Speed bumps now grace Monitor Street, between Nassau and Driggs avenues, in Greenpoint, New York State Assemblyman Joe Lentol announced yesterday. Lentol, above, received numerous complaints from the community about cars speeding along Monitor and he sent a letter to the Department of Transportation about it in March of last year. The DOT decided that speed bumps were warranted based on the amount of traffic, vehicular volume, and travel speed. They installed the speed bumps in May. It’s especially welcome news to the families of P.S. 110, which is in the immediate area.
Photo via the office of Assemblyman Joe Lentol
Yesterday the City Council approved Two Trees’ proposal to build a 32-story building, alongside a 10,000-square-foot public plaza, at the BAM South Site. Council Member Tish James’s did not win last-minute requests for more affordable housing and higher wages, but she did reach a tentative agreement with the City not to turn the Pacific Street library branch into a private apartment building, a huge point of contention with the community. (Although, as Crain’s pointed out, “a representative for the library said that there were still no guarantees the Pacific Street branch would not be developed, though library officials would engage the city on ways a property sale could be avoided.”) The City Council ultimately approved a plan that reserves 50,000 square feet of cultural space for specific use, not for shops, apartments, or other private developments. And the community will have a say in the programming for the outdoors public plaza. The 300-unit building will include 60 affordable apartments. Two Trees needed City Council approval for a zoning change so it can build 10 more stories on the residential tower and add the community facility space.
Brooklyn BAM Project Wins Approval [Crain's]
At a Rent Guidelines Board hearing Thursday, three Democratic mayoral candidates spoke in favor of freezing rents for regulated apartments. Usually, candidates for office do not attend rent hearings. Those in favor were Christine Quinn, Bill de Blasio, and John Liu, The New York Times reported. The recommendations come at a time of quickly rising market rents and sales prices throughout the City, particularly in Brooklyn. Last year, the board approved increases of 2 percent to 4 percent. This year they are considering higher increases: 3.25 percent to 6.25 percent for a one-year lease and 5 percent to 9.5 percent for a two-year lease. They are also considering an additional increase for those who currently pay less than $1,000 a month. The ruling will not affect market rate rents, only those in rent stabilized or rent controlled apartments. Do you think a freeze would help make housing in Brooklyn more affordable?
Photo by Marie-Laure Even
The big BAM South development planned for Fort Greene might not get built after all, now that Council Member Letitia James is calling for changes to the plan. She wants an increase in the number of affordable units and union-level wages for construction workers, Crain’s reported. After an unusually brief public review period, the issue is coming up for a vote by the City Council today. Previously James backed the project; critics said her flip-flop is to please unions because she’s running for public advocate. For its part, Two Trees said it cannot afford to build the project with higher wages. If the development — which has space for cultural non-profits, a library, and other amenities in addition to affordable housing — is shot down, Two Trees will simply build “as of right” on the site. It is located in a parking lot at the corner of Flatbush and Lafayette avenues.
Fate of Big BAM Expansion Is a Cliff-Hanger [Crain's]
State Senator John L. Sampson has been indicted for allegedly embezzling more than $400,000 from escrow accounts containing money from the sales of foreclosed homes in Brooklyn, numerous outlets reported. He spent the money on a campaign for Brooklyn D.A. in 2005, according to prosecutors. He has also been accused of enlisting a real estate developer Edul Ahmad to help cover his tracks. Ahmad pled guilty to mortgage fraud in 2012, according to The New York Times. Senator Sampson’s district includes parts of Crown Heights, East Flatbush, Brownsville and Canarsie.
Senator in Corruption Case Spoke of Silencing Witnesses, Prosecutors Say [NY Times]
Senator Sampson Surrenders to FBI on Charges of Embezzlement [NY Daily News]
Senator Sampson Stole $440K from Foreclosure Victims, Feds Charge [DNAinfo]
Photo via nysenate.gov
In what may be a sign of Williamsburg’s growing importance, a group of pols yesterday asked the MTA to rethink its shutdown of the L train during key weekends for local businesses there this summer. In a letter, they requested the train run Memorial Day weekend and during the Northside Festival on June 15-17. Organizers of Bushwick Open Studios have in past years requested L train service for the first weekend in June, but we couldn’t find any info on the MTA site about whether it will be running then.
Photo by Animal New York
A group of unions, community groups and local politicians has sued New York City officials and City Point developers over wages at the construction site, The New York Daily News reported. The suit asks for a halt to construction and a study of the “impact of construction workers’ low wages on on the economy in nearby neighborhoods,” said the story. Mayor Bloomberg, Acadia Realty Trust, city housing agencies, and other real estate firms were among those being sued. The filing alleges workers are paid $15 per hour with no benefits. State Assemblyman Walter Mosley and City Councilwoman Letitia James were part of the lawsuit, said the story. The city owns the land and leases it to City Point. The story said City Point developers declined comment.
Coalition Sues City and Developers to Halt City Point Construction [NY Daily News]
Photo by New York Daily News
A study of the participatory budgeting process that took place in Brooklyn’s District 39 this year revealed that it attracts traditionally disengaged or disadvantaged citizens, reported DNAinfo. “Through about 7,300 city-wide surveys and 82 exit interviews, the Community Development Project at the Urban Justice Center found that participatory budgeting, where community members can decide how to spend $1 million in taxpayer money on neighborhood improvements, attracts low-income, minority and women voters, as well as those disillusioned with the government,” the story said. More specifically, more than 60 percent of participants were women, a third were people of color and almost a quarter reported incomes below $35,000. More than half said they disapprove of how the City conducts business and a third said they rarely vote. The process also provides a way for the disenfranchized to participate in politics. About 600 of the participants are not allowed to vote, either because of age, citizenship or arrests. District 39 is repped by Council Member Brad Lander and includes Cobble Hill, Carroll Gardens, Columbia Waterfront, Gowanus, Park Slope, Windsor Terrace, Kensington, and Borough Park.
Participatory Budgeting Brings in Women and Minority Voters [DNAinfo]
Photo by South Slope News
An unusual, tree-house-inspired playground is going into an existing park in Brownsville, the Architzer blog reported. It’s called the Imagination Playground, and its central feature is big building blocks made of blue foam, designed to encourage children to play creatively on their own. A similar playground already exists in Manhattan at the South Street Seaport, and others have been springing up around the country; the playgrounds and the blocks were designed and donated by architectural firm Rockwell Group. The multi-level space at Brownsville’s Betsy Head Park will incorporate sand and water, and a long, winding play ramp will weave through the surrounding trees, said the blog. (more…)
Anti-corporate messages have appeared on Citi Bike stations in Fort Greene and Clinton Hill, and some Brooklyn residents are calling for removal of the stations on the grounds that they are inappropriate in historic neighborhoods, or that residents were not consulted about the locations. Above, flyers on a station on Clermont near Lafayette, near the Brooklyn Flea, point out that advertising is not allowed on landmarked residential blocks. Brooklyn Councilwoman Tish James has scheduled a town hall meeting on the matter Wednesday at 6:30 at the Benjamin Banneker Academy at 71-77 Clinton Avenue. Supporters of the program are urging people to attend to defend it. (more…)
Trouble is brewing at the Arias Park Slope at 150 4th Avenue after management fired two concierges there “in retaliation for trying to organize their workplace,” according to a release put out today by service workers union 32BJ SEIU. More than a hundred workers, supporters and elected officials plan to protest there tonight at 6:30 against luxury buildings that get tax exemptions but don’t live up to their obligation to provide affordable housing and prevailing wages and benefits, according to the group. They are also asking Arias management to rehire the two concierges. Council members Brad Lander and Stephen Levin and New York City Public Advocate Bill de Blasio plan to attend. “A 32BJ SEI investigation has found buildings in Brooklyn, Queens and Manhattan in clear violation of the rule in the 421-a program that employers provide the prevailing wage and paid benefits,” said the release. “A further survey of more buildings receiving the tax exemptions, which cost New York City more than $1 billion in annual tax revenues, showed the violations to be widespread and systemic.”
Tonight, Council Member Tish James will hold a community meeting on the many changes in store for Myrtle Avenue. The meeting will cover the redevelopment of the Associated Supermarket building, which will include apartments, the public plaza coming to Myrtle between Hall Street and Emerson Place, and the revitalized shopping area. Interested? Tish James will be out tonight at 7 pm at the Willoughby Walk Co-Op at 185 Hall Street. The meeting will be held in the basement community room.
The winners of last week’s vote for Participatory Budgeting for District 33 are in! Coming in first was a proposal for district-wide tree planting, an initiative that will receive $100,000. $200,000 will go toward M.S. 8′s technology fund. Another $450,000 will go toward an East River State Park dog run. A request for technology upgrades at P.S. 31 will receive $188,000. And finally, $120,000 will be granted for playground renovations at P.S. 34. You can check out short videos of all the project proposals right here. Above is the short video for the district-wide tree planting proposal. You can also read about all the winners for Council Member Brad Landers’ district. In total, 2,632 people voted.
Participatory Budget voting week has come to a close, and Council Member Brad Lander posted the preliminary winners for his district on Twitter. Coming out on top is the $180,000 project to install 34 smartboards in P.S. 230. In second place is the $110,000 project to renovate eight bathrooms at P.S. 58. And in third, $75,000 will go toward 29 computers for the Carroll Gardens and Windsor Terrace libraries. Around $1 million will go toward funding the top seven projects, all of which you can see listed here. They include Church Avenue pedestrian safety improvements, a green corridor on 3rd Street, and safety measures for Hicks Street. This year, projects picked for Brad Lander’s district got a total of 2,812 votes!
Preliminary Results in for Participatory Budgeting [The Word on Columbia Street]
It’s Participatory Budget voting week! Eight districts throughout New York City are participating, all of which you can see here. In Brooklyn, those districts are 33, 39, 44 and 45. Anyone who lives within the district and is 16 years of age or older can vote; the voting locations, days, and the ballots are listed here. Voters can choose up to five projects that have been selected by community residents during a year-long process. Each district has allocated at least $1 million to fund a number of the most popular projects. In total, about $10 million will be allocated through the Participatory Budgeting vote. Above, a video of last year’s voting process by Council Member Brad Lander, who spearheaded the participatory budgeting vote in Brooklyn last year. Since then Participatory Budgeting has doubled in size, with eight Council Members participating, who represent over one million New Yorkers.
PBNYC Voting — April 1-7, 2013 [Participatory Budgeting in NYC]
The team at Council Member Brad Lander’s office has compiled a list of Participatory Budgeting ballot projects. Now it’s up to the voters to decide how to distribute the $1 million and make some projects a reality! Residents of the 39th City Council District can vote from Tuesday, April 2nd to Sunday, April 7th. Voters are able to choose a total of five projects. While the list of projects runs long, here are a few:
- John Jay High School Campus Media & Filmmaking Lab — Computer lab and auditorium projector will provide state-of-the-art technology and student filmmaking program for four schools
- Groundswell Community Mural Project Media Upgrade — Multimedia capable computers and printers for an organization that brings communities together to create murals for social change
- Equipment for Community Compost Program — Truck and shredder to enhance composting project funded last year, processing household and school food scraps and leaves
- Additional Benches for Prospect Park — Provide additional park benches at selected sites along the interior of the park, mainly along ball field path
- Bus Clocks at 10 to 20 Bus Stops Across District — Where is the next bus? Electronic signs at your stop tell you! DOT will install 10 to 20 displays throughout the district
- Ocean Parkway Pedestrian Safety Improvements — Improvements to the streets, crosswalks, curbs and signage around Yeshiva Torah Temimah School on Ocean Parkway
- Hicks Street Pedestrian Safety Improvements — Fixing a visibility-limiting fence, extending curbs or other additions on this high traffic street by schools and parks
See the full list of proposals here. The Council Member will post videos about each of the projects later this week. Which ones are you most excited about?
Photo of the group process via Brad Lander
Almost 60 small business owners along a 25-block stretch of Church Avenue in Flatbush have shuttered their gates rather than risk more violence and looting after 16-year-old Kimani Gray was shot and killed by police here Saturday night, The New York Post reported. “I want to close the store. I want to lock the door. I’m terrified,” said a worker at K & S Fruit on Church, which closed early. Police shot Gray when he allegedly pulled a gun out of his pants; his family says he did not have a gun. Monday night, a protest and a vigil turned violent as some in the crowd trashed a nearby produce store and attacked a manager at Rite Aid. Another vigil planned for Tuesday was postponed. Council Member Jumaane Williams attended the protest Monday and warned Police Commissioner Ray Kelly at a budget meeting to expect more violence unless something is done to improve the relationship between the police and Flatbush area residents. “There’s a lot of anger here,” the Daily News quoted Williams as saying. “This isn’t just from one particular shooting. A whole community has not been heard for far too long.” Williams’ district includes the riot zone. In another, unrelated incident of alleged police brutality in the area, a landlord was shackled to a hospital bed for 17 days after cops broke her leg during a wrongful arrest in the hallway of her building in Flatbush in April, according to a recently filed lawsuit.
Photo by boneszooted
Riot-Wary Flatbush Turns Into Ghost Town [NY Post]
Top Cop Tangles With Pol Over Riot Sparked by Police Shooting [NY Daily News]
Councilman Warns of More Violence After Vigil for Teen Killed by Cops [DNAinfo]
Vigil for Kimani Gray Postponed After Night of Violence [DNAinfo]
Vigil for 16-Year-Old Shot and Killed by NYPD Cops Turns Violent [Huff Po]
Over the weekend, the New York Times profiled Andrea and Stephen Kondaks, homeowners in Red Hook who, four months after Hurricane Sandy, still have not received enough money from their flood insurance policy to repair their three-story, 150-year-old house two and a half blocks from the water. The sticking point is that the claims adjuster who processed their claim overlooked much of the damage, they said. He estimated they need $49,000 and they estimate they need about $200,000. The couple removed five layers of flooring to dry out the joists so they wouldn’t get dry rot or mold. The joists are still exposed, and they sealed the staircase to the living space above. If they ever get the money, they may design the first floor space as a “sacrificial” area that can withstand flooding in the future. “Our goal is to never make a claim again,” said one of the homeowners. While they are among the lucky ones in that they were insured in the first place, they are not the only ones having trouble getting insurance companies to pay claims. Senator Charles Schumer and Governor Christie of New Jersey have both criticized FEMA and the insurance companies for poor service, according to the article.
Fighting the Insurer Over Hurricane Sandy Damage [NY Times]
Photo of Red Hook flooding via @johnrobb on Twitter
Former president Bill Clinton and Chelsea Clinton will discuss philanthropy at BAM Monday night. Actor Edward Norton, who cofounded crowdsourced philanthropy site Crowdrise, will moderate. Tickets range from $50 to $2,500 and will go to support the Clinton Foundation, which focuses on improving health and the environment.
Photo via BAM
City pension funds are investing $500 million in redevelopment throughout Sandy-damaged areas of New York City, comptroller John Liu announced this week. It’s estimated that the investment will help create a $1.5 billion capital infusion to add about 3,000 units of housing and 150,000 to 200,000 square feet of commercial space to the City. While specific locations have not yet been determined, an estimated 25 percent to 30 percent of the funds will go to Brooklyn projects, said press officer Matthew Sweeney. Part of the money will be used to renovate housing damaged or destroyed by the hurricane in the outer boroughs; other capital will be invested in multifamily housing, mostly rentals, to increase units available to displaced residents. A loan program will help property owners who lack adequate insurance. About $180 million will go toward creating affordable and market rate housing in coastal areas that flooded, with an emphasis on green and flood-prevention design. The money will also help retailers affected by the storm. Related Companies and The Hudson Companies Inc. will help carry out the rebuilding efforts. “Hudson, in partnership with CityView and ABS Partners Real Estate, is excited about the allocation from the New York City pension systems to help rebuild neighborhoods impacted by Hurricane Sandy,” said Hudson principal David Kramer. “We’ll be looking to develop or redevelop both residential and commercial properties throughout Brooklyn in such neighborhoods as Red Hook, Coney Island, Brighton Beach, Sheepshead Bay and Gowanus to name a few.”
Photo by Dimitry Loseff