Tag Archives: Department of Buildings

Rendering for Long Island City office building conversion released


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Rendering courtesy Avinash K Malhotra


Meadow Partners released a rendering of its conversion of a Long Island City building on 42-15 Crescent St., which is set to be completed next year.

The building, which is being designed by Avinash K Malhotra Architects, was an office and retail structure that was bought by Meadow in December 2012 for $19 million, according to the Commercial Observer.

The structure will expand from its current nine stories to 11, according to Department of Buildings filings, and is expected to include 124 residential units and retail space on the ground floor.

 

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Rendering posted of new 15-story Flushing building


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Liam La Guerre


Developers planning to build on 36-16 Main St. posted the rendering of a new building that’ll soon make its mark in the ever-growing downtown Flushing skyline.

The new building, which is being designed by JWC Architects Engineer DPC, will be a 15-story residential development, according to Department of Buildings records.

The structure, which will be located near the intersection of Northern Boulevard and Main Street, has an anticipated completion date for 2018.

 

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Ridgewood Theater’s residential conversion approved


| ejankiewicz@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Liam La Guerre

The Department of Buildings approved a permit to turn the Ridgewood Theater into a multi-purpose building last week, according to neighborhood news and real estate blog Curbed NY.

The approved permit reveals plans to add two more stories to the three-story building that once housed an almost century-old movie theater. The first floor will be an entertainment venue while the other floors will be used to create 50 apartment units. The owner, Bushburg Properties, told Curbed that they are still in the planning stage and that a completion date has not been set. The movie theater is landmarked so any plans require the owner to preserve the façade of the building.

The permit shows that there will be 13,638 square feet of commercial space but the venue hasn’t been leased yet. Community leaders are brainstorming ideas for what kind of entertainment would work best in the first floor space.


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New Ridgewood restaurant criticized for ‘soft-core porn’ wall art


| ejankiewicz@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Eric Jankiewicz

A new Ridgewood restaurant hoping to capture the influx of hipsters has alienated them with a series of photographs of nude women.

The bar stocks Brooklyn-made vodka. One wall is lined with exposed brick cobbled in California. The handmade chandeliers hanging over the oak-wood bar cost $600 a piece. Cream offers food that would be found in higher-end restaurants, such as pan-seared striped bass, herb-marinated rack of lamb and crème brûlée. Besides two floors for seating and a bar, Cream also has a backyard garden with wooden benches.

“You can have a drink here and really good food without going to Williamsburg or Manhattan,” owner John Black said.

It should have been an instant hit.

Many of the restaurant’s features appeal to reviewers but then they get to the photos.

“Wall décor is tasteless, with faceless women in various states of undress. Downloaded, low-res black & white nudie pics don’t make a restaurant’s décor artsy or sexy — just tacky,” one reviewer wrote about the restaurant on Yelp. “Even the bathroom has an 8×10 of a naked woman sitting on a toilet … gross.”

Others have complained of staring at “a crotch shot while eating” and that the photos border the line of “soft-core porn.” All of which made one reviewer on Yelp feel like they were “in some strange restaurant in NJ.”

But owner Black argues that the pictures are beautiful and that people who complain about the naked pictures are being obtuse. “I’m not showing any dirty girls,” Black, 76, said. “The hipsters should go back to the south or wherever it is they came from. They want me to be like Williamsburg.”

Black owns the Myrtle Avenue building that houses Cream and lives in the neighborhood.

He bought the building on Myrtle Avenue, in 2006 but due to Department of Building inspection problems, he wasn’t able to open the business until this May.

“We did everything twice and I had to spend an extra $300,000,” he said. “But in the end I said, ‘I’m not a quitter’ so I finished the job.”

 

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Renderings released for 50-story LIC development


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Renderings Courtesy of SLCE Architects

The sky’s the limit for real estate in Long Island City.

Rockrose Development Corporation has released renderings for its newest 50-story development coming to the western Queens neighborhood at 43-25 Hunter St.

Permits for the project were partially approved on June 27, according to records from the city’s Department of Buildings. As of yet, no start date has been released.

The 970,000-square-foot tower will be made up of 19,000 square feet of ground floor retail space and 974 apartments, of which 20 percent will be affordable units.

According to published reports, the development will also include a 14-story building adjacent to the 50-story tower.


Rendering of the 14-story building adjacent to the 50-story tower

There will be 18,000 square feet of interior amenity space and three large rooftop terraces. Amenities include a fitness center, basketball court, billiard room, rooftop solarium and great lawn, yoga studio, zen garden, screening room, library, children’s playroom, and a 38th floor rooftop terrace and lounge.

The building, designed by SLCE Architects, will be one of the tallest in Long Island City, according to published reports. Nearby in Astoria, 42-12 28th St. by developer Heatherwood Communities beats 43-25 Hunter St. with a total of 58 stories in height.

 

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Kew Gardens Hills residents fight against synagogue expansion


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Liam La Guerre


A fight between residents and a local synagogue may need a lot of prayer and reflection before it is resolved.

Kew Gardens Hills neighbors are hoping to stop the proposed expansion of the temple’s school, which they say will further diminish their quality of life by increasing noise and garbage, while decreasing available parking spots and their property values.

The synagogue, the Sephardic Congregation located on 72nd Avenue between Main and 141st streets, plans to add another floor, which leaders say is necessary to cope with the school’s population increase.

Currently, the building has two floors and a basement level and towers over the houses on the block. Since the community is zoned for family homes, the temple requires Community Board 8’s approval for a variance to the Board of Standards and Appeals (BSA).

“I’m worrying about one thing. I worry about the kids in the community,” said Rabbi Asaf Haimoff, who is also the principal of the school. “As an educator, I am responsible to make sure my kids get what they need. Neighbors have a different agenda … but the school is not closing down. It’s growing. It’s been growing and growing.”

The religious organization moved into the neighborhood about 20 years ago after converting a residential home, and soon after added a school, Yeshiva Ohel Simcha. The synagogue added the second floor in the late 1990s, Department of Buildings records show.

The school now enrolls about 70 preschool and elementary-aged students. But synagogue leaders say since the temple started in the neighborhood two decades ago, the congregation has expanded to about 200 people and they have had to halt school enrollment and turn prospective students away due to classroom size limitations.

Temple officials said they plan to add six classrooms on the new floor, so the building can accommodate up to 185 persons, including additional teachers.

But more than 50 residents within a two-block radius of temple have already signed a petition to deny the variance, which they plan to deliver to Councilman Rory Lancman’s office. Longtime residents say the community has been traumatized by noise from the synagogue during school hours for years.

“It’s been 20 years so we learned to adapt,” said Trinidad Lum, who has lived across the street for 51 years. “But before this building was put there this was a very quiet street.”

During school weekday drop-off and pick-up hours (8 a.m. and 5 p.m.) residents say parents block driveways and parking spots and they expect the problem to expand with more students.

“It’s going to be unbelievable traffic here,” said Dennis Shore, who lives next to the temple. “I already can’t park in front of my house when we go shopping. Where are these teachers going to park?”

Residents said they are also worried about the safety of the children. Since the school doesn’t have a playground, residents are afraid they will run into streets or the driveway behind the building in path of cars when they go out to play. But leaders say they plan to build a playground on the roof of the building.

The organization already has approval from the Community Board 8 Zoning Committee. They are seeking approval from the full board in a vote on Wednesday night.

 

 

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Authorized construction of Queens residential units jumps in 2013


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Renderings courtesy of NYC Mayors Office's Flickr

Building is booming in the borough.

The city’s Department of Buildings (DOB) authorized construction of 18,095 residential units in 1,383 buildings in 2013, a 71 percent increase from the previous year, according to a New York Building Congress (NYBC) analysis.

Queens experienced the largest percentage jump.

The area went from 1,529 units in 2012 to 3,161 in 2013—an increase of 107 percent.

According to the analysis, the gain was largely impacted by the start of construction of the Hunters Point South affordable housing project in Long Island City.

The report also found that in Queens 72 percent of the permitted buildings were for one- or two-family residences, and the estimated cost of construction per unit reached $102,500.

The NYBC said that last year, for the first time since 2008, the number of housing units authorized by the DOB increased in each of the five boroughs, but residential permits “remain far below the levels attained between 2005 and 2008.”

“With most of the recent talk centered on the recent boom in ultra-luxury Manhattan residential towers, it is certainly encouraging to see that momentum is quietly building in each of the five boroughs,” NYBC President Richard T. Anderson said.  “The key to the city’s success rests in part on our ability to produce a wide range of housing options that are tailored to meet the needs of a population as diverse as New York.”

 

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Woodhaven-Richmond Hill Volunteer Ambulance Corps rallies to resolve collapsed building issue


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Liam La Guerre

Follow me @liamlaguerre 

 

Next year will be Woodhaven-Richmond Hill Volunteer Ambulance Corps’ 50th anniversary, but members don’t’ know if the organization will be around to see it.

The ambulance corps headquarters took damage when building adjoining, 78-19 Jamaica Avenue, collapsed nearly a year ago. Recently members were forced to vacate after melted snow from the collapsed building caused water to flood into the volunteer group’s structure. Now the ambulance corps has damaged walls and mold, members said, and the volunteer organization has to wait for an inspection before they can use the building again.

Members of the ambulance corps and supporters rallied in front the ambulance corps building Sunday to ask the city to speed up repairs on the crumbling building.

“It’s very frustrating, sad and makes me upset,” said John Bennett, a member of the board of the ambulance corps, who has been with the organization for more than three decades. “It feels like I’m losing someone very close.”

The ambulance corps recently filed a lawsuit against the collapsed building’s owner to the tune of $13 million in damages and lost rent. However, it’s another slow process they have to deal with while the building continues to suffer.

The Woodhaven-Richmond Hill Senior Center rented space from the volunteer ambulance group, but had to move to a temporary location—American Legion Post 118—after the structure was determined unsafe by the city’s Buildings Department. The ambulance corps has lost its revenue source, and seniors want to move back into the volunteer groups’ building for its centralized location to transportation, wide space and other features.

“I miss the senior center because in the temporary location I can’t even use the bathroom,” Patricia Sexton said. “It’s not handicapped accessible.”

The owner of the collapsed building, George Kochabe, recently paid $3,200 in fines owed to the  Department of Buildings and hired an architect, according to the agency. However, the building still has many open violations and Kochabe owes thousands more in fines. He could not be reached for comment.

Assemblymember Mike Miller and State Senator Joseph Addabbo are pushing to have the city tear down the building, rebuild it and bill Kochabe. They not only fear for the survival of the volunteer ambulance corps and the senior center, but also worry about the threat the crumbling building creates for pedestrians.

“We don’t want to find out how much more this building could take,” Addabbo said. “We don’t want to react to a bad situation or a tragedy.”

 

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City temporarily closes Long Island City rock climbing facility


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Rendering courtesy of Mike Wolfert

One Long Island City business is hanging on a cliff, waiting to get the thumbs up to open shop again.

The rock climbing facility, called The Cliffs, was temporarily closed after receiving a vacate order on October 25. The building did not have a valid certificate of occupancy, according to the Department of Buildings (DOB).

The 30,000-square-foot climbing arena at 11-11 44th Drive held its grand opening on October 5, just a few weeks before.

According to a DOB complaint, a vacate order was also served because the rock climbing apparatuses and walls were considered a “hazard and dangerous” to users.

Mike Wolfert, owner of The Cliffs, could not be reached for comment. According to the business’ Facebook page, members and pass holders will be credited for the time lost during the temporary closing, and additional guest passes will also be offered.

“We are excited to open our doors again as soon as we are able,” Wolfert posted.

Earlier this year, Wolfert faced charges of bribery after he paid a total of $1,094 to a Department of

Investigation undercover investigator posing as a DOB inspector.

According to the Facebook page, an anonymous tip, which led to the inspection and vacate order, said the facility was operating without a special permit.

The most recent post, dated November 15, said all required revisions have been made and submitted to the Department of Buildings.

 

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Despite setbacks, Maspeth Knockdown Center determined to host events


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of Knockdown Center/Ariana Page Russell

The Knockdown Center is not backing down.

The Department of Buildings (DOB) recently reviewed and disapproved the center’s plan for a Place of Assembly Certificate of Operation (PA) on October 24, but Knockdown’s manager said they will tweak their proposal until it meets regulations.

The PA is required for a site that seeks to have 75 or more people gathered indoors or more than 200 outside.

“We are committed to ensuring we have the optimal building plan from the DOB perspective, and have found the plan reviews very helpful, and believe that our plans will be approved soon,” said Tyler Myers, the center’s manager.

The Knockdown Center, a former glass and door factory turned arts hall, has hosted everything from weddings, Tiki Disco parties and even a mini-golf art exhibition, since last year.

The center became a hot controversial community issue after a representative announced they were considering applying for a license from the State Liquor Authority (SLA) to serve alcohol at future events at the 52-19 Flushing Avenue site.

At the Community Board 5 October meeting, the Land Use Committee rejected granting a liquor license for the center, although Knockdown could still make a case to the SLA for the license.

Residents and politicians in the community are split on the center, some feeling that it could bring jobs and is a good use of the more than century-year old building. Others believe it will create a club environment in a neighborhood where many residents live.

“There is some evidence of people being carried out, a lot of evidence of people partying and loud music, and there is evidence of love making right in the open,” said Bob Holden, president of the Juniper Park Civic Association.

“We’re concerned that it will lower the quality of life.”

 

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Department of Buildings reviewing Flushing Commons permit


| mchan@queenscourier.com

Renderings courtesy of New York City Economic Development Corporation

Developers of the long-stalled $850 million Flushing Commons project have filed their first permit with the city’s Department of Buildings, according to Crain’s and city officials.

A DOB spokesperson said the department received and will review an application from TDC Development International and The Rockefeller Group.

The near decade-old project will bring housing and retail to downtown Flushing but, according to Crain’s, construction has to begin by October 31, under a contract between the city and developers.

The two-phase project, when complete, will include a total of more than 600 residential units, 500,000- square-feet of retail or commercial space and a new YMCA, the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) said.

It was broken into two phases as to not disturb nearby businesses and ease parking problems.

A 62,000-square-foot YMCA, with two pools, a full-size gym and an indoor running track, will headline the first phase of the project, along with a 1.5-acre space with a fountain plaza and amphitheater, officials said. The second phase includes more housing, commercial and community space.

Developers want to modify a portion of Municipal Lot 1 in downtown Flushing, though NYCEDC President Seth Pinsky said existing parking spaces would be maintained during construction.

There will be a total of 1,600 parking spaces — an increase of 500 — at the project’s completion, according to officials.

The development is expected to create more than 2,600 construction jobs and 1,900 permanent jobs, the NYCEDC said.

With additional reporting by Terence M. Cullen

 

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Woodhaven-Richmond Hill Senior Center finds temporary location after building damage


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre

The Woodhaven-Richmond Hill Senior Center has found a temporary location after the building was damaged, but leaders still say there’s no place like home.

The center, which is operated by Catholic Charities Brooklyn and Queens, recently moved to the American Legion Post 118 at 89-02 91st Street after a building adjacent to the center’s location on Jamaica Avenue collapsed, damaging the roof and kitchen.

“We were concerned about the winter months with the snow and rain,” said Judith Kleve, vice president of Older Adult Services at Catholic Charities. “We are very relieved that the American Legion opened their doors to us.”

The center, which is funded by the city’s Department for the Aging, has more than 200 seniors enrolled and about 70 visit daily.

The staff prepares free meals every day and organizes exercise programs, including yoga and dancing, and educational lectures on topics such as arthritis and diabetes. During the temporary move the center is providing shuttles from the original location.

Despite joy for the temporary site, seniors want to return to the old building soon, because the American Legion building is too small, according to Kleve. But first, owners of the collapsed building, 78-19 Jamaica Avenue LLC, must fix it or the seniors can’t return.

“The situation is only going to get worst with the rain and snow coming,” State Senator Joe Addabbo said. “We need to get the owner to start fixing it now.”

The politician is working with other leaders to put pressure on the owners to repair the property. Addabbo met with officials from the Department of Buildings (DOB) this week to discuss the collapsed building, which has about a dozen violations and $11,000 in fines, according to the DOB.

The members of the center are hoping they can move back by next year.

“The seniors were very happy to know that the senior center was still open and that they had a safe site,” Kleve said. “But they still want to go home.”

The owners of 78-19 Jamaica Avenue LLC could not be reached for comment.

 

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Willets Point business owners expect to reopen


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

Nearly one dozen Willets Point business owners who had their auto shops abruptly shut down by the city two weeks ago said they expect to reopen in a few days.

“We all have families,” said Wais Mohibi, owner of Discount Muffler in the Iron Triangle. “Don’t just come in without warning, without anything, and just shut us down.”

The city’s Department of Buildings (DOB) issued partial vacate orders two weeks ago to five businesses at 38-01 126th Street for “illegal, unsafe construction,” according to a department spokesperson.

About five other shops at 37-11 126th Street were also shut down. Vacate orders had been in effect at those locations since 2009, the DOB said.

The businesses were hit with violations for working without permits and for having improper lightweight steel, called C-joist, installed at their sites, according to the department.

The DOB said C-joist construction without proper shoring affects the structural stability of buildings and can cause collapse. Such conditions led to the death of one Brooklyn construction workers last year, the department said.

Most of the business owners dealing with vacate orders are working out deals with the city to sell their property. However, they said they did not expect to be forced out of their jobs so quickly. They added that the vacates left them with nothing.

“All our equipment is inside. We can’t do anything,” Mohibi said. “That’s not fair at all. We’re basically going to be in the street.”

Marco Neira, president of the Willets Point Defense Committee, said business owners expect their stores will temporarily reopen by Monday, June 3.

He said Councilmember Julissa Ferreras’s office has been in touch with the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD), which will handle repairs to the stores.

According to an HPD spokesperson, the repairs will be funded by the city and will begin in the next few days. The spokesperson added that there is no timeline yet for the project’s completion.

Ferreras said those owners should be able to return next week at the very latest.

“The city has to treat us as human beings,” Neira said. “I know they want this land. They can have this land, but not in this way.”

According to the DOB, business owners have to submit new design drawings, obtain permits and install proper shoring before their shops can reopen.

The establishments are located at the heart a $3 billion city project to transform the area into a major commercial hub.

“This is obviously harassment by the city of New York because this area is slated for redevelopment,” said State Senator Tony Avella. “It’s death by a thousand cuts.”

 

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Pol helps bust LIC rock gym owner for alleged bribery attempt


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Rendering courtesy of Mike Wolfert

In the midst of ongoing turmoil in city politics, one politician has helped bring a Long Island City business owner to justice for an alleged bribery attempt.

According to the Department of Investigation, Mike Wolfert, owner of a rock climbing facility called The Cliffs, received a Stop Work Order for failing to obtain the correct permit to convert a large warehouse into a 30,000-square-foot climbing arena. An unannounced inspection by the City’s Department of Buildings (DOB) reportedly prompted the order.

Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer said on April 10, he received a “disturbing” and “inappropriate” message from Wolfert allegedly asking for help with the violations. The message allegedly offered to provide assistance promoting Van Bramer’s campaign in return for the favor.

After reading the email several times, Van Bramer believed the only appropriate response was to tell the City Council’s General Counsel, who then notified the Department of Investigation (DOI). The tip led to a four-week undercover investigation of Wolfert.

“I don’t believe there was an option here, I had an obligation to report it,” said Van Bramer. “I’m not a hero. Every elected official, if presented with something like this, should always respond like this.”

According to a criminal complaint issued by the district attorney, on two occasions Wolfert allegedly paid a total of $1,094 to a DOI undercover investigator posing as a DOB inspector offering help getting the Stop Work Order withdrawn.

Wolfert is charged with bribery in the third degree and unlawful continuance. If convicted, he faces up to seven years in prison for the bribery charge and fines up to $25,000 as well as up to a year in prison for the unlawful continuance.

“We’re grateful that at a time when some people are succumbing to corruption, this was reported to DOI,” said DOI Commissioner Rose Gill Hearn. “Cutting corners illegally and paying off city employees is not acceptable.”

Michael Lambert, Wolfert’s lawyer, declined to comment at this point in the investigation. Wolfert also declined to comment.

The Cliffs was expected to open this month, but is now looking to open its doors in July.

 

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Residents want landlord held responsible for Woodhaven building collapse


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Twitter / @FDNY

BY LUKE TABET

Concerned Woodhaven residents want to know what repercussions, if any, a local landowner will face after his building collapsed last month, damaging the adjacent Volunteer Ambulance Corps and forcing residents to leave the Woodhaven Senior Center.

An abandoned furniture store at 78-19 Jamaica Avenue crumbled onto the street on April 12, crushing a minivan parked out front and shutting down a section of the road while debris was removed.

The 78-19 Jamaica Avenue LLC owns the building, according to the Department of Finance.

At a May 18 meeting of the Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association (WRBA), many voiced their desire to see the landlord held responsible for alleged negligence that led to the vacant building’s collapse.

According to the Department of Buildings’ (DOB) website, the structure had 35 violations and a partial vacate order before the collapse.

An impending Environmental Control Board hearing will determine if the owner — who could not be reached — is at fault for the violations.

The Woodhaven Senior Center is currently covered by a tarp, which must be proven watertight before seniors will be allowed back into the building.

 

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