Tag Archives: Mayor Bill de Blasio

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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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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