Archive for the 'News & Features' Category

Source: john weiss/Flickr

Q LINE

All times until early summer 2014: Coney Island-bound Q trains skip Parkside Av, Beverley Rd, and Cortelyou Rd.

F LINE

There are no scheduled subway service adjustments at this time.

Source: Wikimedia Common

Source: Wikimedia Common

Mayor Bill de Blasio unveiled details of his hotly anticipated overhaul of Superstorm Sandy recovery operations yesterday, committing the administration to getting 500 Build it Back checks in the mail and 500 construction projects kicked off before the end of the summer.

In addition to getting the long-delayed aid to some of the 20,000 homeowners in the Build it Back system, the plan calls for expanding the eligibility of those seeking aid, including eliminating priority levels so that income is no longer a cause for disqualification from several Build it Back recovery options.

“We’ve laid out a blueprint to provide critical financial relief to homeowners and directly engage communities in the rebuilding process—all while continuing our work to ensure a stronger and more resilient New York,” said de Blasio in a press release.

The New York Times reports:

Under the new rules, about 4,000 more residents than initially planned will be eligible to receive compensation from the government for repairs they have already performed on damaged homes. Hundreds more will be eligible to receive the full value of their property if they decide to vacate.

By the end of summer, the mayor said, the city planned to have started construction on 500 new homes and to have mailed out 500 reimbursement checks for previously performed repairs. As of Thursday, only 30 residents had received the payments.

The report, titled “One City, Rebuilding Together” and which can be read in full here, also calls for reassigning Department of Buildings inspectors to support Build it Back efforts, offering relief from city water bills for vacant homes, and providing tax relief to Sandy-impacted residents, among other proposals.

Aside from just doling out money and getting projects underway, the city is developing a plan to house residents displaced by recovery construction at their homes.

Several proposals are also being pushed to increase coordination and communication, including the appointment of borough directors and locally-based Build it Back staff.

Councilman Mark Treyger, who represents Coney Island and is chairman of the Committee on Recovery and Resiliency, praised the report but noted that residents need to see action, not proposals.

“I understand that this administration has only been in place for a few months, but the reality is that it has been 18 months and counting for residents struggling to rebuild and get back on their feet,” said Treyger in a statement. “The bottom line is that this recovery will ultimately be judged not by announcements and presentations, but by action on the ground in communities still feeling the impact of the storm. We must make sure that local residents and organizations are included in this process so they have an active role in the rebuilding of their own neighborhoods.”

Conservation groups, meanwhile, criticized the plan for focusing too much on recovery, and not enough on protecting coastal communities from future disasters.

Source: Dara Skolnick/Flickr

Alternate side parking regulations will be suspended Monday and Tuesday for Passover.

All other regulations, including parking meters, remain in effect.

You can download your own 2014 Alternate Side Parking Suspension calendar from the NYC DOT’s website.

A home in Seagate after Sandy. (Photo by Erica Sherman)

New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer announced the formation of a Sandy Oversight Unit this morning, with its first task slated to be an audit of the Build it Back recovery program.

Stringer is targeting the program in the wake of headlines earlier this year that noted money has been distributed and construction started in only a handful of cases nearly a year after Build it Back’s launch, despite nearly 20,000 homeowners on the wait-list.

The unit will be looking to see if the Housing Recovery Office – the program that oversees Build it Back – has set goals and timetables for the delivery of services and established procedures to reduce the backlog of applications. It will also look at the quality of the service and review fraud prevention procedures, with a focus on the Single Family Program.

The Oversight Unit will draw from the Comptroller’s Audit, Contracts, Budget and Policy Units, with an overall goal of reviewing how federal aid has been spent, making recommendations to reduce fraud, waste and abuse, monitoring the progress of Sandy projects and proposing policy recommendations for managing the financial tracking in future emergencies.

To aid the review, Stringer is holding Town Hall meetings across Sandy-stricken neighborhoods to hear from residents about the problems they face. The following locations and dates have been set:

  • April 30 in Breezy Point from 6 to 8 p.m.
    Bay House, 500 Bayside Drive, Breezy Point, NY
  • May 6 in Coney Island from 6 to 8 p.m.
    Coney Island Hospital, 2601 Ocean Parkway, Brooklyn, NY
  • May 20 in the Rockaways from 6 to 8 p.m.
    Mt. Carmel Baptist Church, 348 Beach 71st Street, Arverne, NY
  • May 28 in Staten Island from 6 to 8 p.m.
    Olympia Activity Center (OAC), 1126 Olympia Blvd., Staten Island, NY

Mayor Bill de Blasio is already seeking to increase the efficiency of the program, announcing today that his office has completed a report that will kickstart the process, getting money out to homeowners faster. Details of those reforms will be made public later today.

Meanwhile, the mayor is also seeking to slash the property tax bills of 1,500 city residents who have rebuilt or repaired their homes since Superstorm Sandy. He announced yesterday that his office is pushing for support in Albany to provide a property tax credit for Sandy victims.

Construction and renovations to a home can trigger a higher assessment value, even if it’s solely for Sandy recovery. The bill would allow the city to grant partial property-tax abatement to nullify the higher assessed value from those repairs.

The Wall Street Journal reports:

To be eligible, homeowners would have to meet three criteria. First, the city had to reduce the valuation of the homeowner’s property in fiscal year 2014 from the value in 2013 because of Sandy damage. Second, the city would have had to increase the assessed value of the property for fiscal year 2015 compared with 2014. And, lastly, the 2015 assessed value of the building must exceed 2013′s.

While the city controls its property-tax rate, the Legislature and governor must approve special abatements like this.

The mayor has six weeks to gather support and pass the reforms before city property tax bills are delivered.

The face of God (via Facebook)

The face of God (via Facebook)

A Brighton Beach man with the first name “God” is suing credit-reporting agency Equifax because their system reject his first name, and claims he has no financial history.

The New York Post reports:

God Gazarov — a Russian native who was named after his grand­father — claims that the company has stubbornly refused to correct the glitch after more than two years of anguished calls and correspondence, according to a Brooklyn federal lawsuit [filed Friday].

Despite having scores of more than 720 with the two other major credit agencies, TransUnion and Experian, Gazarov said the Equifax snag prevented him from purchasing an Infiniti car last year.

Gazarov, 26, owns a jewelry store in Brighton Beach. He said an Equifax representative told him to change his first name.

He further elaborated on his unusual name to Huffington Post:

“I am who I am,” God said. The Brooklyn man explained that he’s proud to be named after his grandfather, who was a war veteran in Russia.

“It’s my real name. It’s my legal name,” God told HuffPost. Besides a few jokes in high school, he said, he’s never run into any issues with his name before. In fact, he said, most people just tell him it’s a cool name.

Members of a City Council committee are pushing a resolution introduced last week that calls for the city’s 59 community boards to adopt sweeping reforms, including term limits.

The council’s Committee on Governmental Operations met on March 3, drawing up the list of recommendations to improve the recruitment and function of the boards.

The local boards, each made up of 50 unpaid, volunteer members, have long drawn criticism for their appointment processes, which many say are politically motivated. Boardmembers are appointed by the borough president at the recommendation of local councilmembers, leading some to criticize their independence.

According to the Daily Eagle, the recommendations include:

  • Term limits of five consecutive two-year terms for board members.
  • Online application and technology infrastructure.
  • Conflict of interest disclosure by all applicants.
  • Requiring reappointment applications with evaluation of attendance, service and participation.
  • Ban on political appointments; specifically staffers of elected officials and executive board members of a political party.
  • Filling vacancies within 30 days.
  • Improved outreach and recruitment focusing on diversity, geography and experts.
  • Youth representation by 16- and 17-year olds as public members of youth committees and as full board members.

While the existence of the community boards are mandated by the City Charter, each board maintains its own bylaws dictating how they function. Some boards, such as Community Board 13, representing Coney Island and Brighton Beach, have term limits for its officers, while others, like Community Board 15, representing Sheepshead Bay, do not.

In Sheepshead Bay, community board recruitment and membership became an issue during the recent City Council race. At a September debate, the Democratic candidates discussed the local board’s diversity as well as term limits and the ways to depoliticize the appointment process.

Chaim Deutsch, who went on to win the election, said he hoped to strengthen and diversify the board, but didn’t offer details. He did note that he was opposed to term limits for board members.

“If you have board members that are there and following the processes and going to meetings and following up, and where you have various issues like zoning issues and they actually go down and look at the homes they’re having a hearing on – that person should stay,” Deutsch said at the time.

Source: Henry campaign.

A candidate hoping to unseat State Senator John Sampson, who is mired in legal trouble, is touting his support from district residents.

Sean Henry announced today that more than 300 voters have pledged support for his campaign, just a week and a half after campaign operations got off the ground.

“The 19th District deserves better and I’m honored the community has rallied around my campaign for State Senate over the week and a half. With the support of these first 300 residents, I look forward to building a campaign that focuses on what the community truly deserves from an elected official – results,” said Henry in an e-mail statement.

Henry is looking to take out State Senator John Sampson, who currently represents the 19th District, which spans a chunk of Sheepshead Bay, as well as Brownsville, East New York, Canarsie, Bergen Beach and Mill Basin. Sampson has been facing troubling headlines since May 2013, when he was charged as part of a far ranging corruption scandal, and he’s currently facing embezzlement charges from his role in the sale of foreclosed homes.

Henry, who last year ran unsuccessfully for City Council in the 42nd District, is a Chicago native who faced homelessness as a teenager. He joined the U.S. Army in 1995, and attended Southern Illinois University. He moved to Brooklyn in 2000 to earn a master’s in Public Administration at New York University.

In addition to homeless issues, Henry is building a campaign around affordable housing, adding seats in local schools, improving mass transportation, and securing promises to residents for Superstorm Sandy-related aid.

Henry isn’t the only one looking to unseat the embattled incumbent. Leon Miles, an advocate for the disabled, is also in the running.

Two other candidates have yet to formally announce, but are widely rumored to be seriously considering the seat: Samuel Pierre, who heads a nonprofit and is a former staffer of Sampson’s, and Dell Smitherman, a political director with healthcare workers’ union 1199 SEIU. Both are members of the Thomas Jefferson Democratic Club that’s closely aligned to the county party leadership, which has not yet said if they will support Sampson’s reelection or the campaigns of one of his opponents.

Henry, Miles and Smitherman all have registered campaign committees with the state Board of Elections. Pierre does not.

Source: Luke Redmond/Flickr

Several local representatives to the City Council said yesterday that they support a proposal to throw a ticker-tape parade in Manhattan’s Canyon of Heroes for veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.

The idea reemerged over the weekend, when U.S. Senator Charles Schumer stood with veterans to urge the Department of Defense to work with the city in planning the event, which would welcome home returning troops from the post-9/11 battlefronts. The proposal was first floated in 2012, but was opposed by the Pentagon.

“With the war in Afghanistan winding down, now is the time to keep with long-standing American tradition and kick off a campaign for the first New York City welcome home parade for troops that served in Iraq and Afghanistan,” said Senator Schumer in a press release.

The Iraq war came to an official end on December 31, 2011. The combat mission in Afghanistan is expected to be complete by the end of this year. The Department of Defense will not condone a parade until combat operations are complete, but Schumer said the planning should begin now.

The Canyon of Heroes has long been the venue for the most iconic processions for returning veterans. Several parades were held during World War II, culminating with a massive procession for the troops in 1946, after the war ended. A parade was held honoring veterans of the Vietnam War in 1985, and in 1991 the city welcomed home Gulf War veterans.

Several Southern Brooklyn City Council representatives said they support bringing back the tradition, including Councilman Vincent Gentile who said he has previously called for honoring the veterans in such a way.

“If a sports team gets a parade, so should our veterans!” said Gentile. “Not only is it the right thing to do and it’s the least we can do for these brave men and women to honor the sacrifices they’ve made to protect our freedom abroad.”

Councilmembers Alan Maisel and Chaim Deutsch agreed.

“For all their dedication and sacrifice, it’s only fitting that we hold a ticker-tape parade in honor of the hard-fighting men and women of Iraq and Afghanistan,” said Deutsch. “Therefore, I’ll support the campaign to revive this time-honored tradition and give our veterans a grand, New York City welcome.”

Councilman Mark Treyger said he’s on-board with the idea, but urged his colleagues not to forget about providing the support these returning veterans will need beyond a celebration in the streets.

“I am in full support of the idea to honor our veterans with a parade down the Canyon of Heroes out of recognition of their incredible service to our nation. I applaud Senator Schumer for taking up this worthy campaign and I look forward to assisting his efforts,” said Treyger. “However, our obligation and responsibility to our returning servicemen and women extends far beyond a single event. We must also ensure as a city and nation that each returning solider receives assistance with employment, health care, counseling and anything else needed to help transition back into civilian life.”

Mayor Bill de Blasio said yesterday that he will “do whatever it takes” to give returning veterans a parade in the Canyon of Heros.

Source: Austin King/Flickr

B LINE

From 9:45 a.m. to 3 p.m., Wednesday to Friday, Manhattan-bound B trains run local from Sheepshead Bay to Prospect Park.

Q LINE

From 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., Tuesday to Thursday, there are no Q trains between 57 St-7 Av and Ditmars Blvd – take the N.

From 9:45 a.m. to 3 p.m., Wednesday and Thursday, Coney Island-bound Q trains run express from Newkirk Plaza to Sheepshead Bay.

All times until summer 2014: Coney Island-bound Q trains skip Parkside Av, Beverley Rd, and Cortelyou Rd.

F LINE

From 12:30 a.m. to 5 a.m., Tuesday to Thursday, 179 St-bound F trains run local from 21 St-Queensbridge to Roosevelt Av.

2007 Surf Avenue (Source: Google Maps)

Marcell Dockery, the 16-year-old who confessed to setting a mattress on fire in the hallway of a Coney Island public housing building last week, has been charged with an additional count of felony murder after one of the two police officers critically injured in the blaze passed away.

If convicted, Dockery faces a maximum sentence of 25 years-to-life in prison.

“The senseless act of setting that fire tragically led to the death of NYPD Officer Dennis Guerra. His partner Officer Rosa Rodriguez suffered critical injuries. Both dedicated and courageous officers did not hesitate to risk their lives to save others. We will bring the Defendant to justice for these terrible and horrific crimes,” said Brooklyn District Attorney Kenneth Thompson in a statement Friday evening.

Guerra, 38, a married father of four, succumbed to his injuries on Wednesday morning. His partner, Rodriguez, remain in critical condition but has a more optimistic prognosis.

The two were the first emergency responders to respond to the Sunday fire at 2007 Surf Avenue. They rode the elevator to the 13th floor, where the fire was believed to be. As the doors opened, they were engulfed in thick black smoke, and collapsed due to lack of oxygen.

Funeral services were held this morning for Guerra, and a wake was held over the weekend.

His death broke a three-year streak during which no police officer had been killed in the line of duty.

The NYPD is now overhauling its fire response protocol, including basic fire training that could have saved Guerra’s life. Officers are being instructed to take the stairs when possible. If they must use the elevator, they’re being told to check open shafts for smoke and to stop at least two floors below the fire.

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