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.”
It takes most people a while to get around to fixing things. But when repair jobs are needed on park equipment kids play on, that can ruffle some feathers.
An investigation by Comptroller John Liu’s office found some alarming safety hazards within Queens Parks that went unfixed too long. The investigation into the Parks Dept. discovered dangers like loose monkeybars, open manholes and jagged fences which went unfixed for months, according to the Queens Chronicle. About 11 percent of hazards deemed so dangerous that they required immediate attention, went unfixed for over 30 days, the requisite time period to complete such repairs.
Are Rockaway commuters taking another knock from the MTA?
The agency is reportedly decreasing the number of shuttle runs that were instituted to make up for “A” train service knocked out by hurricane Sandy.
Even before the hurricane, service times from the Rockaways were not good. After Sandy, the United Nations actually recognized a Far Rockaway student for having one of the longest commutes in the world. It can take Santiago Munoz two hours and forty minutes to get to Bronx HS of Science, by way of the shuttle, a second bus, and two subway lines, according to the Post.
A couple of the Queens newspapers — Queens Courier and Queens Chronicle – have reported this week on the planned cleanup of a toxic material left behind from the previous industrial usage of an area that is home to eight storage bays situated beneath the former Ozone Park LIRR station. At a community board meeting exchanges between residents and CB9 officials, it seems, got kinda heated when residents expressed numerous safety concerns that — based on the reporting we read — will likely cause the projects planners to go back to the drawing board.
In addition to being the subject of this toxic cleanup story, the Ozone Park LIRR station has been in the news for its part in the proposed Queensway, an elevated park built upon decommissioned railroad tracks. The linear park’s route would run directly above the contaminated area in question.