Archive for the tag 'violations'

The Sheepshead-Nostrand Houses. Photo by Robert Fernandez

The Sheepshead-Nostrand Houses. Photo by Robert Fernandez

Tenants of the Sheepshead Bay’s Nostrand Houses (2955 Avenue W) say their landlord, the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA), has failed to deliver heat as the temperatures plummeted in recent weeks.

The “heat season” began October 1. That’s the time when landlords in New York City are required to keep apartments at a minimum of 68 degrees during the day when temperatures drop below 55. At night, when temperatures dip below 40 degrees, it must be at least 55 indoors. The season lasts until the end of May.

But the area’s tenants say that when temperatures dipped into the 40s last week and over the weekend, many had to turn on stoves and use space heaters, reports News 12.

One resident says she ended up with the fire department at her home on Saturday because of a carbon monoxide leak caused by leaving her stove on. She says on Sunday, her space heater that was plugged into an extension cord almost caught on fire.

NYCHA told the news outlet that it is following heat guidelines at all of its residences, but promised to look into the situation.

Whether you’re a NYCHA resident or a tenant in a private building, if you think your landlord is keeping the temperature below what’s legally required you can call 311 and file a complaint. If inspected and issued a violation, fines can be as much as $1,000 per day.

Do you live in the Sheepshead – Nostrand Houses? Has the heat situation improved? Let us know.

A 2012 collision on Bedford Avenue and Emmons Avenue, which neighbors say is a common occurrence. (Photo: Tom Paolillo)

The New York Police Department has been busy this year. In February, the number of tickets issued across the city for traffic violations have gone up. But things look different in our local 61st Precinct, which covers Sheepshead Bay, Gravesend, Kings Highway, Homecrest, Madison, Manhattan Beach and Gerritsen Beach.

In this area there has been no increase or decrease in the number of tickets drivers received in February 2014 when compared to the number issued in February 2013, according to an analysis of the NYPD’s data by WNYC. It has stayed a consistent 65, while most precincts in the city have seen drastic increases during the first month of Vision Zero policy implementation.

Bay Ridge’s 68th Precinct, for example, shot up 169 percent. Bed-Stuy’s 79th Precinct increased a whopping 322 percent.

According to a WNYC analysis, the increase is due to the fact that “most precincts stepped up enforcement of speeding, failure to yield to pedestrians, and failure to stop at traffic signals.” The ramped up enforcement is part of the policy implementation of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Vision Zero plan, which aims to reduce traffic-related fatalities. As part of the plan, officers are called on to increase enforcement against the most dangerous kinds of violations.

In February 2014, the NYPD reported 220 collisions in the 61st Precinct. There was only one fatality, a man who was struck and killed by a private plow in front of the Oceana complex in Brighton Beach.

In a new community newsletter to be produced monthly by the 61st Precinct, the local command announced that traffic enforcement would ramp up in the neighborhood, with a particular focus on locations with a history of pedestrian-related accidents.

They wrote:

In accordance with Mayor De Blasio’s “Vision Zero” campaign, one of the top priorities of the New York City Police Department is to reduce injuries and deaths resulting from motor vehicle collisions. Officers on patrol will focus enforcement related to keeping pedestrians and motorists safe by issuing summonses that include the failure to stop at stop signs and red lights, as well as the failure to yield to pedestrians.

Our current top pedestrian related collision location is the intersection of Coney Island Avenue and Avenue Z. Our partnership with the community includes sharing vital information so that our friends, family and neighbors will remain safe.

DCA Commissioner Jonathan Mintz (Source:

DCA Commissioner Jonathan Mintz (Source:

The Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) has admitted to hiring extra staff to dole out more fines on small businesses to make up for a budget shortage. The New York Post is reporting that DCA Commissioner Jonathan Mintz doubled the agency’s revenue by hiring more inspectors, and made remarks to the City Council that pretty much confirm what we thought all along: city officials see fining small businesses as a means to generating revenue.

According to the Post, Mintz’s plan, which saw the hiring of 14 new inspectors, was laid out before the City Council during a hearing in 2011:

“It will bring in an additional $1.6 million in revenue in the new fiscal year,” Mintz told the City Council at the time.

“These staff additions will enable DCA to focus on undercover inspections of employment agencies and immigrant-service providers, as well as [make] additional focused inspections of tobacco dealers.”

His projections were right on the money.

The number of violations more than doubled from 10,964 in 2010 to 24,176 in 2012.

Most of the fines were lower than those handed out earlier, meaning business owners were paying more frequently for smaller offenses.

Fines averaged $966 between 2002 and 2009, and $697 after 2011.

While Mintz was open about his policy, opponents to his tactics, including Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, were outraged. As public advocate, de Blasio called for Mintz’s resignation last June, accusing him of using a quota system in his business fining blitz.

Mintz denied those charges but de Blasio’s office found evidence to the contrary:

“Reports of internal DCA documents and interviews with employees in recent days have brought to light a ‘25 percent threshold,’ meaning inspectors are expected to issue one violation for every four businesses they inspect,” according to a public-advocate study.

“Those same accounts confirm agency staff pressured administrative law judges to rule against small businesses’ appeals.”

Fines ranged from $25 for failing to display prices to $10,000 for purposeful use of a condemned gas-station pump.

In their defense, the DCA said that the fines are created by the Council and that it is the DCA’s job to enforce them. DCA spokeswoman Abigail Lootens defended the agency’s actions to the Post.

“Protecting New Yorkers during difficult economic times is a stronger public priority than ever which is why Consumer Affairs aggressively holds businesses accountable,” Looten said.

The Post noted that since 2008, the Council created 38 new laws that can result in penalties for small business owners, including fining stores that sell realistic looking toy guns, tow-truck companies and cigarette retailers.


1782 and 1784 East 28th Street (Source: Google Maps)

Shul Shunned: A local synagogue located on a residential block was denied the support of Community Board 15 last night, as neighbors lined up during the Board’s meeting to decry the shul’s proposal to expand.

Proposed plan for the shul. (Click to enlarge)

Proposed plan for the shul. (Click to enlarge)

Congregation Kozover Zichron Chaim Shloime currently takes up two residential homes at 1782 and 1784 East 28th Street, between Quentin Road and Avenue R. Leaders from the synagogue came to request the Board’s approval for a plan to legalize a structure that has illegally connected the two buildings for nearly 20 years, and to expand the rear of the building to add a women’s prayer sanctuary. A representative for the owner said that the facility served 200 local families. Because women and men are separated for prayer services, the building no longer has the space to accommodate their flock, and women have stopped attending. The proposal would provide the space they need to serve the congregation, the representative said.

Neighbors, though, rattled off complaints about the building’s owners, saying that congregants often caused traffic and blocked driveways, the building has been illegally altered without regard for safety, is out of character with the rest of the block, and is a general detriment to their quality of life.

Joe Melfi, whose 85-year-old disabled mother has lived in an adjacent attached house for 40 years, pleaded with the Board to join his neighbors in opposing the shul’s plans.

“My mother and my father, who’ve been in this community 40 years, chose that house to raise five children, raise 14 grandchildren and 11 great grandchildren. They worked their lives as a longshoreman and a seamstress … and all my mother wants is to spend her twilight years, her golden years in that house,” Melfi said. “How she is possibly not going to have her quality of life affected by this level of construction, I don’t think it’s humanly possible. And anyone voting for this proposed initiative needs to consider that, and consider the responsibility of my mother in that situation.”

Keep reading to find out what happened, and more information from this month’s Community Board 15 meeting.

The New York City Department of Consumer Affairs has secretly ordered agents to dole out a minimum number of fines to small businesses, while also pressuring judges to rule in favor of the city during the appeals process, the Daily News claims in an exclusive report.

The paper reports that documents they have obtained and whisteblowers in the agency reveal disturbing practices, in which inspectors are ordered to fine one in four businesses they visit, administrative law judges are pressured to side with the city, and whopping fines are disproportionately smothering minority-owned and outerborough businesses.

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The following is a press release from the offices of City Councilman David Greenfield:

In response to rumors circulating the community, Councilman David G. Greenfield has confirmed with the MTA that buses serving the area have not been equipped with cameras to photograph vehicles illegally parked in bus stops and in bus lanes. Councilman Greenfield was prompted to look into the matter by an e-mail being forwarded around Midwood and Boro Park claiming that a motorist received such a ticket while parked in the B6 and B11 bus stop at Coney Island Avenue and Avenue K on Wednesday morning. In response, MTA officials have confirmed that this technology is in use in Manhattan, but has yet to be implemented in Brooklyn.

“This rumor really took on a life of its own, so I wanted to clear up any misunderstandings after hearing about it yesterday. This technology is not being used in Brooklyn. What’s more, drivers may not park in a bus stop but can legally pick up and drop off passengers even when there is a dedicated bus lane,” explained Councilman Greenfield.

Governor David Paterson signed legislation into law in 2010 allowing for camera use to issue tickets to drivers along Select Bus Service lanes in some areas of New York City. The cameras are mounted on the front of buses or on utility poles, and are currently only authorized along Select Bus Service routes. The technology is being used on 1st and 2nd Avenues and 34th Street in Manhattan, and is planned for future use in Brooklyn only at Nostrand Avenue and Rodgers Avenue. Construction on a dedicated bus lane in that area will not begin for at least 18 months, according to the MTA.

However, Greenfield is taking this opportunity to remind drivers that tickets can be issued anytime by traffic enforcement agents and police officers under Code 14 of the city’s parking rules and regulations, which prohibits standing or parking in some areas including bus stops and lanes. Drivers can stop their vehicle temporarily to pick up or drop off a passenger in “no standing” zones, but are not allowed to idle or park there.

Tickets for offenses detected by bus lane cameras can only be issued from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekdays, with fines ranging from $115 to $150. The cameras allow the city to differentiate between cars parked or stopped illegally in a bus stop and those who are making a turn or dropping off a passenger, which is permitted.

“As always, I urge all drivers to follow the rules of the road. As the city rolls out new methods for catching drivers who block bus lanes, I will work with the DOT to make sure they are implemented fairly and actually improve safety and performance, and are not just another way for the city to make money,” concluded Greenfield.

Residents can contact Councilman Greenfield’s district office at (718) 853-2704 for help with any parking-related matters.

Cold Weather Heat RequirementsOctober 1 kicked off “heat season,” during which landlords are required to provide heat and hot water to tenants or face costly violations from the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD).

The regulations require that landlords maintain a minimum indoor temperature of 68 degrees Fahrenheit between 6:00 a.m. and 10:00 p.m. when outdoor temperatures fall below 55 degrees. Between 10:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m., building owners must maintain an indoor temperature of 55 degrees when the outside temperature falls below 40 degrees. Hot water is required to be maintained at 120 degrees year-round.

The season lasts until May 31, 2013.

During the 2011/2012 heat season, residents of Community Board 15, which includes all of Sheepshead Bay and Manhattan Beach, as well as parts of Marine Park, Gravesend and Midwood, racked up 2,766 complaints, falling a good bit short of Brooklyn’s most frequent complainers – residents of Community Board 17 (East Flatbush, Remsen Village), who made 3,708 complaints. It does put us well ahead of our neighbors in Brighton Beach and Coney Island, though, where Community Board 13 tallied up just 1,540 complaints.

If residents think their landlord is failing to meet the requirements, they should first contact the building owner or superintendent. If heat isn’t restored, HPD says to call 311, who will follow up with the owner and the complainant. If problems continue, they’ll send an inspector, and possibly issue a violation for as much as $1000 per day, in addition to civil penalties. They may also sue the landlord, or bring city contractors to make repairs to the property and bill the property owner.

More information about penalties and fees can be found here.

SHEEPSHEAD BITES EXCLUSIVE: The city suddenly shut down a medical center in Brighton Beach in June, leaving several doctors with no place to work and no access to their medical records for as long as two weeks.

At least one local activist believes that barring doctors from their records creates a dangerous situation, and feels that the city should implement a procedure to ensure that commercial tenants of a building have the ability to reach vital information in situations such as this.

The medical center, located at 2965 Ocean Parkway, was closed June 13 by the New York City Department of Buildings for lacking a secondary means of egress, a technical term for an entrance and exit. The four-story building had only one open staircase, but, Department of Buildings regulations require an additional staircase for a building of such size in case of an emergency.

The building was locked immediately, without notifying the doctors who worked there.

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Avenue X Cafe Closed By DOH

Photo by BrooklynQ

The Health Department shuttered DVIN Cafe (2219 Avenue X) yesterday, after the establishment racked up 88 violation points.

DVIN Cafe received six “critical” violations, including cold food being stored at unsafe temperatures; a lack of a food protection certificate; evidence of live mice; a lack of a facility to wash, rinse, and sanitize utensils; and inadequate “personal cleanliness.”

There were other minor violations as well.

The Health Department’s website doesn’t have any previous inspection records available for DVIN.

NYC Department of Health has confirmed that no qualified educational or teacher director was on site at Royal Crown Day Care during any of the agency’s twelve inspections, dating back as far as December 2009. A qualified educational director is a requirement for operating a day care center in New York City, and they’re in charge of activity and educational planning and leading the educational staff.

Educational directors must be registered with the DOH, and the agency indicated that Royal Crown had employed one on paper but that the employee was never on the scene. DOH could not comment further as it is an ongoing investigation.

Royal Crown’s attorney, S. John Bate Esq., said that it was all a mix up due to “some confusion.”

According to Bate, Royal Crown hired someone and submitted paperwork, but the woman never showed up and wasn’t on the payroll. Because of that, an Aisha Okoro was “slotted temporarily to do that role,” but it appears Okoro may have been unqualified.

Royal Crown Pre-School Academy and Day Care Center was closed on June 15 when the DOH revoked its permit after finding 14 staff members lacked required clearances and four teachers lacked required qualifications, in addition to the missing on-site educational director. The Department also found Royal Crown Day Care to be packing students into rooms and exceeding capacity, while not meeting the required staff-to-child ratios.

Keep reading, and find out about Royal Crown’s legal challenge to reopen the business.

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