Tag Archives: sandy

Students to collect data on Queens trees


| amatua@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/File photo

Students from local environmental high schools will spread out across Queens to collect data on the health of New York City trees, especially in neighborhoods affected by Hurricane Sandy.

As part of The Nature Conservancy’s Leaders in Environmental Action for the Future (LEAF) program in conjunction with the NYC Trees Count! initiative, 12 interns will count street trees and inspect flooded and non-flooded trees in the northern and southern borders of Queens. Many of the interns, who are also surveying trees in Brooklyn, Manhattan and the Bronx for this internship, are from Metropolitan Expeditionary Learning School in Forest Hills.

Students will also collect data for a U.S. Forest Service (USFS) and NYC Parks study of trees directly impacted by Hurricane Sandy. The NYC Parks Department estimates that Hurricane Sandy flooded 47,900 street trees in the city. As a result of the storm, almost 20,000 public trees in New York city were completely destroyed. The data collected by LEAF interns will help environmental groups better understand the long-term impacts of hurricanes and other interruptions on urban forests and coastal areas.

The program will take place throughout Queens on Aug. 21 and students will visit Astoria on Aug. 12 for data collection.

“The main goal of the LEAF program is to expose urban youth to nature and conservation careers at a young age to nurture a passion for the environment which will stick with them both personally and professionally for the rest of their lives,” said Brigitte Griswold, director of youth programs for The Nature Conservancy.  “Providing students with the opportunity to participate in actual conservation projects is a great complement to their environmental classroom learning and gives them hands-on experience they may not otherwise get during the school year.”

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Cuomo seeks Breezy Point elevation study, signs bill blocking ‘red tape’


| rpozarycki@queenscourier.com

Photo via Twitter/@NYGovCuomo

Along with signing a bill to keep “red tape” from strangling continued efforts to recover from Hurricane Sandy, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced in Breezy Point on Friday that the state would embark on an elevation study for the area.

Located on the western tip of the Rockaway Peninsula, Breezy Point was one of the communities hardest hit by Hurricane Sandy in October 2012. The neighborhood was flooded by the superstorm’s surge, and over 100 homes were destroyed by a wind-fueled inferno that firefighters were unable to reach and fight.

The community is still recovering nearly three years later, Cuomo noted, and the state is working to help fortify the shoreline with stronger dunes and seawalls. Even so, with weather patterns changing across the globe, the governor stressed that further planning and preparation are needed to prevent a repeat of Sandy’s destruction.

“I would love to be able to say to you that Sandy was one in a million and it’s never going to happen again. The problem is, I don’t believe that,” Cuomo said. “We are seeing weather patterns we have never seen before…I don’t care what you call it, but let’s prepare for it.”

Cuomo said he would seek funding for an elevation study to examine Breezy Point and see “what it would take to actually elevate the homes to a point where, if this happens again, we don’t have the same type of damage.”

“Let’s build back, but let’s build back better than before,” Cuomo added.

In the interim, Cuomo penned on Friday a bill granting a two-year extension to legislation waiving the city’s Board of Standards and Appeals (BSA) requirements for Breezy Point homeowners still rebuilding their damaged properties. The bill — sponsored by Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder and state Senator Joseph Addabbo — releases homeowners from being subject to an extensive review process that could take up to 18 months to complete.

Cuomo initially signed the bill in 2013, and last year penned his signature to a one-year extension. Goldfeder hopes that this two-year extension will allow Breezy Point “to finally nip this thing in the bud.”

“Nobody in Breezy Point has to worry about the red tape,” he said.

“We have businesses that are coming back. We have people coming back to their homes,” Addabbo added. “We are moving forward, but there is so much more to do.”

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Queens Midtown Tunnel set for another tube closure this weekend


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of MTA / Oscar Gonzalez

Updated Friday, June 12, 11:34 a.m.

It could be another slow-moving weekend for drivers heading through the Queens Midtown Tunnel.

The Queens-bound tube of the tunnel will be closed to traffic from 10:30 p.m. on Friday, June 12, through 8 a.m. Sunday, June 14, according to the MTA.

During the closures, one lane will be open in each direction of the remaining tube for cars and buses, while all commercial traffic must use an alternate route.

Vehicles heading into Queens should enter the tunnel at 34th Street between Second and Third avenues. Manhattan-bound motorists can exit normally at 37th Street exit to head uptown. Downtown Manhattan-bound traffic should use the Marginal tunnel exit to 38th Street and then continue on to Second Avenue. The 34th Street and Second Avenue ramps will be closed to traffic exiting in Manhattan.

Drivers should allow extra travel time and use an alternate route if possible.

The closures are to remove ceiling panels damaged during Hurricane Sandy and will require a total of six weekend-long tube closures of the Queens-bound tube. This will be the third weekend closure.

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Sandy work to cause weekend closure on Queens Midtown Tunnel


| asuriel@queenscourier.com

File photo

The Queens-bound tube at the Midtown Tunnel will be closed to traffic this weekend from 10:30 p.m. Friday, May 29 through 5:30 a.m. Monday, June 1 for removal of ceiling panels damaged during Superstorm Sandy.

During the closure, motorists driving into Queens should enter through the tunnel at 34th Street between Second and Third Avenues. Manhattan-bound motorists can exit normally at the 37th Street exit to head uptown.

The work will take place over the next two months and will require six weekend-long closures of the Queens-bound tube, although they are not planned for consecutive weekends. One lane will remain open in each direction in the remaining tube for cars and buses, but all commercial traffic must use an alternate route.

Traffic agents and signs will be in place to help direct motorists, and all should allow extra travel time and use an alternate route if possible.

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Sandy work to close Queens Midtown Tunnel tube for six weekends


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of MTA / Oscar Gonzalez.

Work to remove ceiling panels damaged during Hurricane Sandy will close one tube of the Queens Midtown Tunnel for six non-consecutive weekends starting May 15.

The MTA announced Monday that it has awarded a Staten Island construction firm, BHW Contracting Inc., a $1.9 million contract to do the work, which will take place over the next two months.

The 2012 superstorm flooded the tunnel connecting Manhattan and Queens with nearly 12 million gallons of water, damaging both tubes, including destroying their ceiling panels.

The closures will affect the Queens-bound tube, with the first one scheduled for May 15 to 18, beginning 10:30 p.m. Friday through 5:30 a.m. Monday. One lane will be open in each direction in the remaining tube for cars and buses. All other commercial traffic must use an alternate route while two-way traffic is in effect.

Queens-bound drivers should enter the tunnel at 34th Street between Second and Third avenues. Manhattan-bound motorists can exit normally at the 37th Street exit to head uptown. Downtown Manhattan-bound traffic should use the Marginal tunnel exit to 38th Street and then continue on to Second Avenue. The 34th Street and Second Avenue ramps will be closed to traffic exiting in Manhattan.

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Build it Back: The story behind the frustration


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

OP-ED BY CITY COMPTROLLER SCOTT STRINGER

When Superstorm Sandy hit our city more than two years ago, the damage was more than we could bear: 48 New Yorkers died, thousands of homes were devastated and damages totaled more than $20 billion.

The continuing damage from the storm can be seen today in Breezy Point and the Rockaways, and many other communities in Queens that bore the brunt of Sandy’s winds and waves. Many neighborhoods have not been fully rebuilt and individual homeowners are still desperately seeking assistance.

This past week, my office released an audit of Build it Back, the city’s program designed to help victims repair or rebuild their homes after the storm. We looked long and hard at the data to try to determine why so few people had received the help they desperately needed from this program.

The problem had its roots in the immediate aftermath of the storm, when the city’s Housing Recovery Office (HRO) hired numerous contractors to manage the relief effort. We found that HRO paid $6.8 million to inexperienced consultants who were paid in full despite processing more than 5,000 applications for aid that were incomplete and had to be returned for additional information. The faulty application process increased delays in distributing benefits, wasted money and created mounting frustration for those seeking help.

Our audit also found that HRO authorized more than $245,000 for double billing of work that had already been completed. It paid $1.2 million for consultant hours submitted without hourly or weekly records and more than $74,000 for travel expenses that couldn’t be documented.
If the recovery was a field day for consultants, it was a nightmare for victims. Determined to rebuild their homes, many were routinely shuffled from one staff person at Build it Back to the next, most of whom were not familiar with their cases. A survey of applicants found that nearly half could not provide basic information about the program and many employees were not qualified to do the job they had.

The audit was enhanced by what we’d heard firsthand last year when we hosted six public hearings across the city in communities hardest hit by the storm, including Breezy Point and the Rockaways. Hundreds of victims told us heartbreaking stories about a recovery effort that ignored them, failed to provide basic information and delivered little or no aid. Our audit confirmed much of what they had to say.

The good news is that Mayor de Blasio’s administration has improved the program and progress has been made. By March of this year, some 29 percent of the people who applied for aid had at least selected the kind of relief for which they’re applying.

But problems remain. One of our most distressing findings is that several contractors who failed to help victims are still on the job, operating without formal contracts, largely unaccountable to city taxpayers. Without these contracts in place, we have little leverage over what their costs will be, and not enough transparency and oversight over how well they’re doing their job.

Our audit’s key recommendation is that the city must take the lead in disaster recovery. Contracting out our most crucial tasks means that profit can be put before people, which is exactly what happened after Sandy. That was unacceptable, and the message this audit sends to city leaders is that it must never happen again.

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MTA to award $236.5M contract to rebuild Queens Midtown Tunnel


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of MTA Bridges and Tunnels/Mark Valentin

One of the city’s tunnel systems is expected to get a much-needed face-lift after being heavily damaged during Superstorm Sandy.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced on Monday that the MTA is expected to award a four-year, $236.5 million contract to rebuild the Queens Midtown Tunnel, which since the 2012 hurricane has been operating with temporary repairs. Around 40 percent of the length of tunnel was submerged in 12 million gallons of salt water during the storm.

The contract, which will be completed with Judlau Contracting Inc., was approved by the MTA Bridges and Tunnels Committee on Monday and is expected to be approved by the full MTA board on Wednesday.

“Superstorm Sandy demonstrated the need for our infrastructure to be safer, stronger and more resilient to meet the challenge of extreme weather, and today, we’re taking another important step in that direction,” Cuomo said. “The Queens Midtown Tunnel is a vital part of the transportation network for the entire metropolitan area, and by undertaking this aggressive renovation we can rebuild from the damage caused by Sandy and ensure that it is protected from future storms.”

Work on the tunnel is expected to begin in the summer and will likely result in nighttime and weekend tube and lane closures. A majority of the work is Sandy-related and will also include several capital projects to try to organize the work and minimize the amount of closures impacting traffic.

Some of the Sandy-related repair and restoration work includes replacing the electrical, lighting, communications, monitoring and control systems in the tunnel. Restoration and mitigation work will also be done at the tunnel’s mid-river pump room.

“This investment in the Midtown Tunnel rehabilitation will restore the roadway to its pre-Sandy state while minimizing disruptions and delays and prioritizing the safety of commuters,” Rep. Carolyn Maloney said.

Structural work at the tunnel includes the replacement of catwalks, duct banks, wall tiles, ceiling finishes, polymer panels, curbs and gutters.

The tunnel is also expected to get new roadway LED lighting and clearly marked exit signs, lights and emergency phones.

Capital projects include replacing the fire line system in both tubes, and a complete rehabilitation of the Manhattan Exit Plaza, including the 36th Street ramp where full and partial repairs will be done.

“When Sandy flooded the Queens Midtown Tunnel with millions of gallons of water, our crews worked valiantly to make immediate repairs and get traffic moving again,” said James Ferrara, MTA Bridges and Tunnels president. “Now we need to fully repair the damage and fortify the tunnel to be more resilient for the future.”

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New tax rebate may benefit those impacted by Sandy


| slicata@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/File photo

Homeowners affected by Hurricane Sandy may soon see a property tax rebate coming their way.

A City Council resolution was recently signed to call upon state legislators to introduce and pass a bill for the governor to sign, providing for a $500 rebate to some homeowners throughout the city. The program would assist New York homeowners who are experiencing financial difficulties relating to the Great Recession of 2008, Hurricane Sandy or New York City’s exorbitant cost of living.

“New Yorkers already suffer one of the highest tax burdens in the country,” said City Councilman Eric Ulrich, who signed onto the resolution. “Costs across the city continue to pinch pocketbooks and force residents to dip into their savings or college accounts. Albany should use recent surpluses to provide real property tax relief for the middle class immediately.”

A similar program was once set up in 2004 by former Mayor Michael Bloomberg that granted a property tax rebate of $400 to qualified homeowners. But that program ran out of steam and shut down in 2008.

The next step for the resolution is to make its way up to Albany and go through the Assembly and state Senate. Ultimately, the state Legislature and Gov. Andrew Cuomo must agree on any potential tax relief legislation.

But residents hope it will get done to help with some of costs of repairs from Hurricane Sandy.

“The tax rebate can only help the victims of Hurricane Sandy as they still recover from the effects of the storm. Many homeowners had to dip into their life savings to make up the difference between what repairs actually cost and what was given to them from their flood insurance carriers,” said Roger Gendron, president of the Hamilton Beach Civic Association and Sandy-affected homeowner. “Any financial help that can be provided to those who were hit so hard by the storm is another step on their road to recovery.”

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FEMA approves $28M in flood protection projects for LaGuardia Airport


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre

LaGuardia Airport is receiving a new level of protection to keep the facility and travelers safe from future storms such as Hurricane Sandy.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Thursday that FEMA approved over $28 million in Hazard Mitigation Grant Program funds to go toward helping LaGuardia Airport achieve post-Hurricane Sandy flood mitigation and resiliency initiatives.

“Hurricane Sandy caused significant damage to LaGuardia Airport, but today we are taking an important step toward strengthening its infrastructure so that it is more resilient than ever before,” Cuomo said. “To face the new pattern of extreme weather, we must ensure that vital transportation hubs and economic engines like LaGuardia Airport are ready for the next major storm.”

When Sandy hit the city, LaGuardia’s airfield suffered severe flooding from water rising from Flushing Bay. The airport had to remain closed for three days due to damage to key electrical airfield infrastructure. 

The over $28 million in funds will go toward projects, expected to continue through the end of 2016, such as the construction of a flood wall and rainwater pumping system, and development of two gravity drainage systems on the airfield to advance removal of water in case of flooding. 

The money will also fund upgrades to bring the airport’s backup electrical substations into the primary power system. There will also be improvements to existing emergency generators and installation of new backup generators throughout the airport. 

“We must do everything we can to ensure that LaGuardia is able to withstand extreme weather and resume flight operations as quickly as possible,” said Pat Foye, Port Authority of New York and New Jersey executive director. 

Since Sandy hit in 2012, resources have been put forth to protect the airfield runways, electrical systems and aeronautical equipment. FEMA’s new grant of $28,148,625 adds onto the agency’s previous grants of more than $2 million.

“While we continue to help communities across New York recover from the devastating impact of Hurricane Sandy, it is equally as important to make much-needed investments in our infrastructure to ensure our city is prepared to face the challenges of any future storms,” U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowely said. “There is no question that one of those investments must include LaGuardia Airport, which serves tens of thousands of passengers a day and contributes greatly to our local economy.”

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More tree removal in Howard Beach


| slicata@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Salvatore Licata

“X” marks the spot to chop.

The Parks Department has come into Howard Beach for a second round of tree removal.

This is a continuation of the previous tree removal process that took place in September. All Sandy-stricken trees that the Parks Department feels are too far gone and not likely to survive will be cut down and replaced, according to the agency. There is still not an exact number for how many trees will be cut as the agency is still surveying the area.

“The trees marked with an ‘X’ are indeed part of the Sandy removal and replacement efforts, and are scheduled to be removed and replaced over the next year,” a Parks spokeswomen said. “The total number of trees is still evolving and continues to do so as we mark additional trees.”

The Parks Department is still in the process of replanting the ones they took down in September.

At the time, the Parks Department cut down nearly 500 trees in the confines of Community Board 10. These were part of the 48,000 trees citywide they looked at to see if they should be removed.

DSC_0791

To coincide with the project, there is a citywide initiative to plant one million trees throughout the five boroughs. At this point, the city has planted over 938,000 trees since 2007, when the program started. They plan to have the full million planted by 2017.

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Only hospital on Rockaway peninsula to receive $500,000 grant


| slicata@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Assemblyman Goldfeder’s office

It’s the only hospital on the Rockaway peninsula, and now it has the funds needed to improve its facility.

St. John’s Episcopal Hospital services over 130,000 residents in Rockaway in addition to those in the neighboring parts of Nassau County. After being hit by Hurricane Sandy, it has been hard for the hospital to get back to its full health.

As he saw that the hospital was struggling, Assemblyman Phillip Goldfeder worked to provide the hospital with a $500,000 capital grant to help with their renovations, upgrades and expansion of its surgical facility.

“St. John’s Hospital is currently the only healthcare facility open to serve the entire Rockaway peninsula, and it is still struggling financially to cover the costs of expenses incurred two years ago during Sandy,” said Goldfeder. “This new funding will go a long way to ensure that St. John’s can modernize, grow and continue to provide quality and accessible healthcare on the Rockaway peninsula.”

This isn’t the first time he has helped secure funds for the hospital. When Hurricane Sandy hit, the hospital had to spend $4.3 million to run it and make repairs.

In June 2012, Goldfeder assisted in granting St. John’s Episcopal Hospital nearly $5.4 million under the Health Care Efficiency and Affordability Law of New York State (HEAL NY) to expand services after the closure of Peninsula Hospital.

Richard Brown, the CEO of St. John’s Episcopal Hospital, expressed his gratitude to Goldfeder for helping to keep the facility afloat.

“This allocation will enable us to purchase a variety of equipment necessary for state-of-the-art, minimally invasive 3D surgery, as well as make great strides in providing leading edge education within St. John’s surgical residency program,” said Brown. “Most importantly, minimally invasive surgery techniques allow patients to heal faster and go home sooner. St. John’s will now have the highest quality instruments available, allowing us to grow in our mission to provide the best patient care possible.”

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Flushing firm awarded $282M to repair Sandy-damaged Hugh L. Carey Tunnel


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Rendering courtesy of MTA Bridges and Tunnels

A third-generation Flushing construction firm was awarded a contract worth $282.5 million to repair the Hugh L. Carey Tunnel from damage it suffered during Superstorm Sandy.

Tully Construction beat out 24 companies for the contract to work on the former Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel. The contract is the largest ever awarded to a construction company from the MTA Bridges and Tunnels division, the organization announced Monday.

The project is expected to take four years.

“We learned just how vital the HLC Tunnel is to the region in 2012 after Superstorm Sandy flooded the tunnel with approximately 60 million gallons of brackish water, compromising the life safety systems in the tunnel,” MTA Bridges and Tunnels President James Ferrara said. “This project will increase the level of resiliency against future weather events.”

Tully Construction will replace the traffic control and communications systems, add new lighting, replace the drainage system, do concrete repairs, add new wall titles, rehabilitate the Brooklyn toll plaza, repave the tunnel, and conduct a clean-up of salt, oil and other contaminants from Sandy flooding.

Sandy rebuilding still progressing two years later


| slicata@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/File photo

Throughout the city, repair efforts from Superstorm Sandy have been slow, but with a recent overhaul in the Build It Back system many residents are finally seeing progress.

“What has made Build It Back work since the mayor’s overhaul is increased flexibility for homeowners, increased communication with homeowners and an increased presence by our staff in Sandy-impacted communities,” said Amy Peterson, director of the Mayor’s Office of Housing Recovery. “We have expanded our outreach to Queens, as we have to all affected neighborhoods, and have made over 2,800 offers to Queens residents.”

Throughout the city, there are 14,000 applicants in the Build It Back program.

In Queens, 2,800 offers have been made, 1,790 have been accepted and 652 homes are in the design phase as of Oct. 28. There have also been 247 construction starts with 54 completed and 356 checks offered totaling $7.3 million.

These numbers are promising, said state Sen. Joe Addabbo, but he added that recovery is nowhere near finished.

“The Build It Back system can’t work fast enough for my constituents,” Addabbo said. “I will continue to work with the program and help individuals recover. It is moving but we have a long way to go.”

Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder also said that he is encouraged by the commitment to Sandy recovery and that it will remain a top priority until everyone who was displaced from the storm is back in their homes.

“As we approach the second anniversary of Sandy, many families are still not home and struggling to put their lives back together,” Goldfeder said. “No one is going away and we have a lot of work left to do but the city is committed to it.”

There are also some residents who have traveled down the long road of recovery and are finally seeing action.

“After Sandy, my house was red stickered [deemed as unlivable] and later demolished,” said Jayme Galimi, who has been a resident of Broad Channel for 22 years. “It’s been a long road since then but my new home is finally going to be constructed with the funding from Build It Back.”

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$232M Arverne View Rockaway housing development reopens two years after Sandy


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy HDC and Kevin J. Laccone

Rockaway seems even more resilient with the return of one of its large residential complexes.

Real estate firm L+M Development Partners and the city Housing Development Corporation cut the ribbon on the $232.3 million Arverne View housing complex in Rockaway on Monday, two years after the buildings were devastated by flooding from Superstorm Sandy.

The 13-acre complex, consisting of 1,093 units throughout 11 buildings, features affordable housing for low- and moderate-income families and has a daycare center, a community center, a supermarket, more than 10,000 square feet of on-site retail space, laundry facilities, 24-hour security, management office and parking.

In October 2012, days before L+M was about to buy what was then known as the Ocean Village housing complex, which had many buildings in need of repairs, Sandy wrecked the community. L+M continued with the purchase in November and committed to rebuilding the housing development. The buildings underwent a $60 million interior and exterior rehabilitation, funded by federal, city and private partnerships, and new storm-proofing and resiliency measures were installed.

“The devastation caused by Superstorm Sandy just two years ago left many of my neighbors in the Rockaways without adequate shelter. I applaud both the public and private partnerships that came together to rebuild and restore Arverne View,” said state Sen. James Sanders Jr.

Ribbon Cutting

The ribbon cutting was only ceremonial as renovations were completed in March.

The apartments range in size from studios to five bedrooms in the buildings, which vary in height from four stories to a 19-story tower.

Originally built in 1974 for low-income families, Arverne View remained affordable housing by accepting individuals and families earning no more than 80 percent of the area median income of $66,400 annually for a family of four. And 25 percent of units in the buildings were reserved for those earning no more than 60 percent of the area median income.

“Throughout the rehabilitation of Arverne View, our goal was to provide quality homes in a great setting and at the same time preserve affordable housing for the many New Yorkers that need it,” said Ron Moelis, CEO of L+M. “Standing here on the second anniversary of Hurricane Sandy among these beautifully renovated buildings truly makes you appreciate just how much we’ve accomplished.”

 

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Real estate roundup: The Crossing in downtown Jamaica revealed, friends return to Sandy damaged house


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Rendering courtesy of BRP Companies

93-01 Sutphin Boulevard Revealed

“BRP Companies have released renderings of their 25- and 14-story mixed-use development project at 93-01 Sutphin Boulevard, in Downtown Jamaica. Dubbed The Crossing, the complex will contain 580 residential units and 100,000 square feet of retail space.” Read more [New York YIMBY]

After 50 years in business, Frankie’s Pizzeria has closed

“The operators of Frankie’s Pizza, which is located at 22-56 31st Street, left a note in the window that read: Dear Costumers! Thank you for your loyalty and support after 50 years of business– Frankie’s Pizza is closing!” Read more [Astoria Post]

Organic Coffee Shop with Vegetarian Menu Opens in Forest Hills

“A new coffee shop featuring organic and vegetarian menu opened this week in Forest Hills, a neighborhood that has been primarily served by coffee shop chains, including Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts.” Read more [DNAinfo]

Rockaway Park Friends Return To Homes Damaged In Superstorm Sandy

“Nearly two years after Superstorm Sandy, two friends in a Queens neighborhood are finally back in their own homes.” Read more [CBS]