Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Carroll Gardens Downzoning: CB6 Thursday

From Tom Gray of Councilman Bill deBlasio's office, a reminder to turn out in support of the long-awaited Carroll Gardens downzoning at the CB6 Land Use Committee meeting on Thursday night. The rezoning will protect the community from out of scale new development and preserve the character of Carroll Gardens and the Columbia Waterfront District.

Jun 25 Landmarks/Land Use Committee Meeting
PUBLIC HEARING on Carroll Gardens/Columbia Street Contextual Rezoning plan (ULURP No. C 090462 ZMK)
Discussion and formulation of a recommendation on an application submitted by the Department of City Planning (ULURP No. C 090462 ZMK) to contextually rezone Carroll Gardens and a significant portion of the Columbia Street District neighborhoods to protect the existing built form environments.

Long Island College Hospital
339 Hicks Street
Brooklyn NY 11201

6:00 PM

Monday, June 22, 2009

Rooftop Films In Gowanus This Weekend

Sounds like fun - I love the rooftop theme to this series:

June 27th
Voices from El-Sayed:

In this smart and charming documentary, the world’s largest community of
deaf people is suddenly given a gift that threatens to disrupt local

Venue: On the roof of the Old American Can Factory
Address: 232 3RD St. @ 3rd Ave. (Gowanus/ Park Slope, Brooklyn)
Directions: F/G to Carroll St. or M/R to Union Ave.
Rain: In the event of rain the show will be held indoors at the same location
8:00PM: Doors open
8:30PM: Live music presented by Sound Fix Records
9:00PM: Films
11:00PM–12:30AM: Reception in courtyard including free sangria courtesy of
Carlo Rossi
Tickets: $9-$25 at the door or online

Presented in partnership with: Cinereach, The Israeli Cultural Consulate,
New York magazine & XØ Projects
BUY TICKETS: http://newyork.going.com/event-602772;Rooftop_Films_Voices_from_El-Sayed

No refunds. In the event of rain, the show will be indoors at the same
locations. Seating is first come, first served. Physical seats are
limited. This means you may not get a chair. You are welcome to bring a
blanket and picnic.

Overflow Magazine - Primary Education

Overflow Magazine interviewed the 5 candidates for City Council District 39 including yours truly. It's a fun read and includes pictures of all the candidates in our native habitats.

Flash, so I can't cut and paste . . . but copies are available for free at participating local establishments. Lots of other good stuff in there too.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Bloomberg Campaign Ties To Jailhouse Bar Mitzvah Rabbi?

New York politics can be fascinating stuff.
The rabbi[Leib Glanz] at the center of an investigation into a bar mitzvah that was held at a New York City jail last year had three scheduled meetings in the last four months of 2008 with Deputy Mayor Kevin Sheekey, the man in charge of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s political operation, records show.
The sordid details of the jail as Orthodox party hall made for some great tabloid fodder.

But to truly appreciate the story you must read this Gatemouth piece on Rabbi Glanz over at Room 8.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Rutgers Law Professor and Preservationist John Payne, RIP

I had the privilege of working as a research assistant for Professor Payne while I was in law school at Rutgers. Nominally he was my torts professor (and later my Land Use prof) but he was also the premiere scholar on the Mount Laurel affordable housing cases. I spent months poring over court records and exhibits spanning four decades to provide background for a book on these groundbreaking affordable housing decisions.
John M. Payne, Board of Governors Distinguished Service Professor at Rutgers School of Law – Newark and key participant in the Mt. Laurel cases, died Wednesday of brain cancer at Rosary Hill Home in Hawthorne, NY. He was 67 years old. Services are private. A memorial service will be held at the law school in the fall.
. . . .
Payne was also a driving force for historic preservation in New Jersey and critical to protecting the work and legacy of American architect Frank Lloyd Wright. He was a former president of the national Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy and former director of Preservation New Jersey, the New Jersey partner of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

As an academic, Payne wrote and lectured extensively. In addition to his Mt. Laurel writing and articles on housing and historic preservation issues, he co-edited one of the most highly respected and widely-used casebooks on land development and land law use (Planning and Control of Land Development, 7th ed., 2008, with Daniel Mandelker et al.).

Prof. Payne cared deeply about the struggle to provide quality affordable housing fairly, as well as about historic preservation. I feel fortunate to have had the chance to know and learn from him. He will be missed.

Squadron Seeks MTA Review of F Line: What About F/V Service?

The Brooklyn Paper ran a story yesterday on Senator Squadron's request that MTA review service on the Culver Line (aka the F train in Brooklyn).

Ben over at Second Avenue Sagas lays out some alternatives for improving service along the line, including the enhanced F/V service that we have been advocating for years now.
Right now, the Culver Line isn’t close to being at capacity. It could easily support the V train running out to Church at rush hour, and as one person commenting on Gersh’s article notes, the MTA could probably even run the V along the A/C through Lower Manhattan to pick up Wall St. commuters bypassed by the F. In one felt swoop, the MTA would make travel easier while alleviating congestion on the Culver line through Brooklyn.
The second solution — an observation — is a call for those people impacted by this service to just wait. On July 5, the MTA will extend G train service south to Church Ave. While not ideal, those who cannot get on the F train due to congestion can ride the G to Hoyt-Schermerhorn and transfer to the A or C. It’s not nearly as convenient as extending the V, but it may serve the same function.

There is a lively discussion in the SAS comments, check it out.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Whither the State Senate?

Things just get curiouser and curiouser.
“We have access, we have keys, and we’re going to open the door to do our business,” Mr. Espada said early Wednesday.

But that never happened. Mr. Monserrate’s talks with lawmakers on both sides of the leadership fight held up a planned 3 p.m. session, and he ultimately asked Mr. Espada and Republicans to delay the reopening of the Senate for a day while he continued to talk to Democrats; he said he wanted “to continue the discussions” with other Democrats “that I believe will build our coalition.”
. . . .
Mr. Espada’s former Democratic colleagues spent much of the day mulling over their leadership. Democrats met privately Wednesday morning for about 40 minutes in their conference room on the third floor of the Capitol. When they emerged, few were willing to express any confidence that Mr. Smith would be able to hang onto his job.

Senator Jeffrey D. Klein of the Bronx, the Democrats’ deputy leader and a sometime rival of Mr. Smith’s, said, “I can’t speculate on that,” adding, “We live day to day.”

Pedro Espada is done for politically.

So is Malcolm Smith.

This little coup may yet turn out to be the best thing that ever happened in the NY Senate.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Defector Espada Failed To get $2MM In Earmarks For Related Entities

Via the NYT CityRoom blog.
State Senator Pedro Espada Jr. requested more than $2 million dollars in Senate earmarks this year for two groups with links to the health care organization that he founded and which appeared to have been created in part to receive such grants, according to several Democratic officials and aides with knowledge of the requests.
. . . .
When Senate officials expressed reservations about the grants to Mr. Espada’s staff, aides to the senator asked to resubmit the grants with a new address for both organizations: 742 East Tremont Avenue in the Bronx. Several weeks later, as Senate officials continued to balk, Mr. Espada finally asked that all the money be earmarked for the Bronx Chamber of Commerce, an existing and well-established organization.

The GOP can have these two sleazy pols. It is clearly where they belong.

UPDATE: Speaking of where they belong, I almost forgot that Pedro Espada doesn't even live in his district in the Bronx . . . he lives in Westchester! Espada is a fraud and a crook.

Ground Broken for New NJ-NY Rail Tunnel

Apparently, this is the biggest transit infrastructure project in the country. And long overdue.

Two Members Of "Fare Hike Four" Reveal True Colors

Indicted domestic abuse suspect Hiram Monserrate (Queens) and campaign finance train wreck Pedro Espada (Bronx), two grasping, power-hungry nominal Democrats just went full-dirtbag and joined the Senate Republicans in an attempted coup.

It remains to be see how this mess will sort out, but one thing is certain: progressive Democrats need to unite to ensure these two treacherous, self-serving walking scandals never see another term in elected office.

Friday, June 5, 2009

No Wonder Brooklyn Museum Needs Money

In 2005 their former payroll manager stole $620K, according to the Post.

The first thing I thought of was this article from the Brooklyn Paper on the financial troubles at the museum. City budget cutbacks have certainly impacted the museum - but better oversight of their finances would help.

I thought that was the end of the story for now. But this bit from the Daily Intel is priceless:
He faced 20 years in prison. Donna was probably pretty pissed about that. But she scraped together the $600,000 bond to make sure he could come home to his kids. Then, yesterday, after his first hearing, they exited the courtroom together. As they walked into the courthouse lobby, Dwight broke into a sprint, running down the building’s steps and careening down the sidewalk, away. Donna probably wondered why she had so easily abandoned her detective skills.

The Daily News has an action shot of the great escape.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Free Brooklyn to Governors Island Ferry

Eh, guv'nah?

Senator Squadron's office writes that after giving Brooklyn the cold shoulder last summer, GIPEC will finally provide free ferry service from Brooklyn to Governor's Island . . . starting this Saturday! Full release below:
I am writing to share some exciting news- this summer there will finally be free ferry service between Brooklyn and Governor's Island!

This ferry is something that Senator Squadron has long requested to better connect the Brooklyn Waterfront with the rest of New York Harbor, and we hope that you will be able to celebrate with him at the ferry's innaugural launch this Saturday, June 6 at 11:00 am, at Fulton Ferry Landing.

The ferry will leave Fulton Ferry Landing every hour, every Saturday when there is programming scheduled for Governor's Island. [UPDATE - The ferry will not continue to Battery Park as originally stated]. Please visit www.govisland.com for a full schedule...

...and please join Senator Squadron and other community members to celebrate the first launch this Saturday at 11:00!

Hope to see you then.

Great news. Thank you, Senator and staff.

Massive Mortgage Fraud In Queens: NYC Media Ignore It

Back in 2007, I wrote three posts on an unbelievably sleazy criminal, one Thomas Kontogiannis.

I contacted the news rooms at several local papers, including the Times, the Daily News, the Post, and a paper or two in Queens. Nothing but crickets in response. This is no boring story: Tommy K is now in prison for bribing California GOP Congressman Duke Cunningham. This was HUGE news on the West Coast - but not a single column inch of coverage here in NYC. Why?

Via Talking Points Memo, Reuters has a story up on Kontogiannis's $92 million dollar mortgage fraud. Maybe this contributed to Queens foreclosure rates dwarfing those of every other borough.
Real estate developer Thomas Kontogiannis, 60, and eight other defendants are accused of orchestrating fraudulent loans that were subsequently sold to the financial firms.

Federal prosecutors and the FBI said the scheme was centered around property developments that Kontogiannis bought and subdivided from 2001 to 2003 in the New York City boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens.

To finance the projects, the defendants are accused of staging sales of the properties financed by mortgage loans. Bogus appraisals supported the price of the properties, even where buildings had not yet been constructed or had fictional addresses, said the U.S. Attorney's Office in Brooklyn, which is prosecuting the case.

The Daily News failed to cover any aspect of this story, except for this mention in an article about tax delinquents:
Federal prosecutors who indicted Long Island financier Thomas Kontogiannis for laundering bribes to California Rep. Randy (Duke) Cunningham tied him to at least 22 companies including Westshore 480 Development, which, the city says, owes $751,708 in taxes on a waterfront property in Brooklyn.
A lawyer for Kontogiannis denied his client owned Westshore 480 or owed money for its property taxes. "He has no ownership and no liability," lawyer Robert Wolf said. "It would not be accurate to report that he does."

Apparently this guy was also involved in some shady business with spy agencies. All the more reason local papers should take an interest in an investigative story - but so far, no takers. What gives?

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Andrew Ross Sorkin: Out Of Touch

After reading about NYT's columnist Andrew Ross Sorkin's anti-union comments on MSNBC's Morning Joe, I wonder if this guy ever worked a single day in any sort of blue collar job. I'm betting "no".

This is not Sorkin's first bout of anti-labor ignorance. Last fall he gave wide dissemination to the (false) stories of $70/hour auto workers.

It is amazing to me the extent to which the right has managed to demagogue labor in this country over the last 30 years. And the extent to which our establishment media, which spreads these myths, is still somehow regarded as liberal.

By the way, the New York Times lost approximately $58 million last year and $74 million in Q1 2009 . . . Surely the fault lies with the Times's union employees, at least in the eyes of people like Sorkin.

Cold Ironing: Reduce Port Emissions In NY Harbor

The Brooklyn Paper has an article on a setback in a Red Hook blogger's quest to reduce port emissions through "cold ironing". Cold ironing means that a ship turns off its diesel engines at port, instead plugging in to the electrical grid to reduce emissions. From the brooklyn paper article:
The missing piece, the Port Authority and city claimed, was discounted electricity from Con Edison, because the standard rate for the juice is too high to justify turning off the diesel engines in favor of plugging in.

But the state Public Service Commission, which regulates utilities, nixed the so-called “shore power” idea on jurisdictional grounds in April, telling the Port Authority and the city to negotiate instead with the New York Power Authority, the port agency’s main supplier of electricity.

If I read the article correctly, there is still hope. It's a matter of working with the Power Authority to make this happen. It looks like the City and Port Authority were barking up the wrong tree - but this isn't over yet. Reducing the emissions from these ships should be a top priority.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Red Hook School Closings - Flu?

From Craig Hammerman at CB6:

Please be advised that the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene just relayed this announcement regarding 2 local school closures in Red Hook effective tomorrow...

June 2, 2009 - Health Commissioner Thomas R. Frieden and Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein today announced that the City Health Department has recommended closing two more schools - P.S. 15, which is co-located with the PAVE Academy Charter School in Red Hook, Brooklyn - after documenting an unusually high amount of influenza-like illness over a number of days. The schools will be closed as of Wednesday, June 3. The schools will reopen on Monday, June 8.

The details for the schools are:

P.S. 15 (The Patrick F. Daly School, 377 students) in Red Hook Brooklyn, which is co-located with the PAVE Academy Charter School (86 students). A total of 20 students were documented with influenza-like illness on Monday and Tuesday.

Click here for more information (pdf warning!)

Carroll Gardens Downzoning Process Under Way

City Planning gave us a wonderful preview presentation; now they issued a press release announcing the start of the public review period for the downzoning of Carroll gardens and Columbia Waterfront. Brownstoner has the entire press release posted. A snippet:
Initiated in response to community requests and developed in close consultation with Community Board 6, local community groups and Council Member de Blasio, the rezoning was crafted block by block to:

 Preserve the row house character of over 80% of the study area by introducing a contextual zoning district (R6B) with height limits of 50 feet. R6B would be mapped on predominately residential east-west side streets as well as the north-south streets of Smith, Hoyt, Bond and Hicks Streets and portions of Henry, Clinton and Columbia Streets.
 Match new zoning to preserve the established built character by mapping contextual zoning designations (R6A and R7A; height limits of 70 feet and 80 feet, respectively). Along the mixed-use corridors of Court and Columbia Streets as well as other more densely built blocks, R6A zoning would more accurately match the existing built context. On Tiffany Place between Kane and Degraw Streets where existing 7-story manufacturing buildings have been converted to residential use, the proposed R7A would better match the built character.
 Promote vibrant, mixed-use corridors on certain local commercial thoroughfares. C2-4 overlays
would be mapped to promote an expanded group of ground-floor commercial uses at specific locations along Smith, Henry and Hicks Street where commercial uses already exist, but where no commercial zoning is present to permit new or expanding businesses.
 Reduce the depths of commercial districts to reflect existing development patterns and preclude commercial intrusions into residential side streets. In certain locations where no commercial uses currently exist and where such uses would be inappropriate with existing land use patterns, commercial overlays would be removed.
All in all, a great proposal. And it wouldn't have been possible without the tireless work of CGNA and others, especially John Hatheway and Glenn Kelly.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Brooklyn Greenway Benefit June 18th

The Brooklyn Greenway is having their annual gala event on June 18th, and Mia and I are looking forward to it. lats year was a lot of fun, and this year it will be even better with great views from Erie Basin Park. Tickets are $60, which benefits a terrific cause, and includes beer and wine as well as a "Swedish Smorgasbord".

Rallying Cry For Transit Advocates

What Ben said.

When the MTA had to turn, cap in hand, to Albany this year, politicians trotted out the old tired tropes in an effort to portray the MTA as a less than scrupulous organization. Some claimed the MTA keeps two sets of books, a charge found to be untrue in a court of law. Others called the agency heads “untrustworthy and corrupt,” as Sander puts it an Op-Ed in The Times today. In the end, the MTA, a transit agency entrusted with making the trains on time, were no match for a bunch of politicians whose specialties all seem to be making themselves look good even when approving poorly-constructed funding fixes.

The politicians are the problem - not the MTA. The MTA has been used as a scapegoat for politicians in Albany, aided and abetted by years of journalistic malpractice. We need to elect people to office that understand the importance of transit, and that the root of our current problems lies not at the MTA, but in Albany. That's one reason I am running for office myself.