Tag Archives: Mayor Bill de Blasio

City seeking developer for seven-acre plot near JFK


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photo via NYCEDC JFK North RFEI

A seven-acre vacant piece of land near John F. Kennedy Airport could be the future home of a new office or industrial complex as the city Economic Development Corporation is seeking investors interested in the site.

The city agency released a request for expressions of interest (RFEI), first spotted by the Commercial Observer, for developers looking to purchase or lease the land and then redevelop the site, which is located in Springfield Gardens.

The land is bounded to the north by Rockaway Boulevard, to the south by the Nassau Expressway and to the west the Federal Aviation Administration office building.

Although the city has been recently releasing information for many Queens sites for more housing opportunities, such as Sunnyside Yards or vacant plots in Jamaica, to meet Mayor Bill de Blasio’s affordable housing goals, the EDC isn’t hiding the fact that this particular site should be for commercial or industrial uses.

“The project offers a unique opportunity to develop a commercial and/or industrial building on a very large vacant parcel adjacent to the airport,” the NYCEDC said. “Given the site’s [seven-acre] size, respondents have the opportunity to create a modern campus plan with industrial and/or commercial programming that supports job-intensive uses and attracts both established and growing businesses.”

As a residential community, Springfield Gardens, where planes fly over residents’ heads non-stop, has suffered from airplane noise. The area even had the borough’s worst housing selling rate in 2014.

But being so close to the major international gateway, Springfield Gardens contains one of the air cargo industry’s largest concentrations of custom brokers, freight forwarders, and numerous other airport-related industrial facilities, according to the RFEI, meaning the possible new complex could continue to expand the boom industry already in place.

Developers have until May 4 to send proposals for the site.

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City collecting proposals for Sunnyside Yards feasibility study


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photo via NYCEDC Sunnyside Yards Feasibility Study RFP

Mayor Bill de Blasio is moving full steam ahead with his plan to create 11,250 housing units over Sunnyside Yards, although Gov. Andrew Cuomo has voiced opposition to it.

The city’s Economic Development Corporation (EDC)  announced Friday a request for proposals for a yearlong comprehensive feasibility study for building over the rail yards. The agency is collecting proposals until March 20.

The study will examine the prospect of decking the enormous rail yard, and building homes, schools, open spaces and community facilities for the neighborhood as well as improving public transportation and infrastructure, while not interfering with train operations in the yards.

“This is the first step in understanding whether development of the Sunnyside Yards is possible, and what it could contribute to the city and surrounding communities,” de Blasio said. “This is a tremendous opportunity to deliver on our vision of a more affordable city and smart development that responds to the needs of surrounding neighborhoods.”

De Blasio first announced his plan for the yards during his second State of the City address in January, but hours later Cuomo disagreed with using the yards because of long-term plans for it.

But Cuomo is not the only politician to oppose developing Sunnyside Yards. When an idea to build a new Jacob Javits Center over the rail yards surfaced last year, Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer and Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan didn’t immediately respond favorably to that plan.

Both shared concerns of major development in the area without first addressing issues current residents are facing, including lack of sufficient public services. State Sen. Michael Gianaris addressed Community Board 2 earlier this month about the proposal as well, and stated similar concerns.

“Any talk of thousands of new housing units at Sunnyside Yards should be secondary to meeting our significant existing infrastructure needs,” Senator Gianaris said. “Western Queens is already in need of many more schools, parks and open spaces, and vastly improved mass transit, particularly on the 7 line. As this process unfolds, I look forward to working with the community to ensure our voices are heard loud and clear when it comes to Sunnyside Yards.”

Building over the yards is a key part to de Blasio’s goal of building and preserving 200,000 affordable housing units — 80,000 of which will be new construction — in the next 10 years.

There are nearly 200 acres of land at the site, 113 acres that are owned by Amtrak, 66 by the MTA and the remainder by private owners, according to the EDC’s request for proposals.

The EDC is working with Amtrak, which is in favor of development over its section of the yards.

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City accepting proposals to develop NYPD parking garage in downtown Jamaica


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Christopher Bride/PropertyShark 

Even more development is coming to Jamaica—this time on the site of a police department parking garage.

Not long after Mayor Bill de Blasio’s pledge to focus on creating more housing with his State of the City address, the NYC Economic Development Corporation (EDC) officially announced a request for proposals to develop hundreds of market rate and affordable units out of an NYPD parking garage in downtown Jamaica.

The 59,500-square-foot site at 93rd Avenue and 169th Street could also include ground-floor retail, according to the EDC, which set an April 30 deadline for developers to submit plans for the lot. Of course the project is consistent with de Blasio’s goal to build and preserve 200,000 affordable housing units in 10 years.

The two-story garage is currently used by cops, and will have to be entirely demolished to construct the new project, according to the EDC. But it’s a price the city is willing to pay for more housing.

“The 168th Street garage site holds powerful potential to serve the Jamaica neighborhood with affordable housing and other amenities, while building upon the area’s strengths as a commercial, cultural and transit hub,” said EDC President Kyle Kimball.

Police vehicles will have to be “accommodated” in order to redevelop the site, the EDC said.

Photo courtesy of NYCEDC

Photo courtesy of NYCEDC

The development could create 400 construction jobs and 80 permanent jobs, the EDC said, and would add another project to the dizzying amount of construction coming to Jamaica near the downtown spurred by under-utilized lots, cheap land prices, high traffic and access to a massive transportation hub.

This includes Greater Jamaica Development Corporation (GJDC) giving its twin parking lots near 90th Avenue and 168th Street to Blumenfeld Development Group for a jumbo mixed-use residential and commercial project, with more than 265,000 square feet of space.

The GJDC is also working on a $225 million, 29-story residential and commercial tower across from the AirTrain and LIRR station on Sutphin Boulevard.

Not far away on Sutphin Boulevard, Able Management Group is constructing a 210-key hotel, and nearby York College has 3.5 acres of on-campus land that could be home to new companies that want to move into the area to partner with the institution through Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s START-UP NY tax-break program.

TCX Development’s seven-story luxury rental building on Hillside Avenue is nearing completion, and some major properties have also hit the market or were recently sold, including a $22 million sale of a huge garage and commercial strip at 163-05 and 163-25 Archer Ave. There are already plans to develop the property into a housing and retail mix, according to a published report.

Also, the Jamaica Colosseum Mall, which was formerly a Macy’s department store, also hit the market for an astounding $45 million.

And finally, the Department of Housing Preservation and Development recently announced that it is accepting plans from developers for 17 vacant city-owned sites in Jamaica to create more affordable housing.

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New ferry system will benefit burgeoning Astoria waterfront


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Map courtesy of Councilman Vincent Gentile

Mayor de Blasio’s proposal to create a citywide ferry system, including a dock along Astoria’s waterfront, will boost interest in the already hot neighborhood where industrial properties are being gobbled up as possible new residential projects.

In his State of the City addressMayor Bill de Blasio unveiled a $55 million plan to expand citywide ferry service that will make stops around the five boroughs, including Astoria, Roosevelt Island, Long Island City, the Lower East Side, Coney Island, Soundview in the Bronx, and the Rockaways.

The Astoria ferry dock was already included as part of the huge Astoria Cove project, which, together with the nearby Hallets Point mega development, will bring about 4,000 new apartments in the area.

Besides those larger projects, the burgeoning Astoria waterfront is littered with development plans for older properties, and former industrial buildings are being marketed for development sites. Some experts believe the inclusion of another transportation option will be a positive addition for the growing neighborhood.

“When I was growing up in Astoria, that area was not known as a safe neighborhood,” said Astoria native Minas Styponias, who is also an agent with BuySell Real Estate in the neighborhood. “It’ll definitely become an area where people will want to go.”

Styponias added, “It will be a little slow start until those towers get built there. Then there will be an increase in the ridership, and it will be well worth it for the city’s investment.”

De Blasio expects to have the Astoria ferry running by 2017. He said there will be an estimated 4.6 million trips each year and a ride on the new waterway system would cost the same as a subway ride.

The Astoria waterfront is underserved in public transportation, which traditionally plays a big role in real estate. As more of the city becomes accessible to the waterfront through the ferry, real estate professionals expect to see prices increase as the area becomes more popular.

“I think the ferry is great news for Astoria, and will definitely add some value the area,” said Eric Benaim, CEO of real estate firm Modern Spaces. 

Rockaway residents are also happy for the return of ferry service to their neighborhood, but officials have criticized the two-year wait for the service to restart.

While I am encouraged by the news and what it means for the future of Rockaway, our families and small businesses are suffering today and need service implemented immediately,” Assemblyman Phillip Goldfeder said. “Our ferry dock at Beach 108th was disassembled and shipped away overnight. It should not take two years to bring it back.”

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Queens is ground zero for Mayor de Blasio’s plan to create affordable housing


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photographer/Mayoral Photography Office

Queens is at the center of a sweeping plan to create affordable housing unveiled by Mayor Bill de Blasio in his State of the City speech on Tuesday, including a push to create more than 11,000 new homes above the Sunnyside Rail Yard — a project as large as Manhattan’s Stuyvesant Town.

In his second State of the City address, de Blasio reviewed his top accomplishments, including creating full-day pre-kindergarten, doubling the enrollment in after-school programs,  and enacting living wage and paid sick leave. There was also a 75-percent reduction in the use of stop-and-frisk by the NYPD.

Looking forward, de Blasio focused on the issue of housing that remains one of the major obstacles to what he described as opportunity inequality.

The mayor, who called the effort to create affordable housing a “profound challenge,” turned repeatedly to Queens as a large part of the answer. He pledged to write new rules, “ones that mandate affordable housing as a condition for development.”

Two of six neighborhoods in the city he has slated for mandatory affordable housing requirements are Long Island City and western Flushing. Each of the four other boroughs will have one such zone. The city will begin work on rezoning these neighborhoods this spring.

“In every major rezoning development, we will require developers to include affordable housing. Not as an option. As a precondition,” he said, citing another Queens project as an example of how the mandate works.


“Want to see this approach in action?  Look at Astoria Cove in Queens. As a result of this administration’s framework — and the City Council’s tough negotiations — 465 units of affordable housing will be created at this site alone,” de Blasio said.

“That’s 465 families who no longer have to choose between living in the city they call home, or finding another city they can afford. It means that hundreds of kids will live and learn and grow in our city.”

But de Blasio said his “game changer” for new affordable housing would take place at the Amtrak-owned rail yard in Sunnyside, where he is proposing building above the tracks to make use of the massive swath of land while allowing rail operations to continue.

“Right now, there are 200 acres of land in the heart of Queens, land that exists in the form of a rail yard — and only a rail yard. But the fact is, those tracks could easily exist underground — allowing us to build housing — much of it affordable — above them.

“At Sunnyside Yards, we envision a plan that incorporates what diverse and dynamic neighborhoods need — access to transportation, parks, schools, retail stores and job opportunities,” he said.

The mayor compared the potential at Sunnyside to other affordable housing built in the past, including Manhattan’s Stuyvesant Town, which has 11,250 apartments. He said Sunnyside should include the same amount of affordable units as the Manhattan complex.

However, according to Patrick O’Brien, chair of Community Board 2, although the goal is admirable, the plan raises some concern because of the lack of infrastructure to support an incoming population. He added the surrounding area would need updates in transportation options, medical services, such as hospitals, and schools.

“Long Island City and western Queens is so densely populated and we’ve gone through and are in the midst of a huge population increase,” O’Brien said. “To have an enormous additional increase on top of a previous increase, that really doesn’t have the full infrastructure support that it needs, is really a matter of concern.”

While de Blasio said he wants to build 80,000 units of affordable housing over the next decade, he insisted that it would not be to the exclusion of market-rate housing. He projects the construction of 160,000 new market-rate units over the same period.

De Blasio said the growing shortage of affordable housing has occurred over more than a decade of housing construction that focused on luxury or market-rate construction. The result, he said, is that 56 percent of New Yorkers are paying more than 30 percent of their salary for rent, up from 46 percent a decade earlier.

“Part of the problem is that the city has for decades let developers write their own rules when it came to building housing. Sometimes projects included affordable housing…but far too often, they did not,” he said. “As the city expanded, our growth was guided primarily by the developers’ bottom lines.”

The mayor also unveiled a stunning proposal to create a new citywide ferry service reaching far flung neighborhoods, particularly the Rockaways, and for expanded express bus service, including a line along Woodhaven Boulevard.

He said that by 2017, residents of neighborhoods like the Rockaways and Astoria, would be able to take a ferry to Manhattan.

“New ferry rides will be priced the same as a MetroCard fare, so ferries will be as affordable to everyday New Yorkers as our subways and buses,” he said. “[S]o residents of the Rockaways and Red Hook and Soundview will now be closer to the opportunities they need.”

The mayor predicted that the new ferry service would also be an economic boon to neighborhoods, spurring new commercial corridors in the outer boroughs.

“We will also expand Bus Rapid Transit — or BRT — serving 400,000 New Yorkers along key thoroughfares like Utica Avenue in Brooklyn and Woodhaven Boulevard in Queens…completing a network of 20 routes over the next four years,” he said.

The new Bus Rapid Transit lines, he said, would cut transit time on existing routes by 15 to 24 percent. “That means New Yorkers spending less time in transit and more time living their lives.”

The mayor insisted that expanding affordable housing could work, and he cited a similar effort by former Mayor Ed Koch.

“But we know now that Koch’s plan was realistic… in fact, it worked,” said de Blasio. “And it had a transcendent impact on our city.“

Photos from the mayor’s speech and of the officials attending the event (By The Queens Courier Staff):

 

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Police officers honored for saving man’s life in LIC


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer's office

Two local police officers were honored Thursday for their heroic actions that saved a life in Long Island City last month.

Police Officers William Caldarera and Corey Sarro of the 108th Precinct were given a proclamation on behalf of the City Council for saving the life of a 66-year-old man who was found motionless in front of LaGuardia Community College in December.

Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, who was joined by Mayor Bill de Blasio, presented the honor to Caldarera and Sarro.

On Dec. 16, the officers saw a crowd of people gathering around a man lying motionless on the sidewalk in front of the college. Caldarera approached the elderly man and discovered he did not have a heartbeat and was not breathing.

Sarro then began to conduct chest compressions, while an ambulance was requested. Using a defibrillator provided by a public safety officer, Caldarera and Sarro attached the machine to the man’s chest, according to police. After a second shock, the man’s heartbeat returned and he began breathing again.

The man was taken to Elmhurst Hospital in stable condition.

Although both Caldarera and Sarro had experience with CPR while off duty, this incident was their first time having to use a defibrillator.

Both officers said it felt great once they were able to revive the man and get him to breathe again.

“There is really no feeling to describe it,” Sarro said at the time. “It was a relief to be able to save him.”

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17 city-owned sites in Jamaica identified for new affordable housing


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Christopher Bride/PropertyShark, Map courtesy of Google

In the de Blasio Administration’s latest effort to make a dent in the city’s housing crisis, the Department of Housing Preservation and Development is calling on developers to build housing on about 175 sites across the city.

The agency released a list of vacant, city-owned properties for the construction of affordable housing across the five boroughs last week, including 17 sites in Jamaica, which are the only Queens locations.

The agency is collecting applications from developers until Feb. 19 for the program.

The city is even offering financing through its Neighborhood Construction and New Infill Homeownership Opportunities programs, but it comes with the requirement that at least one of every three units must be affordable or up to 80 percent of Area Median Income. That’s no more than $67,120 in annual income for a family of four.

This effort seems to be part of Mayor de Blasio’s plan to create and preserve 200,000 units of affordable housing over 10 years.

The single largest lot in the program is at 108-59 Union Hall St., which has 8,830 square feet. But if combined with adjoining vacant lots at 108-41, 43, 49, and 51 there is about 20,800 square feet of space.

Take a look at the map below to see where the Jamaica properties are, and click here for the full city-wide list.

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Real Estate Board celebrates retiring president at 119th annual banquet


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Gotham Photo Company

The Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY) held its popular annual banquet for the 119th time Thursday and celebrated the end of an era.

President Steven Spinola, who led the industry advocacy organization for 28 years, becoming its longest serving leader, was honored at the event with the Harry B. Helmsley Distinguished New Yorker Award for “invaluable contributions” to the city’s real estate community. Spinola plans to step down from his position this year, and Con Edison executive John Banks will take over the helm.

More than 2,300 real estate personnel attended the banquet and cocktail party, as well as Mayor Bill de Blasio, Queens Borough President Melinda Katz, Sen. Charles Schumer and other top elected officials, and the city’s real estate leaders.

“We are enormously proud to honor our dear friend Steven Spinola for all the spectacular work he does for our industry,” said REBNY Chairman Rob Speyer. “For nearly three decades, through good times and bad, Steve’s professionalism, thoughtful advocacy and generosity of spirit has inspired our community.”

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NYPD lieutenant’s new book shows history of tension between cops and mayors


| ejankiewicz@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Eric Jankiewicz

New York City today is playing out a familiar scenario that pits the mayor against the NYPD rank and file in tense relations, with the roar of public demand for reform as the backdrop, said a veteran cop who has authored a history of the department.

But with the recent killings of two police officers, Whalen believes that the entrenched groups will have to come to a solution. Whalen of College Point is currently a lieutenant with the NYPD, giving him an unusual perspective from within the department.

“Cops have been getting shot in New York City since the beginning,” Whalen said, an idea illustrated in his book “The NYPD’s First Fifty Years,” due to be released next month. “But certain ones like this are more memorable than others because it impacts policy and how we do business.”

The book begins with the unification of New York City in 1897 and the creation of the modern police force, covering the first 50 years of department history.

De Blasio’s relationship with the police has always been uneasy, since his campaign promise to reform policies like stop and frisk and his response to a Staten Island grand jury’s decision not to indict a police officer for the death of Eric Garner. The recent killings of Police Officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos in Brooklyn further exposed this divide.

The NYPD’s Union President Patrick Lynch blamed de Blasio for the shooting because of his tolerance of protests across the city protesting the police.

“It’s common for mayors to have troubles and be disliked by police,” Whalen said.

But Whalen said history shows that recent events could provide an opportunity for reform. More than 80 years ago, one of the city’s most popular mayors, Fiorello LaGuardia, faced strained relations with police because of his promises of reform and a perceived lax attitude on popular unrest.

LaGuardia became mayor in 1934 and soon after being elected his notions of reform were tested when cabbies began to riot. He urged restraint when using police force against disgruntled cabbies. Before LaGuardia, police would use their batons, but the mayor now instructed the conservative Police Commissioner John O’Ryan to leave the cabbies alone, despite the commissioner’s advice that force should be used.

In the end, more than 100 cabs were destroyed and rioters injured dozens of people. The press criticized the mayor and the commissioner in the aftermath and, Whalen writes, so began an “escalating ideological battle between the mayor and the police commissioner.”

“LaGuardia is much like de Blasio,” Whalen said. “The police didn’t like LaGuardia either but in the end the mayor was able to consolidate a progressive agenda with effective policing.”

Much like LaGuardia, de Blasio is trying to be a progressive politician while keeping crime down, which is why, Whalen said, Bratton was hired.

“There’s always been this emphasis to keep the lid on it,” Whalen said. “Meaning that crime always has to stay down, no matter what. So de Blasio can talk about progressive agendas all he wants, but he still has to have firm authority through people like Bratton.”

Whalen’s book, which was co-written with his father Jon, is filled with tales of early 1900s anarchists and communists attempting to bomb various sites across the city, including Police Headquarters, which puts today’s peaceful protests in context. Whalen’s book also points out how dangerous it used to be to work for the NYPD.

Whalen believes that the Brooklyn shooting will cause many protesters to stop marching in the streets, as de Blasio has called for. It will also put the police on high alert. He cautioned against the police becoming overly sensitive when on patrol and becoming afraid.

“Police have to watch their backs, but if they’re afraid, they might make the wrong decision and then the city will really plunge into unrest,” he said.

Whalen’s book is set to be released in January 2015.

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City Council passes Astoria Cove development project


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Rendering courtesy of STUDIO V Architecture

The City Council voted overwhelmingly to approve the Astoria Cove mega development on Tuesday, clearing the way for the major land use project.

The project now goes to Mayor Bill de Blasio for his likely approval. He has already praised the project after concessions were made by the developer to boost the amount of affordable housing included. He has five days to either sign or veto the measure.

Earlier in the month, Astoria Cove developers delayed the City Council Land Use Committee vote to strike a last-minute deal with elected officials concerned about having enough affordable housing in order to win committee support for the project.

Now more than 460 units of the 1,723 total apartments throughout the 2.2-million-square-foot project on the Astoria waterfront will be affordable housing.

Developers also agreed to hire union labor for construction and building maintenance jobs associated with the project, and commit to building a ferry dock.

“This agreement shows what we can achieve when the private and public sectors work together,” Astoria Councilman Costa Constantinides said. “This agreement provides real benefits to the neighborhood and will help further link our booming communities along the East River.”

Astoria Cove will 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.

The project, which is anticipated 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, a school and some retail.

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Flushing groups urge city to seek community input on redevelopment plans


| ejankiewicz@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Flushing BOA

Flushing is no stranger to development, but local business owners and community groups are skeptical about Mayor de Blasio’s recent announcement of plans to turn an industrial and polluted section of the Queens neighborhood into a residential area.

Flushing was selected, along with other areas in New York City, as possible candidates in the creation of a new residential community along Flushing Creek. The plans are still in the early stages, but if it goes through, the borders of this new community would run from Northern Boulevard to Roosevelt Avenue and westward to Prince Street.

“The area is a construction and hardware destination and it makes no sense to create apartments here,” said Terry Wong, who owns a store that sells doors on College Point Boulevard.

Speaking through translator Lisa Zhang, the business owner continued, “Everyone will lose business and it will have a negative impact on the whole economy of Flushing.”

The Department of City Planning launched a study in that section of Flushing to come up with a plan for the city and state. The area is largely commercial, and any plan for residential development would require some of the local businesses in the area to be removed.

Developers have been interested in the area for many years, including The Flushing Willets Point Corona Local Development Corporation, which received a $1.5 million state grant to clean up the polluted waters of Flushing Creek.

John Choe, the executive director for the new Greater Flushing Chamber of Commerce, said he liked the idea but he was concerned about what the city’s plan  would look like.

“There needs to be a lot more grassroots organizations,” Choe said. “The former mayor was credited with developing and creating a lot of things in this city, but all those changes came from up top. I would hope that the de Blasio administration avoids the mistakes of his predecessor.”

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Renewed hope for cleaning up Flushing’s waters


| ejankiewicz@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Eric Jankiewicz

Some foul business was discussed in Flushing this week between city officials.

Councilman Peter Koo and Commissioner Emily Lloyd of the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) met deep underground on Tuesday to tour the Flushing Bay Retention Facility, which serves as a storage area for raw sewage and is meant to keep the sewage from entering Flushing Creek, but can only hold so much. The small body of water receives more human waste per year than any other dumping site, according to city records, leading Koo to call the creek “s–t’s creek.”

“Cleaning up this waterway has long been a top environmental priority of mine,” Koo said. “There is a popular phrase used by many when trying to explain they are in a bad situation: being up s–t’s creek without a paddle. With the amount of raw sewage that still enters it, the phrase might as well be changed to, up Flushing Creek without a paddle.”

With Mayor Bill de Blasio’s announcement that calls for residential development along the Flushing waterfront, Koo and advocacy groups like Friends of Flushing Creek are hoping the spotlight will help spur the city and state to take action and reduce the amount of sewage going into the creek.

“Now that the city has officially announced they are looking to develop the land along the waterfront, this is a great opportunity to shine a brighter light on this longstanding problem,” Koo said. “I will continue my work with DEP, the Friends of Flushing Creek, and every stakeholder in the community so that we can ultimately see the day where people can safely swim in these waters again.”

But a whole lot of waste must be cleaned before anyone can swim in there.

During rainstorms, the city’s sewage infrastructure is flooded out, causing unprocessed human waste to discharge into the bodies of water surrounding New York City. Flushing Creek and Flushing Bay receive the highest amount of this toxic payload, according to city records. Facilities like the one underground in Flushing are meant to minimize this problem, but advocates and local politicians say it’s not enough.

The city currently has no plan to reduce the sewage flow into the creek and Flushing Bay during heavy rainfall. The creek receives 1,166 million gallons per year and the bay receives 1,499 million gallons per year. Jamaica Bay, which is often thought of as one of the most polluted bodies of water, receives a comparatively small dose of 317 million gallons per year.

“Do you know how much human waste that is?” said Alex Rosa, a consultant for Friends of Flushing Creek, which is advocating for the city and state to reduce the amount of filth going into the Flushing bodies of water. “I’ve never calculated how many people you need to make that much waste. But I’m sure it’s a whole lot.”

The nonprofit group is currently working with the DEP through a state grant to create a long-term plan that would reduce the amount of pollutants in the waters. The different approaches and solutions to the waste problem are complicated and can often be murkier than Flushing Creek’s waters after a wet day, especially since people fish and kayak in the waters there.

For example, the city is considering sanitizing the waste with chlorine. But Rosa is cautious to embrace this plan because chlorine, she said, has been linked to several types of health problems, including cancer.

No set date has been made for when a plan would be put together and when it could be implemented. So for now, Rosa strongly urges people not to fish in the waters or get anywhere near them, for that matter. But she remains hopeful that soon people can do these things and much more.

“The synergies and efforts of everyone are finally aligning and we now have more attention,” she said. “The stars are aligned because the mayor is focused on creating a new community along the waterfront.”

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City’s pot policy change divides Queens residents, pleases pols


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo via NYC Mayor Office's  Flickr

BY ASHA MAHADEVAN

Borough residents are on both sides of the debate over the city’s recent change in policy over marijuana possession arrests, while several local politicians see it as a progressive move.

“Historically, these types of arrests have disproportionately targeted poorer, young men of color,” Councilman Donovan Richards Jr., said. “Rethinking the administration’s approach to marijuana possession is a key to ending the misguided reliance on ‘stop and frisk’ and rebuilding the relationships between law enforcement and the communities they police.”

According to the new policy, if police find someone in possession of 25 grams or less of marijuana, officers will issue a summons instead of arresting the individual. The new policy, which comes into effect on Nov. 19, is not a blanket rule. The change is valid only if the person has identification and if no arrest warrant has been issued for him or her. Individuals carrying marijuana will still be subject to arrest if the type of possession indicates intent to sell, if the individual has an outstanding warrant, or if the individual is in certain locations such as a school.

Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras is also in favor of the change, calling it a move in the right direction.

“This policy change is one of many steps towards rebuilding those communities of color, like my own, that have been disproportionately jailed and suffered in the long term; it reflects the progressive, forward-thinking direction in which our city and this Council are moving,” she said.

Councilman Rory Lancman, who chairs the Committee on Courts and Legal Services, focused on the effect of the policy change on the overburdened legal system, saying that this change will allow prosecutors, judges and defense attorneys to concentrate on violent crimes. He added that he looks forward to “further reducing the over-policing in communities of color, and addressing the collateral consequences of even mere violations for undocumented immigrants caught in the criminal justice system.”

Queens residents were not as supportive, and even saw the change as potentially dangerous.

“It is not a good idea. There should be more rules covering this. What if someone is on a high and drives a car? This will add more dangerous people on the road,” Bayside resident Robert Posner said.

But others agreed with the looser punishment.

“It’s not right but I am OK with it,” Alda Gomez said. “So long as they don’t sell it or it is not a big amount or they are next to a school, if it is only for themselves, it’s okay.”

Jose Valencia believed it was a good start.

“Eventually law has to change towards legalization,” he said.

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Real estate roundup: Nothing imminent planned for Sunnyside Yards, City halts Rockaway homeless shelter plan


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Jim Henderson/ Wikipedia Commons

Van Bramer takes de Blasio at his word that nothing is imminent with Sunnyside Yards

“The revelation last week that Amtrak is considering developing the Sunnyside Yards caught most people by surprise—including Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer.” Read more [Sunnyside Post]  

5 Pointz building just weeks away from becoming rubble

“Demolition of the five-story building that was once at the heart of the 5 Pointz graffiti Mecca began earlier this week and is expected to be gone in about three weeks, according to building owner Jerry Wolkoff.”  Read more [LIC Post]

City scraps plan for homeless shelter in Rockaway

“One day after Councilman Donovan Richards asked the de Blasio administration to reconsider opening a men’s homeless shelter in his Rockaway district, the Department of Homeless Services said it has scrapped the plan.” Read more [Capital]

New Digs in Long Island City

“When Renee McAdams was attending Columbia Business School more than two decades ago, she swore she would never leave New York. But leave she did, right after her 1992 graduation.” Read more [The New York Times]

 

Real estate roundup: 25K applications for Hunter’s Point South, new Court Square Dunkin’ Donuts sign revealed


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Rendering courtesy of Related Companies

Hunter’s Point Affordable Housing Lottery Draws 25,000+ Applications In First Week

“Since the affordable housing lottery for Hunter’s Point South, a two-tower development in Long Island City, launched on October 15, approximately 25,000 people have applied, according to Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer. Ultimately, the development will house some 925 low- and moderate-income families, a significant number, but far below the evident demand in the area.” Read more [The New York Observer]

Signage up for Dunkin Donuts at 44-80 21st Street

“Dunkin’ Donuts officially announced its impending arrival with signage.” Read more [The Court Square Blog]

Build it back ‘starting to change the lives’ of Sandy victims: Mayor

“Set against the backdrop of a cerulean sky fighting through blankets of cotton-ball clouds, Mayor Bill de Blasio on Monday talked about one of the city’s darkest Mondays two years ago, the day Broad Channel nearly drowned.” Read more [The Forum]