City announces Sunnyside Yards planning team, hears hell from JVB, Nolan

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The city is officially moving forward on developing a neighborhood over the Sunnyside Yards by launching a master planning process this summer. The Economic Development Corporation announced today that Alicia Glen, deputy mayor of economic development and Anthony Coscia, chairman of Amtrak, which owns most of the space, signed a letter of intent to collaborate on the plan. The EDC’s announcement confirms Crain’s New York Business’ March 29 report that urbanist Vishaan Chakrabarti will be heading the master plan team. But more people are involved! Cali Williams, an EDC vice president for the last decade, now has the title: director of Sunnyside Yard. And a steering committee headed by Elizabeth Lusskin, president of the Long Island City Partnership and Sharon Greenberger, head of the YMCA for Greater New York (what?) will be consulting on the plan. But wait… what about elected officials who don’t want this to happen? 

City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, whose district spans both the LIC and Sunnyside sides of the yards, has been vocal against this project. How the EDC and mayor’s office will be able to push this ahead without the support from the 26th city council rep, I’m really not sure. The yards would have to be rezoned to allow residential development and super tall buildings, something the council member would have to approve. Sunnyside Post reported shortly after the EDC’s announcement today that JVB and State Rep. Catherine Nolan, who also opposes the plan, complained the city went around them on this. Well of course. 

Continue reading “City announces Sunnyside Yards planning team, hears hell from JVB, Nolan”

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Corner interviews Suraj Patel, candidate for Congress

The Suraj Patel campaign office at 64 Cooper Square

The other day I interviewed Suraj Patel, who is running against incumbent Representative Carolyn Maloney in the Midterm Democratic primary election for Congress on June 26. When I walked into his campaign headquarters at 64 Cooper Square, a converted East Village bar flush with young people on laptops, he was sitting by the door talking to a young woman who seemed to want to help his campaign. His website has a ‘Meet Suraj‘ feature allowing anyone to book 20 minutes with him. That’s what I did. 

Patel, 34, is less than half the age of the incumbent (she’s 72) and has been described as part of a movement of Millennial challengers or “progressive insurgents” inspired by the last national election, to push out old guard Democrats. In New York, this includes Rep. Ed Crowley’s Bronx/Queens challenger Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Rep. Yvette Clarke’s Brooklyn challenger Adem Bunkeddeko.

Patel, an East Village resident, grew up in Indiana and moved to the city 12 years ago for law school, his website says. He’s president of his family’s hotel business and teaches business ethics at NYU. His LinkedIn includes Barack Obama and the White House’s advance teams between 2008 and 2016, the Democratic National Convention in 2012 and special assistant to the chief of staff of the Presidential Inaugural Committee in 2012-2013. In this campaign, he has raised more than $1 million in contributions, close to Maloney’s $1.3 million and has spent at least $460,000. He lost the endorsement vote of the Village Independent Democrats to Maloney 20 to 17

I let his staffer know a few hours in advance that I write a neighborhood blog and asked to be able to record audio. I’m not sure if Patel was expecting a journalist but I explained when the session started. The first few minutes of audio didn’t record well so I tried to edit it into shape. After that it’s smooth sailing. There’s also a nearly full transcript below.

Transcript below…

Continue reading “Corner interviews Suraj Patel, candidate for Congress”

Constantinides and JVB both eyeing BP seat (prolly)

The Astoria Post reports that City Councilman Costa Constantinides is probably eyeing the Queens borough president seat for 2021 when Melinda Katz vacates. Constantinides, who is serving his final term as council-member, held a fundraiser with a maximum donation of $3,850, the top limit allowed for borough president. A flyer for the fundraiser reads, “I hope I can count on you as we expand upon our legacy and fight for higher office after my current term ends.” If true, this makes the second city council member from Western Queens eying the beep race. It was revealed in February that Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer formed a Queens Borough President exploratory committee.

H/T Astoria Post

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Suraj Patel raises $1.1 million, defends contributions

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Carolyn Maloney campaigners have been busy with clipboards at the Queensbridge F-train station to get signatures ensuring she’ll be on the June primary election ballot, I’ve noticed. I haven’t spotted challenger Suraj Patel campaigners in the Ravenswood-Queensbridge area by eye yet – he has visited the Ravenswood Houses and the area (as evidenced in this campaign video around the 3:35 mark) – but certain things are of note for the 34 year-old opponent.

Patel has again topped 25-year incumbent Maloney in campaign contributions, the Washington Post reported yesterday, collecting more than $525,000, Maloney less than $500,000, in the second fundraising quarter, putting Patel at close to $1.1 million. After Patel out-raised Maloney in the first quarter four to one, Maloney said, “it’s mainly from Indiana, where he’s from… mainly a huge amount of the name Patel, which is his name.” Patel later told BuzzFeed News, “I guess I didn’t realize Rep. Maloney hired Steve Bannon as her campaign strategist.” WaPo called this “the best coverage of [Patel’s] campaign.” A few weeks earlier, as BuzzFeed had noted, Politico reported that “four members of [Patel’s] immediate family, which owns SUN Hospitality, donated, as did 10 other relatives, according to his campaign.”

Patel was asked again about Maloney’s attack on a podcast posted yesterday on the site, Millennial Politics:

 

“I mean, how many Patels do you guys know? …I think there are about 250,000 Patels in this country alone… I find it to be offensive and race-bating to say that this guy’s last name is Patel and all these other Patels are donating to him.”

He also said of the incumbent: 

“Representative Maloney is quote on quote good enough. I guess she takes the right votes and loses them time and time again… She should be leading from a place like this that’s wholly progressive… On top of that she isn’t as progressive as this district deserves.”

Patel is part of a movement of Democratic challengers described as running on Bernie Sanders-style politics, an effort to push out old-guard Dems for a Millennial new guard, along with Queens/Bronx candidate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who only once replied to me on Twitter. Both candidates are for eliminating ICE.

Patel, who has worked for Barack Obama campaigns, has highlighted such Maloney stances as her vote for authorizing the Iraq War. In 2002, 81 Democratic house members voted for the war, 126 house Democrats voted no. In 2005 Maloney joined the Out-of-Iraq caucus. Patel has also made note of Maloney’s prominent place in the anti-vaccination movement. Maloney has only recently announced she doesn’t believe vaccinations cause autism. 

The Patel campaign is headquarted at 64 Cooper Square, the former location of an activist bar, as Racked explained: 

“Until late September, 64 Cooper Square in Manhattan was home to the activist bar Coup, which sprung up in the wake of President Trump’s election and, while it was open, donated all of its proceeds to organizations like the ACLU and Planned Parenthood. Coup’s wood bar, mirrored liquor shelves, and blue upholstered booths are still there, but the space is now the campaign headquarters of Suraj Patel…”

The district includes Astoria below Ditmars, Long Island City, Greenpoint, upper Williamsburg, part of the Lower East Side, the East Village and much of the East Side of Manhattan up to around East 96th Street. I have emailed the Patel campaign to see how much campaigning it has done in the Ravenswood/Queensbridge area and if any of its campaigners are from Western Queens. I haven’t heard back yet. 

Participatory budgeting takes off in LIC & Astoria

Participatory budgeting, where council district constituents get to vote on how to spend a million bucks, starts today in districts 26 (Long Island City, Sunnyside and Woodside) and 22 (Astoria, East Elmhurst, Jackson Heights and Woodside too).

In Astoria, items up for a vote include a hydroponic science lab at LIC High School, lighting upgrades at Astoria Houses Community Center, a tool shed at Two Coves Community Garden and road surfacing.

In LIC, items include bus countdown clocks, trees, a gym at Queensbridge Park, a soil science lab at Ravenswood Houses, tech upgrades at P.S. 112 in Dutch Kills and other schools and playground renovations at P.S. 111 in Ravenswood.

A few notes:

  • That Ravenswood survey reported about here in Corner, will be online from April 4 through 30, Times Ledger reports.
  • State Senator Aravella Simotas’ legislation on preserving rape kits made it into the 2019 state budget.
  • Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who is running against Rep. Joe Crowley in the Midterm primary, wants to end ICE.
  • Nas’ chicken and waffles joint will open in Hunters Point Monday with a private back room for parties.
  • A $33.3 million deal was made to put up a seven story, 200-unit, mixed-use building in Dutch Kills at 37-11 30th Street, Real Estate Weekly reports.

    “Dutch Kills, which sits just south of Astoria, has not seen the same level of investments as other sections of Long Island City, such as Hunters Point, Court Square and the area around Queensborough Plaza. Before Avenue and Slate bought the 37-11 30th Street, the only high-end housing project in the area was the Lightstone Group’s ARC complex, which is located two blocks to the south.”

  • Rep. Carolyn Maloney spoke about the U.S. Census citizenship question, militarizing the border and gun legislation on Thirteen. Maloney_Thirteen_screengrab
  • Queensbridge is getting new roofs.
  • LIC Reading Series will host its 3rd year anniversary event on April 10.
  • Thrillist lists Petey’s Burger in the top 31 burger joints in America.
  • A bunch of storefronts up by the Ditmars Boulevard station will be demolished to make way for a Target, Astoria Post reports.

Simotas: No to Census citizenship question

Sometimes I wonder if Astoria (not Jackson Heights) is actually the most diverse neighborhood in the United States. In any case, it’s diverse for sure and has a lot of immigrants. And maybe that makes State Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas suited for fighting the U.S. Commerce Department’s decision to include a citizenship question on the 2020 Census

In a letter to Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross, Simotas writes:

“As a representative of a diverse community in New York that is home to a large population of immigrants, I am deeply concerned that a citizenship question would deter many of my constituents from participating in the census and prevent them from receiving critically needed resources over the next decade.”

I’m not sure where other Queens lawmakers are on this. Mayor Bill Bill de Blasio and Attorney General Eric Schneiderman protested the concept in February. Googling the World’s Borough on the issue, I found a quote from Queens College professor Andrew Beveridge, who told the Washington Post the citizenship question would shift representation to Republican districts. “All of the districts with non-citizens in them and all of the districts with kids in them would have less representation.” 

Simotas argues in her letter that most people in her district live in “hard-to-count” neighborhoods and only 68.4% of households returned their questionnaires for the 2010 census.

Secretary Ross has argues it will be worthwhile. “The citizenship data provided to DOJ will be more accurate with the question than without it, which is of greater importance than any adverse effect that may result from people violating their legal duty to respond,” Ross said, The Hill reported. 

Simotas argues that her district, with it’s history of already low questionnaire turnout, will be worse off. “With heightened fears of immigration enforcement and anxieties over the confidentiality of census data, it will be even more challenging to collect and complete, accurate information.” 

You can read Simotas’ full letter here (warning PDF).

Simotas introduces bill to save businesses harmed by subway disruption

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One day, I can almost make it out in the distance, the clouds will part, and the N/W stations at 36th and 30th Avenues will reopen and we won’t have to simply stay in our homes all day. But until then, small businesses near these stops say they are suffering. State Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas hears them. She has introduced a bill that would offer the business owners tax credits if they see a 25% loss due to a state or city project.

Of course this made me wonder about the Second Avenue Subway. Efforts were made to protect those businesses from the decade-long construction (longer than our eight months) but all I see is grant proposals that were specific to the area. Simotas’ bill in contrast is wide-reaching, applying to the whole state, presumably forever and would apply to “infrastructure” projects in general, according to Queens Chronicle.
The stations are expected to reopen in June, the month when the 39th Ave and Broadway stations are set to close.

H/T Queens Chronicle.

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