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. 

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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.

BDB: BQX is still on

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Screengrab of a rendering of the BQX at Queens Plaza from http://www.bqx.nyc/#gallery

Mayor Bill de Blasio slammed the New York Daily News today for reporting that he “may ditch” the BQX streetcar proposal. The News had reported on a comment by Alicia Glen, the deputy mayor for economic development, that implied that if the streetcar turns out to not be self-funding, then the city might have to consider a different use of capital funds. This is the quote the News reported this week and I posted on Corner (and was posted all over the place):

“Assuming that it does not pay for itself… then we have to decide whether or not this is the right use of capital money for a transportation project.”

I never took that to mean De Blasio is backing off the BQX, and I don’t think the News reported it that way. (Disclosure: I interned for the News in 2013). You can read the quote as many times as I did. This is what De Blasio told a caller (Nick from Astoria, at 16 minutes in) on The Brian Lehrer Show segment, “Ask the Mayor” (Disclosure: I work for Brian Lehrer in a different capacity) asking for clarification on his commitment:

“This is an instance where a real disservice has been done by the media, specifically the Daily News, in taking comments that presented no change in our position whatsoever and trying to reflect something entirely different… I don’t understand how a journalist does that. I don’t understand how a journalist goes out of their way to misrepresent the facts, and I’ve seen it way too often lately at the Daily News.”

“My deputy mayor spoke about the complexities of a major undertaking like this. But it’s one we believe is going to be very, very valuable for what’s one of the single biggest growth areas and population centers of the entire city of New York, the East River Waterfront in Brooklyn and Queens. This is increasingly the core of New York City and we think the BQX is going to be a high impact investment in the community. And also because I think it’s going to be part of positive development of housing, affordable housing, job creation, that’s part of why it interacts very positively with what we’re trying to do overall to help those communities strengthen. It’s going to serve 40,000 public housing residents in many communities that are underserved by mass transit. But it’s a big, complicated endeavor and it’s certainly going to require some federal support as well, which is something I’m very hopeful about particularly because of the presence of Senator Schumer in the Senate, the roll he plays. We’re moving forward but we have to get the exact details right and we’re going to have a plan…”

“We must have more mass transit and it’s not going to be created by the MTA on the scale we need.”

So the point of the story is BDB is still committed to the BQX, regardless of what Alicia Glen said.

BQX in doubt as study looms

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A rendering of the BQX along Queensbridge, from http://www.bqx.nyc/#gallery

An important player in the BQX streetcar project expressed doubt this Brooklyn-Queens waterfront train will happen. Alicia Glen, deputy mayor for economic development, oversees the Economic Development Corporation, which is studying the feasibility of funding the BQX. The New York Daily News reported late Tuesday that Glen said at an NYU transportation event, “Assuming that it does not pay for itself… then we have to decide whether or not this is the right use of capital money for a transportation project.”

This comes a year after the News reported on an internal memo expressing doubts on the planned self-financing capability, involving underground obstacles:

“Digging up and moving utility lines “continues to be the biggest single cost factor” that “has the possibility to make the project unaffordable and render implementation timelines unfeasible,” according to the memo.”

From the outset, the city projected a $2.5 billion price tag.

Of course the story isn’t over for the BQX, while a late study still looms. Glen said that Senator Chuck Schumer is a “huge fan” of the project. Schumer is of course father of Jessica Schumer, interim executive director of Friends of the BQX. However, this wrinkle might be a minor blow to the group. Rival organization Queens Anti-Gentrification Project has jumped on the opportunity to criticize the project on Facebook:

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Crain’s: City selects team for Sunnyside Yards master plan

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A figure from the city’s 2017 feasibility report on the Sunnyside Yards project shows a full neighborhood of high-rises spread across the site.

Crain’s New York reported Thursday that sources say the city has tapped architect and urbanist Vishaan Chakrabarti to lead up the design plan for Mayor Bill de Blasio’s major development proposal for the Sunnyside Yards. The Crain’s story comes one year after the city released a report on the potentiality of decking over the vast train yards, projecting the endeavor could cost $16-19 billion, involving 14,000 to 24,000 market rate apartments and 4,200 to 7,200 apartments counted as affordable. Since the mayor announced his plan for building housing over the swath of land in his 2015 State of the City address, little has been mentioned by the city about the project other than last year’s study. 

The site, which according to last year’s report could include residential buildings 15 to 69 stories high and office buildings 18 to 44 stories, would expand on the growing Long Island City skyline and would constitute a new sub-neighborhood within Western Queens. Some dissidents have suggested the sudden volume of new people could have an overwhelming impact on the areas transit, schools and rents. Crain’s says the city won’t likely be able to act on a master plan until after BDB’s term ends in 2021.

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2017’s art has left Socrates Sculpture Park

Today I watched that head in Socrates park, an installation by Tanda Francis, called “Take Me With You,” get taken away. 

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And not just the head, but the whole body of work that graced the park since October 1 is out of the park, from what I could see. The next installation will be Virginia Overton’s solo-set called “Built.” According to the website, “The show’s largest piece is a crystal-shaped sculpture made of industrial architectural truss systems and angle iron spanning 40 feet.”

Politics and news below…

Continue reading “2017’s art has left Socrates Sculpture Park”

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).