Tag Archives: vote

City Council OKs Hallets Point development


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

File Photo

The development that would bring thousands of residential apartments, retail space and parkland to the Astoria waterfront at Hallets Point has gotten the final thumbs up.

The City Council voted on Wednesday, October 9 to approve the plan presented by Lincoln Equities Group, the company behind the estimated $1 billion complex called the Hallets Point project.

According to Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr., the City Council came to an agreement with developers to cut the “community supportive project” down to half its original size.

The new deal also includes $500,000 in city funded research to see the feasibility, engineering and design of a proposed ferry service in order to take the large number of incoming residents to and from the peninsula of Hallets Point.

“It’s going to bring development to an area that sorely needs it,” said Vallone.

The development group initially announced in 2012 it would build the seven multifamily residential towers made up of 2,200 units on the waterfront presently home to the NYCHA Astoria Houses.

Twenty percent of the apartments are expected to be affordable housing. The complex will also include retail space featuring an affordable supermarket, a bank, drugstores and restaurants.

Along with the building, the plan is expected to include a 100,000-square-foot public park, outfitted with pedestrian walkways and bike paths winding along the waterfront, giving the community better sight lines of the waterfront. The project will also create a spot for a K-8 public school.

In May, Community Board 1 voted unanimously to approve the plan. The City Planning Commission unanimously approved the plan in August and in July Borough President Helen Marshall approved the plan as well.

Construction is expected to begin in late 2014 or early 2015.

 

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Willets Point mega mall gets final City Council green light


| mchan@queenscourier.com

Photo rendering courtesy of NYCEDC

The City Council approved a major $3 billion Willets Point project Wednesday, clearing the way for a mega mall near Citi Field.

Developers Sterling Equities and Related Companies needed the council’s permission to move Citi Field parking to Willets Point in order to build a 1.4 million-square-foot shopping center west of the baseball stadium.

It was the last hurdle the joint venture needed to jump over after Community Board 7, Queens Borough President Helen Marshall and the City Planning Commission gave the project the green light this summer.

The ambitious project includes the cleanup of 23 acres of contaminated land east of Citi Field and eventual construction of housing units with commercial and retail space.

It was long stalled as Councilmember Julissa Ferreras, who represents the area, waited for better relocation plans for soon-to-be-displaced Willets Point business owners.

Auto shop owners who make up the Iron Triangle said they can only survive if they are moved as a whole and can continue as a one-stop shop for motorists.

The pooled $12.5 million offered in total relocation aid payouts were not enough for the approximate 100 auto shops in the first phase of the redevelopment site, advocates said.

The city agreed to spend $15.5 million on moving expenses and relocation of Willets Point business owners as part of a deal struck with the City Council, Ferreras said.

About $17 million more will be given to the Flushing Meadows-Corona Park Alliance for upkeep and maintenance of the park and construction of a green rooftop farm on top of the entertainment center.

“This deal would be a win for our constituents, a win for Willets Point and a win for New York City,” Ferreras said. “This vote has always been about improving the lives of our constituents.”

Construction of 2,500 housing units — 35 percent of which will be affordable — will also be moved up from its original set 2025 date, officials said.

“It is important to note that never before has a council district seen this much affordable housing,” Ferreras said.

“For years, this area has gone without many of the resources the rest of the city has regularly received,” she continued. “Our district deserves to have the same treatment as any other area in New York City.”

About $66 million in the city budget will be set aside to put up new ramps off the Van Wyck Expressway, Ferreras said. Developers also agreed to shell out $7 million for traffic improvement and mitigations.

Written commitments by the joint venture also include funding traffic mitigation measures, building a 1,000-seat K-8 public school, giving $1.87 million to the Willets Point Infrastructure and Traffic Mitigation Fund and hiring locally.

Critics of the plan still say the area needs affordable housing before a colossal shopping center.

Hundreds marched to oppose the project late last month, and at least eight auto shop owners held a hunger strike in August.

“It’s been a long time coming,” said Councilmember Mark Weprin, chair of the Zoning and Franchises Subcommittee. “We’ve heard from everyone who wanted to testify right until the end. Not everyone got everything they wanted … [but] the process works. It is great when the community voices can be heard and the members can sit and advocate on behalf of their constituents.”

Officials said the project would provide 7,100 permanent jobs and generate more than $310 million in tax revenue.

“Today’s approvals mean that the historic vision for a redeveloped Willets Point is finally going to become a reality,” the joint venture said in a statement. “Thanks to today’s actions, we are going to transform a contaminated site into a new community with thousands of new jobs, affordable housing, retail and open space.”

 

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Astoria residents say developer damaged their homes


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

A towering medical center being built in Astoria has received a key permit from the city — despite complaints by neighbors who say the construction has caused their homes’ foundations to crumble.

“There are cracks everywhere, in every room, from the ceilings to walls,” said Robert Draghi, who lives behind the site of a future ambulatory care center on 31st Street. “The bricks are just breaking open.”

Developer Pali Realty received a special permit from the city’s Board of Standards and Appeals (BSA) last week to continue building an eight-story medical facility at 23-25 31st Street.

The project was stalled in late 2012, when developers say they accidentally extended the property an extra 10 feet without permits due to a “design error by the project architect.” According to a BSA application, about 80 percent of the building had been completed when developers discovered the mistake.

After that, Pali Realty had to get consent from Community Board 1 and the BSA to lift a partial stop work order issued by the Department of Buildings. It received approval from both bodies by May 21.

Dozens of residents who live in five homes behind the colossal building said they have been dealing with foundation cracks and water damage since the project broke ground in late 2009. They have received little to no help from the developer, the residents added.

“The laws don’t really stand up for homeowners like us,” said Draghi, 47. “All the laws in the books support corporations.”

Resident John Sesumi said his homeowner’s insurance will not pay for damages. He added that his family has been trying to reach a settlement with the developer for years.

“We’re all for helping the community,” said Sesumi, 30. “We understand the need for a medical building. We just want our property to be back the way it was.”

According to Draghi, who has lived in his home for 13 years, Pali Realty and the construction company have been dodging liabilities, with both declining to make a settlement offer.

“This was our ‘grow old’ house. We never wanted to leave,” he said. “They ruined it.”

Under advisory stipulations by the community board, the developer is required to fix damages to the adjacent lands and agree to pay for any repairs.

An attorney representing Pali Realty did not return calls for comment as of press time.

“We just want them to take responsibility, expedite the claim with their insurance and start working this problem out,” said Lisa Draghi, Robert Draghi’s wife.

State Senator Tony Avella lambasted the city agencies during a press conference he set up with the homeowners in Astoria.

“The fact that this developer is being allowed to egregiously encroach onto and damage neighboring properties is a disgrace,” he said.

The senator was criticized in turn for stepping outside of his northeast district and into the territory of his borough president rival, Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr.

“It’s no surprise that while Councilmember Vallone was at City Hall representing his district, Senator Avella and his Senate staff were continuing his never-ending campaign for higher office,” said Andrew Moesel, a spokesperson for the Vallone campaign.

“Councilmember Vallone has attempted to help resolve the situation without holding needless press conferences only meant to draw more attention to a political candidacy,” Moesel said.

 

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Board permits Willets Point mall in key vote


| mchan@queenscourier.com

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Plans for a behemoth mall at Willets Point received a key nod from Community Board (CB) 7 after the city and the facility’s developer laid out a list of new commitments.

CB 7 granted a special permit to Sterling Equities and Related with a 22-18 advisory vote. The joint venture wants to move Citi Field parking to Willets Point in order to construct a 1.4 million-square-foot shopping center at Willets West.

The board’s land use committee, including CB 7 Chair Gene Kelty, voted down the permit in a meeting last week.

But a pair of letters detailing a list of new promises by the developer and city swayed them at the last minute.

“I changed my vote tonight because I had papers in front of me that I felt comfortable with,” Kelty said.

“The other time, there was nothing. I was looking at a blank slate in front of me.”

In April, the committee told developers they needed more information about parking, traffic flow and transplanting the plethora of small business owners within the Iron Triangle.

The Queens Development Group and Deputy Mayor Robert Steel returned with pages of new promises, including a pledge to provide ongoing environmental remediation of all 23 acres of Willets Point land the city is acquiring from the current occupants.

The pair of letters also detailed commitments to conduct and fund traffic mitigation measures, build a 1,000-seat K-8 public school and give $1.87 million to the Willets Point Infrastructure and Traffic Mitigation Fund.

Developers also agreed to put $100,000 into the fund for every quarterly meeting with CB 7 that they miss.

“There was just a lot more that was brought into language in both these letters,” said Chuck Apelian, CB 7’s first vice chair and head of the land use committee. “That’s why I’m supporting this, and I think we’ve come a long way.”

The recommendation now goes to Borough President Helen Marshall, the Department of City Planning and then the City Council.

Ethan Goodman, a lawyer representing the developer, said there would not be another chance to clean up the long-neglected property.

“A vote against this plan is a vote against cleaning Willets Point,” he said. “We’re talking about 100 years of contamination. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

The Queens Development Group said in a statement the approval brings them “one step closer” to transforming the area into “a vibrant new neighborhood.”

However, dozens of local residents, including current Willets Point landowners, pleaded with the board to vote against the permit.

“We have jobs over there,” said Marco Neira, president of the Willets Point Defense Committee. “I don’t know why you’d want to approve the project and kill all those businesses. We are workers over there.”

Joseph Ardizzone, the only person who lives in Willets Point, said democracy died with the board’s green light.

“Anyone that votes yes to taking my property denies me the right to be an American citizen,” Ardizzone said. “God bless America? I don’t think so anymore.”

Residents protested the delay of affordable housing during Community Board 7’s vote on Monday. (THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan)

 

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Bayside residents oppose school in place of Keil Bros Garden Center


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

Build a school, say Bayside residents, just not in our backyards.

Community Board (CB) 11 voted against a controversial proposal to build an elementary school in the place of a popular garden center after enraged residents who live near the 210-11 48th Avenue site vehemently opposed it.

“This area is saturated with schools, and we can’t stand it anymore,” said resident Mandingo Tshaka. “Hell, no. That’s all I’m going to say.”

The owners of Keil Bros Garden Center and Nursery have struck a deal with the city to sell their entire Bayside property, including a home next to the store, for an undisclosed amount.

Ronald Keil, vice president of the family-run business, cited “the changing nature of the retail world” and “increasing costs of doing business” as reasons for the sale.

“Basically, it’s an uncertain economy,” he said.

Residents said the 416-seat school would destroy their quality of life, worsen parking and traffic congestion and lead to dangerous crossing conditions for students.

“It’s really a disaster in the making,” said Toby Pagano, 64, of Bayside. “I would be horrified, but not surprised, if there was an accident.”

There are 21 elementary schools in the district and 12 within CB 11’s jurisdiction, according to Susan Seinfeld, district manager of Community Board 11.

Local educators said the majority of them are heavily congested, with registration growing every year.

At least three schools have had to put classrooms in space originally meant for libraries or music, Seinfeld said.

“There’s an opportunity for a school to be built,” P.S. 41 Principal Sari Latto said. “We’re hoping that will alleviate some of that overcrowding.”

No designs for a new school have been laid out yet, according to School Construction Authority officials. The site selection process began in 2008 and honed in on the disputed site last month.

According to Keil, the city approached his 83-year-old business within the last two years. He said he and his brother are exploring options to continue the store in another part of Queens.

The garden center will be open for regular business for the rest of the year.

CB 11’s advisory vote now heads to the City Council for a final ruling.

“I do get the need for new schools,” said resident Carol Shriver, 55. “I understand that. But this is wrong. This is just the wrong place to build a school. They’re just asking for trouble.”

 

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October 12 last day to register for general election, mayoral primary


| brennison@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/photo by Alexa Altman

If you want to cast a ballot in this year’s presidential election — or next year’s mayoral primary — October 12 is the last day to register to vote.

New York ranks near the bottom of the country in voter registration; less than 64 percent of eligible residents are registered to vote, ranking the state 47th in the nation.

Click here to find out if you’re registered to vote

To be able to vote in the general elections — which includes president, Congress, Senate and state offices — on November 6, your application must be postmarked no later than Friday, October 12 and received by October 17. You may also register in person at your local Board of Elections or any voter registration center.  Change of addresses must also be received by October 17.

Governor Andrew Cuomo announced a new initiative in August — online registration — to help increase voter numbers.

According to the governor’s office, registration rates jumped from 28 to 53 percent among voters 18 to 24 in Arizona after online registration was introduced.

Residents can now log on to their computers to register to vote, change their address or update party enrollment.

If you want to register electronically, you can now visit the Department of Motor Vehicle’s “MyDMV” web site.  You will also be able to register paper-free at local DMV offices.

Though it is nearly a year away, unregistered voters or those wishing to switch parties have until October 12 if they would like to vote in the 2013 mayoral primary elections.  City residents cannot change enrollment and vote in that parties primary in the same year.

The city’s Board of Elections website says, “The last day to change your enrollment is the same as the last day to register for the General Election.”

According to the New York Times, “The law is rooted in the notion that closed primaries should not be raided, at the last minute, by outsiders who may want to pick, say, a weaker candidate to run against their preferred choice in a general election.”

Today is deadline to register to vote in September primary; online registration now available


| brennison@queenscourier.com

File photo

With the state ranking near the bottom in voter registration, the governor announced a new initiative to allow online registration.

Residents can now log on to their computers to register to vote change their address or update party enrollment.

“We are knocking down longstanding barriers that have prevented many New Yorkers from participating in the democratic process, while creating a more streamlined and more efficient system that will save taxpayers’ money,” said Governor Andrew Cuomo.

Less than 64 percent of eligible voters are registered, ranking New York 47th in the nation.

If you want to register electronically, you can now visit the Department of Motor Vehicle’s “MyDMV” web site.  You will also be able to register paper-free at local DMV offices.

According to the governor’s office, registration rates jumped from 28 to 53 percent among voters 18 to 24 after online registration was introduced.

The announcement comes as the deadline approaches to register for the September primary.

If you want to be able to vote in the state primary elections on September 13, your application must be postmarked no later than Friday, August 17 and received by August 24.

Online registration must be done ahead of today’s deadline, also.

Click here to find out if you’re registered to vote

You may also register in person at your local Board of Elections or any voter registration center, but must do so no later than Friday, August 17.

If you need to file a change of address, it must be received by August 24.

Time is running out to vote for Best of the Boro


| brennison@queenscourier.com

Residents have less than one week left to choose the best in Queens health and beauty. More than 87,000 votes have already been cast in the second leg of the Best of the Boro Competition and your opportunity to vote ends January 10.

The competition allows those who know best — the Queens residents who patronize the places — to choose who deserves the recognition of Best in the Boro. You vote, they win.

Click here to vote.

You can choose from more than 400 nominees in 38 categories of health and beauty: ranging from best acupuncturist and veterinarian to best barber shop and spa. Each category will have a winner crowned Best of the Boro.

All you need to vote is a valid email and live in the continental United States. One vote per email address per day is allowed. The results are tabulated by a third party company.

To stay up-to-the-minute on the competition like the Best of the Boro page on Facebook and follow @BestOfTheBoro on Twitter.

Best of the Boro Health & Beauty voting has been extended


| brennison@queenscourier.com

Your time to vote for the best in Queens health and beauty has been extended. Voting in The Queens Courier’s Best of the Boro competition will now run through January 10. Over 75,000 votes have already been tallied.

Everyone has a doctor or hair dresser who is “the best.” Now, you have the chance to decide who truly stands out as the Best of the Boro. You vote, they win.

Click here to vote.

There are over 400 nominees in 38 categories of health and beauty for residents to choose from: ranging from best dentist and dermatologist to best eye care and gym. Each category will have a winner crowned Best of the Boro.

All you need to vote is a valid email and live in the continental United States. One vote per email address per day is allowed. The results are tabulated by a third party company.

To stay up-to-the-minute on the competition like the Best of the Boro page on Facebook and follow @BestOfTheBoro on Twitter.

Two days left to vote for your favorites in The Queens Courier’s Best of the Boro competition


| brennison@queenscourier.com

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With over 50,000 votes already cast, you have just two more days to make sure your favorite bars, restaurants and catering halls are crowned as the Best of the Boro.

Queens residents have the advantage of thousands of top-notch restaurants to frequent. The only issue is sorting through all the options to find the cream of the crop. There is really only one way to determine the best – let the public decide. You vote, they win.

There are 44 categories of food and drink for residents to vote in; ranging from best bagel and cup of coffee to best burger and bar; from best deli and diner to best martini and bartender. Each category will have a winner crowned Best of the Boro.

Keep your eye out for each of 150 eateries with a Best of the Boro poster in the window indicating they’ve been nominated. Restaurants will also have postcards urging customers to vote for them.

Click here to vote for your favorite restaurant or watering hole. There you can vote for your favorite in each of category.

All you need to vote is a valid email and live in the continental United States. One vote per email address per day is allowed. The results are tabulated by a third party company.

To stay up-to-the-minute on the competition like the Best of the Boro page on Facebook and follow @BestOfTheBoro on Twitter.