Saturday, February 28, 2015

Nolan hires lawyer for Sunnyside Yards project

From the Times Ledger:

As Mayor de Blasio pushes his Sunnyside Yards affordable housing megaproject forward, one elected official is warning that “this is a critical time for our neighborhoods in western Queens.” State Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan (D-Ridgewood) announced Feb. 19 that Ira Greenberg, an attorney from Sunnyside Gardens, has joined her staff to work on transportation, housing and zoning issues related to the threat of over-development in western Queens.

“I look forward to having Ira Greenberg as a part-time counsel in my office as we face the challenges in preserving our communities,” Nolan said. “Keeping our neighborhoods strong in the face of ongoing development pressures is a priority of mine. Having someone with Ira Greenberg’s skills and experience will help my office and our community.”

Nolan said Greenberg would work with agencies, residents and all parties to make sure our local voice is heard. She pointed out Greenberg will be in the office to respond to any new proposals while she is at work in Albany.

Greenberg, who has lived in Sunnyside or Woodside his whole life, and currently lives in Sunnyside Gardens with his wife and two children, is keenly aware of the rising level of anxiety in the neighborhood. One community activist, Patricia Dorfman of the Sunnyside Chamber of Commerce, is planning to make T-shirts that say “Queens Lives Matter” to capture the sense of unease that is coarsing through the neighborhood. “It may seem insensitive to those with life and death grievances, but “Queens Lives Matter’ sums up the problem for me,” Dorfman said.

Greenberg, who was president of the chamber for three years, said, “People are nervous despite the fact that construction would be many years away. One thing I do know is if they spend an exorbitant amount of money just to build a deck over the yards, they’re going to have to get their money back and that means thousands more units in much bigger buildings. And let’s remember, Amtrak and the MTA aren’t just going to give that land away for free.”

City wants large lot developed

From the Observer:

The city is looking for a developer to purchase a fee interest or a long-term lease and then redevelop a seven-acre parcel along the south side of Rockaway Boulevard near John F. Kennedy International Airport.

“This is an ideal location for businesses that benefit from the proximity to JFK International Airport,” according to the New York City Economic Development Corp.‘s recent request for expressions of interest, or RFEI.

The city-owned irregularly-shaped vacant lot is bound to the north by Rockaway Boulevard, to the south by Nassau Expressway and to the west by the Federal Aviation Administration office building, in Springfield Gardens, Queens. The area is home to one of the air cargo industry’s largest concentrations of customs brokers and freight forwarders, other airport-related industrial facilities, residences and retail uses.

Activists don't like Melissa's cop plan

From the Daily News:

Police reform activists slammed on Thursday a push by the City Council and Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito to add 1,000 new cops to the NYPD.

Mark-Viverito has made a headcount hike a top priority and plans to include it in the Council’s budget proposal, though it was left out of Mayor de Blasio’s latest plan.

“We don’t think that the largest police force in the country needs another thousand cops,” said Monica Novoa of the Coalition to End Broken Windows, among groups that rallied outside City Hall Thursday. “We don’t need more officers implementing broken windows policing.”

She said she was puzzled to see Mark-Viverito, a leading progressive, pushing the $90 million a year plan.

Parkway Hospital is now a famous TV location

"Did you happen to notice the veiled reference to Parkway Hospital on Law & Order SVU? The 2/18 episode had to do with sex trafficking and trying to find a girl a pimp was hiding in his secret torture lair.

I couldn't help but laugh when the location was revealed on screen as "Basement of abandoned hospital, 70-33 113th St, Forest Hills, Queens"


DHS at it again in Williamsburg

From Brownstoner:

We found this very interesting rendering on the fence at 14 Olive Street in East Williamsburg that seems to show an old stable and factory building — but it actually appears to be a controversial homeless shelter that will be nine stories tall! (Apologies for the not-very-clear photo — the rendering was posted high up on the fence.)

In front is what looks like a circa-1900 Brooklyn stable building, with a commercial or factory building from the early 20th century or even earlier rising behind it. (We’d say the building in the back almost looks like an Jacobean country house!)

A sign above the quaint stable-style door says “Joseph & Son Restoration Inc.” Our first thought was that a salvage-architectural-design firm was putting up a new commercial building in its working style. Googling revealed Joseph & Son Restoration may be a smoke damage repair service.

The site is currently an empty lot, and the new-building permit is for a nine-story, 30-unit dormitory or hotel. The second floor will house a “community facility” described as an “ambulatory diagnostic and treatment health care facility” on the Schedule A.

We don’t see any specific mention of what might be the smoke restoration business. (The first floor will include a “warehouse,” parking for six cars, a lobby, trash compactor room and janitor’s closet.) We’re wondering, though, if it might employ some formerly homeless people living at the facility? The owner listed on the permit is Jozef Birnbach and the architect of record is Victor Filletti.

There is a Facebook page dedicated to “stopping the proposed huge nine-story homeless shelter at 14 Olive Street,” in its words. The page has not been updated since 2013. A petition from the group raises concerns about a nearby church and school, among other things.

Friday, February 27, 2015

A city run by radicals

From City Journal:

Even by the standards of New York City politics, Mark-Viverito stands on the left-wing fringe. During her first seven years on the council, she stood for, but did not recite, the Pledge of Allegiance. (Her spokesperson claimed that, having grown up in Puerto Rico, Mark-Viverito was “unfamiliar” with the one-sentence pledge.) In 2010, the future speaker circulated a petition calling for the release of Oscar L√≥pez Rivera, who was convicted of seditious conspiracy for his leadership role in FALN, the Puerto Rican paramilitary group that bombed Fraunces Tavern in lower Manhattan, among other targets, in the 1970s. Mark-Viverito counts among her friends Evo Morales, the socialist president of Bolivia, whom she visited in 2008. She also participated in the protest movement to expel the U.S. Navy from Vieques in Puerto Rico, where she was arrested, along with other prominent progressives such as Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and Al Sharpton. Mark-Viverito’s family owns a 12-acre estate abutting the former Roosevelt Roads Naval Station, from which the Naval Forces Southern Command oversaw the controversial bombing tests. Perhaps the council speaker enjoyed sunbathing in peace.

New York City Democratic politics are largely shaped by organized labor. Almost every liberal leader in New York City—including the mayor and city council speaker—owes some measure of allegiance to the radical-leftist Working Families Party, which grew out of an alliance between labor unions and activist groups, such as the scandal-plagued Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (Acorn), which applied the union-organizing model to public housing complexes. WFP-backed candidates (like Mark-Viverito) are usually endorsed by the city’s most powerful unions: 1199 SEIU, which represents health-care and hospital workers; 32BJ, a union for property-service workers; the Transit Workers Union Local 100; and the United Federation of Teachers, which represents New York City’s public school teachers. Mark-Viverito worked as an organizer for 1199, and the powerful union steered her to move to East Harlem to seek political office there.

The WFP runs pro-labor candidates with the goal of forcing mainstream Democrats and incumbents further left. Though it has national aspirations, the party thrives mainly in New York, where “fusion” voting rules allow candidates to seek office on multiple ballot lines. In 2010, a group of WFP-backed council members, led by Mark-Viverito and Brad Lander—who succeeded de Blasio in his Park Slope district after the future mayor became public advocate—formed the Progressive Caucus. Including Mark-Viverito as speaker, the caucus, with 18 seats, now makes up more than one-third of the 51-member council and dominates the council politically, holding all leadership posts and most key committee chairmanships. Its members are unremittingly left-wing.

The entire thing is worth a read to understand just what a bunch of loons are running city hall these days.

Borough Hall parking garage won't be replaced any time soon

From the Queens Courier:

The city is planning to complete the demolition and replacement of a vital public garage near Queens Borough Hall by 2017 as members of the community complain about traffic nightmares and a constant battle for parking while they wait.

The city’s abrupt decision to close an essential parking garage in a congested area was described as irresponsible and unfair by local politicians back in September. City officials said the decision was made because of impending dangers from the building’s crumbling structure.

While the Department of Transportation attempts to hasten a usually long process, residents and commuters are stuck with heavy traffic and a lack of parking.

The decision to close the 500-space parking garage triggered a slew of community problems, including increased traffic from drivers looking for an extremely limited supply of parking spaces on the streets.

According to city documents, a new garage is set to be completed in 2017 under an “expedited process.”

Avella vs. Weprin on congestion pricing

From the Observer:

Tony Avella wants an apology from Mark Weprin–and he isn’t getting one.

Mr. Avella, a Queens state senator, lashed out today at Mr. Weprin, a Queens councilman from an overlapping northeast Queens district, for defending a new congestion pricing proposal on NY1 by saying that most people who drive for free over East River bridges are “rich.” Mr. Avella demanded an apology and blasted Mr. Weprin on Twitter.

“I demand an apology from Council Member Mark Weprin for his outrageous comment made last night on NY1’s Inside City Hall,” Mr. Avella said in a statement. “In arguing his support of congestion pricing, he stated that the East River bridges are used by ‘rich people’ who can afford to drive.”

“This statement completely ignores the small businesses and commuters of all income levels who utilize these bridges on a daily basis and for whom added tolls would be a hardship,” he added.

Longer flights out of LGA

From Wall Street Journal:

Regulators are considering lifting the decades-old restriction on flights longer than 1,500 miles from New York’s La Guardia Airport, a move that likely would trigger a scramble by airlines to launch lucrative new long-haul flights to California and other destinations in the U.S. West.

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which controls New York City’s three major airports, said it is studying the so-called perimeter rule “to determine whether it remains in the best interest of the region’s air travelers.” The authority said any change would occur only after thorough analysis and consultation “with all interested parties in a public and transparent manner.”

Lifting the rule, formally in place since 1984, would pave the way for new transcontinental flights between La Guardia and cities such as Los Angeles, San Francisco, Las Vegas and Seattle—now served only by New York’s other two major airports, both of which are farther from Manhattan. Because airlines’ slots at New York’s airports are limited, new service would come at the expense of existing flights—almost certainly to smaller cities, industry officials said.

Bayside housekeeper tortured by employers

From the Queens Courier:

A cleaning woman was kidnapped, beaten and burned by the Bayside couple she worked for as they accused her of stealing money and jewels from their home and threatened to kill her if she didn’t return the goods, police said.

The 54-year-old victim’s employers, Devanand and Ambar Lachman, and a third unknown person confronted her inside the couple’s 217th Street residence at about 1 p.m. on Feb 13, claiming that she took their money and jewelry.

In an apparent attempt to make the woman confess, they burned her eyebrows and leg with what was possibly a plumber’s torch, and also beat her repeatedly with the object, police said.

The wife then went to the woman’s Port Washington, Long Island home to search for the stolen goods, but came up empty handed, authorities said. She then returned to her Bayside home and all four went back to the cleaning woman’s Port Washington residence around 9 p.m. They told the cleaning woman to get them the cash and jewelry or they would kill her and then left.

Once they were gone, the cleaning woman called the cops and her employers were arrested at their home.

Devanand Lachman, 32, and Ambar Lachman, 31, have both been charged with felony assault, kidnapping and unlawful imprisonment.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Koo pushing for expanded developer air rights

From Crains:

A group of City Council members sent Mayor Bill de Blasio a letter this week urging him to allow owners of landmarked nonprofits to sell a combined 25 million square feet of their air rights, which would then be used by developers in a few selected areas across the city to build taller buildings.

Democratic Councilmen Peter Koo of Queens and Ritchie Torres and Fernando Cabrera of the Bronx argued in the Feb. 24 letter that such a system would allow 180 landmarked nonprofit institutions to cash in on their full property values. Under current rules, those unused rights can be transferred only to sites close by.

"As you know, many religious and nonprofit institutions housed in individually designated landmarked structures struggle to maintain their buildings while providing services to further their mission," the letter stated. Mr. Koo is chair of the Committee on Landmarks, Public Siting and Maritime Uses and Mr. Torres is deputy leader of the council.

The trio used concepts and numbers contained in a proposal advanced by a group called Iconplans, which is led by former real estate broker and grocery store executive Lawrence Daitch, and real estate investor Michael Lipstein. The duo first floated their idea years ago, during the Bloomberg administration.

Tear Queensbridge down in order to save it?

From LICTalk:

Since Mayor de Blasio fantasizes to the press about covering Sunnyside Yards and building affordable housing on top of it, I have decided to put forth a more pragmatic housing solution that focuses on the original intent of government. Raze Queensbridge and put up brand new towers for both the poor and whomever qualifies for ‘affordable housing’ in NYC in 2015.

Well the Queensbridge Houses, the largest public housing development in North America, are a relic in all respects. The housing is antiquated and dilapidated. It’s completely isolated with a bridge on the south, a river to the west, and warehouses and autobody shops to it’s east and north. Any occasional talk/press about it’s being a vibrant community, is completely negated by the fact that it’s too dangerous to be outside of at night.

But guess what else Queensbridge is? Low density and extremely close to the city. All the buildings are only six stories high, there’s a namesake station on its eastern border that’s two stops from Manhattan, and the Queensboro Plaza station four blocks from there has multiple lines just one stop into Midtown.

So here’s the plan.

1. Knock down the existing 3,000+ units

2. Rezone to allow 30-story buildings = 15,000 units

3. Sell the property to a developer with two stipulations 1) 4,500 units are controlled by NYCHA (the NYC public housing agency). 2) the other 10,500 apartments are market rate but rent-stabilized, just like Linc LIC and Gantry Park Landing are.

3 Brooklynites charged with terror plot

From NBC:

Three Brooklyn men who allegedly plotted to travel to Syria to join ISIS and posted online messages about planting a bomb on Coney Island and shooting police officers were taken into custody during FBI and NYPD terror raids Wednesday, law enforcement officials tell NBC 4 New York.

The men, 24- and 30-year-old Uzbekistan citizens and a 19-year-old Kazakhstan citizen who all lived in Brooklyn, allegedly planned to return to New York to commit a domestic act of terror if they failed to join the group overseas, law enforcement officials said.

The youngest man, identified in a criminal complaint as Akhror Saidakhmetov, allegedly posted on an Uzbek-language website in the last six months that he would buy a machine gun and shoot police officers and FBI agents if his plan to join ISIS was thwarted. In August, 24-year-old suspect Abdurasul Hasanofvich Juraboev posted on the board that he would kill President Obama if ISIS asked him to and asked for help getting weapons, according to the complaint.

He also said he would plant a bomb on Coney Island if the terror group asked, the complaint said.

Getting busted is not really a big deal at DOB

I suggest reading this short Daily News piece about the expediter brothers who were arrested in the DOB bust a little while ago. It's quite interesting how easy it is to be a repeat offender and get away with wrist slaps over a long period of time.

How much will Fresh Direct pay back?

From the Queens Courier:

As online grocer FreshDirect is getting ready to pack up and exit Long Island City, the company is listing its massive Queens waterfront facility for sale.

FreshDirect has hired Cushman & Wakefield to sell its facility at 23-30 Borden Ave. ahead of its move to the South Bronx, which was approved last year.

Based on this article, it seems that Fresh Direct is trying to sell before they even have the rest of their subsidies in hand and opposition growing.

They agreed to stay till 2025, and the NYCIDA is supposed to have been monitoring them every year.

Funny how in 1999 in their application to IDA, they claimed more full time jobs than what's currently listed in their NYS ESD application for the $10 million.

So, will FD have to pay back the subsidies they got to fix up that space?

Fresh Direct Inc. f/k/a Gourmet Holdings, LLC
ID: 92407
Awarding Agency: IDA
Address: 23-30 Borden Avenue
Borough: Queens
Block: 68
Lot: 38
Subsidy Program: Industrial Incentive
Start Date: 12/08/1999
End Date: 06/30/2025
Jobs at the start of the deal: -
Jobs projected: 160
Current jobs FTE: 2650
Part-time permanent jobs: 76
Part-time temp. jobs: 0
Full-time permanent jobs: 2612
Full-time temp. jobs: 0
Contract employees: 0
Construction jobs: 0
Health Benefit full-time?: Y
Health Benefit part-time?: N
Percent of employees living in NYC: 78
Total value of subsidy: $5,214,191
Amount used to date: $3,149,480
Recapture amount: $0
Penalty: 0.00
Data source fiscal year: 2013
Bond Issuance: $69473
Value of Energy Benefit FY 11: $0.00
REAP FY 11: $0.00
CEP FY 11: $0.00