Tag Archives: Mayor Bill de Blasio

Photos: Queens honors and remembers soldiers with Memorial Day parades


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy Dominick Totino Photography/Gallery by Robert Pozarycki, Anthony Giudice, Liam La Guerre

Nearly a dozen Memorial Day parades were held in Queens over the weekend as the borough paid tribute to military men and women who protect the freedoms residents enjoy today.

Mayor Bill de Blasio marched in the Little Neck/Douglaston Memorial Day Parade, which began at 2 p.m. on Northern Boulevard and Jayson Avenue, alongside U.S. Representative Grace Meng, Borough President Melinda Katz, Public Advocate Letitia James, Councilmen Paul Vallone and Mark Weprin and Assemblyman Ed Braunstein.

Retired U.S. Army Brigadier General Loree Sutton, commissioner of the Mayor’s Office of Veterans’ Affairs, served as the parade’s grand marshal. Sutton hailed Memorial Day as a sacred time.

“It is a day that we come together to commemorate and remember and to think about all that we share in this great country and to remind ourselves that the cost and price of freedom is never free,” Sutton said. “That we are so blessed to be in the land of the free because of the brave.”

Parades were held in Woodside/Sunnyside, Whitestone, Laurelton, Howard Beach, Glendale/Ridgewood, Maspeth, Middle Village, Forest Hills, College Point and Woodhaven.

New military recruits, veterans in vintage cars, fire fighters, police officers, JROTC members, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts and marching bands participated in the borough’s parades while parents and children donned red, white and blue and waved the stars and stripes from sidewalks.

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Flushing public forum reveals planning study


| asuriel@queenscourier.com

Photo by Alina Suriel/ Gallery courtesy of the NYC Department of City Planning

The NYC Department of City Planning publicly revealed Thursday night details of a Flushing West planning study which will result in large-scale re-zoning in line with Mayor Bill de Blasio’s 10-year plan to increase affordable housing.

The study area is a 10-block zone bounded by Northern Boulevard to the north, Roosevelt Avenue to the south, Prince Street to the east and the Van Wyck Expressway and Flushing Creek to the west. Underutilized commercial and industrial land uses will be re-examined for changes which aim to allow for new residential, commercial and community facility uses alongside the eventual redevelopment of the area.

This will be accomplished by increasing allowable residential density, providing a public space amenity plan, and rethinking the height and massing of new buildings, as well as several other aspects of study.

“I hope that you can see how comprehensively we’re trying to think about Flushing, and yet how innovative this process is for this community,” said John Young, director of the City Planning Department in Queens.

Officials, community organizations, and residents were outspoken about their concerns for plans intended to bring major change into their area. Councilman Peter Koo remarked that the rapid growth of Flushing puts a strain on its existing community and infrastructure, and said more has to be done to preserve affordable housing, support small businesses and improve stormwater systems before increased development results in a possible population influx.

Among residents, the creation and preservation of affordable housing was cited as the biggest priority. According to a report circulated by the office of the mayor, between 2005 and 2012, rents rose by 11 percent while renters’ incomes stagnated, and to combat this trend the inclusion of affordable housing units is a condition of any new development.

While opportunity for affordable housing creation in Flushing is limited under the current zoning, any new re-zoning under the Flushing West study will fall in line with the new affordable housing requirement. Planners undertaking the Flushing West study are also being guided by other city agencies on how to adapt the affordable housing requirements to the area in a way that is financially feasible.

Grace Shim, executive director of the MinKwon Center for Community Action, was fearful of the possibility of residents being displaced in programs which do not address the needs of the population with the lowest income.

“We don’t want them to be priced out of here,” said Shim, who added that the most vulnerable sector consists of senior citizens and recent immigrant with limited English proficiency. “We don’t want them to be pushed out.”

In addition to preserving affordable housing, expanding waterfront access to Flushing Creek is also targeted as a specific objective of the study. Planners will work to find ways to provide pedestrian access to the waterfront by creating a street network leading to the area, which is now difficult to access due to narrow sidewalks and closed-off street networks.

Open walkways and green areas are eyed for the waterfront’s future, as well as affordable housing developments to utilize some of the open space.

The community input process of the Flushing West planning study is ongoing, and previous public presentations as well as additional information can be found online at nyc.gov/flushing-west.

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De Blasio to be grand marshal of Queens Pride Parade


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photo by Ed Reed for the Office of Mayor Bill de Blasio

Mayor Bill de Blasio will make history in Jackson Heights next month as the first New York City mayor to serve as a grand marshal in the 23-year span of the Queens Pride Parade.

De Blasio will join APICHA Community Health Center as grand marshals of the 23rd Queens Pride Parade, which will be held on June 7 and runs from 89th Street and 37th Avenue down to 75th Street.

“When I founded the Queens Lesbian and Gay Pride Committee over 20 years ago, I was hopeful that we would increase the visibility of the LGBT community in Queens in a positive and impactful way,” Councilman Daniel Dromm said. “Having the mayor of the City of New York as our grand marshal shows just how far we have come.”

De Blasio became the first mayor to march in the parade last year, and even marched in 2013 while still serving as public advocate.

“The mayor’s presence is an acknowledgment that the LGBT community in Queens and throughout the city is visible, welcome and included,” Dromm said.

Councilman Daniel Dromm and Mayor Bill de Blasio (Photo courtesy of Queens Pride)

Councilman Daniel Dromm and Mayor Bill de Blasio (Photo courtesy of Queens Pride)

The theme of this year’s parade, which kicks off at noon, is “Pride – Strength – Unity,” according to organizers. Also at noon, the Queens Pride Festival begins along 37th Road from 74th to 77th streets.

The festival features close to 100 vendors, community and social group booths and two stages of entertainment with performances throughout the day until 6 p.m.

One of the day’s featured performers includes multi-platinum artist CeCe Peniston known for her hits “Finally,” “We Got a Love Thang” and “Lifetime to Love.”

“This year’s theme, Pride – Strength – Unity, highlights the diversity that is Queens. Queens has the largest number of language/ethnic groups in the whole U.S.A. Despite the linguistic and cultural vastness, we all come together to celebrate our accomplishments and continue to work towards further advancements,” said Alan Reiff, co-chair of Queens Pride.

Days before the parade on June 4, Queens Pride will collaborate with NYC Pride, Brooklyn Pride, Staten Island LGBT Community Center, Bronx Pride, Chutney Pride and Out Astoria, to host a Pride Kick-Off Party at Studio Square, located at 35-33 36th St. in Long Island City. The event will benefit Queens Community House.

For more information, visit www.queenspride.org or email info@queenspride.org.

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Mayor de Blasio promises NYCHA overhaul to fix finances, repairs


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photo via NYC Mayor Office's Flickr

Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a plan Tuesday to help revitalize public housing and fix financial problems of the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) by using the housing complexes more efficiently and reducing expenses.

The plan, NextGeneration NYCHA, involves various initiatives targeted to save the reeling city agency, which has only “one month remaining of surplus cash on hand and after that will go into deficit,” de Blasio said.

This includes leasing land in public housing complexes to developers to build more units, half of which must be used for affordable housing for families earning no more than 60 percent of the area’s median income, or about $46,600 annually for a family of three.

Also, 10,000 completely affordable units will be created in complexes in Brooklyn and the Bronx on underutilized, street-facing lots currently used for parking, trash or storage sites. These programs will cross over with de Blasio’s goal of creating 80,000 affordable housing units in 10 years.

“I believe that NYCHA began as a national model, and as a national model I believe it began as an idea that was so powerful because it was a place for hard-working people to find a decent home in the midst of an economic crisis,” de Blasio said. “Well today we find ourselves in a different kind of economic crisis for so many of our families and they need that decent home and they need it to be protected.”

After losing federal subsidies since 2001, NYCHA has ignored the need for repairs and renovations, and will need approximately $17 billion for repairs and capital expenditures in five years without the plan.

The city calculates NextGeneration NYCHA will generate annual operating surpluses of more than $230 million over 10 years for the city agency.

To cut expenses, the city will send about 1,000 central office NYCHA workers to other city agencies by 2018, so the housing authority can save $90 million.

In addition, starting in fiscal year 2015 the de Blasio administration and the City Council agreed to waive the $30 million in payments NYCHA gives the city each year— a fee that dates back to 1949.

Created in 1934 during the Great Depression under Mayor Fiorello La Guardia, NYCHA now has more than 403,000 residents in nearly 178,000 apartments around the five boroughs. The city agency has 22 developments and 17,126 apartments in Queens, including the Queensbridge Houses, which have the largest development in the borough with 3,142 apartments.

Also in the plan, NYCHA is hoping to do a better job at collecting rents. In 2014 NYCHA was owed more than $56 million in total back rent from prior years. The city agency currently collects about 74 percent of total rents each year, while there are about 54,000 families that are at least one month behind in payments.

The agency will also begin charging more for parking spaces. Currently they are about $300 a year, but will be up to $150 a month for tenants, who will be offered the spaces first. Unclaimed spaces will be offered to the public after.

Other upgrades to NYCHA will come with technology enhancements and customer service. There will be a new repair tracking system, where residents can go online a see the status of their repairs, and there will be a one-week deadline for basic repairs.

Also, in July, the agency will release its mobile app, MyNYCHA, where residents can, among other things, view, schedule and reschedule requests for maintenance service.

“We have got to have a better quality of life for our residents,” de Blasio said. “It’s long overdue.”

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Mayor de Blasio announces new effort to improve nail salon workers’ lives


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

File photo

BY ANGELA MATUA

Nail salon workers in New York have recently received attention from elected officials for experiencing poor working conditions, with Mayor Bill de Blasio being the latest to implement reforms to the industry.

Though the city has limited jurisdiction over labor and wage laws — the State of New York is in charge of licensing and inspecting the 2,000 nail salons in the city — de Blasio set a number of initiatives on Friday to educate workers on their rights and to investigate both the chemicals used in nail products and wage practices in the industry.

The initiatives will be led by the Department of Consumer Affairs with support from the Department of Small Business Services, the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs, the Mayor’s Office to Combat Domestic Violence and others.

Public Advocate Letitia James and other elected officials who have worked to combat these conditions will also work with the city on these initiatives.

“Every New Yorker must be protected from predatory workplace practices that threaten their health and exploit their labor,” de Blasio said. “We will use all available powers to shield nail salon workers from deplorable conditions, empower them with awareness of their rights, and offer every other support we can to ensure the safety and dignity of our hardworking fellow New Yorkers.”

The Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) will investigate, test products and send subpoenas to companies that make invalid product claims, according to a press release.

The DCA will also investigate employment agencies that place nail salon workers in nail salons to ensure these placements occur in jobs that pay at least minimum wage.

“We cannot stand by while the most vulnerable workers among us are exposed to toxic chemicals and equally toxic conditions of employment,” said DCA Commissioner Julie Menin. “We will harness all the means at our disposal to make sure that salon workers and customers are protected.”

Consumers can also sign a petition here to the Personal Care Products Council, the leading national trade association for the cosmetics industry, to tell them that the “price of beauty shouldn’t be your and your manicurist’s health.”

On Monday, May 18, a letter will be sent to nearly 3,000 nail salons to inform them of their responsibilities under New York’s Paid Sick Leave Law.

Other initiatives include a Day of Action on May 21, where 500 volunteers and city representatives will distribute information about “workers’ rights, the city’s training and job connection programs, employer obligations and business support service, and consumer tips” across the five boroughs.

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New installments to bring ‘light to shadow’ on Roosevelt Avenue


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Angy Altamirano

A stretch of Roosevelt Avenue in Corona will soon light up bright, removing residents from the shadows and bringing a sense of safety to the community.

Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras and the Department of Transportation (DOT) announced Friday that new lampposts and LED lights are being installed down Roosevelt Avenue, a thoroughfare that has faced safety issues throughout the years.

The $500,000 project, which is part of Ferreras’ New Deal plan for Roosevelt Avenue, will replace the current lampposts and install new ones between 90th and 111th streets.

“Having lived on Roosevelt Avenue, I was eyewitness to the challenges it has with regard to safety,” Ferreras said. “Improving the environment for everyone — families, small businesses, street vendors, the LGBTQ community, drivers — has been one of my most important goals, and I am enormously proud to hit another milestone today with the installation of these lights.”

Roosevelt Avenue.

Roosevelt Avenue.

In Ferreras’ New Deal for the corridor, she aimed to make significant improvements such as creating a better business environment, increasing sanitation services and upgrading the lights.

According to the DOT, the new 78- and 91-watt LED lights will replace the 100- and 150-watt high-pressure sodium lights, giving everything around the lights a better color rendering and enhancing nighttime visibility.

The "yellow colored" lights that used to run down Roosevelt Avenue will be replaced.

The “yellow-colored” lampposts that used to run down Roosevelt Avenue will be replaced with new LED lights.

“Thanks to the council member’s support, the new LED lights and poles that DOT is currently installing on Roosevelt Avenue help build on Vision Zero’s safety goals,” DOT Borough Commissioner Nicole Garcia said. “The improved lighting enhances visibility for all, boost[s] the look of the streetscape and saves on energy costs.”

The lights are also part of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s OneNYC Initiative, which looks to reduce the city’s overall carbon footprint by more than 30 percent by 2030.

The installation of the new light poles began last week and the DOT plans to have all work completed by the fall.

“[Roosevelt Avenue] will no longer be viewed as a blighted area. This will no longer be viewed as the shadow area of our community. We have brought light to shadow and I think that’s very important. It’s something that this community has consistently asked for,” Ferreras said.

Ferreras also added that as part of her participatory budgeting she plans to allocate funds to get new lampposts and LED lights from 90th to 82nd streets as well.

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City to deploy ‘shelter repair squad’ to fix homeless shelter issues


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Angy Altamirano

Five city agencies are coming together to investigate and solve the issues faced at over 500 homeless shelters throughout the city.

Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on Monday that the city will deploying hundreds of “special SWAT teams” — made up of employees from the FDNY, Department of Buildings, Department of Homeless Services, Department of Health and the Department of Housing Preservation and Development — to accelerate the process of repairs at homeless shelters all over New York City.

“These SWAT teams are necessary because we aren’t dealing with a problem that just started in the last year or two, we’re dealing with a problem that is decades old and has gotten worse for several reasons,” de Blasio said. “This city has seen a homelessness crisis that in the last decade went from a very troubling level to an absolutely unacceptable level.”

According to the mayor, 56,000 people are currently living in shelters, and although that number is down from 59,000 people a few months ago, there is still much more to be done.

The implementation of the inter-agency shelter repair squad comes after de Blasio received a report from the Department of Investigation two months ago that put forth the unhealthy conditions at the city shelters. The DOI found 25 shelters that required immediate attention, and those have since had almost all violations addressed.

One of those shelters included the Corona Family Residence, where de Blasio made the announcement Monday afternoon. This facility had violations such as smoke detector problems and rodent infestations.

The squads will go out to individual shelters, identify the problems and solutions to them, then reach out to various departments and agencies that could find the resources to correct the conditions. Typical violations — such as broken or missing smoke detectors — will be expected to be fixed within a seven-day period after being identified. Some of the more complicated capital repairs will begin in about 30 days with a plan of completion within the calendar year.

Along with the squad, there will also be an accountability system put into place where members of the public will be able to track the city’s progress through online scorecards.

“Every effort is being made to reduce the number of health and safety violations within DHS shelters, and the creation of the shelter repair squad will provide immeasurable support to us in these efforts,” DHS Commissioner Gilbert Taylor said. “This engagement is truly reflective of our city’s collective responsibility, serving our most vulnerable New Yorkers. These measures will indeed help DHS to overcome the many years of neglect that our city shelter system has been subjected to.”

Last week, de Blasio also announced that in the city’s 2016 $78.3 billion budget $100 million will go toward homeless prevention and assistance, including rental support, anti-eviction and legal services, and more. The budget will also include $4.7 million to expand the number of shelter beds for runaway and homeless youth by another 100, while enhancing mental health services.

For Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, who attended the Monday announcement, the issues residents have to live with at these homeless shelters hit close to his heart because his family once lived in a shelter. Van Bramer said that many of the issues the families are facing are the same as those his family faced years ago.

“Every family that comes to [a] shelter is in a state of crisis in one way or another, but the fact that they found shelter means that they are on the path to recovery, like my family. So going to [a] shelter is the first step, in many cases, to making it out of [the] shelter,” Van Bramer said. “But when you get to that shelter, it should be a place where any New Yorker could live because it’s about dignity and it’s about knowing that you matter, your lives matter, your children matter.”

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City to spend $300M over next three years on NYCHA housing roof replacements


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photo by Scott Bintner/PropertyShark

Mayor Bill de Blasio and the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) announced a new initiative that will benefit thousands of residents, including those at the Queensbridge Houses in Long Island City, in the upcoming years.

The city officials announced Saturday that $100 million will be going toward addressing the issue of mold at NYCHA housing developments. This funding comes from the mayor’s pledge to match the state’s $100 million investment in NYCHA.

In addition to this initial funding, over the next two years the city will continue to invest $100 million a year for roof replacements – totaling $300 million over three years.

“Years of federal and state disinvestment have led to deteriorating buildings, depriving tenants of the level of housing they deserve,” de Blasio said. “By making these critical investments in our aging NYCHA buildings, we are both protecting our residents – many of whom are children – and saving money spent on repairing these buildings.”

The first year’s funding, which is expected to begin construction next month, will cover the roof replacement on 66 buildings throughout the city, benefiting about 13,000 residents. These buildings were selected because they have the highest number of maintenance repair requests such as leak and painting repair, and mold work orders.

Included in these buildings are the Queensbridge Houses in Long Island City, which will see 14 buildings on both the south and north sides of the development get roofs replaced.

The funding will replace the roofs and parapets, which are the protective walls along the roofs. This replacement is expected to eliminate core symptoms of mold, reduce operating expenses and preserve the structures by safeguarding them from moisture.

“This is a welcome announcement to the residents of the Queensbridge Houses who have waited many years for the completion of these critical repairs,” Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer said. “This responsible investment will benefit thousands of New Yorkers and allow NYCHA to dedicate scarce resources to other essential improvements citywide.”

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Thousands gather to honor fallen Officer Brian Moore at funeral


| agiudice@ridgewoodtimes.com

Photo via Twitter/@NYPDnews

Tens of thousands of police officers from across the country and Canada gathered in solidarity and sadness on Long Island Friday to mourn the loss of their brother in blue, Officer Brian Moore, who was killed in the line of duty in Queens last week.

The funeral was held at St. James Roman Catholic Church in Seaford, Long Island, where Moore’s family, friends, fellow officers and community joined together inside and outside of the church to give one final farewell to the fallen cop.

Moore, 25, of the 105th Precinct, joined the police force almost five years ago, following in the footsteps of his father, Raymond, his uncle and cousins, who all served in the NYPD.

“Brian had a vocation to be a peacemaker, to be a cop and to be a hero,” Monsignor Robert Romano said of Moore during his homily. “Brian was a team player…he was an American hero.”

Romano told those in attendance that their memories of Moore will keep him alive.

“All who knew him and loved him have a special bond with him,” Romano said. “We will never forget our fallen brothers and sisters. We will never forget Brian.”

RIP Officer Moore #li #longisland #ny #newyork #nyc #nypd

A video posted by FLiD_NY (@therealflid_ny) on

Mayor Bill de Blasio gave his condolences to the Moore family during the Mass.

“We are all gathered in one purpose, to mourn the loss of a great man, a young man, a very great man, Officer Brian Moore,” he said. “Brian Moore represented the best of New York City. He was brave for sure, but his bravery was matched by his compassion.”

“He devoted his whole being to the job,” the mayor continued. “He was respected by his elders and he was looked up to by junior officers. Even at the age of 25, others flocked to him seeking advice and guidance.”

During his short time on the force, Moore made more than 150 arrests and earned several service medals.

Police Commissioner William Bratton then took the podium to honor Moore’s memory.

“It’s not many of us who can say we lived out a dream. But Brian could. He dreamed of being a cop,” Bratton said. “He had an eye for the street…not even five years on, but he was already in anti-crime, already decorated…we need more like him.”

Just before 1 p.m. Bratton posthumously promoted Moore.

“And so, with great honor — and great sadness —  I posthumously promote Brian Moore, shield 469, to Detective First Grade,” Bratton announced.

Photo via Twitter/@NYPDnews

Photo via NYPDnews

Moore was given shield number 9002, following shield numbers 9000 and 9001, given to Detectives Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu, who were killed in the line of duty last December.

After the Mass, the official NYPD flag that was draped over Moore’s coffin was ceremoniously folded and handed to his parents.

Moore, who was from Massapequa, will be buried at St. Charles Cemetery in Farmingdale.

The young cop was patrolling the streets of Queens Village in an unmarked police cruiser with his partner, P.O. Erik Jansen, on May 2 when he was shot by Demetrius Blackwell at the corner of 212th Street and 104th Road. Moore was rushed to Jamaica Hospital where he fought for his life, but succumbed to his injuries on May 4.

Blackwell, 35, who has since been arrested, has a previous criminal record, including arrests for robbery and weapons possession. He also served several years in prison for a second-degree attempted murder conviction. Upon Moore’s death, Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown upgraded the charge to first-degree murder. If convicted, Blackwell faces 25 years to life behind bars.

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LIC Partnership offers a snapshot of Long Island City’s growth now and for the future


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of Jessica Frankl

It’s no secret that real estate in Long Island City is booming.

Thousands of apartments have been built within the last decade and land prices have risen to historic highs. With the influx of residents, the retail side is witnessing growth and more offices are moving across the East River.

In front of hundreds of real estate industry members at the LIC Partnership’s ninth annual real estate breakfast on Wednesday, experts agreed that it’s a good time for the area as it blooms into one of New York’s most desirable neighborhoods, and that real estate activity is set to multiply.

“Today’s breakfast featured a very enthusiastic discussion among some of the area’s industry leaders on the growth and demand for real estate in Long Island City,” said David Brause, president of Brause Realty, who moderated the panel discussion at the event. “The general consensus is that it’s a great time to be in this market, and that the area will only continue to take off in the coming years.”

More than 8,600 residential units have been completed in LIC since 2006, and more than 22,500 units are in the planning or construction phase, according to a LIC Partnership analysis released simultaneously with the event.

Some additional growth may come by way of the Sunnyside Yards — a rail yard used by Amtrak, the MTA and New Jersey Transit — where Mayor Bill de Blasio hopes to develop 11,250 affordable housing units, schools, open spaces and community facilities. The city’s Economic Development Corporation will announce the company that will perform a yearlong feasibility study for that plan in the coming weeks.

If accomplished, the Sunnyside Yards plan could again expand LIC, but panelists at the event weren’t immediately on board with the ambitious idea, which has been pitched for decades by various figures.

“My attitude is every time everyone gets all these visions, I’m like you know what I don’t have time for this,” said panelist David Dishy, president of development and acquisition at L+M Development Partners.

DSC_1810B

LIC Partnership President Elizabeth Lusskin addressing the crowd.

One thing that is clear is that more and more people want to buy homes and stay in LIC.  To meet the high demand for homes — and rising land values — developers are pushing to build more condos.

However, buying residential property in the neighborhood is also becoming a pricey endeavor. The average price for condominiums in the first three months of 2015 was $678,333 for a studio, $820,000 for a one-bedroom apartment, and $1.1 million for a two-bedroom unit, according to the LIC Partnership analysis.

The neighborhood has also emerged as a hotel destination for New York City. More than 20 hotels have opened in the area in seven years and 26 more are planned or currently under construction, the Partnership said.

The foot traffic increase in LIC has helped fill in vacant spaces on retail corridors, but for most it’s still hard to pinpoint the neighborhood’s Main Street.

“It’s hard to point it out, but I would say Vernon [Boulevard],” said Matthew Baron, president of Simon Baron Development. “There’s really no Main Street, but I think that’s okay.”

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City Planning extends public comment period for mayor’s citywide rezoning plan


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Christopher Bride/PropertyShark

The Department of City Planning is giving residents more time to express concerns about Mayor Bill de Blasio’s citywide rezoning plan, following criticisms at a recent public hearing.

The public comment period was originally scheduled to end on April 6 but has been extended to April 30 for the proposal, Zoning for Quality and Affordability, which is a significant part of Blasio’s plan to create or preserve 200,000 affordable housing units citywide in 10 years.

De Blasio hopes more than 11,250 of those affordable units will be built over the Sunnyside Yards in Long Island City, an idea that has also taken heat from residents and elected officials.

The citywide proposal targets changing zoning regulations to encourage the construction of more affordable and senior housing as well as improve the look and quality of buildings.

Part of the proposal would, for example, reduce parking requirements for buildings in neighborhoods with public transit options or that have low car ownership, which will help lower construction costs; the report claims this would reduce costs for housing.

The plan also seeks to ease rules that shape buildings and allow more design flexibility for developers in high-density areas by increasing height maximums in many areas up to 15 feet and reducing setback requirements. This could help developers to create bigger buildings with higher floor-to-floor heights and better layouts.

However, critics at the public hearing on March 25 have said that there hasn’t been enough publicizing of the plan. Residents fear that larger buildings will be built in some historic neighborhoods that have fought for strict contextual zoning regulations to protect the character of the areas, such as Jackson Heights.

Some also criticized that since many buildings will have only 20 percent affordable housing to meet city subsidy programs, mostly market-rate or luxury units will be built through the housing initiative.

Following the public comment period, the city planning will produce amendments to the proposal and another round of public review will begin.

Click here for a summary of the plan or here for the detailed draft.

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Koo: Mayor broke promise to make Lunar New Year a school holiday


| ejankiewicz@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/ Photo by Eric Jankiewicz

Flushing’s Asian community feels burned by Mayor Bill de Blasio’s failure to make Lunar New Year a citywide holiday.

De Blasio announced last week that two Muslim holidays, Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha, would be added to the public school’s calendar as a holiday that will suspend school for two days. But Councilman Peter Koo said that the de Blasio administration promised him the same designation for Lunar New Year, a holiday that was recently celebrated, among others, by Flushing’s Asian community.

“The de Blasio administration did a commendable thing by recognizing the two Eids as important holidays,” Koo said. “What was strikingly absent from this announcement, however, was the declaration of Lunar New Year as a day off for school children as well. My community and I were made to believe that Lunar New Year was going to officially be recognized for the next school year. I was very disappointed.”

He continued, “Someone needs to explain to us why this hasn’t happened, despite being led to believe it would.”

De Blasio and School Chancellor Carmen Fariña have been pushing for Lunar New Year to become a citywide school holiday since the mayor took office, and the two often held rallies in Flushing to promote the idea. With the addition of the two Muslim holidays, there are now 16 official school holidays. State law sets a required number of school days, and the city must rework its school calendar for any additional school holidays.

But students in Flushing, and other Asian communities in New York, didn’t have to go to school this year because of a law that was passed last year.

The law allows the Department of Education to consider closing schools on days where large student absences are expected due to religious or cultural days of observance; it also calls on school districts to consider closing schools on holidays that are important to groups that account for at least 7.5 percent of the local population. According to census data, 57 percent of Flushing population is classified as Asian.

But Koo still wanted an official nod in the form of a citywide public school holiday.

“We worked with the administration when they came into power to work at getting Lunar New Year a holiday designation,” a spokesman for Koo’s office said. “They haven’t given us any explanation. They didn’t tell us why they didn’t do it.”

After last week’s announcement, de Blasio was asked if Lunar New Year would be included in the future.

“I’m going to keep working on that with the chancellor. What we’ve found in this process is that we are in a very tight situation, as I said, with the number of days that we have to achieve each year, so it’s going to take more work to get to that,” de Blasio said last Wednesday. “We remain focused on it, but it will take more work, because we have to balance a lot of factors.”

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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 (EDC) 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 booming 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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