Friday, September 30, 2016

Council hearing turns into shitshow

From DNA Info:

In an attempt to make up for the loss of nursing home beds at Rivington House, Mayor Bill de Blasio on Thursday announced plans to build an affordable senior housing and health care facility in a city-owned building under the Manhattan Bridge.

First Deputy Mayor Anthony Shorris dropped the news while testifying before the City Council during an oversight hearing on the administration's controversial decision to lift two deed restrictions on Rivington House nursing home for HIV/AIDS patients — a decision that allowed the home to be hawked to a luxury condo developer for $72 million. The mayor's office later made a formal announcement of the plan.

But though Shorris claimed the new facility — a building operated by the Department of Environmental Protection at 30 Pike St. — will replace the "bulk of what was lost in Rivington House," the mayor's office has only said the home will provide housing for more than 100 seniors, while Rivington held 219 beds.

From the Observer:

It was a fitting ending for a City Council hearing that was, at its heart, about failures to communicate: another miscommunication.

After two-and-a-half hours of questioning Deputy Mayor Anthony Shorris about the city’s decision to lift a deed restriction on Rivington House, which paved the way for the AIDS hospice to be sold for profit to luxury condo developers, his testimony ended with the City Council accusing the mayor’s office of misleading them about Shorris’ schedule.

“The administration misled the Council and the Speakers Office into believing that First Deputy Mayor Shorris’ availability for the hearing this morning would be limited because of events related to the U.S Conference of Mayors in Oklahoma City. This turned out to be false,” Eric Koch, a spokesman for Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. “At a hearing which focused on government honesty and transparency this is particularly shocking and unacceptable.”

The miscommunication today played out in “real-time,” as City Councilman Ben Kallos, the chairman of the committee on governmental operations put it, when, during the hearing, he asked Shorris why he had to leave—”for the record.”

“I have appointments scheduled,” Shorris responded.

Community opposes church on steroids

From Sunnyside Post:

Community members and church leaders clashed at a Community Board 2 public hearing Tuesday about altering zoning regulations to make way for a mega church in Woodside.

The Universal Church, located at 68-03 Roosevelt Avenue, held the public hearing in conjunction with Community Board 2 to allow residents to provide feedback on its proposed expansion, which would nearly double its height and triple its square footage.

The majority of the approximately 50 people in attendance spoke strongly against the project.

Community members expressed concerns with the size, scope, and scale of the project, as well as concerns over how it could affect traffic and transportation issues, could bring in gentrification and impact small businesses in the neighborhood, and could have negative consequences for those residing nearby.

Those in attendance also noted the Universal Church’s reputation for preaching a “prosperity gospel,” which encourages parishioners to give money to the church, combining tactics from religious sermons with self-help seminars.

The proposed church would be the East Coast headquarters for the Universal Church, an international network of churches based in Brazil with over 6,000 locations worldwide, with a dozen in New York City alone.

The zoning on the church property currently allows it to build up to 45 feet tall, and it is required to have 30 feet between its building and the property line. The requested variances would waive those requirements, allowing the church to build up to 79 feet tall and out to 10 feet from the property line.

Though not addressed at the meeting, information provided by the church indicates that if the zoning variances are denied, the church will still build a new structure that complies with current zoning laws.

Future hotel-shelters worry Jamaica residents

From the Queens Chronicle:

When you live near one of the busiest airports in the world and a train ride from downtown Manhattan, you are going to live near hotels.

But residents of Southeast Queens are becoming increasingly worried that the proliferation of smaller hotels either opened up or under construction dovetails all too well with the city’s recent penchant for locating homeless shelters and other supportive housing within Community Board 12.

Glenn Greenridge, the Land Use Committee chairman at CB 12, went down a partial list last week:
• one in the early stages of construction at the corner of 115th Avenue and Guy R. Brewer Boulevard;
• a 56-room facility beginning construction at 97-01 Waltham Street;
• another two blocks away with a proposed 42 rooms near the intersection of Waltham and 97th Avenue;
• an 85-room site under construction next to the Howard Johnson Hotel on Archer Avenue; and
• excavation underway for a hotel at 140-35 Queens Blvd., less than a block away from a building at 140-17 that looks close to completion.

“When the folks made their presentation to put a hotel in the old TWA building at Kennedy Airport, they said they’re spending $62 million of their own money. They said their research showed hotels in Queens were at capacity,” Greenridge told the Chronicle in an interview last week.

“But what happens in two or three years if the economy changes and the demand doesn’t keep up with the supply?” he asked. “We have over 10 proposed hotels in CB 12 alone. A property owner [of a smaller hotel] might decide $80 to $100 per night per room from the city sounds pretty good.”

Greenridge’s comments came two days after a meeting of CB 12 where many expressed their belief that the exploding number of hotel applications in the district coming at a time when the city is experiencing a homeless crisis is not a coincidence.

Greenridge said residents’ fears are not groundless, with the city having converted at least one hotel into a shelter in his memory, and that they have every right to be concerned.

Residents in the district already have little if any trust in Mayor de Blasio or the Department of Homeless Services when it comes to shelters.

More rats than at a council meeting

From NY1:

The sidewalk was littered with dead rats just hours after dozens of the rodents sent residents running in disgust at the Baisley Park Gardens complex on Sutphin Boulevard and 122nd Avenue.

They say the rats emerged after someone shifted a mounting pile of garbage in front of the building. That garbage was removed Thursday, but residents say the trash is an ongoing issue, as are the rats, and that management has failed to address both problems.

When NY1 reached out to the management company, Reliant Realty, the president called us back immediately. She said she wasn't aware of previous problems but maintained this current issue was addressed immediately.

Exterminators and a cleaning crew were back at the complex Thursday evening, where a manager also told residents their apartments will be addressed as well.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

St. Albans doesn't want shelters either

From PIX11:

ST. ALBANS - The Department head of Homeless Services Steven Banks and Mayor de Blasio jointly addressed a crowd filled with disgruntled residents concerned with the city's use of homeless hotels.

PIX11 has covered extensively the city's growing reliance on these hotels, lack of social services, overspending to book those rooms and absence of security.

Residents as of late have been vocalizing their worries over the hotels and on Wednesday, de Blasio heard more of the same.

"I'm terrified of these people who are going to live in these hotels," one woman said. "So I ask you Mayor de Blasio how can you help me and my community address these issues and stop the building of these hotels."

The number of hotels popping up and rezoning changes are on Blasio's list of proposals to the city council in an effort to address those concerns, according to the mayor.

"I think on the larger issue of how we plan the community [is] to make sure the scaling of things is right, etc. is something we want to do more changes to in the city council," de Blasio said.

Meanwhile, the mayor's team is actively booking hotels that are appearing all over the city in order to house the homeless.

All this as the homeless population in the city is on the verge of reaching 60,000.

(The funny thing is that the people that attend these town halls are pre-screened so as to avoid the mayor having to answer embarrassing questions. And I guess black folks value their quality of life and integrity of their communities as much as whites do.)

Living in a McMansion's shadow

"This is a photo comparing the size of a typical rebuild with the older homes in Floral Park, NY. If you've never been to Floral Park, Queens, get prepared to see a dumpster on every corner. That's the new status symbol.

Buyers buy little houses with nice-sized yards and cut down old growth trees to stuff oversized houses on the old property. The new houses overshadow the neighboring houses and have little, if any, landscaping. A lot of the times, the trees and grass at the curb are eliminated and the front lawns are paved over to make room for the multiple cars owned by the multiple families living in what used to be one family/one owner houses.

The streets are now crowded with cars and the neighborhood is hotter and noisier due to the loss of noise buffering, cooling trees and bushes in vanishing yards. Rebuilds have less frontage and there's more cement all around. What used to be suburban, is slowly becoming more urban." - anonymous

Supervised shoot-up program being studied

From the Daily News:

The city will study whether to set up sites for drug addicts to shoot up safely with $100,000 approved by the City Council Wednesday.

The controversial program known as supervised injection facilities gives addicts a place to use drugs under medical supervision to avoid overdoses or spreading HIV and other diseases.

The study, which will be done by the Health Department, “will assess the feasibility and impact of NYC having a program that provides a safe, clean haven to high-risk, vulnerable New Yorkers and will help prevent drug overdoses and disease transmissions,” said Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito.

The money comes from $5.6 million approved to fight AIDS in the current city budget.

I can't wait for the siting hearings for this bright idea!

Rego Park bioswale serves as butterfly habitat

From Wall Street Journal:

The sighting didn’t occur in some flower-filled field but in Queens, perhaps better known for shopping malls than wildlife. When I heard that an employee of New York City’s Department of Environmental Protection had discovered three chrysalises in a planting bed near 97th Street and 63rd Road, I boarded the M train to join the festivities.

“They were munching on Asclepias incarnata,” otherwise known as milkweed, the species’ favorite food, said Maria Corporan, the supervisor gardener who discovered them earlier this month. “I always look at the plants to see if there’s any diseases. I was like, oh my God, I guess we’ve got monarchs here.”

She wasn’t referring to fully formed butterflies but the humble caterpillars that precede them. The caterpillars create chrysalises, or pupas, the cases that protect and envelope them as they transform.

Ms. Corporan showed me a picture on her phone. To my surprise, the caterpillars were rather attention-grabbing on their own—large and with a monarch’s characteristic orange, black and white pattern.

She pointed out two of their chrysalises in the planting bed. I was surprised she found them, even though she saw the caterpillars at work. The chrysalises hung like jade-colored dewdrops, hidden on the underside of a dogwood shrub’s leaves.

Ms. Corporan feared that the third one, hooked onto a sweet pepperbush, was too close to the bed’s guardrail and could get knocked loose by a passerby. She took it back to her office, hoping it would emerge there.

I assumed that the butterflies would require a habitat at least the size of a vest-pocket park, but the planting bed appeared to be no more than 20 feet long and less than 10 feet wide. And butterfly habitat wasn’t even its primary purpose.

It was a bioswale, a piece of land designed to filter silt and pollution from surface water that might otherwise overwhelm water-treatment plants during heavy storms. “We’ve built over 2,500 around the city,” with thousands more planned, said Vincent Sapienza, the Department of Environmental Protection’s acting commissioner.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Fuzzy memory on Rivington House deal

From the NY Post:

First Deputy Mayor Tony Shorris suffered numerous memory lapses about the Rivington Street nursing-home fiasco, telling investigators more than two dozen times that he couldn’t recall incidents, ­emails or details, records show.

Mayor Bill de Blasio’s right-hand man claimed he couldn’t remember a meeting with Stacey Cumberbatch, a city commissioner, or the content of any conversations they had about Rivington in 2014.

His schedule showed a July 25, 2014, meeting with Cumberbatch, then head of the Department of Citywide Administrative Services, where the deal was on the agenda.

Shorris also said he believed his decision that the property should remain a nursing home — rather than be sold on the open market — was communicated to the agency.

But he couldn’t recall how.

“I’ve asked myself that question. I do not remember the exact mechanism. I just don’t,” he told investigators for city Comptroller Scott Stringer, according to a transcript of the July 27 interview obtained by The Post through public-disclosure laws.

Asked if he had met with Cumberbatch about Rivington in 2014, Shorris replied, “Probably. I can’t say I remember exactly.”

Cuomo unveils plan for new Penn Station

From NY1:

With its low ceilings and cramped corridors, Penn Station is anything but beloved by train travelers.

"It is decrepit, and it's an affront to riders who use it," said Governor Andrew Cuomo. "Well, why are you so negative on Penn Station? Because it's terrible!"

On Tuesday, Cuomo unveiled the latest proposal to make Penn Station a glorious terminal again.

The $1.6 billion renovation would move Amtrak and the Long Island Rail Road across Eighth Avenue into the Farley Post Office Building, to be renamed Moynihan Train Hall.

"New York will not have seen anything like it in decades," Cuomo said.

As part of the plan, the cramped concourses inside the existing Penn Station will be renovated and expanded to ease the space crunch for commuters.

"Right now, it's about 25 feet wide, so everybody's channeled in that cattle-call area," Cuomo said.

Cuomo says all the needed approvals and funding have been obtained, and that after decades of delays, the dream of a new Penn Station will finally be realized.

"I don't announce plans with caveats. This is what is going to happen," Cuomo said.

Dutch Kills shelter responsible for hundreds of 911 calls

From Queens Gazette:

Civic and local leaders are trying to figure out how the city chooses clients for its homeless shelters, and why so many people with a history of mental or psychiatric conditions are dumped in the shelter system, rather than being placed in facilities where they can obtain proper care and supervision.

Case in point: a homeless shelter for 200 women located at the former Verve Hotel at 40-03 29th St. in the Dutch Kills section of Long Island City.

Just released statistics show that there are currently 180 women living in the shelter. Fifty of those women are employed and close to living on their own, while 110 to 120 women have a history of psychiatric problems.

At a meeting last week attended by representatives of shelter operator Acacia Network and community leaders, police officials reported that officers at the 114th Precinct had responded to another 291 emergency (911) calls between June 1 and September 18, each involving shelter clients. The calls ranged from felony counts and drug possession to lesser counts of harassment and resisting arrest.

“Do the math,” Dutch Kills Civic Association President George Stamatiades said. “Officers at the 114th Precinct have responded to the shelter 641 times since it opened in October 2015. Throw that number at people who complain that police response is slow.”

The fact that cops were called to the shelter 291 times in just over three months, is in itself, startling.

“But when you add to that the fact that the same officers responded to 350 similar 911 calls involving shelter residents between November 2015 and February 2016, you have to question what’s going on there,” Stamatiades said.

“Many of the calls were placed by people inside the shelter – counselors and security guards who had problems with women who became combative,” a law enforcement source said. “They called 911 when situations got out of control, or when they posed some kind of imminent danger to others.”

“A number of the calls from the shelter were ‘aided’ requests for an ambulance or medical assistance for residents,” the source said. “There were a number of calls involving disputes and other conditions that required police intervention.”

People living near the shelter made 911 calls when they spotted shelter clients exposing themselves for cash to motorists, and to remove clients who were using basement laundry rooms to have sex with “customers.”

The Patel family owns this hotel and Acacia Network runs the homeless program. Now I believe it is clear why Maspeth is fighting a shelter in their neighborhood so vehemently.