Archive for the tag 'mayor bloomberg'

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg. Photo by Erica Sherman

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg. Photo by Erica Sherman

BETWEEN THE LINES: For more than a decade, Michael R. Bloomberg governed the Big Apple. Entering politics after years as a business entrepreneur, he adapted to the process and departs with conspicuous accomplishments. To paraphrase an iconic line from a Grateful Dead song: It’s been a long, sometimes contentious, yet triumphant trip.

Some Election Day exit polls indicated that more than half of those surveyed approved of Bloomberg as mayor, but they also felt it was time the city had a new direction. And while no one can predict the future, a change is gonna come.

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The Staten Island Ferry. Photo by Erica Sherman

The Staten Island Ferry. Photo by Erica Sherman

THE COMMUTE: This past week, transit news focused on what seemed like a series of unrelated events — most notably the resumption of Rockaway “A” Train service.

“A” Train Service Returns

“A” train service, between Howard Beach and the Rockaways, which was suspended seven months ago due to Superstorm Sandy, finally resumed on May 30. Due to the destruction of the trestle near Broad Channel, the suspension forced residents to resort to unreliable and overcrowded bus service. Months ago, a fleet of R-32 cars were trucked to Rockaway to at least provide subway shuttle service within Rockaway but it was in no way adequate to meet residents’ needs. If you think transit service is poor in Sheepshead Bay, you should be aware of the two-hour plus commutes and hour waits for buses, which Rockaway residents were forced to endure, with the trestle out of service.

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Mayor Michael Bloomberg wants to buy up your Sandy damaged home and sell them over to land developers, according to a report by WNYC.

Following the lead of Governor Andrew Cuomo, who wants to spend $400 million to buy up Sandy homes at pre-Sandy values, Bloomberg wants a similar plan for the city. The difference is that under Cuomo’s plan, the land would be converted into parks, public spaces and wetlands, while Bloomberg wants to use the land to sell to real estate developers.

Brad Gair, the director of the city’s housing recovery testified at a City Council meeting as to why the mayor is pursuing this plan.

“These are valuable properties,” WNYC reported Gair saying at the meeting. “There is a limited amount of coastline properties.”

Criticism of the plan surrounds the economic risk the taxpayers incur should the redeveloped lands be flooded again:

James Fraser, an associate professor at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, says the requirement protects taxpayers from having to pay twice for the same property: to buy it out, and then again later, if it gets flooded.

“When a locality continues to develop in a flood plains, they are not only putting themselves at risk,” Fraser, who has researched FEMA buyouts, said. “They are putting the nation at risk because financially FEMA has to pay for future flooding.”

Mayor Bloomberg has suggested that modern construction methods, such as elevating homes above the 100-year-flood level, will make them sufficiently flood-proof for the future. Fraser says modern rebuilding helps, but it doesn’t solve the whole problem.

“You still have impervious surface and that impervious surface is going to contribute to the amount of flooding that’s experienced in the surrounding area,” he said.

For Bloomberg’s plan to go through, he’ll need permission from the federal government, which wants to ensure that buyouts are based on pre-storm values and that those selling are given adequate assistance to relocate.

Source: Kor!An via Wikimedia Commons

Good news for aquatic-life lovers, as the New York Aquarium on Coney Island will reopen sooner than expected, according to a report by the New York Daily News.

Like practically every other New York business and institution located close to the coast, the aquarium was damaged and closed after Superstorm Sandy swept through late last October. The early reopening signifies a positive step towards a fuller recovery, a sentiment echoed by the mayor.

“The partial reopening is a milestone for the community as it recovers from Hurricane Sandy,” the Daily News reported Mayor Bloomberg saying in a statement.

The first exhibits to reopen will be the outdoor Sea Cliffs tanks. Patrons will be able to see their favorite seals, otters, penguins and walruses flop and swim around this spring looking for fishy treats.

While the reopening of the aquarium is indeed good news, it didn’t come cheap. Luckily, though, few sea creatures were lost:

Officials with the Wildlife Conservation Society estimate it will cost $65 million to fully restore the aquarium, which opened in 1957 and attracts 750,000 visitors annually.

Few animals were lost during the storm, but floodwaters damaged exhibits and destroyed the facility’s heating, air conditioning, and electrical systems.

And about 150 koi, an exotic freshwater carp, could not be saved.

Source: eivey2 via flickr

Mayor Bloomberg’s controversial initiative to ban large sugary drinks sold at fast food joints, movie theaters and sporting events goes into effect March 12. Bloomberg is so certain that the ban will curb the epidemic of childhood obesity that he is calling for the state to enact the same measures he has set for the city, according to a report by the Wall Street Journal.

State officials like Governor Cuomo, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and State Senate Republican Leader Dan Skelos have yet to comment on Bloomberg’s desire to extend the large sugary drink ban across the state.

Bloomberg’s remarks come a few weeks before restaurants, food carts, stadiums, movie theaters, delis and arenas are banned from selling sugary drinks in containers larger than 16 ounces. Establishments that ignore the ban will be subject to heavy fines – though it’s worth noting that convenience stores and venues not overseen by the city Department of Health are exempt.

The mayor has taken a lot of heat after putting forward his plan to limit sugary drink sizes from lobbyists from the American Beverage Association (ABA) who don’t buy that city-sponsored portion-control will do anything to promote public health.

“The soda ban is exceedingly unpopular with New Yorkers. It increases the cost of doing business in the city and will have no impact on the mayor’s stated goal of reducing obesity. New Yorkers can decide for themselves what to eat and drink,” Chris Gindlesperger, a spokesman for ABA told the Journal.

Bloomberg has not backed down.

“Kids, once they get obese, they will be obese as adults. And this year, for the first time in the world, in the history of humanity, more people will die from overeating than from under-eating,” the mayor said. “So, we’re trying to do something here.”

We were wondering what our readers think of the looming large soda ban. Do you think it goes too far? Do you support it? Share your thoughts.

Traffic chaos on Ocean Avenue and Avenue M.

Recently, Mayor Bloomberg delivered his final “State of the City” address, which ended up serving as a cheery look back on all the accomplishments of the mayor’s career. The New York Times described it as “an unabashed and relentless tribute to his own municipal stewardship.” The Times thought it would be fitting to gather personal responses from readers on the “state of their blocks” to see if Bloomberg’s optimistic description of the city matched their own experiences.

While the results hardly matched the sunny picture Bloomberg painted, many were optimistic over the changes brought to Fort Greene, Washington Heights and Oakland Gardens in Queens. Closer to our area, Times reader “David” painted a grimmer picture, describing his block in Midwood in a harsh light:

Avenue L between Ocean Avenue and East 19th Street, Midwood, Brooklyn
The state of my block is unfortunately terrible. Since the peak of the market that brought me here in 2006 from Manhattan, the quality of life on this block in Brooklyn has only declined. Ocean Avenue is a raceway with little to no regard to the speed limit, or red lights; I have witnessed countless accidents. Avenue L is one of the few east/west two-way streets from Ocean Parkway, and therefore a thoroughfare of endless honking, radio blasting, and again little regard for the color and meaning of the traffic lights; only double-parked cars seem to slow down some. Real or ill-gotten handicapped placards show in every car window that disregards alternate-side parking rules, to ensure that the street is never cleaned properly, without threat of receiving a ticket; likewise, parking by a hydrant. Trash accumulates on the street and sidewalks, never to be cleaned by property owners, or the city. Graffiti is ever increasing despite the city program to curb it, as are illegally placed posters and handbills, the rules seemingly ignored and unenforced. Children over the age of 16 and adults careen on bicycles down the sidewalk without warning, especially at night, unseen until the last moment. Those sidewalks are never shoveled by most property owners when snow and ice make it treacherous to walk. That honking, it never ends, it seems obligatory, people honk to say “hi!” – David

I live nearby David’s haunts and I can personally vouch for every gripe he’s got. The sidewalks are littered with trash, dog crap and broken glass. The streets are filled with aggressive drivers, car accidents are a common occurrence, and honking is a major (and extremely annoying) problem — not to mention faulty car alarms getting set off during all hours of the night.

What’s the state of your block? Has it evolved for better or worse during Bloomberg’s reign and what do you attribute the problems to? We’d love to hear your feedback.

New Yorkers displaced from their homes because of Superstorm Sandy have a chance to gain some affordable housing via the Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD). Preference will be given to storm victims in a lottery to gain affordable housing in the new Coney Island Commons development, according to a press release.

HPD Commissioner Matthew Wambua announced that a 25 percent preference will be given to Sandy victims who meet the requisite income-eligible qualifications.

The new Coney Island Commons, located near Surf Avenue, is being developed under Mayor Bloomberg’s New Housing Marketplace Plan (NHMP), a plan that sets to add 165,000 units of affordable housing across the city for half a million New Yorkers by the end of 2014.

The idea to provide a bonus for Sandy victims to get on the ground-floor of this new development was a matter of common sense.

“The destruction caused by Sandy has made it very difficult for many low-income families to find affordable housing. This initiative is a creative way to utilize the City’s available resources to solve that problem,” said Brad Gair, Director of the Mayor’s Office of Housing Recovery Operations, in the press release.

Here are the relevant details for those looking to apply:

Coney Island Commons, near Surf Avenue, is currently accepting applications. Completed applications must be returned by regular mail only and must be postmarked by March 26th, 2013. Qualified applicants will be required to meet income and family size guidelines and additional selection criteria. To request an application, mail a post card to Coney Island Commons, c/o: ELH Mgmt. LLC 3rd FL, 98 Rockwell Place, Brooklyn, NY 11217. Or download the application from www.coneyislandcommons.com. As per the City’s affordable housing lottery rules, current and eligible residents of Brooklyn Community Board 13 will receive preference for 50 percent of the units. In addition, income-eligible applicants who can document displacement by Hurricane Sandy and/or its related storms will receive preference for 25 percent of the units.

Located at 2960 West 29th Street and 2961 West 30th Street in Coney Island, Brooklyn, Coney Island Commons will have a total of 195 units—39 of which will be set aside for the homeless. The remaining 156 apartments will be affordable to households earning up to 60 percent of Area Median Income (AMI)—equal to a household income of $49,800/year for a family of four. Of the 156 apartments, there is a preference for qualified households displaced by Hurricane Sandy for 39 units in the building. There are a total of 20 studio units, 55 one-bedroom units and 80 two-bedroom units, with one unit set aside for the superintendent. The anticipated completion date for the development is summer of 2013.

Source: Nesnad via Wikimedia Commons

Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott announced that the citywide school bus driver strike is set to end this week.

The strike lasted just over a month and will see the 8,000 drivers from the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1181 return to work this Wednesday.

The strike’s end will come as a relief to city parents who have had to find alternate means to get their kids to school. To help parents, the city issued $20 million worth of MetroCards and travel reimbursements to families, but, surprisingly, the city saved money in the past month, according to a report on the cost of the strike by the Wall Street Journal:

Mr. Walcott said he expected that number [$20 million] to rise as parents continue to seek repayment for cabs or car service, while city-purchased MetroCards will expire Wednesday, he said. Mr. Walcott said the city saved $80 million by not paying bus companies during the strike, which ends Tuesday when about 200 private schools resume classes.

Walcott urged parents to file reimbursements within the next 30 days for transportation costs they incurred in the past month, which include cab fares and gas mileage.

Bloomberg didn’t give in to any of the union’s demands for job security promises. However, the strike came to an end when the union received pledges from Democratic mayoral candidates, including Christine Quinn, promising greater cooperation with the union should the Democrats prevail in this year’s election.

Walcott also notified parents that the return to a normal bus schedule will be bumpy come Wednesday due to the month-long disruption, and cautioned parents to have patience.

Source: 401(K) via Flickr

With the threat of climate change and redrawn flood zone lines leading to skyrocketing insurance rates, you’d think the only thing that is certain to rise along the Southern Brooklyn waterfront would be encroaching flood waters and not property taxes. Well, property taxes have been hiked for Manhattan Beach, Sheepshead Bay and other coastal areas like Coney Island and the Rockaways, according to a report by the New York Post.

The rise in property taxes comes as a cruel blow to homeowners who have already shelled out thousands on home-repair following Sandy. According to the Post, the news of the tax hikes doesn’t sit well with local residents:

“This is totally insensitive and heartless,” said Ira Zalcman, president of the Manhattan Beach Community Group, which has received more than 30 complaints from residents about the hikes.

“We just sustained one of the worst national disasters in our nation’s history, and now the city is delusional, claiming our property values went up.”

Zalcman said that since Sandy, he has spent roughly $100,000 repairing the basement of his Dover Street oceanfront home, for which he pays more than $7,000 a year in property taxes.

According to Zalcman, the rise in assessed property values do not match market realities. While his home was assessed to be worth an additional $79,000, pushing it over the $2 million mark, he claims he’d be lucky to get $1.5 million should he decide to sell.

Council Speaker and mayoral hopeful Christine Quinn was also vexed over the increase in property taxes for storm ravaged homeowners. She has vowed to hold an emergency oversight hearing on February 26 to address the issue.

“It raises real doubts about whether [the Finance Department] is doing enough to ensure fair and accurate assessments …” Quinn told the Post. “As New Yorkers work to rebuild their homes and lives, we cannot allow them to be hit twice.”

There seems to be a bit of confusion regarding why property taxes have gone up in the worst hit regions. City officials told the Post that the property assessments were made before the storm, despite the city’s website claiming they were made on January 5.

Mayor Bloomberg insisted that the rise in beach-front property value represented the overall national trend:

“Prices continue to go up in spite of these things,” he said.

But many local real estate brokers say property values in Big Apple neighborhoods affected by Sandy — such as Manhattan Beach and Coney Island in Brooklyn, the Rockaways and parts of Staten Island — have fallen due to storm damage and prospective buyers now leery of living in high-risk hurricane evacuation zones.

Have you been hit with higher property taxes? Assemblyman Cymbrowitz, who along with Councilman Michael Nelson and many other local pols has spoken out against the hikes, included in a recent e-mail blast information on how to file appeals on increased rates and how to apply for assistance through the Finance Department’s Hurricane Sandy Property Tax Relief Program. Relevant details from Cymbrowitz’s press release are listed below.

Property owners who oppose the hikes have until March 15 to appeal to the city Tax Commission before rates are finalized in May. To print a copy of the form you need, click here.

You also have until this Friday, February 15, to apply for assistance through the Finance Department’s Hurricane Sandy Property Tax Relief program. (The deadline was originally February 1st but was extended.) Download the necessary Property Damage Reporting Application form here.

My office also has hard copies of both forms that we can send you. Feel free to call us at (718) 743-4078, email me at cymbros@assembly.state.ny.us or stop by and visit us at my temporary district office located at 2658 Coney Island Avenue (between Avenues W and X) and we’ll be happy to help you with this or any other issue. We’re open Monday through Thursday, 9:30 a.m. – 5:30 p.m., and Fridays until 5 p.m.

Source: FEMA via the New York Times

Earlier in the month, we reported that FEMA was planning to redraw and expand the flood zone lines for New York City for the first time since 1983. The redrawn flood zones, which carry heavy financial consequences for homeowners living in those regions, are officially here, according to a report in the New York Times.

FEMA was redrawing the maps right before Superstorm Sandy struck. The new lines place more 35,000 homes in flood zones, creating an unavoidable rise in insurance rates while also forcing the city to adapt the building code to account for potential floods. The Times explained in greater detail what the redrawn flood zone lines means for the city:

The maps will not formally go into effect for about two years, but the mayor’s office was already preparing an executive order to help owners of damaged homes rebuild to higher standards. That means that a badly damaged home that was not in the old flood zone, but is in the new one, would be allowed to rebuild to prepare for dangers predicted in the new maps. For instance, a home could be hoisted onto posts or pilings, which might have previously been disallowed because of zoning. “We’re working on an order that will enable people to rebuild, but rebuild in a way that’s safer,” said Caswell F. Holloway, the city’s deputy mayor for operations.

The expenses will undoubtedly be high for people forced to meet the new building regulations. According to the New York Times, a $250,000 home with a ground floor four feet below sea level, will have to pay a staggering $9,500 a year in flood insurance. By comparison, a home hoisted three feet above the flood line will only have to pay $427 a year.

FEMA is looking to help offset costs by providing $30,000 to homeowners to meet the new regulations when rebuilding. Whether that will be enough to raise a house on stilts is another question entirely.

“This is going to be very rough on people,” Chuck Reichenthal, district manager for Brooklyn’s Community Board 13, told the Times. “Insurance is going to zoom through the roof.”

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