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

edc_sunnysideyards_potentialsiteplan

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”

JVB in street fight with Streetsblog

43rdAve_Sunnyside.png
43rd Ave in Sunnsyide, Google Maps screen shot

Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer clashed with Streetsblog NYC over the weekend. Last Friday, Streetsblog published a story titled, “Jimmy Van Bramer Called for a Protected Bike Lane on 43rd Avenue a Year Ago Today. Now He’s Undecided.” The post came a year after Corona resident Gelacio Reyes was killed on his bike by a drunk driver. The tragedy galvanized support for enhancements such as protected bike lanes in the 43rd and Skillman avenues area in Sunnyside. JVB indeed supported that. But at a March 26 town hall, he said, “Nothing is a done deal, this is a proposal,” Streetsblog reported. “I listened to every single word that every single person said here today.”

Streetsblog tweeted with its article, “Hard to think of a more brazen about-face on a major street safety project in NYC than abandoning the 43rd Ave protected bike lane.”

In response, Van Bramer tweeted, “This article is not accurate. I was never contacted by the reporter. I have a full statement I’m sending out soon to correct the record.”

In his statement, the councilman said he still believes in the measures but added his respects for the approval process.

“We are going through the process which, though Streetsblog may not like it, includes the DOT presenting to the local community board… While some may be frustrated with the process, I believe Community Boards play a role and should be included in such plans.”

Streetsblog tweeted in response:

“Statement from contradicts nothing in today’s story. A year after saying DOT should install protected bike lanes where Gelacio Reyes was killed, he does not support DOT’s plan for protected lanes on 43rd and Skillman.”

JVB had a much better day with the press last week when he was given credit for the city’s decision to remove parked garbage trucks from the streets by the Ravenswood Houses. 

Suraj Patel raises $1.1 million, defends contributions

Suraj_poster

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. 

Maloney’s challenger has issues (optics at least)

Rep. Carolyn Maloney has a Democratic midterm primary challenger who just got caught saying apparently suggestive comments on social media about McKayla Maroney, a champion Olympic gymnast who was underage at the time in 2012. I know, Maroney, Maloney? TBH, I read his Facebook post a few times and don’t get it. Is that Indiana humor? The timing is awkward I guess because Maroney has recently spoken out about being sexually abused as a teen. Politico reported a month ago that the challenger, Suraj Patel, a 34 year-old former Obama campaign staffer (or something, here’s his LinkedIn) who lives in the East Village, had a war chest comparable to Maloney’s. Politico notes, “Patel’s campaign strategists point out the district has been redrawn since 2010 to include the younger, hipper Brooklyn neighborhoods of Greenpoint and Williamsburg.” Some case for descriptive representation. The area was actually the 14th district until 2013 when it became the 12th. It stretched a bit to includes Greenpoint and Williamsburg. Screen Shot 2018-03-06 at 3.33.14 AM

A few notes:

BdB on NYCHA freeze, Blissville shelter

Mayor Bill de Blasio commented on the NYCHA boiler issue (at Astoria Houses and elsewhere) and the Blissville 100-single men homeless shelter (just 12 hours after people railed about it at CB2) on the Brian Lehrer Show Friday. On the heat issue, BDB defended himself from Governor Andrew Cuomo for saying on the show Thursday that it’s a city management issue, not the state’s failure to supply enough funds. Cuomo insisted that as a former HUD secretary (before Ben Carson) he knew what he was talking about. “Fix it!” Cuomo had yelled, as though just annoyed with the de Blasio admin. BdB retorted, “Why doesn’t he stop talking and give us the $250 million that he already signed off on?” So, the mayor and the governor are my parents. 

On the Blissville shelter (you can listen at 7:34 – and, disclosure: I work for Brian Lehrer in some capacity but am not promoting his radio show) Rebecca called in to complain about the City View 100 men shelter and the Fairfield Inn shelter opening soon with 154 families. “Are there guidelines for density? Because at this point it will be one to one,” she said. BdB:

“We care obviously to make sure that wherever there is a shelter facility, that we take into account the needs of the surrounding community and we try and balance things, but we also have a shortage of available sites,” BdB said. “We need the sites to make sure that people are sheltered and we want them to be as fairly distributed as possible and we want to think about things obviously like the impact on the immediate community.” 

A few notes:

  • Activists will be rallying at noon today against waterfront developments on 44th Drive. I plan to stop by and observe. 
  • Estée Lauder is moving “dozens” of IT jobs from Long Island to LIC, Newsday reports. The company’s tech hub will open at 1 Queens Plaza North in July. With its proximity to the Cornell Tech campus on Roosevelt Island LIC seems to be where it’s at these days for tech.

    “Long Island City is a growing hub for startups, tech and digital companies,” Michael Smith, the chief information officer said, adding, “our team will greatly benefit from being at the center of this fast-paced and vibrant environment.” 

1QueensPlazaNorth
1 Queens Plaza North, site of a future Estée Lauder tech hub.

Continue reading “BdB on NYCHA freeze, Blissville shelter”

Cold politics surround Astoria Houses

Sure, it’s getting warmer. But a political battle over the heating system at the Astoria Houses got more complicated this week. Bronx Councilman Ritchie Torres, who chairs the oversight and investigation committee (he formerly chaired the NYCHA oversight committee), published a report claiming that Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration will be to blame for six more “heating seasons” (somehow that translates to three years, apparently) with boiler problems at the Astoria Houses. The New York Daily News, in a January 29 story on citywide Housing Authority boiler issues, featured the Astoria Houses:

“While all four permanent boilers at the Astoria Houses were up and running, they were barely able to heat the building to 68 degrees. And while some developments have a redundancy — an extra boiler that kicks in if one fails — Astoria doesn’t.”

The Torres report follows the admin’s decision last November to cancel $43.5 million in financing from the Housing Development Corporation towards the Durst Organization’s 163-unit, affordable housing building, planned for the Astoria Houses campus as part of its Halletts Point mega-development. (This was supposed to be a way for NYCHA to profit from some of its land.) The deal involved Durst paying for boiler repairs at the Astoria Houses. Politico last week said the city “disputed” that pulling the finances was part of a feud after de Blasio listed Durst as an example of a campaign contributor that didn’t receive a favor: in this case, not winning a contract to run the East River ferry.

“There was a leading real estate developer and campaign contributor who wanted the contract for our new citywide ferry service. His proposal was good, but the City agency involved thought another one was better. He didn’t get the contract.”

After that op-ed, a Durst spokesman said, “Winter is coming.” Douglas Durst had also financed lawsuits against de Blasio-backed Pier 55 on the Hudson River.

A few notes:

  • State Senator Michael Gianaris makes case for gun purchase background checks.