protests among local residents and business owners.

The new 12-story development is being eyed for a 1-story building at 107-18 70th Road, between Queens Boulevard and Austin Street, which houses several restaurants, including The Grill, Cabana and Moca Asian Cafe. An annual jazz series is also held on that block.

Two restaurants that closed on the block in the past 2 years — Santa Fe and Uno Pizzeria — have since remained vacant.

Currently the developer can build up to seven floors (roughly 70 feet), but according to elected officials they will be seeking a special permit from the city to build higher.

Of course they are!

Library sues Galante

From the Daily News:

The ex-CEO of the Queens Library expensed books he bought on Amazon for his Kindle, the library says in court papers.

The library filed the complaint about Thomas Galante in a countersuit to recover hundreds of thousands of dollars in personal expenses and legal fees it forked over to the ousted executive, the Daily News has learned.

In the scathing answer to Galante's breach-of-contract suit demanding $2.2 million in severance pay, the Queens Library seeks more than $200,000 in questionable expenses from 2009 to 2014.

Thomas Galante sits on the board meeting briefly before leaving for the evening. He was later voted on Administrative Leave with pay, September 11, 2014.
In addition, the library wants Galante to return $260,715 it paid to his attorneys after he and his consulting company were slapped with subpoenas by the Brooklyn U.S. attorney’s office.

Hazardous condition down below

I couldn't resist taking a peek at this document posted in the doorway of a giant crap pile at 1075 Seneca Avenue in Ridgewood. There is apparently an illegal cellar apartment here that was forcibly vacated.
Note the gorgeously landscaped parking area.
Interesting how there are no fines for this.

City Council threatens to kill zoning plan

From DNA Info:

Mayor Bill de Blasio must revamp his controversial rezoning plan to target lower income New Yorkers or risk the City Council killing it, Council members said at a public hearing Tuesday.

The hearing on Mandatory Inclusionary Housing, a key piece of the mayor's plan to rezone neighborhoods across the city, was the first time the Council had weighed in publicly on the rezoning plan.

But it has come under fire by activists and some city officials who say the income levels are too high for the very low-income communities who most need affordable housing.

"It's going to be very hard for this Council to support MIH without options for our communities," said Queens Councilman Donovan Richards, who chairs the zoning subcommittee.

They've got the 7 train blues

From the Daily News:

Fed up No. 7 train passengers on Tuesday called on the MTA to give Queens commuters a smoother ride.

At a rally underneath the elevated 40th St.-Lowery St. station, riders and Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Queens) called on the agency to give the line a top-to-bottom review — the kind of audit that led to improved service on the F, G and L lines in the past.

"What we have witnessed nearly every single day are significant delays, significant problems with trains bypassing stations, crowded platforms," Van Bramer said.

No. 7 train riders have been waiting for better service for years as crews repair equipment and install a modern signal system that would let the MTA squeeze more trains on the tracks — work that requires weekend disruptions.

In the meantime, the day-to-day commuting headaches continue to pile up, causing crowding along the busy line.

(While we wait, let's keep building.)

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Affordable housing requirement was really just a suggestion

From DNA Info:

An investigation by a local historic preservation group has found that a number of "oversized new developments" in the neighborhood's affordable housing zones were approved by the city without requiring affordable housing, according to a report.

The Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation said in a statement Monday that its investigation of Department of Building records found at least five cases in recent years where the city approved new developments "with greater square footage than allowed for market-rate developments, without requiring any affordable housing either on-site or off, as mandated by law."

The developments identified by the GVSHP were: 84 Third Ave./138 E. 12th St. (“The Nathaniel”); 152-154 Second Ave.; 118 E. First St.; 438 E. 12th St.; and 67 Ave. C.

Much of the East Village, including the avenues and Houston Street, consists of "inclusionary housing" districts. Inclusionary housing limits how many square feet a new development can be without affordable housing included.

LIC just gets taller and taller

From LIC Post:

A new development is threatening to take the title of Queens’ tallest building from the Citi tower.

Developers filed plans Saturday for a 79-story, 774-unit building at 23-15 44th Drive, next to the CUNY School of Law and across the street from 1 Court Square.

According to City documents, the building is slated to stand 964 feet tall. It would loom over the Citi tower, currently Queens’ tallest tower, and would also be taller than a building planned at 29-37 41st Ave., which made headlines last year for its potential to become Queens’ new tallest tower at 914 feet.

Developers for the 41st Avenue project, known as Queens Plaza Park, could not immediately be reached for an update on that project or comment on this story.

Westchester town afraid of becoming Queens

From the NY Times:

“A big part of the reason people come to Larchmont is for the charming homes,” said Sarah Bauer, one of the leaders of Preserve Larchmont. “We know they can be drafty and leaky, but if you wanted something big and new looming over you, you would go to Queens or Long Island.”

After a spate of teardowns the past few years, on Jan. 11 the Board of Trustees took the unusual step of passing a six-month moratorium on residential development in the one-square-mile village.

Why the village is attracting so many wrecking crews is not entirely clear. The most common explanation is that as neighboring communities like Scarsdale and Rye have become saturated with new housing, and cracked down on it, developers are looking farther afield.

What has most alarmed villagers, and intrigued developers, is not simply that old homes are being replaced with newer, bigger ones but rather that two, three or even four homes are being built where once there was just one. There have been 23 new homes built over the past decade, 14 resulting from demolitions and subdivisions, according to city records. With roughly 1,800 homes, that may not seem like much, but village officials said it was undertaking the moratorium to ensure the trend does not grow.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Zoning votes approaching; lobbying ramped up

From The Forum:

The MIH hearing is scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 9, at 9:30 a.m. in Council Chambers. The ZQA hearing is the following day, at the same time and place.

Testimony can be delivered at the hearing or submitted electronically:

From Gotham Gazette:

Community advocates are making it clear that Mayor Bill de Blasio’s plans to rezone neighborhoods are not acceptable unless they include broader economic development initiatives like local hiring.

As part of his ambitious affordable housing plan, de Blasio has announced several communities the city plans to rezone first in an effort to create more density, build affordable units, and improve neighborhoods. When the mayor initially announced the start of the rezoning process, the blowback was severe. In East New York, which is slated to be the first area rezoned among 15 neighborhoods across the city, residents cried foul that the process involved limited community input, failed to consider local needs, and could lead to wide-scale displacement.

Residents and groups all over the city are concerned that new residential development and other aspects of neighborhood improvement will lead to rapid gentrification and displacement of current residents. Good employment opportunities for those locals can help avoid such pitfalls.

From Capital New York:

As Mayor Bill de Blasio's controversial housing plans come before the City Council this week, his union allies are joining forces with the AARP and the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce to form an organization that will push for the mayor's proposals.

The group, United For Affordable NYC, is being incorporated with city and state agencies as a 501(c)4, lead strategist Neal Kwatra told POLITICO New York.

The four founding unions are the Hotel Trades Council, health care workers union 1199 SEIU, building service employees' 32BJ SEIU and District Council 37 — the largest municipal labor organization in the city.

The fund-raising organization will begin with a seed grant from some of its members and the mayor's other 501(c)4, Campaign for One New York, according to a source familiar with the effort who would only speak on background. The donors have made a six-figure commitment for the initial grant, but the details are still being worked out, the source added.

From the Daily News:

The City Council’s progressive caucus is pushing for changes to Mayor de Blasio’s ambitious but controversial affordable-housing plan.

Apartments should be offered for people making less than the average 60% of area median income — $46,620 for a family of three — currently targeted in the plan, says the 18-member group, which represents about a third of the Council.

The caucus says developers should be discouraged from putting their affordable apartments at a different site — which they say worsens segregation — by requiring 40% affordable housing if they take that option, rather than 25%-30% if they don’t.

It also wants to reduce from 10 units to six the size where a building is exempt from affordable mandates and require half the units to be affordable when manufacturing zones are turned residential.

Avella pushing for tax cap

From the Daily News:

Not long ago, the city’s working- and middle-class homeowners gasped when they opened the mail to find new property tax assessments.

While the property tax rate in New York City hasn’t risen, our homeowners get slammed with exorbitant annual increases — many in my district in Queens saw hikes as high as $1,000 — because of a severely broken property-tax assessment system. These homeowners need relief to maintain a promise of affordability in New York City, which is why I support a 2% state property tax cap.

Our city can live under such a cap, just like every municipality, town and village in New York State has since 2011, where homeowners experience this respite from skyrocketing local levies.

Under the cap, increases in projected property taxes in localities are constrained. They can grow by only 2% or the rate of inflation, whichever is lower — unless the local council overrides the decision by a two-thirds vote.

As a result, not only do homeowners outside of the city enjoy lower tax bills, but by Fiscal Year 2020, they will have received $4.5 billion in additional state relief tied to the cap. Right now, city taxpayers don’t get a penny from those relief programs.

So extending the tax cap to New York City would help lift a burden both on families and on the city budget. For example, with a New York City cap in place, I would fully expect Gov. Cuomo to pick up the Medicaid growth that he’s proposed the city pay in this year’s budget; no county living under the property tax cap foots the bill for Medicaid growth.

There is something wrong when a mayor who preaches the gospel of affordability wants to balance the budget on the backs of working- and middle-class families.

The State Senate already voted for a 2% tax cap for New York City. I urge my colleagues in the Assembly to do the same to help struggling homeowners cope with costs, to keep New York affordable and to finally let 44% of New York taxpayers receive their fair share from the state.

Feds probing Sanders

From the NY Post:

A couple who run a small urban farm said powerful Queens lawmaker James Sanders offered them $1.7 million in taxpayer money to fund their operation — then demanded a $250,000 kickback.

Marion Moses and Malisa Rivera said they refused Sanders, then a city councilman, during a 2012 sit-down. Sanders, now a state senator running for Congress, became irate, and the couple believe their charity has been blacklisted by government officials ever since, they told The Post.

Three weeks ago, Moses filed a civilian crime report with the office of Manhattan US Attorney Preet Bharara. Sources said the feds were already investigating Sanders for steering City Council discretionary funds to other nonprofits.

Mike Duvalle, a former Sanders staffer, told The Post that he met with the FBI last month in connection with that probe.