The owner of this four-story building in Jackson Heights that was severely damaged in a fire in April has received the initial go-ahead from the Department of Buildings and plans to begin the extensive repairs and rebuilding within a few weeks. The structure, which was built in 1948, was damaged in a fire in April and has been empty ever since. The fire was started by an overloaded power strip and spread quickly because a door was left open on the third floor. Many commercial tenants including Armondo’s Italian Restaurant, Plaza College and others, many of whom were Bangladeshi immigrants, have been displaced ever since the blaze broke out.
Craig Bruno, 58, one of three trustees of The Joseph Bruno Trust, which owns the building at 37th Avenue between 74th and 75th Streets, is the grandson of Joseph Bruno, who built the original structure. He told DNAinfo: “My timeline is I’d like to get it done yesterday, but with all the permits it’ll take as long as it takes…our heart breaks for all the tenants who lost quite a bit and we want to get them back in there.”
City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, who represents Sunnyside, Woodside, Long Island City and Astoria, plans to introduce a participatory funding process for the 2015/2016 budget year. Participatory funding allows members of the community to have a say in how city money is spent in their district.
Next week Van Bramer will host two meetings, one in Sunnyside and one in Long Island City to give residents basic information about the process and how they can get involved. Later there will be a series of town hall meetings where residents can put forward their ideas and eventually a vote will be taken on how the funds will be spent. Van Bramer is allocating $1 million to the process in the 2015/2016 budget.
See the flier after the jump for locations and times. (more…)
A big part of being involved with the Newtown Creek story is attending an endless series of meetings.
There’s a Newtown Creek Monitoring Committee over in Greenpoint that provides community input and problems to DEP about the sewer plant, the Newtown Creek Alliance which spans and advocates for both sides of the Creek, and a Kosciuszko Bridge Stakeholders Committee as well. There’s a bunch of other groups and organizations, but these are the three which I always pay attention to and publicly identify myself with. The good thing about these meetings is that I get to know what’s happening, and get my camera pointed in the right direction at the right times.
Today’s big news is that a dredging project, which is anticipated to last around six weeks, is beginning on Newtown Creek. I’m afraid that I was unable to locate a live link to the pdf hosted at nyc.gov, but this is the official story as received. Here’s the text of the NYC DEP announcement.
From NYC Department of Environmental Protection:
OFFICE OF COMMUNITY AFFAIRS, BUREAU OF PUBLIC AFFAIRS
NEWTOWN CREEK DREDGING UPDATE MARCH, 2014
Beginning the week of March 17, 2014 and continuing for approximately 6 weeks, the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) will be dredging Newtown Creek. The following is a brief overview of the work scheduled and potential community impacts and mitigation measures.
WHY IS THIS WORK NECESSARY? The Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant is the largest in the City and operates, like most plants, through an activated sludge process. In order for this treatment process to work, waste sludge must be removed every day. Presently, waste sludge is piped to a storage tank near the East River in Greenpoint and then transferred to a sludge vessel (boat) for delivery to Wards Island for further processing. DEP needs to demolish the sludge storage tank to make way for new affordable housing. A new sludge dock has been built at Whale Creek, adjacent to the Newtown Creek plant, and sludge vessels will soon receive waste sludge there instead of the existing East River tank and dock. However, to navigate to the new dock, maintenance dredging must be done along Newtown Creek to remove sediment and debris which accumulates in the waterway.
HOW WILL THE WORK BE PERFORMED? Dredge operations are expected to start in Whale Creek and then move west along Newtown Creek towards the Pulaski Bridge to the mouth of Newtown Creek. Operations will be performed initially in 12-hour shifts, 6:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. As operations move into Newtown Creek, work will run 24 hours per day in order to minimize impacts to marine traffic. All work will be performed from barges located on the water with all required Coast Guard lighting and signage for safe boating.
COMMUNITY IMPACTS During the dredging operations, hydrogen sulfide gas trapped in the sediment may be released. This gas has a strong odor of rotten eggs. DEP will monitor for odor and take preventive measures to control the releases.
FOR MORE INFORMATION Please contact Shane Ojar, Director of Community Affairs at 718-595-4148 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This is a shot of dredging equipment at work over on Staten Island’s Kill Van Kull, another industrial waterway found across the harbor, just to give you an idea what to expect. I can tell you that sound and smell are going to be a common complaint over the next six weeks, based on personal experience. The NYC DEP told us that anyone experiencing discomfort due to this necessary activity should report it to 311, so that they can take steps to alleviate the odors.
If you smell something, say something, and call 311.
Word has also reached me that a tree removal process will shortly be starting up in West Maspeth and Blissville, as well as parts of Brooklyn, in anticipation of the forthcoming reconstruction of the Kosciuszko Bridge.
This weekend is the grand opening of the largest rock climbing center in the northeast, The Cliffs at Long Island City. The center will host an open house on Saturday, October 5th from 9 am to 10 pm at its 30,000-square-foot headquarters 11-11 44th Drive. The day-long event will feature professional climbers, circus aerialists, DJs and a Red Bull-sponsored bar. Mike Wolfert, owner of The Cliffs, has climbed professionally for 15 years, since selling his marketing firm in San Francisco after discovering the sport. As he told us, “The gym combines my background in marketing with my passion.” He’s been on the hunt for a space to open a rock climbing center since 2007. The Gunks, a climbing destination in nearby New Paltz, draws nearly 1,500 people a day on weekends — the majority from New York City. In effect, Wolfert knew there’d be demand. “This [space] is perfect because you need high ceilings and no columns,” he says. “Plus it’s centrally located in an up-and-coming neighborhood.” Click through for more interior photos (including a photo of Nepalese sherpas scaling the walls!), as well as lots more details.
In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, a certain subset of Queens homeowners were shocked to find out that what it comes to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, not all New York City homes are created equal. As those who have dealt with the issue well know, the agency views co-ops and condos as for profit organizations and will not provide financial assistance to any of these buildings. Damage to lobbies, common areas of any kind including basements and boiler rooms — exactly the parts of buildings hardest hit — were ineligible for government grants of up to $30,000. Under current rules, even individuals who own apartments in co-ops could not get FEMA grants to fix floors and walls in their units because the co-op, not the individual, owns the real property — floors, walls, ceiling, etc. and the individual owns shares in the co-op. Now, according to The New York Times, a group of legislators from New York and New Jersey are introducing a bill that would change the law, enabling FEMA to give grants to these types of buildings. It would also remove the $30,000 cap on grants to buildings. One lawmaker told the Times that the bill will certainly face resistance, especially since co-ops are rare outside of New York City. “There will be many members of Congress that would say, ‘I don’t have co-ops in my district; why should I support this?’ My response would be, I don’t have tornadoes, but I support your assistance.” Have you had problems with getting FEMA assistance in rebuilding since Sandy? Has your co-op or condo run into this issue?
The City’s Department of Buildings is fining property owners in Queens who have billboards painted on their buildings and are within sight of the highway. The department has targeted the owners of these two buildings, both of which have had billboards painted on them since the 1940s (though these ads are hardly World War II vintage–the owner of the building on the left’s family owns Amorelli Realty, the company advertising on the building at 24-62 32nd Street). The buildings department won a billboard case in 2010 which set a precedent for it to call for these kinds of ads to be removed. One owner was fined $50,000 which was later reduced to $20,000, the other was fined $20,000 which was later reduced to $800. The owners told the Daily News that the billboards should be grandfathered in because there has been advertising on these buildings for 70 years. The buildings department says that it can’t grandfather in such signs in a residential neighborhood. Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. has jumped to the owners defense, telling the Daily News, “It’s a classic example of city bureaucracy run amok and using our citizens and businesses as ATMs.” What do you think? Should these ads be painted on buildings in residential neighborhoods? Is it part of Astoria’s charm or is it ruining its charm?
Since 2007 City Council Speaker Christine Quinn has given $130,000 of city money to the Friends of Sunnyside Gardens Park, a non-profit organization that runs the 3.5 acre private park in Sunnyside. The park, created in 1926, has a grass playing field, tennis and basketball courts, a running track, a wading pool and play areas for children. Membership is open to anyone living in certain zones within Sunnyside and an annual membership for a family costs $335. The money came from member items, funds that the council members can spend at their discretion. However these funds are only supposed to go to non-profits that will spend the money for the public benefit. A strategist for Bill Thompson, a rival for the Democratic nomination for mayor, told the New York Post, “The continued lack of accountability over public money by Speaker Quinn is disgraceful.” However, Quinn’s spokesperson said that the funds went to “neighborhood upgrades all residents enjoy.”
Jamaica still has a trash problem. Local residents are dumping illegally, despite Department of Sanitation efforts to catch them and the city’s effort to clean up the neighborhood, NY1 reported. Since the station first reported the garbage problem in March, officials said that 37 lots have been cleaned ear 107th Avenue and Sutphin Boulevard. But undercover sanitation officers still find people ditching old mattresses and garbage. The situation has led some residents to protest at Borough Hall after Borough President Helen Marshall refused to meet with them.
Queens Crap has alerted us to a new reality show proposal called The Real Volunteers, which would be focused on the repair and recovery efforts of the Sandy-devastated areas from New Jersey to Long Island. From what we can tell from the proposal, it will be a mashup of Paramedics, Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, and good ol’ disaster profiteering. Sandy victims are certainly no strangers to exploitation, but this seems a little beyond the pale. How could they possibly justify such a show?
Two soccer fields in Flushing Meadows Corona Park are undergoing a $2 million makeover, even though the City is working on a deal to construct a Major League Soccer stadium over that same spot, reports the Times Ledger.
Three fields, including two located right on the footprint of the 13-acre stadium, are reportedly benefiting from a $2.8 million overhaul, with new landscaping, artificial turf, and repainted bleachers and goal posts. If the plan goes through, the fields would be torn up anyway, the paper reports.
City Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras (D-East Elmhurst) allocated the money for the projects and said repairs are needed now for the residents who play soccer on the fields.
An MLS spokeswoman said only that the league continues to be in active and productive discussions with the city. But another park advocacy group said building the stadium now would not make sense after Ferreras’ capital investment.
“It’s great news for the community that the city is finally improving these fields. Flushing Meadows Corona Park is the only major park for our neighborhoods and tens of thousands of people come to play soccer here every weekend,” said Will Sweeney of the Fairness Coalition. “Tearing up these newly improved public soccer fields to build a private, for-profit stadium would be a massive waste of millions of taxpayer dollars and an outrageous corporate giveaway.”