Tag Archives: HPD

Woodhaven ‘eyesore’ will not be knocked down


| ejankiewicz@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Eric Jankiewicz

The owners of a partially collapsed Woodhaven building have prevented the city from demolishing their building by coming to a settlement to repair the collapsed roof by Oct. 15, according to court records and the lawyer representing its owners.

The building on 78-19 Jamaica Ave., considered an eyesore by many in the community, had originally been given a stay of demolition which expired on July 16. But the owners were able to prevent a demolition of the building after they sued the city for “arbitrary and capricious” conduct. The owners settled, agreeing to have the building fixed and completed by October.

“The engineer is working diligently to comply with the Department of Buildings,” , said Elio Forcina, the owners’ lawyer. “Once the building is finished, it will be very beautiful and the community will love it.”

The building was originally occupied by a furniture store until it was vacated in April 2013 when the middle of the roof collapsed. It is now wrapped in scaffolding and its next-door neighbors, The Catholic Charities Woodhaven-Richmond Hill Senior Center, also had to closed, relocating to the nearby American Legion Post 118 building.

During a meeting on the issue, held by the Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association, Department of Buildings (DOB) representative Kenneth Lazar told residents that construction would begin after Independence Day, according to the DOB.

But after Forcina sued the DOB and Department of Housing Preservation and Development, the two settled on the October completion date.

“As of now, my client’s done everything he can,” Forcino said.

The building had been deemed unsafe by the DOB, prompting the call for demolition, but Forcino said that the dilapidated building didn’t pose any public health risk and therefore it wasn’t fair that the city was going to demolish the structure.

“We felt that the city was being capricious because this was never a public safety issue.”

 

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TF Cornerstone selected to develop Phase II of Hunters Point South


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Renderings courtesy of ODA

TF Cornerstone, a real estate developer that has built several residential buildings along the Long Island City waterfront, has been selected to build the second phase of the city’s Hunter’s Point South project.

TF Cornerstone is part of a team with Selfhelp Community Services that will develop a total of 1,193 new apartments in two high-rise buildings at the Long Island City site, the NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) said Friday.

Of those units, which will be a mix of with studio, one- , two- ,and three-bedroom, 796 apartments will be affordable, with 100 reserved for low-income senior citizens, according to HPD.

“When TF Cornerstone broke ground on our LIC Waterfront project more than ten years ago, we envisioned the creation of a multi-faceted, family-friendly community with diverse retail options, top-of-the-line schools and expansive park space. [This] designation by HPD enables us to continue our pursuit of these goals in what is now an already-thriving LIC waterfront, while creating greatly needed affordable housing,” said K. Thomas Elghanayan, chairman and co-founder of TF Cornerstone.

The buildings will feature a fitness facility, rooftop gardens and decks, children’s playroom, an on-site senior recreational center and other amenities, said the HPD.

There are also preliminary plans for a pre-kindergarten, a medical facility, a rock climbing gym, and new restaurants at the site’s 20,000-gross-square-feet of commercial space. It also has 10,000-gross-square-feet of new community space that will be “programmed with local arts-based community groups.” Additionally, the site design incorporates numerous community green spaces, according to HPD.

Designed by ODA, the buildings will also have impressive features.

Their design “enhances the Queens skyline” with “stepped terraces that echo the Art Deco skyscrapers of Manhattan.”

 

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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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Flushing set to get affordable housing, retail space


| editorial@queenscourier.com

Macedonia Rendering 032212w

A nearly $50 million project will soon bring 143 new units of affordable housing to the Flushing community, as well as additional retail space.

Last week, the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) Commissioner Mathew Wambua, the city’s Housing Development Corporation (HDC) President Marc Jahr, project developer BRP Companies Managing Partner Meredith Marshall, and Macedonia AME Church Senior Pastor Reverend Richard McEachern announced they have closed on $49.6 million in construction financing for the Macedonia Plaza mixed-use development.

Located at 136-50 37th Avenue, Macedonia Plaza will add 143 newly-constructed units of affordable housing. This project, which will be developed by BRP Companies, will transform an underused municipal parking lot into a thriving community hub with affordable low-income apartments, community facility space and economic opportunity through the addition of new retail space.

Macedonia Plaza is part of Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s New Housing Marketplace Plan (NHMP). The NHMP is a multi-billion dollar initiative to finance 165,000 units of affordable housing for half a million New Yorkers by the close of Fiscal Year 2014. For every dollar invested by the city, the NHMP has leveraged $3.41 in private funding, amounting to a total commitment to date of more than $19.4 billion to fund the creation or preservation of over 130,700 units of affordable housing across the five boroughs. More than 12,519 units have been financed in Queens.

“Financing the transaction that allows Macedonia Plaza to be built is another important step in fulfilling the Mayor’s New Housing Marketplace Plan’s goal of creating or preserving 165,000 home by the close of the 2014 fiscal year,” said Wambua. “To date we’ve financed the construction or preservation of more than 130,700 homes, and every one of those units represents a family in need. In BRP Companies and Macedonia AME Church we have dedicated partners who are helping to bring affordable, sustainable housing to the Flushing community, and an opportunity for stability to hardworking New York families.”

Macedonia Plaza will be constructed on approximately 30,000 square-feet of the current municipal parking lot, which was conveyed to the developer at a nominal cost to help subsidize the affordability of this development.

When complete, Macedonia Plaza will be 14 stories tall with 143 affordable apartments;113 of the apartments will be available to low-income families earning not more than $48,140 for a family of four. Nearly 30 of the apartments will be available for low-income families earning not more than $31,540 for a family of four. There will be one apartment reserved for the building’s superintendent. The unit distribution will include 27 studios, 58 one‐bedroom apartments, 55 two‐bedroom apartments, and two three‐bedroom apartments. It is anticipated that construction will be complete in the spring of 2014.

The total development cost for the Macedonia Plaza project is $49.6 million. HDC is providing a $26.3 million first mortgage and $9.3 million in tax-exempt bond subsidy through its Low-Income Affordable Marketplace Program (LAMP). HPD is providing $5.1 million in city capital funding and $1.7 million in federal HOME funding. Hudson Housing Capital is providing $1.8 million in tax credit equity, and BRP Companies has allocated $5.4 million for this project.

In additional to the affordable residential component, the Macedonia Plaza development will include approximately 6,287 square-feet of new retail space, and 2,767 square-feet of community space. It will also incorporate green building practices and amenities consistent with the city’s mission to produce affordable, healthy and sustainable housing.

The project site will incorporate air rights from the adjacent Macedonia African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church, which recently celebrated its bicentennial and is one of the oldest houses of worship in Queens.

“I am elated that the construction of affordable housing by the Macedonia AME Church is about to begin,” said Councilmember Peter Koo. “This development will create homes for the most socio-economic disadvantage citizens of Flushing and is a reflection that affordable housing concerns still remain as a fundamental need in our communities.”

 

Affordable housing for seniors


| tcimino@queenscourier.com


Some seniors may soon have an affordable place to call home.

Officials from the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD), New York City Housing Development Corporation (HDC), New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) and the MET Council celebrated the opening of Council Towers VI in Pomonok.

Located at 71st Avenue between Kissena and Parsons boulevards, the building is the sixth in a series of completed senior housing buildings designed to serve as supportive affordable housing for New York City residents 62 years of age and older.

Council Towers VI was developed under Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s New Housing Marketplace Plan (NHMP), a multibillion dollar initiative to finance 165,000 units of affordable housing for half a million New Yorkers by the close of the 2014 fiscal year. To date, the plan has funded the creation or preservation of over 129,200 units of affordable housing across the five boroughs, with 12,500 of those units in Queens.

“HUD has no higher mission than improving people’s lives and strengthening communities, and this wonderful senior development does just that,” said Mirza Orriols, deputy regional administrator. “The latest statistics indicate that one in five New York City residents live in poverty, many of whom, unfortunately, are the elderly living on meager pensions or income.”

Council Towers VI is an eight-story building with 77 one-bedroom rental units and one unit reserved for an on-site superintendent. Twenty-five percent of the units have a preference for existing NYCHA tenants. All units have a senior preference for tenants age 62 and older. The units will be available to tenants earning no more than 50 percent Area Median Income (AMI) or $28,650 for an individual. The tenants’ rent will be set at 30 percent household income.

Residents of Council Towers VI have access to a variety of on-site services. Management staff will provide case management, benefits and entitlements advice and advocacy, as well as on-site education and recreational activities. An experienced social worker will serve as a support service coordinator. Staff will be equipped to refer tenants to off-site licensed health care agencies to provide home care, adult daycare, hospital services, medical education and nursing home options. Additional on-site services include Meals-On-Wheels, housekeeping assistance, counseling and recreational trips. Through the New York State Department of Transportation, Met Council provides transportation for the elderly to essential appointments and recreational outings.

 

Residents allege Jamaica building is a ‘nightmare’


| mpantelidis@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/photos by Michael Pantelidis

Residents of one Jamaica apartment building say they are living in hell, spending their nights shivering and waiting for their homes to “freeze over” before repairs are made.

Numerous tenants of Loval Hall, located at 88-22 Parsons Boulevard, have complained about dangerous and unlivable conditions in their apartments – including leaky roofs, shoddy plumbing and no heat overnight.

“There’s something wrong here – it is a nightmare,” said Amy Anderson, the building’s tenant representative. “Every night, the heat has been off from around midnight to 6 a.m. If the oil tank is empty or very low they don’t fill it and we don’t get heat. If you call the landlord you get a recording machine and no one calls you back. The thing that frightens me most is that nobody seems to care.”

Anderson says tenants receive little to no aid from the landlord, New York Affordable Housing, or superintendent, John Alba.

Naomi Ferdoushi, who lives with her husband and 6-month-old son, says her family has contracted serious illnesses due to the lack of heat.

“The baby wakes up and cries a lot,” said Ferdoushi. “He got a cough, and last week my baby and I both had a fever. He was so sick I had to take him to the emergency room.”

Ferdoushi also says her radiator leaks into the apartment below and that the super threatened he would close the heat for the entire building if she did not turn hers off.

Shameema Ferdousi, who lives directly below Ferdoushi, said the radiator leaks directly onto her daughter’s bed.

“For the past several weeks, water floods into the room all night and soaks the bed when the radiator upstairs is on,” she said.

Proctor Martin, who shares an apartment with his wife, two kids and elderly mother-in-law, says the conditions throughout his home make him fear for his family’s well being.

“I had a front door with a rope instead of a knob for four months. If there was a fire, I don’t know what I would have done,” said Martin, whose family has lived in the building for almost four decades. “There was a leak in the sink for about a year. After they fixed it, the tiles popped up because of the leak. For months, about a third of the floor was covered with tiles and the rest was exposed plywood. You have to go through highways and hell to get [Alba] to do anything.”

Martin says both his door and floor were recently fixed – only because he took the landlord to court and the judge ordered the work be completed.

Sergio Gonzalez, a tenant for 38 years, has had a myriad of difficulties in his apartment, including all his windows being bolted shut – which the landlord was ordered by the Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) to correct – and a broken toilet, forcing him to relieve himself in a waste paper basket for eight days.

The building’s sewers were also backed up from February to May of last year, causing feces to frequently flood the alleyway.

Although the problem was eventually resolved with the help of HPD, the department says the super did deny them access to the building multiple times.

Many residents have also expressed concern regarding the building’s ability to sustain a proper evacuation in the event of a fire.

Anderson says she has found emergency fire exits locked, and the fire escapes are old and bent with a significant amount of rust – making them potentially incapable of supporting people during an evacuation.

The landlord received a violation and an order to fix the fire escape from the FDNY on February 2.

According to an HPD spokesperson, Loval Hall currently has 86 open violations, 18 of which were issued this past January. From 2002 to 2011, HPD spent roughly $20,600 to perform emergency repairs on hazardous violations, due to the lack of corrective action by the owner.

HPD’s Housing Litigation Division (HLD) has also been involved in 12 cases in housing court filed against the owner between 2005 and 2011. HLD recently resolved a Comprehensive Case against the landlord, ordering the correction of all outstanding violations, due to the owners’ failure to do so in a timely manner. The case included $20,030 in civil penalties.

Despite the countless complaints by residents, New York Affordable was removed from Public Advocate Bill de Blasio’s worst landlords list in November for trimming the building’s violations down from 144. A spokesperson for de Blasio says the building still requires significant improvements and the history of tenant harassment calls for close attention.

Repeated attempts to contact New York Affordable went unreturned.

Alba says the building has improved dramatically since he became super and that Anderson has been unwilling to work with him to further improve living conditions. Among the recent enhancements the super says he has made is the installation of security cameras, wireless temperature sensors and a new water pump.

“This building, with the violations, was bad,” said Alba. “I told Ms. Anderson to give me six months in the building before you call the Department of Buildings, and she refused to do that. I have not gotten a lot of complaints about the heat either – only from [Anderson]. The boiler is set on winter, so it automatically goes on and off. It is not on manual, but I sleep comfortably.”

Beyond dangers within their apartments, numerous tenants have also expressed fear due to Alba, who they say has physically and verbally assaulted, as well as harassed them.

“He pushed me in front of my wife. I went to ask him about the door knob and he pushed me,” said Martin. “On Christmas, my son and his friend were talking in the hallway and the super said, ‘You better get out of my hallway or watch what I’ll do.’ This guy is acting like a bouncer.”

Martin, an African American, also says the super has directed racial slurs towards him.

Anderson, who has a restraining order against Alba, claims he has threatened, cursed and spit at her.

“He has gone after me, Sergio, the Martins, and has threatened people not to call 3-1-1 or open their mouths,” she said.

Gonzalez also claims the super peeped into his bathroom window – which looks out onto the alleyway – while he was showering and cut his television antenna on the roof.

“It’s a nightmare living here,” said Gonzalez, who has filed six incidents with the NYPD against Alba, including one for petit larceny, one for criminal mischief and four for harassment. “Nobody would want to live so close to this devil. He harasses me 10 to 12 times a day. He verbally harasses me with all the nasty words you can imagine. He has told me he’s going to kill me. One time he made his hand like a gun and shot at me.”

According to Ferdousi, the most frightening feature is the landlord’s attempt to force her from her apartment by claiming she does not pay her rent – which she says she always mails on time.

“I send my rent certified mail with return receipts,” Ferdousi said. “They are doing this to harass me to get me out and raise the rent.”

Currently, three families have harassment cases against Alba and New York Affordable.

Alba, who admits to formerly having a drug problem and serving time in prison for robbery, claims he has never harassed or harmed any tenants.

“Am I aggressive sometimes? Yes,” he said. “When I see people trying to plot against me, yes I’m going to be aggressive. They say I harass them, but they spend all their days calling newspapers and the city departments. They have nothing better to do. There are no problems in here.”

Some residents can attest to Alba’s claim, asserting that the building has improved dramatically during his time in charge.

“I’ve never had a problem with this super,” said Lisa Dickstein. “[Anderson] has lied about the super and she thought I would lie when I have had no problem. He has been doing a great job. [Anderson] comes out of nowhere and complains. I have never had a problem with the heat.”

Anderson, along with other tenants, believes residents who do not speak out against the super are either immigrants who are unaware of the law or scared of him.

“When you have people from other countries who don’t know their rights and they move into a building, if you tell them something and it is not the truth, they have no frame of reference,” said Anderson. “They are lying to the people, and they don’t know any better. Other people are just too afraid to talk.”

Help for Home Owners


| mpantelidis@queenscourier.com


The city is aiming to restore the homeownership hopes of Queens residents hit hard by the foreclosure crisis.

Deputy Mayor Robert Steel and New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) Commissioner Mathew Wambua joined Queens elected officials, as well as representatives from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the New York Mortgage Coalition on November 15 to announce the commencement of the Neighborhood Stabilization Program 2 (NSP2) Buyer Assistance Program.

The program, which targets areas in Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island, grants qualified homebuyers with as much as $80,000 in forgivable loans towards the purchase of foreclosed or vacant homes in eligible neighborhoods. Housing counseling and homeowner training will also be provided for participants as part of the program.

“HUD’s investment in New York City via the NSP2 program is a key component in Mayor Bloomberg’s efforts to help reverse the deleterious effects of foreclosure on our neighborhoods,” said Steel. “The single-family foreclosure crisis has significantly impacted neighborhoods across Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island, and stabilizing these communities is critical to New York City’s economic recovery. HPD’s efforts in securing this funding and working with the NY Mortgage Coalition in creating this initiative will help make homes affordable for qualified buyers looking to put down roots in these neighborhoods.”

After the creation of NSP2, HPD assessed the level of foreclosure activity in each eligible census area between 2007 and 2009. During their study, the department determined that roughly 8,133 total mortgages were in danger of foreclosure, 5,780 of which were in Queens.

Eligible neighborhoods were selected by HUD based on the severity to which they were adversely impacted by the foreclosure crisis. Jackson Heights, Corona, the Rockways, Bellerose, Rosedale, Howard Beach, Jamaica and South Ozone Park are the Queens communities eligible for the program.

“The NSP has been able to help stabilize housing prices and neighborhoods in Queens,” said Councilmember Leroy Comrie, who represents Jamaica and Rosedale. “Having worked with constituents and with non-profits in the borough, I have seen firsthand how this program helped counsel new homeowners, preserve the quality of life within the community, and give us a fighting chance against the foreclosure crisis, which makes me glad to see it will continue.”

Prospective homebuyers who hope to participate in the Buyer Assistance Program cannot have an income in excess of 120 percent of the Area Median Income. They are also required to receive a minimum of eight hours of homeownership counseling and the foreclosed or vacant home must become the participant’s primary residence.

“Investing in our neighborhoods is essential if we are to preserve them,” said Wambua. “NSP helps us to educate and empower families, allowing those who qualify to make affordable investments in areas of Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island that have borne the brunt of small home foreclosures.”

Heating season begins


| rcasiano@queenscourier.com


As temperatures dip, the city is making sure that Queens apartment dwellers stay nice and toasty.

Heating season kicked off on Saturday, October 1, and the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) is urging landlords in Queens and throughout the city to provide adequate heat in their residential buildings.

HPD Commissioner Mathew Wambua defended residents’ rights to basic services such as heat and hot water in their homes.

“If their landlords aren’t taking action to provide heat, they should call 3-1-1 immediately. All heat complaints are investigated,” Wambua said.

Heating season runs through May 31. The city has released guidelines for tenants and landlords of residential buildings:

When the temperatures fall below 55 degrees between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m., apartments must be heated to at least 68 degrees Fahrenheit. At night, between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m., building owners must heat apartments to 55 degrees when temperatures dip below 40 degrees. Hot water is required to be maintained at 120 degrees.

The Astoria Restoration Association is doing its part to help out during heating season.

The housing advocacy group is assisting Queens residents in applying for heat and federal financial assistance with their heating bill, a representative said.

During last year’s heating season, Queens filed 483 cases of heat and hot water problems, out of 3,581 cases reported citywide, according to HPD.

If you have any heating-related concerns, call 3-1-1.