Tag Archives: Jack Friedman

Community expresses concerns about Astoria Cove development


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Renderings Courtesy STUDIO V Architecture

The process to bring an approximately 1.7-million-square-foot mixed-use development to the Astoria waterfront got off to a bumpy start as developers presented their proposal to the local community board.

Architect Jay Valgora of STUDIO V Architecture presented the proposed development known as Astoria Cove to Community Board (CB) 1 Tuesday night as the first step in the Uniform Land Use Review Process (ULURP) for the project.

“Today this waterfront is not accessible,” Valgora said. “It’s really not an amenity or asset for the community and we would like to tie that back in and create a wonderful extension to the community.”

The proposed Astoria Cove by developers Alma Realty is expected to consist of five buildings, three on the waterfront ranging from 26 to 32 stories and two on the upland portion of the site, including a six-story residential building and 456-seat public elementary school.

The project, which is expected to take more than 10 years to complete in four different phases, will also include about 84,000 square feet of publicly accessible open space, featuring a waterfront esplanade, children’s playground for various ages and streetscape design through the site.

“We think it’s just going to bring life and activity to this neighborhood,” Valgora said.

However the project was met with concerns from community board members who brought up issues of safety, handicap accessibility, affordable housing, parking, a medical center at the site, and construction and permanent jobs.

Along with the board members, more than 50 people signed up to speak on the project including members of Build Up NYC, an alliance of construction and building service workers. The alliance called on the community board to recommend Alma Realty ensure good and safe jobs with fair wages and benefits, protect workers and the community by removing asbestos and other toxins, create opportunities for local residents and much more.

“Alma Realty has an opportunity to create good, safe jobs with priority hiring for local residents and opportunities for local businesses,” said Gary LaBarbera, president of Build Up NYC. “But they haven’t made a commitment to do so. We need good jobs and affordable housing to keep the middle class strong.”

One of the main concerns shared by speakers was the number of affordable housing units at Astoria Cove. The site is expected to have 295 affordable housing units throughout the entire site, down from initially reported 340 units.

“We might be middle class but we’re not idiots and we can see the writing on the wall; we are not wanted at Astoria Cove,” said Astoria resident Tyler Ocon. “The community board is the first line of defense now against these underhanded tactics. Without the originally promised affordable housing units and a guarantee that these units will remain forever affordable, this project will be the first gust of wind that ships Astoria’s middle and working class up the East River.”

Howard Weiss, attorney for Alma Realty, said developers are in talks with the Department of City Planning to increase the number of units but will not have the number in time for the community board’s decision.

Residents also said they are concerned the development would increase rents, pushing out those currently living in the community.

On the other end, some speakers expressed excitement on the idea of the economic benefits and opportunities of the development. Both Jack Friedman, executive director of the Queens Chamber of Commerce, and Brian McCabe, COO of New York Water Taxi, spoke on the possibility of a ferry terminal being located at the site.

After the last speaker took the podium, CB 1 Chair Vinicio Donato said the board’s land use committee would vote on the proposal the following week. If the board approves it, the proposal will head to the borough president and make its way to the City Council by the late fall.

“Remember, the key word is recommendation. We have no authority to force anyone to do anything,” Donato said.

 

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Call for full gaming at Resorts World Casino


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

File photo

Politicians and leaders in the Queens business community are calling for the state to ante up on full gaming in Queens.

State legislators and the Queens Chamber of Commerce called for a better plan to give Queens a casino if voters approve table gaming this November. They said Resorts World Casino New York City could become a full casino just months after the referendum is passed.

Governor Andrew Cuomo has said if complete gaming is approved, an upstate casino will be the first to reap the benefits and drive tourism north. Queens might not get a casino until five years after the referendum passes.

The Queens Chamber of Commerce’s Executive Director Jack Friedman said both upstate and downstate New York will have an opportunity for full casinos if voters approve them.

“We’re saying to the governor, this is not an either-or proposition,” Friedman said. “There’s room for both. Let’s do it now. Resorts World is ready, willing and able to take on table gaming, and it would be a big, big boost to the Queens economy.”

The Racino has boasted more than a billion dollars in total revenue – a large amount of which goes back to the state for education – along with employment opportunities for locals.

Councilmember Leroy Comrie said the Racino has hired many people in his district. He added that more jobs from full gaming would help unemployed people in Queens, especially those affected by Sandy.

State Senator Joseph Addabbo, whose district includes Resorts World, said the Racino could have table games as early as January 2014 if Queens is approved under the state’s plan.

Both Addabbo and Assemblymember Phillip Goldfeder said they and their communities could not wait up to five years for full gaming to come to Queens.

Addabbo said he is pushing for a sooner start time if a casino is cleared for south Queens. In the remaining five weeks the legislature is in session, the senator said there are still considerable discussions that have to take place.

“We are in uncharted territory here,” Addabbo said. “This is an unpaved road for our state. We’ve never been in a position like this before for full gaming.”

Goldfeder said the tools were already at Resorts World to set up expanded gaming at the facility.

“Infrastructure is already in place,” he said. “Anybody who’s been there knows there’s a third floor ready to expand, to house the table games. You have a trusted partner that is willing. You have a location that is perfect and now is the time.”

 

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Parking just got more pleasant


| mpantelidis@queenscourier.com


Newly approved legislation is providing drivers with peace of mind by curbing unfair parking fines.

Councilmember James Gennaro joined community leaders and residents to celebrate the passage of a law requiring any parking ticket to be cancelled upon the presentation of a valid muni-meter receipt no later than five minutes after the violation is issued. Under the current law, tickets cannot be cancelled once issued by a traffic enforcement agent, even if a driver shows a valid muni-meter receipt – forcing citizens to appeal the violation in court or pay the fine.

“This is a common-sense law,” said Gennaro, who sponsored the bill. “If you park your car at a metered spot and you walk to the muni-meter to pay for it, you’re playing by the rules. And if there’s a parking agent close by, or you’re elderly and walk slowly or there’s someone in front of you at the muni-meter terminal, you shouldn’t be penalized as if you were trying to cheat the system.”

The City Council initially passed the bill in January, but it was vetoed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg a month later. The mayor’s veto was ultimately overruled by the council on March 28 by a vote of 47 to 2. The law will officially take effect on September 24, allowing the city 180 days to change its parking scanners to be able to cancel violations immediately.

“This law is great news for small business owners in Queens and throughout the city,” said Jack Friedman, executive director of the Queens Chamber of Commerce. “When drivers are unfairly ticketed for parking on the street, small businesses suffer, too. The shoppers effectively blame the merchant – they don’t come back.”

Business owners echoed Friedman, emphasizing that parking tickets may deter patrons from returning to certain areas.

“It’s going to make a difference,” said Wendy Marsh, owner of Marsh Optical and former president of the Union Turnpike Merchants Association. “It’s enough that they get tickets all the time here anyway. People get tickets, they don’t want to shop here.”

Drivers have also expressed relief that they no longer have to fret about being hit with a ticket.

“I think it’s only reasonable to extend the five minutes to people. It was unfair that they previously didn’t do this,” said John Sotirakis, a resident of Bayside who frequently uses muni-meter parking spots on Bell Boulevard. “I was lucky that it never happened to me, but sometimes I’d have to stop and speak to a parking agent when they were lingering around so that they wouldn’t give me a ticket while I was going to the meter. This is much better now – there is less pressure.”

No ticket while getting your ticket


| mpantelidis@queenscourier.com


New legislation is aiming to please drivers by “parking” many of their muni-meter tickets.

The City Council recently passed a bill that will spare commuters the stress of receiving a parking ticket while retrieving their muni-meter receipt. Prior to the bill, if a driver presented a valid receipt to a traffic enforcement agent, there was no way for the agent to revoke the ticket.

The legislation, which was introduced by Councilmember James Gennaro, requires a ticket to be cancelled if a valid receipt is shown no later than five minutes after the issuance of the violation. The canceled ticket would read, “Valid muni-meter receipt shown, ticket canceled,” and would include the number printed on the muni-meter receipt — sparing drivers the inconvenience of appealing the ticket by appearing in court.

“New York City drivers feel enough anxiety every day already without having to worry about getting a ticket while they’re walking to the muni-meter,” Gennaro said. “By ensuring that premature violations are canceled if a receipt is shown within five minutes of the ticket being written, my bill will bring a little peace of mind to residents who are trying to do the right thing and pay for their parking.”

The bill was co-sponsored by Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr., who also supported approved legislation declaring the presentation of a valid muni-meter receipt as a viable defense for the failure to display the voucher on a dashboard.

“It’s absurd to think that they could place a muni-meter a half block from where you’ve parked, force you to walk to obtain a receipt, and then ticket you as you’re returning to your car — but it happens,” Vallone said. “Once again, we had to write legislation to combat something that should never have been occurring in the first place.”

Jack Friedman, executive director of the Queens Chamber of Commerce, praised the bill for the positive effects it will have on small businesses.

“Allowing a ticket to be canceled upon the showing of a valid receipt no later than five minutes after the issuance of the ticket is both fair and reasonable,” Friedman said in a letter to Gennaro. “Before the introduction of this law, even people attempting to comply with the law were penalized. Small business owners have enough to contend with in today’s economy. Scaring consumers from metered spots certainly didn’t help.”

Drivers shared feelings of frustration that the legislation was not in place from the start, while also expressing relief for no longer being at risk of receiving an unjustified ticket.

“It has been a horror because I have received a couple tickets while I was walking to the meter,” said Antonietta Mandione, a Bayside resident. “I tried to fight them in court and I never won. I always had to pay the ticket, and it wasn’t fair. If it is raining or snowing someone could slip, and I have to drag my kids with me and run back to my car. The parking agents are fast in giving out tickets. This new law will save us a lot of time in running to the meter. It is going to be a big improvement because we won’t have to kill ourselves to get back to the car. The city [didn’t have this law from the beginning] because it wants to collect more money from us.”

Conventional Wisdom: Cuomo pushes for center in Queens


| smosco@queenscourier.com

Images Courtesy of Resorts World

During his State of the State address on January 4, Governor Andrew Cuomo made many bold pronouncements, but perhaps his most ambitious statement was his proposal for the “nation’s largest convention center in Queens.”

And the governor already has a spot picked out and a developer in mind – Genting America, the company which brought the Resorts World casino to the grounds of the Aqueduct Racino in South Ozone Park, which announced its plans for a convention center in a letter of intent.

Dubbed the New York International Convention and Exhibition Center (NICE), the $4 billion project would be financed by Resorts World and would encompass 3.8 million-square-feet, with the first phase to be completed by November 2014 at the earliest.

The project would also include up to 3,000 hotel rooms, and officials believe, all told, it would bring 10,000 construction jobs, 10,000 permanent jobs and tens of thousands of ancillary jobs throughout the borough.

“I personally think this is a good thing,” said Paul Anteri, a resident from the area surrounding Resorts World. “It’ll bring more revenue to the area. Usually when you develop convention centers, it tends to bring a better type of people to the area. It brings business, jobs, tourism. A convention center means you’re going to need hotels, places for people to stay and eat. It’ll just help raise small businesses.”

While most elected officials are putting their support behind Cuomo, many believe developers must have their ears open to community input.

“I am enthusiastic about the idea of a convention center at the Aqueduct Racetrack site, but I also believe we should proceed forward in a cautious manner,” said State Senator Joseph Addabbo. “I am an advocate for community input on this project and feel most people would want to see plans or drawings for the proposal. Given our current economic situation, I would certainly work toward creating the thousands of jobs and revenue to the city and state the convention center brings.”

Assemblymember Phillip Goldfeder echoed Addabbo belief that the community must be involved in the planning process.

“The proposal to build the largest convention center in the nation at Aqueduct is an ambitious plan that must be undertaken responsibly and appropriately with real community involvement and participation,” he said.

Representatives from the Queens Chamber of Commerce, which has advocated for a convention center in Queens for almost a decade, added that this project will give the people of Queens what it needs most – jobs.

“This is a great day for the people of Queens County and the Queens Chamber of Commerce,” said Jack Friedman, executive director.

Carol Conslato, the Chamber’s president, who attended the State of the State speech, added, “The Governor’s plan to build a 3.8-million-square-foot facility with 3,000 new hotel rooms at Aqueduct Racetrack is a huge victory for the borough of Queens.”