Government

by
2

Here’s a scene from the press conference at the Queens Museum yesterday in which Mayor de Blasio announced his appointment of the new Cultural Affairs Commissioner. His pick was Tom Finkelpearl, the director of the Queens Museum for the past 12 years. Finkelpearl oversaw the massive, $69 million renovation at the Queens Museum which doubled the art museum’s exhibition space. As Cultural Affairs Commissioner, Finkelpearl will run the city’s arts programming as well as support non-profit institutions based in New York.

by
1

This past Saturday, the 25th of January, Ridgewood Democratic Club held its Annual Membership Brunch meeting at their HQ. Found at 6070 Putnam Avenue, a block off Fresh Pond Road, the RDC building has been home to the club since 1917. My colleague Kevin Walsh presented a short history of the building in this Brownstoner Queens post from September of 2013.

NYS Assemblywoman Cathy Nolan is one of the two Democratic District Leaders in this part of Queens, along with Tom Bornemann, and she has an encyclopedic knowledge of the history of this building and club. She’s a lifelong Queensican, and lives with her son and husband in Ridgewood.

From assembly.state.ny.us:

Catherine Nolan represents the 37th Assembly District in Queens County, which includes the historic New York City neighborhoods of Sunnyside, Ridgewood, Long Island City, Queensbridge, Ravenswood, Astoria, Woodside, Maspeth, Dutch Kills and Blissville. She was first elected to the Assembly in 1984.

by
2

Yesterday the outgoing Borough President Helen Marshall celebrated the opening of a $23,000,000 event atrium at Borough Hall. The New York Daily News reports that the Forum, as it’s called, is 11,000 square feet and will be used for civic meetings and public events. According to the News, “The three-story space, featuring a large stage with floating canopy, can host 450 people for meetings, concerts and other events. New bathrooms are also in the works.” Construction should totally wrap early next year. Marshall received some flack for these plans over the rising price tag of the project, which started at $17,000,000. And since the city built the Forum over an open courtyard, the removal of cherry blossom trees for construction caused a little controversy.

Regardless, Marshall celebrated the space yesterday, stating, “For decades, public hearings and other public events were held in cramped and unimproved quarters upstairs. Now, for the first time, the people of Queens will have a fitting public space in our county seat of government.”

Outgoing Queens Borough President Helen Marshall Unveils $23M Borough Hall Event Space [NY Daily News]

by

Willets Point has been all over the news this week. Here’s the latest: the Daily News reports that the city will hold a public hearing today regarding the developer’s request for $43,000,000 in tax breaks. The city’s Industrial Development Agency will make a final decision on the matter Tuesday. Given that the city is already giving this land to the Queens Development Group (composed of Sterling Equities and Related Companies) for $1, opposition emerged to the hefty amount of tax breaks. State Senator Tony Avella, a longtime detractor of the development, tells the News: “This whole thing has been a disaster from beginning to end. How do you justify [giving] tens of millions of taxpayer money when you’re selling the property to the developers for a dollar?”

The city is now trying to relocate Iron Triangle tenants, who are working with a deadline of January 31st if they want any rent payout. Right now, more than 30 businesses have left or are in the process of leaving. Another 50 businesses are eyeing a large warehouse space in Hunts Point.

Developers of Meg-Mall Complex near Citi Field Seek $43 Million Tax Break from City [NY Daily News]

by

Over the weekend, the New York Times wrote about Council Woman Julissa Ferreras’ efforts to improve Flushing Meadows-Corona Park. As the Times says, “Ms. Ferreras concluded that what separated Flushing Meadows-Corona from well-kept parks like Prospect and Central Parks was the presence of an effective nonprofit conservancy or alliance.” She helped secure a lump sum of $25,000,000 as seed money for such a nonprofit. This first round of funding includes $8,000,000 from the city, $10,000,000 from the United States Tennis Association (who is using up parkland to build two new tennis stadiums) and $7,500,000 from Related Companies and Sterling Equities (also using parkland to develop Willets Point). Of course, this loss of parkland is the cause of controversy — this article by A Walk in the Park calls the development proposals “classic examples of most troubling legacy of the Bloomberg administration’s approach to economic development.” Regardless, it’s undeniable that the park needs more funding — a consulting firm found that Flushing Meadows-Corona Park needs about $5,500,000 a year for acceptable maintenance; the city now spends about $3,130,000 a year.

The Times goes into detail about Ferreras’ negotiations with the Tennis Center and the Willets Point developers. She initially asked the Tennis Center for $18,000,000 for a new park alliance — after the Tennis Center countered with $1,000,000 the two groups met at $10,000,000. She also asked that the Tennis Center hold more tennis programs for low-income children, as well as host high school graduations. The article notes that on the date of the Willets Point City Council hearing, Ferreras still had not made up her mind, and many council members waited to defer to her judgement. She got the developers to agree to more affordable housing, a new school, library, daycare center, and a rooftop farm on top of the mega mall. According to Charles J. O’Byrne, of Related Companies: “She is very tough; there’s no doubt about it… She’s not fooling around. She plays for keeps.”

Securing Help for a Park at Site of World’s Fairs [NY Times]

by
3

NY1 chatted with new borough president Melinda Katz, who won by a landslide on Tuesday, about the direction she plans to take in her new gig. Katz grew up in Forest Hills and has served on both the City Council and the state Assembly. She plans to build upon Helen Marshall’s investment in capital funding for parks and schools, as well as bring new economic development and jobs into Queens. She also tells NY1: “There should be high-tech industry in Long Island City. We should be building hotels and retail in Jamaica. We need to build the Rockaways better than they were before.” Not much in terms of specifics, but there you go. Katz did not comment on criticism that Helen Marshall did not do enough to move the borough forward. What changes would you particularly like to see from Marshall’s term to this one?

Katz Lays Out Future Plans For Queens [NY1]
Election Day Recap for Queens [Q’Stoner]

Photo via Facebook

by

The votes are in, and Queens has a new borough president to show for it: Melinda Katz. (Pictured above, that’s her voting yesterday.) On the city level Bill de Blasio is our new mayor, Tish James our public advocate, and Scott Stringer our comptroller. Back in Queens, Queens Courier has excellent coverage of the local City Council races.

In District 22 (Astoria, Long Island City, parts of Jackson Heights), Costa Constantinides will fill Peter Vallone Jr.’s City Council seat. According to the Courier, “Constantinides’ win marks the first time since 1992 that a member of the Vallone family does not hold the seat in District 22.” The Vallone family name carries on in District 19 (northeast Queens), however. Paul Vallone beat Republican Dennis Saffran by nearly 200 votes. This is the first time in four decades a Vallone will represent northeast Queens instead of Astoria. District 19 faced a dramatic primary race, where five Democrats were running to replace disgraced Republican City Councilman Dan Halloran.

In District 27 (St. Albans, Hollis, Cambria Heights, Jamaica, Baisley Park, Addisleigh Park, Queens Village, Rosedale and Springfield Gardens), Democrat Daneek Miller won by a landslide. Democrat, and former Assemblymember, Rory Lancman won a City Council seat for District 24 (northeast and central Queens) in another landslide. He replaces Councilmember James Gennaro. It was a close race for City Council District 32, where Councilmember Eric Ulrich and his democrat opponent, Lew Simon, were neck and neck. Last night, both candidates claimed to have won, but it looks like the New York Times called the race for Eric Ulrich. And incumbent Elizabeth Crowley won her seat in District 30 (Maspeth, Middle Village, Glendale, Ridgewood, parts of Woodhaven and Woodside) after a close race. All in all, all the Queens City Council incumbents remain in their seats after the election.

Photo via Facebook

by
1

Don’t forget that today’s the day to vote! (Find your poll location here.) Queens Courier will run election coverage all day long. Aurelio Arcabascio and Melinda Katz face off for the borough president’s seat, which Helen Marshall occupied for 12 years. District 19 faced a tight primary race after Dan Halloran decided not to seek election after his arrest on federal corruption charges, and now Democrat Paul Vallone is the favorite to win. DNAinfo has the skinny on five City Council candidates fighting to replace Peter Vallone, Jr. in District 22. And two City Council seats are open in District 27 and 24, which include portions of Jamaica. Read our primary coverage here and stay tuned tomorrow morning for results from the Queens polls.

The Primary Election Results for Queens [Q’Stoner]

Photo via Queens Courier

by

City Limits published a long piece on the lessons of Willets Point and how it may look differently under a new mayor. The article points out the limits of ULURP, noting that under Bloomberg most negotiations took place before the public process even began. That meant, as City Limits puts it: “The public hearings become theater. People might turn out in droves to ask questions and to testify… but the plans don’t fundamentally change.” The three proposals for Flushing Meadows-Corona Park — the Major League Soccer stadium, an expansion of the National Tennis Center and the mega mall at Willets Point — all propose to take away parkland without replacing it, despite it being a requirement under state and federal laws. As for Willets Point, the new plans recently presented to the City Council scaled back on affordable housing, and the plans for the mega mall were not included in the ULURP process.

As urban planning professor Tom Angotti says of all the major development plans approved before Bloomberg’s departure, “It really does seem that Bloomberg is trying to make it difficult for the next mayor to take a different path.” Bill de Blasio looks likely to win on an anti-Bloomberg campaign, but he has supported many of the controversial rezonings and has significant ties to the real estate industry. City Limits wonders if the only way to guarantee more affordable housing from private developers will ultimately mean “drawing from the same well of tax breaks, free land, and other government giveaways that were a hallmark of the Bloomberg administration.” It’s also unclear how de Blasio envisions the community role in the ULRUP process, although he has promised to bring communities into the process early. Right now, neither the community boards nor the borough president have any official say in ULURP, and advocates for its reform say this may be a good step in a new direction.

Lessons of Willets: Will the Next Mayor Do Development Differently? [City Limits]

by

As expected, the City Council approved the 5Pointz condo plan, Willets Point mega mall plan and the Hallets Point housing plan at yesterday’s meeting. Here’s a recap on all three votes:

As we reported yesterday, the City Council came to an agreement with 5Pointz owners/developers Jerry and David Wolkoff to build two condo towers at the site, each 47 and 41 stories tall. The developers agreed to build and staff the buildings with all union workers, increase the number of affordable units from 75 to 210, build a public park that is over 32,000 square feet, and include over 50,000 square feet of retail space and a 250 space public parking garage. Wolkoff also agreed to increase the amount of artists studio and gallery space to 12,000 square feet and give Johnathan Cohen, a current curator at 5Pointz, the opportunity to curate nearly 10,000 square feet of art panels and walls in the new development. According to Queens Courier, no 5Pointz artists have been contacted or offered to work within the new art studios or be featured on the art panels. The artist were also under the impression that a second public hearing would take place yesterday; instead the City Council took the vote. The artists have until December 1st to leave the property. The Wolkoffs plan to demolish the building near the end of the year.

The City Council also approved a mega mall for Willets Point, a proposal which garnered criticism at every turn. The NY Daily News reports that developers Sterling Equities and the Related Companies offered the following concessions: 300 more affordable housing units than originally proposed, a $15,500,000 investment in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, and $15,000,000 in relocation assistance for the small businesses that will be displaced out of the Iron Triangle. The developers also plan to build out a $2,600,000 rooftop farm on top of the mall. The city agreed to a last-minute request to provide funds for traffic ramps leading into the development — local officials asked for $70,000,000, the city promised $66,000,000.

Finally, the $1 billion redevelopment of Hallets Points is a go. The development will bring 2,100 luxury and nearly 500 below-market rate apartments to the area, according to the Daily News. The developer, Lincoln Equities, expects to break ground here in late 2014 or early 2015.

BREAKING: 5Pointz Condo Plan a Go, More Development Details Emerge [Q’Stoner]
City Council Takes Vote on 5Pointz, Willets Point and Hallets Point Today [Q’Stoner]