Tag Archives: News

No More Rotten ‘Apple’


| mpantelidis@queenscourier.com

Photo Courtesy of Alma Realty

Long Island City’s “Apple Building” – currently eaten to its core – will soon be ripe again.

The edifice, located at 30-30 Northern Boulevard and known for the large sign on its roof – left behind by the Apple Red Tag & Label company when it ceased operations in the 1970s – has been mostly vacant for over a decade and is currently in disarray.

Alma Realty, the building’s developer, is planning to restore and renovate the structure into a retail and commercial complex by this time next year. The developers also aim to raise the building’s square footage from about 180,000 to roughly 270,000 by increasing the number of stories from five to seven. Once completed, the building will include a fitness center, cafeteria and rooftop terrace.

George Valiotis, the Alma Realty project director, anticipates a strong demand in retail in the upcoming years, and believes the site could be very appealing to tech and media firms. Valiotis went on to say that Alma has had preliminary negotiations with several universities about building a campus on the site – complete a culture center, museum, 2,000-seat amphitheatre and dormitory – which he hopes would open in five years.

“We think this is great for L.I.C.,” Valiotis said. “It will create foot traffic for other businesses to open up in the surrounding area. If the building is filled up with offices and there are hundreds of people working there, restaurants, cafes and stores will open in the area. It brings life to an area which for a long time was underutilized. L.I.C. is a great place to live, work and play and if people work there then they will live and play there too.”

According to Valiotis, the exterior work necessary is substantial, and the interior will be based on tenants’ requests. Valiotis said the signature sign on the building’s roof will be restored, but kept in place. Although Alma has yet to receive a building permit, the company has begun fixing violations and performing demolition work. The developers have also applied for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold Certification – a prestigious designation awarded to eco-friendly buildings.

“The Apple Building,” which was erected in 1913, was sold to Alma in 2011. The previous developer intended to build a 19-story dormitory on the site, and the last tenant the building had was a topless bar.

Community leaders have strongly supported the building’s renovation – anticipating that retail and commercial space will compliment the restaurants and shops recently opened in the Queens Plaza area.

Jerry Walsh, president of the Dutch Kills Civic Association, expects the area’s economy to improve greatly, and he hopes to hold discussions with Alma regarding the project in the future. Although he would have preferred the city purchase the building to construct a hospital, Walsh says Alma’s plans are a great positive for the neighborhood and residents are pleased.

Community Board 2 approves liquor licenses


| mpantelidis@queenscourier.com

The Courier/Photo by Michael Pantelidis

Casa Enrique and the M. Wells Dinette inside MoMA PS1 Contemporary Art Center were both recently approved for liquor licenses by Community Board (CB) 2.

The proprietors of the Long Island City establishments made presentations to the board members and community residents during an April 24 meeting, requesting the right to sell liquor inside their respective restaurants.

Winston Kulok, the owner of Casa Enrique – an authentic Mexican restaurant located at 5-48 49th Avenue – also received permission to serve food in a small garden area in the rear of the eatery until 10 p.m. on Sunday through Thursday and until midnight on Friday and Saturday.

In an attempt to ease concerns of disorderly conduct, Kulok said he is a “responsible operator” and that his restaurants are “food oriented.” The restaurateur went on to say that he has 20 pages of signatures from residents in support of his application.

M. Wells and MoMA PS1 submitted a joint application to allow for an overlap between the two facilities during catered events or receptions. CB 2 voted to allow the restaurant to sell liquor and remain open until 2 a.m.

Peter Katz, chief operating officer of MoMA PS1, and Sarah Obraitis, owner of M. Wells, said they welcomed the partnership and believe it will be greatly beneficial for L.I.C. Both also emphasized that they are not aiming to cause any trouble with their pairing.

Despite previous incidents of loud noise and disorderly conduct from visitors of the museum, M. Wells and MoMA PS1 received overwhelming support from the residents in attendance – who were excited over the restaurant’s return.

JetBlue sign will grace L.I.C. sky


| mpantelidis@queenscourier.com


Following a year of cutting through red tape – and mulling a move to Florida – JetBlue has been given the green light to provide Long Island City with a “sign” that they are here to stay.

The City Council voted unanimously on April 30 to approve a zoning amendment allowing companies to construct signs on non-residential buildings along 14 blocks of a

Queens Plaza sub-district – which runs between 23rd Street and the Sunnyside railroad yard.

The changes were pushed by JetBlue so the airline could construct a sign of its logo on the rooftop of its new headquarters in the Brewster Building, located at 27-01 Queens Plaza North in L.I.C.

JetBlue was considering departing New York and landing in Orlando last year, but was ultimately enticed into staying by a city package consisting of tax exemptions and marketing-relating incentives – reportedly reaching $30 million. The airline moved to the Brewster Building on April 4, bringing 1,000 of its 5,300 Queens-based employees to L.I.C.

“We are New York’s hometown airline and this sign will reinforce our status as an iconic New York brand,” said Tamara Young, manager of corporate communications for JetBlue. “We are proud to be here and we are proud to be a neighbor in L.I.C. We want to introduce ourselves to our neighbors and be a part of the driving force in the development that is taking place in the neighborhood. This sign is a way to do that.”

The proposed placard will be formed out of a steel box with an acrylic face and will be illuminated at night by high efficiency LED light strips, making the letters blue during the day and appear white after sundown. It will be 42 feet high and 75 feet wide – with the tallest letter reaching 25 feet – and will encompass similar qualities to other historic advertisements across the neighborhood, including the Silvercup and Pepsi signs. If no other obstacles are encountered, JetBlue believes the sign will be installed early in the fall.

Zoning regulations put in place in 2001 restricted the height of new signs in manufacturing districts to 40 feet above curb level. In order to rewrite the rules, JetBlue initially had to receive approval from Community Boards (CB) 1 and 2. Although CB 1 passed the airline’s application, the board members did suggest the “rooftop sign be limited to a tenant that occupied a minimum of 25 percent of the total building area” and that subleasing not be allowed. CB 2 voted unanimously against the changes, citing the “lack of oversight and community input and comment on any future rooftop signs.”

CB 2 was reportedly concerned that too many signs would sprout up on neighborhood buildings, causing a similar scene to Las Vegas or Times Square.
Dutch Kills Civic Association President Jerry Walsh believes the zoning rules should not be comprehensive, but each case should be studied independently.
“I think each sign should be looked at individually. It shouldn’t be a blanket thing,” Walsh said. “You have to be a major renter of the building to put a sign up. You can’t live in a closet and expect to get a sign up. We don’t want to see flashing signs like on 42nd Street.”

To ease community apprehension, Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer worked with the Department of City Planning to rework the amendment – stipulating that only tenants that occupied 20 percent or 50,000 square feet of a building could erect a sign on its roof.

CB 2 subsequently approved the proposal, followed by a City Council subcommittee on zoning and the entire council.

Van Bramer said he is not worried about the area resembling the glitzy midtown Manhattan attraction due to the few buildings that are eligible to apply for signs. The councilmember went on to say he believes the number of signs will ultimately be minimal, while the passage of the amendment is an important step for JetBlue’s success.

“I think the arrival of JetBlue is great news for L.I.C.,” Van Bramer said. “Its sign will be a visual reminder of the transformation and rebirth of the Dutch Kills and Queens Plaza area. I think it will be a sign that L.I.C. is open for business and good for business. JetBlue brings vitality and energy and life. I hope it will attract more businesses to come to Queens Plaza, Dutch Kills and L.I.C.”

Food Fight: Bayside biz say food carts hurt


| mchan@queenscourier.com

The Courier/Photo by Melissa Chan

Bayside business owners say mobile food vendors that are popping up in the area and setting up shop near established eateries may be carting revenue away from them.

According to Sammy An, owner of Cue Bar on Bell Boulevard, a piggybacking Halal food cart vendor’s 24-hour service has robbed him of income.

“I keep seeing people walking out [of my restaurant], spending their money there and coming back to keep drinking,” An said. “But I have the kitchen open, and it takes away revenue.”

An — who said he pays about $26,000 a month for rent — said he also finds himself picking up after messes left behind by his competitor, who surfaced less than a month ago, in order to avoid being pinned for littering.

Majid Khan, owner of the Halal stand, heavily disputed the claims.

“If they believe we’re taking business away from them, they’re wrong,” Khan said. “If people like food from the restaurant, they’re going to go to the restaurant. If people like Halal food, they’re going to get food from us. You can’t stop anyone.”

According to Susan Seinfeld, district manager of Community Board 11, about a dozen home and business owners have filed complaints about the rise in food carts in northeast Queens.

Amongst concerns about the uncleanliness and clutter, Seinfeld said residents are more than displeased with how the carts have harmed the aesthetics of the area.
“This is not an addition they bargained for,” she said. “They want to keep the area low density, almost suburban, with trees lining the block. People keep everything neat and clean here, and they feel the food carts are unattractive.”

Seinfeld said the problem extends outside of the borough, but within Bayside alone she said the heavy hitters are located on Northern and Bell Boulevards, 73rd Avenue and Bell Boulevard, and Springfield Boulevard and Horace Harding Expressway.

According to Councilmember Mark Weprin, the City Council held hearings last week to discuss the growing issues. He said there are still “a lot of questions we’re trying to get answers to” before a real solution can be reached.

“I’m very concerned about the unfair competition these food carts create for local merchants,” he said. “There should be some limit as to where they can set up.”

John Amanatidis, owner of a grilled food stand on Northern and Bell Boulevards, said it’s all about coexisting with local businesses.

A neighborhood staple for 15 years, he said he closes up shop between 6 and 7 p.m. before the dinner rush begins at nearby restaurants.

“I leave. I respect them,” Amanatidis said. “But I have four kids. I have to pay rent, the bills and my taxes.”

Deal Is Near to Develop Willets Point


| jlane@queenscourier.com

Untitled-1

The Bloomberg administration is nearing a deal with the Related Cos. and a real-estate firm controlled by owners of the New York Mets to build a retail and residential development on a gritty swath of Queens near Citi Field, according to people familiar with the matter.

But the tentative deal to develop Willets Point isn’t a home run. It would require significant revisions to a signature initiative of the Bloomberg administration: an ambitious $3 billion vision for the area that includes 5,000 apartments, stores and a hotel.

The idea was unveiled with great fanfare in 2007 and passed a complicated public-review process in 2008. But during recent negotiations, developers rejected the plan as financially impractical and called for some changes, the people said.

Read More: Wall Street Journal

Grover Cleveland spared: Now the work begins, say teachers


| brennison@queenscourier.com

DSC_0008

As dozens of students, faculty, supporters and alumni stepped to the microphone during Grover Cleveland High School’s public hearing last month — determined to have their voices heard — many were resigned to the fact that their shouts would fall on deaf ears.

But their raucous rallies were heard loud and clear.

Hours before the Panel for Educational Policy meeting to decide the fate of 26 city schools, Grover

Cleveland was removed from the list of Turnaround.

“I’m just glad the DOE listened to us for once,” said Nicole, a junior at the school. “We were devastated when we heard the news we might close; now, we can go back to being students.”

Under the Turnaround model the Ridgewood school would have closed and reopened under a new name with up to half the teachers being replaced.

In a statement, Chancellor Dennis Walcott said that the school’s performance and quality of instruction have shown positive signs and an ability to continue these improvements.

In recent years, the school has shown signs of betterment, increasing its graduation rate and being rated as proficient on a quality review.

“We always had hope and we knew what the city wanted for us and we were doing it right,” said Mirit Jakab, an English teacher at the school. “We were worried the DOE was just following protocol, but through all the turmoil, we never gave up.”

The four-hour long public hearing and the passion and comments received that night played a role in the DOE’s decision to save the school.

“I’m really proud of the kids,” Jakab said. “They went above and beyond; they really fought for their school.”

Grover Cleveland, which was in the three-year restart program, lost out on the federal funds from the program when the DOE and teachers’ union failed to come to an agreement on a new teacher evaluation system. The school would have received additional School Improvement Grant funds if it entered the Turnaround program.

Though Cleveland has been removed from the list, its work is not done, said Jakab, who has been there for 10 years.

“Now, we have to roll up our sleeves and even go beyond what we were doing. I’m excited and ready to work.”

This Morning’s Headlines


| jlane@queenscourier.com

Graphic by Jay Lane

Queens Man Found Guilty In Subway Bomb Plot Trial

The mother of convicted terrorist Adis Medunjanin hurried out of Brooklyn federal court Tuesday afternoon, minutes after her son was found guilty of plotting to blow up parts of the city’s subway during rush hour back in 2009. The jury also found Medunjanin guilty of conspiring to kill U.S. troops in Afghanistan after receiving terrorism training from al-Qaida in Pakistan. Loretta Lynch, the U.S. attorney in charge of the case, said this should send a clear message — terrorists will be caught and prosecuted. Read More: NY1

 

Ray Kelly ‘Still contemplating’ run for mayor

Ray Kelly has given his first public indication that he might indeed be interested in running for mayor. The police commissioner was approached by a reporter at a party last week in Washington and asked point blank if he was open to the idea of trying to succeed Mayor Bloomberg. “I’m still contemplating that,” Kelly responded, according to New York magazine. He had a few other things to say first, which raised the question whether he was really signaling he might make his first run for office. Read More: New York Post


Large Majority Of City Council Votes For Living Wage Bill

The legislation requires companies getting a million dollars or more in city subsidies to pay their workers at least $10 an hour. “We live in city where the gap between the rich and poor has widened more than any other city,” said Brooklyn Councilman Charles Barron. “We talk about government subsidies, one of my colleagues said that this is a bill we can build on. And that’s what I’m terrified of, you will build on this bill,” said Queens Councilman Dan Halloran. Read More: NY1

 

Queens Democrats facing challenges from inside and outside the party ranks

Several Democratic state senators from Queens could face challenges this year from forces both inside and outside their party. Republican City Councilman Eric Ulrich announced this week that he will take on Democrat Joseph Addabbo Jr. for his 15th Senate District seat. And Councilman James Sanders Jr., a Democrat, is mulling a primary challenge to Shirley Huntley for her 10th Senate District seat in southeast Queens. Ulrich, a rising star in the Republican Party, could give Addabbo a tough race in his own backyard. Read More: Daily News

 

Queens construction contractors to pay $500,000 for shortchanging workers

A husband and wife team of Queens construction contractors have agreed to pay $500,000 after state investigators caught them shortchanging workers on public job sites. In a settlement with Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, Jitendra and Sarita Hirani agreed to pay restitution to 11 workers, the News has learned. “There are strict rules when taxpayer dollars are used to pay private companies for public projects, but this company violated those rules, and now they will pay the price,” Schneiderman said in a statement. Read More: Daily News


Top Headlines From Around the Web


| jlane@queenscourier.com

Graphic by Jay Lane

Liu’s former campaign treasurer pleads not guilty to fraud

The lawyer for New York City Comptroller John Liu says his client may seek to be tried separately from her codefendant. Attorney Gerald Lefcourt notified a judge of the possibility Tuesday as his client, Jia ‘Jenny’ Hou , pleaded not guilty to fraud charges. Her name was added last week to an indictment returned against a New Jersey man. The man was arrested several months ago on charges he conspired to funnel illegal contributions donated by an undercover FBI agent posing as a businessman. He too pleaded not guilty Tuesday. Read More: New York Post

 

Knicks shattered over Amar’e injury

Steve Novak was crushed about Knicks teammate Amar’e Stoudemire’s lacerated left hand, explaining he thinks Stoudemire never realized the danger when he punched the glass case of a fire extinguisher after last night’s Game 2 loss to the Heat. “I feel awful for [Stoudemire] because he plays with emotion,” Novak told The Post. “And you’re walking in a hallway, and I don’t think he ever thought for a second that it was going to be glass, that it was going to shatter.” Novak said he “was right behind [Stoudemire],” though he cautioned, “but I didn’t actually see his hand. Read More: New York Post
Department of Education Outlines Social Media Policy For Teachers

The city has introduced its first guidelines for the use of social media by teachers. The Department of Education says teachers should refuse friend requests from students on their personal accounts on sites like Facebook and Twitter. They’re also being warned that their activity may be monitored and should have no expectation of privacy. Teachers will be given training sessions on the new guidelines. Education officials may also ask parents to sign consent forms before their children participate in social media activities or post their work online. Read More: NY1

 

 

Rent Guidelines Board Holds Preliminary Vote Tonight

Tenants and building owners will once again be squabbling over annual rent hikes for the city’s rent-regulated apartments as the Rent Guidelines Board holds a preliminary vote this evening at Cooper Union. Last year, the board hiked rents 3.75 percent on one-year leases and 7.25 percent on two-year leases. Tonight’s meeting is open to the public, but officials say any noisemakers that can be used to disrupt the proceedings are prohibited. Tenants rights groups and Occupy Wall Street demonstrators plan to hold a protest outside the meeting. The board’s final vote is on June 21. Read More: NY1

 

Cops probe death of baby girl on Staten Island

Police are investigating the death of baby girl on Staten Island, NYPD sources said Tuesday. Six-month-old Genesis Monge wasn’t breathing and had a 105-degree fever when her foster mother called 911 just past 10:15 p.m. Monday, sources said. Genesis was rushed from her home on Steuben St. to Staten Island University Hospital North, where doctors told police she had marks consistent with past trauma, sources said. Genesis died at 11:15 p.m. Read More: Daily News

 

Google knew Street View collected emails, passwords, personal information from millions worldwide

Google Street View had an eye on more than just city streets — it also once collected emails, passwords, Internet search histories, medical records and more from millions of people around the world, new documents show. An FCC report released Friday reveals Google spent over two years between 2008 and 2010 quietly capturing a mountain of personal information by tapping into unsecured wireless networks through its Street View cars, which drive around capturing snapshots to populate the search giant’s massive map database. Read More: Daily News

This Morning’s Headlines


| jlane@queenscourier.com

Graphic by Jay Lane

Queens jurors lead city in no-shows

Looks like Queens needs a boroughwide civics class. More than one-third, or 35 percent, of Queens residents ignore their jury-duty notices — the highest in the five boroughs. “We’re dealing with thousands of people, and we just don’t have the staff,” said Queens County Clerk Audrey Pheffer, who acts as the commissioner of jurors. In fact, Pheffer, a former assemblywoman, said the office stopped bothering to impose fines as it upgrades its jury-selection system. Read More: New York Post

Queens deli destroyed by early morning fire, explosion

A Queens deli was destroyed by an overnight fire — and an explosion at the store could be felt two blocks away. The fire was reported at 3:30 a.m. at the corner of Hempstead Avenue and 220th Street. Firefighters used ladder trucks to spray the building, as the fire was too strong to fight from the inside. The business, Deli Grocery & Grill, is relatively new — only about two months old. No injuries were reported, and there’s no word on the cause of the fire. Read More: New York Post

 

Deliberations To Begin This Week In Queens Terror Trial

A jury could start deliberations as early as Monday in the case of a Queens man accused of plotting to blow up the city’s subways. Adis Medunjanin is accused of conspiring with admitted terrorist Najibullah Zazi to detonate suicide bombs on Manhattan subway lines in 2009. He has pleaded not guilty to charges of conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction against the United States and receiving terrorist training from al-Qaida. Medunjanin faces life in prison if convicted on conspiracy and terror charges. Read More: NY1

 

Hundreds Of Union Job Applicants Camp Out In Woodside

Hundreds of applicants vying for a job with the ironworkers’ union waited outside the union’s office in Woodside, Queens for nearly a week, leaving some neighbors upset about the camp-out. Read More: NY1

Historic Forest Park Greenhouse gets $3.8 million upgrade, replacing century-old structures with high-tech ones

The historic Forest Park Greenhouse, which grows plants and flowers that liven up concrete stretches in Queens and Brooklyn, is moving beyond its early 20th century roots. A section of the greenhouse has just undergone a $3.8 million reconstruction that will increase its capacity and make it more environmentally-friendly. The first stage of the renovation focused on two of the houses that were built in 1905 and designed by greenhouse experts of the time, Lord and Burnham. Read More: Daily News

 

1 WTC to vault past Empire State Building today and become tallest tower in city

ONE WORLD Trade Center is set to eclipse the Empire State Building as New York’s tallest building Monday afternoon, officials said. As long as the weather cooperates, the tower will surpass the 1,250-foot Empire State Building at 2 p.m. on its way to a final height of 1,776 feet. “It’s wonderful,” Mayor Bloomberg said Sunday. “It’s taken a long time. This is probably the most complex construction site in any place ever. I think what we’ve shown is that democracy works.” Read More: Daily News

Police searching for bank robbery suspects


| jlane@queenscourier.com

RMA#527 Incident #1 112 PCT

The New York City Police Department is asking for the public’s assistance in identifying and locating the following suspect wanted for two armed bank robberies which occurred within the confines of the 112 and 105 Precinct.  Details are as follows:

 

On Thursday, April 26, 2012, suspect entered both locations listed below, approached the teller, displayed a demand note and a black firearm and demanded money.  In both incidents he received an undetermined amount of USC and fled the location.  There were no reported injuries as a result of these incidents.

 

Incident#1 (112 Pct): April 26, 2012 (Thur) at 1330 hours inside of 99-00 Metropolitan Avenue (Chase Bank).

Incident#2 (105 Pct): April 26, 2012 (Thur) at 1430 hours inside of 252-25 Union Turnpike (Capital One Bank).

 

Suspect: M/W/20-25, 5’2″, 5’3″, 120-125lbs (small build) armed with a black handgun. He was last seen wearing black jacket, gray hoody sweatshirt underneath, black pants and a baseball hat with Oakland Raiders insignia.

 

Anyone with information in regard to this crime is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-577-TIPS (8477).  The public can also submit tips by logging onto the Crime Stoppers website at WWW.NYPDCRIMESTOPPERS.COM or by texting their tips to 274637 (CRIMES) then enter TIP577.  All calls are strictly confidential.

NASA Shuttle Prototype Enterprise Arrives In City


| jlane@queenscourier.com

ArfvR9ACIAA7PBo

The Space Shuttle Enterprise is boldly going where no shuttle has gone before. NASA’s prototype orbiter arrived in the city this morning. It was flown piggyback atop NASA’s specially designed 747. The shuttle took off from Dulles Airport in Virginia and was scheduled to land at Kennedy Airport before 11 a.m.On the way, it flew over the Statue of Liberty and the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum where it will be put on permanent display in June. Read More and Watch the Video: NY1

Hear That? It’s the Queens housing boom


| mpantelidis@queenscourier.com


With economies around the world foundering, the Queens housing market appears to be floating just fine.

According to data from the Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY), Queens had the most home sales of any borough in the first quarter of this year with 2,919 – representing a 13 percent increase from last year. The average sales price of a home in Queens also declined by two percent to $391,000.

The neighborhoods with the most home sales in the borough were Flushing, with 301, Rego Park, Forest Hills and Kew Gardens, which had 265 sales, and Springfield Gardens and Jamaica which experienced 237 sales.

The housing boom in Queens is part of positive results citywide, as average home sales prices and sales volume remained steady across the five boroughs in the first quarter of 2012 compared to the same time last year, while the number of total sales increased by 16 percent from last quarter.

Competitive prices and low mortgage rates attracted buyers and stimulated the growth, according to REBNY, the city’s leading real estate trade association.

“The trend has been somewhat upward, meaning even in the fourth quarter we didn’t see a dip when compared to the first quarter of last year,” said Mike Slattery, the senior vice president of REBNY. “The fact that it has been a steady rise and not a seasonal adjustment is noteworthy. Queens has been a strong, solid upper middle class borough for a very long time, and the broad based strength of its neighborhoods continues to make it an appealing location for home buyers.”

Slattery expects the housing market to continue to grow and said a survey of brokers conducted by REBNY shows “continued uptick in contracts signed.”
John O’Kane, manager of O’Kane Realty, located at 72-01 Grand Avenue in Maspeth, believes a variety of factors have made buying a house in Queens attractive.
“Interest rates are historically low, so anyone who can afford to buy is buying,” said O’Kane. “You get a lot of New York flavor in Queens also. It’s the melting pot of the world.”

The condo market particularly buoyed sales in Queens, as the borough experienced a 36 percent increase in transactions – led by Long Island City, which saw a 53 percent increase from the previous quarter.

Eric Benaim, CEO of Modern Spaces, which handles sales for a number of high-profile condo buildings in L.I.C., says inventory is getting low while demand is growing.
Modern Spaces represents The View, which is 85 percent full and demanding $950 to $1,000 per square foot, and The Industry, which has sold roughly 51 percent of its spaces and costs as high as $850 per square foot. The Vista and the Bindery are new high rises that will likely introduce 250 to 300 condos into the market between 2012 and 2013, according to Benaim.

“Everyone loves L.I.C. when they come here,” Benaim said. “We are getting a lot of ‘Manhattanites’ because of overpricing in Manhattan. The market in L.I.C. is extremely busy.

I haven’t seen it this busy since 2006 or 2007. Years ago we had to pitch L.I.C. as an up and coming neighborhood. But it is not up and coming anymore, it is here.”

Bayside Bid Battle Brewing


| mpantelidis@queenscourier.com

DSC_0341

A business battle is brewing in Bayside.

Store owners on Bell Boulevard attended a meeting on April 18 organized by Gregg Sullivan – the former director of the Bayside Village Business Improvement District (BID) – to address concerns about the current state of the organization. During the meeting, the BID members in attendance voted to reappoint Sullivan, who was fired on December 19.

The merchants’ complaints included a lack of information and response from the BID’s board since Sullivan’s firing, a blurring of the line between the BID and Bayside Business Association and ambiguity regarding the allocation of funds, including a reported 30 percent increase in the organization’s original $80,000 budget. No board members attended the meeting, although Sullivan claims to have invited them all.

“Bayside got lost, and it’s been unattended to and neglected,” Sullivan said. “We need to change that now. We need to reclaim Bayside and put it in the right direction.”
Claims were also made that some owners were unaware a BID existed or that they could apply for the right to vote. According to Sullivan, there are roughly 150 businesses in the BID – which is on Bell Boulevard from 35th Avenue to Northern Boulevard – and only 29 are signed up to vote.

“We need to unify and get everyone together as merchants and real estate owners and bring this back to life. We need to have organization, structure and passion and set a one-year plan in place,” said William Degel, a BID member who organized the meeting along with Sullivan. “Nobody has done anything [since Sullivan was fired.] There is no information and no communication. It’s like everything died.”

Degel, who owns Uncle Jack’s Steakhouse on Bell Boulevard, said he expects Sullivan to be reinstated and hopes to hold a meeting with the current board to gauge their interest in making improvements and increasing transparency. In the event the board is unwilling to negotiate, replacing the members entirely was discussed during the meeting.

The motion to reinstate Sullivan was introduced by Margaret Papacostas – BID member and owner of Azure clothing store – and subsequently seconded and approved by the 16 BID voters in attendance. No one opposed the motion.

Sullivan believes he was fired after the board discovered he sent a letter to the commissioner of the Department of Small Business Services (SBS) complaining about the status of the BID. Although he claims he enjoyed working for members of the board, including BID President James Riso, Sullivan feels there may be a need for the infusion of new energy.

Riso says he was never invited to the meeting, and while Sullivan was well liked by business owners and energetic to the public, he was insubordinate behind the scenes. He also feels that the attacks on the BID have taken away from the organization’s ability to focus fully on improving business in the area.

Riso, who will step down in June due to fatigue, claims the BID’s budget was still $81,368 up until December 31, 2011, and that the board did everything expected of them at that time. With the recent increase in budget, the board hopes to accomplish more, according to Riso.

“We are not hiding behind a curtain doing secret things trying to get over on people,” said Riso. “I own a business on Bell Boulevard. I pay more taxes that anyone. We welcome people to help. Instead of having these secret meetings, help out. The people making these accusations are inhibiting us from progressing.”

Despite Sullivan’s claim that he has been reinstated to his former position, the BID recently hired an executive director. Lyle Sclair, a former economic development associate with the Brooklyn Economic Development Council, was named the new executive director of the BID on April 23. “My number one objective is to meet everyone and learn the challenges they are facing. I’m not out there to recreate the wheel, but really just to help them grow their businesses,” Sclair said. “Bell Boulevard has a great mix of restaurants, nightlife and shopping. It offers everything, so if you are looking for something you will find it on Bell Boulevard.”

This Morning’s Headlines


| jlane@queenscourier.com

Graphic by Jay Lane

DOE takes two ‘politically connected’ schools off the chopping block, axes 24 others

The city’s education-policy board voted just before midnight last night to close and then immediately reopen two dozen schools with new names and new staffers in an unprecedented move that could displace more than 1,000 teachers. Two last-minute reprieves were granted yesterday before the vote, and they went to a pair of politically backed schools — Grover Cleveland HS in Queens, which counts state Assembly Education Committee Chair Cathy Nolan as an alumna, and Bushwick Community HS in Brooklyn, which garnered several vocal supporters, including Council Speaker Christine Quinn. Read More: New York Post

 

Air man’s dogged pursuit

The Port Authority worker who got down on his hands and knees to try to rescue a canny canine who wandered onto a busy runway at La Guardia airport Wednesday is a cat lover who is allergic to dogs, he lamented. But Paul Malichek, 57, didn’t want to spook Byrdie — a 14-month-old Rhodesian ridgeback who had escaped her travel crate and turned the runway into her own private dog run — so he crawled toward her as jets idled nearby. Read More: New York Post

Occupy Protesters Turn Focus To Mounting U.S. Student Debt

Occupy Wall Street protestors gathered in Union Square in Manhattan on Wednesday to mark the day they say the U.S. student debt reached $1 trillion dollars and to draw attention to what they called the financial sector’s “predatory” student loan market. The Federal Reserve disputes the figure, saying U.S. student debt is currently $870 billion. President Barack Obama and his Republican opponent Mitt Romney have called attention to the issue on the campaign trail to try to court the college-age vote. U.S. Senate Democrats and Republicans in the House of Representatives have proposed separate bills to keep interest rates for poor and middle class students at the current level for another year. Read More: NY1


 

Mother, Sister Of Queens Terror Suspect Testify On His Behalf

The mother and sister of a Queens man accused of plotting a terror attack in the city gave emotional testimony for the defense in Brooklyn federal court on Wednesday. Alisa Medunjanin choked back tears as she talked about her brother, Adis, and the raid on their home. She recounted the story of dozens of agents with weapons storming their sixth-floor apartment to arrest her brother. Alisa said she thought her brother had gone to Pakistan to get married. Prosecutors, who wrapped up their arguments earlier Wednesday, said Adis Medunjanin was there receiving Al-Qaida terror training. Read More: NY1


 

Rapper Talib Kweli emcees at St. John’s University

Like any great rapper, Talib Kweli knows how to freestyle. Without any notes or prompts, the Brooklyn native rattled off a first-person history of hip hop music to a captive audience of more than 400 students at St. John’s University on Tuesday. “Hip hop is such a folk thing,” the 36-year-old lyricist told the Daily News. “It speaks directly to the people and the language that they are using right now.” Read More: Daily News

 

While NY Giants sit tight with No. 32 pick, NFC East division rivals Washington Redskins, Philadelphia Eagles and Dallas Cowboys load up to challenge Big Blue

 

One of the crucial issues for the Giants as they go through the offseason getting ready to defend their Super Bowl title is whether they indeed have an identity crisis. Are they the Giants who struggled to become the first team to not only win the NFC East with a mediocre 9-7 record but the first team to win the Super Bowl at 9-7? Or are they the team that raised its game to an unimaginable level in the playoffs and beat the Falcons at home in the wild-card game and then the Packers and 49ers on the road — the two best NFC teams in the regular season — before finishing off their incredible run with another Super Bowl victory over the Patriots? Read More: Daily News

 

Top Headlines From Around the Web


| jlane@queenscourier.com

Graphic by Jay Lane

Gillibrand Wants Geese Roundup In Wake Of Bird Strikes

In the wake of a pair of recent bird strikes involving planes in the New York area, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand is looking to rein in the flying nuisance responsible. She’s proposing a new measure that would make it easier for the Department of Agriculture to round up and kill Canada geese on federal land at the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge near Kennedy Airport. Wildlife advocates oppose the idea. The birds can shatter windshields, dent fuselages and ruin engines. Read More: NY1

 

 

Jackson Heights BID Delivers On Promise, Merchants Say

The Jackson Heights shopping strip is looking a lot prettier these days with news trees, benches and cleaner streets. It’s a far cry from what the 82nd Street business improvement district or BID used to look like. Now it’s got a new look, new leadership and a new name. It’s now called the 82nd Street partnership and business owners appear to like it. Retail businesses are members of the BID and many of the store owners had complained to local leaders that under the old Business Improvement District there wasn’t a lot of improvement. Read More: NY1

 

 

Power line from Quebec to Astoria draws mixed reviews

A proposal to create a $2.2 billion power transmission line to bring wind and hydroelectric power from Quebec to Astoria is pitting environmentalists and against each another and creating some unusual alliances. The Champlain Hudson Power Express project would bring up to 1,000 megawatts of Canadian power into the city through a roughly 333-mile underground, and at times underwater, cable. Read More: Daily News

 

Judge clears crane magnate James Lomma of manslaughter in deaths

Manhattan crane czar James Lomma was acquitted Thursday of the deaths of two hardhats who were killed when one of his giant machines collapsed on them. Lomma, who was charged with manslaughter in the deadly May 2008 accident at an E. 91st St. construction site, sat stoically as Judge Daniel Conviser handed down his verdict in Manhattan Supreme Court. Lomma faced up to 15 years in prison for the deaths of Donald Leo, 30, and Ramadan Kurtaj, 27. The two were killed when the crane cab plunged 200 feet down into the street. Read More: Daily News

 

Knicks’ Lin beats Lakers’ Bryant in NBA jersey sales

Jeremy Lin outsold Kobe Bryant in official jersey sales over the past year, the NBA revealed Thursday, despite the Knicks phenom only emerging to prominence in February. Fans rushed to get the former undrafted D-Leaguer’s name on their back at an unprecedented rate when “Linsanity” took hold little more than two months ago as his breakthrough performances captured global attention. The mass demand meant only Bulls guard Derrick Rose sold more jerseys than Lin last year. It is the first time the Chicago star, who was boosted by last season’s MVP title, has topped the annual list. Read More: New York Post

Camera catches prostitute accused of stealing $500K worth of diamonds

This is the savvy prostitute who allegedly swiped half a million dollars worth of uncut diamonds from a hapless gem trader — caught on surveillance video as she made her barefoot getaway from a Manhattan hotel, police say. Erika Cooper, 34 — a k a Bianca Williams — is now the target of an NYPD manhunt for allegedly pulling off the April 17 heist at the Cosmopolitan Hotel, where she waited until her john Kurt Kaiser fell asleep before she fled with his loot. Her big mistake was giving Kaiser her real phone number, which cops have used to identify her and dig up mug shots from an earlier prostitution bust, a police source said. Read More: New York Post