Saturday, January 21, 2017

Broadway-Flushing wary of construction plans


(This WAS a nice house!)

From the Queens Chronicle:

According to Broadway-Flushing Homeowners Association President Janet McCreesh, the issue of Airbnb home sharers using houses in the neighborhood — much of which has a restrictive covenant limiting houses to single-family usage — is largely over.

“We have managed to get all of the homes, I think, on the Airbnb website,” she told the Chronicle. “We initiated lawsuits.”

But Broadway-Flushing is not without other home-related problems. McCreesh estimates that 10 percent of the Flushing subneighborhood’s houses are illegally used for single-room occupancies or hotels.

In Broadway-Flushing, two houses with unusual aspects of their interiors are being built — though no one publicly contends any illegality could be afoot. Ten bathrooms and eight bedrooms are planned at 33-05 157 St.; seven bathrooms and seven bedrooms are planned at 33-62 159 St. Both buildings’ plans have been approved by the Department of Buildings.

“That is not the layout of your typical Queens single-family home,” McCreesh said, referring to the properties. “The law needs to change for this type of situation. This is not a 10-acre estate. This is a plot of land in Queens.”

“The DOB does not limit how many bathrooms you can have in a house,” she continued. “There’s nothing in terms of protection for architectural design.”

Construction is happening now at both of the locations. According to McCreesh, both of the properties are under the jurisdiction of the restrictive Rickert-Finlay Covenant of 1906, which requires that homes only be used by single families and covers much of Broadway-Flushing.

And the homeowners association president does not necessarily believe that the locations on 159th Street and 157th Street will be used for any other purpose, although she is very concerned.

Chinese spy headed to prison

From Metro:

A former FBI employee in New York was sentenced to two years in prison on Friday after admitting that he illegally acted at the direction of a Chinese official to gather sensitive information.

Kun Shan Chun, also known as Joey Chun, was also ordered by U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero in Manhattan to pay $10,000 after pleading guilty in August to having illegally acted as an agent of a foreign government.

"I'm so sorry," a tearful Chun said in court. "I take full responsibility."

Chun, a U.S. citizen who was born in China, was arrested in March in connection with what prosecutors called a duplicitous betrayal of the FBI, which had employed him in its New York field office since 1997.

Prosecutors said that beginning in 2005, Chinese individuals claiming to be affiliated with a China-based printer products manufacturer called Zhuhai Kolion Technology Company Ltd solicited an investment from one of Chun's parents.

Chun, 47, first met purported Kolion associates during a 2005 trip, and met them abroad at several other times, eventually meeting a Chinese official who asked him about the FBI and surveillance practices and targets, prosecutors said.

In turn, Chun provided the official an FBI organizational chart and photographs related to surveillance technologies, prosecutors said.

In exchange, Chun's associates paid for him to go on international trips, and they sometimes also paid for prostitutes for him while he was abroad, prosecutors said.

Inaugural bible came from Queens church


From CBS:

Something President Donald Trump has held onto for decades was with him as he took the oath of office on Friday.

It came from Jamaica, Queens when he was a young boy.

As CBS2’s Erin Logan reported, there’s one bible that President Trump has referred back to since he got it from a Jamaica, Queens church in 1955.

“He had it with him. He showed me the copy,” Rev. Patrick Hugh O’Connor said.

The president had it with him while he was sworn in as the nation’s 45th president. Rev. O’Connor — of the 325-year-old Presbyterian church — said he heard all about the bible that the president got while in Sunday school. The two met for the first time in person on Wednesday at Trump’s office.

“He shared how fundamental his time at the church was,” O’Connor said.

Not only was the reverend impressed that President Trump kept the bible from the church for over 60 years, he’s also happy to hear that someone from the church made such an impact on him.

“The Sunday school teacher who is now 96-years-old, who had helped to shape his journey,” O’Connor said.

He even had a letter for her.

“The letter said simply to her, ‘thank you very much for your support,” he said.

The reverend described his meeting with the president as pleasant. The main purpose was to pray with him as he took on the most powerful role.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Is it time for Newtown Playground to be recognized as a burial ground?


From the Queens Chronicle:

Lifelong Elmhurst resident Marialena Giampino grew up hearing stories about the neighborhood’s settlers and how they are buried underneath Newtown Playground at the intersection of 56th Avenue and 92nd Street.

She thinks it’s about time the city and community officially recognize the history below the slides and climbing equipment.

“The goal is to get some type of memorial or plaque commemorating the people buried there,” Giampino said. “To the normal person who maybe isn’t from Elmhurst, they don’t know what’s there.”

According to a 1932 city report on cemeteries, provided to the Chronicle by Giampino, at least 86 people were buried at what was called Old Newtown Cemetery.

The first funeral took place in 1729, about 75 years after the neighborhood was founded and more than four decades prior to the American Revolution.

Some of the neighborhood’s most prominent residents were buried there, with entire families interred alongside each other on the site.

Eventually, the cemetery served as a potter’s field — the final resting place for unknown or indigent residents — until about 1880, with the Parks Department taking over the location in 1917.

A decade later, the surviving headstones were all laid flat and covered with soil so playground equipment and a drinking fountain could be installed.

Giampino brought up the site’s history to Community Board 4, of which she is a member, last week, saying now would be the perfect time to memorialize those who are buried there.

Woodhaven: historic but overcrowded


From AM-NY:

As its name implies, Woodhaven is truly an escape in the urban jungle.

The Queens neighborhood is probably one of the few places in the city where you can get off the train, take a stroll through a forest, grab a bite to eat from a Latin restaurant and head home to a house that was built a century ago.

“It’s always been a place where people come in and bring their experiences to the community,” said Ed Wendell, a lifelong resident and the executive director of the Woodhaven Cultural & Historical Society.

Jamaica Avenue is a bustling corridor stocked with mom-and-pop stores and restaurants that reflect the diverse population in the neighborhood, according to Wendell.

“People ask how many businesses have been around for more than 100 years and there are like seven or eight,” Wendell said of the avenue. “We are proud of our history.”

Meanwhile, the one- and two-family homes south of the avenue have kept their Victorian look from the early 1900s. Most also come with backyards.

“It’s an actual community. People get to know each other and help everyone out,” noted Vickie Messina, 67, who has lived in Woodhaven with her husband in their two-story house for 40 years.

But Woodhaven is becoming less of a hidden gem, and some locals said there are concerns about overcrowding.

For example, there have been complaints about illegal conversions that pack too many tenants into basements and other spaces, Wendell said.

“If you walk around the streets of our neighborhood and you look around what you see is a two-family house that has six satellite dishes or four doorbells,” he said.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Union blaming de Blasio for construction deaths

From the Commercial Observer:

Thirty-one members of the Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York were arrested as part of a planned construction safety demonstration today—hours before the City Council introduced a package of 18 bills aimed at curbing the high number of jobsite deaths in the last two years.

Hundreds of union members and supporters filled a stretch of Park Row outside of City Hall to raise awareness for the 30 workers who have been killed in New York City over the last 24 months. (The extra arrestee was for the next worker to die, according to a spokesman for the union.)

Chanting “How many more must die?” in English and Spanish, some members carried ceremonial black coffins on their shoulders and a prop of the grim reaper. The coordinated arrest occurred after union protesters, wearing a number on their sweatshirt for each of those killed, blocked a section of the Lower Manhattan street while holding up signs.

“The first step to solving the problem is admitting you have one,” James Mahoney, the president of the New York State Iron Workers District Council, told Commercial Observer at the rally this morning. “Mayor de Blasio, you have one. People are dying; there’s blood on his hands.”

Like rats fleeing a sinking ship

From DNA Info:

Within a week of Mayor Bill de Blasio's administration announcing record-breaking achievements in affordable housing, the top two officials responsible for his housing initiatives are stepping down.

Department of City Planning Director and City Planning Commission Chair Carl Weisbrod is stepping down to chair the Trust for Governors Island, and Department of Housing Preservation and Development Commissioner Vicki Been will return to her previous job teaching at New York University and directing NYU's Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy.

Weisbrod will be replaced by Marisa Lago, currently the U.S. Department of the Treasury's Assistant Secretary for International Markets and Development.

Been will be replaced by Economic Development Corporation president and CEO Maria Torres-Springer, de Blasio announced Tuesday.

James Patchett, chief of staff to Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen, will succeed Torres-Springer at EDC, an agency which Glen oversees.

Sampson sent up the river

From AM-NY:

Former New York State Senate leader John Sampson was sentenced to 5 years in prison Wednesday for lying and obstructing justice to cover up his misuse of escrow money as a private lawyer.

Brooklyn U.S. District Judge Dora Irizarry also imposed a $75,000 fine on the former Democratic leader from Canarsie whose 2015 conviction was one in a string of corruption cases that have rocked Albany.

Sampson, 51, had allegedly misused $440,000 in escrow money to help finance a political campaign for district attorney in Brooklyn, then did favors for Edul Ahmad, a local businessman who gave him $188,000 to help cover up the misuse of funds.

He was not convicted of those charges but was convicted of lying to the FBI and recruiting a childhood friend, Sam Noel, who worked for the Brooklyn U.S. attorney’s office, as a mole to keep track of an investigation of Ahmad, who he feared might become an informant.