An Unguarded Fort, and Neighbors Who See a Risk

Protesters also chanted, “Hey, hey, ho, ho, we say safety, they say no!”

Protesters also chanted, “Hey, hey, ho, ho, we say safety, they say no!”

New York Times

March 22, 2009
Fort Totten

An Unguarded Fort, and Neighbors Who See a Risk
By JAMES ANGELOS

FORT TOTTEN in Bayside, Queens, sits atop a hilly peninsula near the Throgs Neck Bridge, where the waters of the East River meet Long Island Sound. The fort was built during the Civil War to guard the city against attack from the East River, but it closed in 1995, and since then, much of the land, along with many of its dilapidated Victorian buildings, has been handed over to the city.

A park now covers 50 acres of Fort Totten, and the Fire and Police Departments, as well as the Army Reserve 77th Regional Readiness Command and other groups, use some of the buildings on the remaining 100 or so acres.


Since the fort closed, the Fire Department has been in charge of security there, hiring private guards to patrol the fort and to staff a security booth at its entrance. But in February, the fort’s neighbors learned that the department would eliminate that security detail starting March 1, citing budget cuts.

The move has unleashed local fears that the park and its historic buildings, some of them abandoned, will be vulnerable to vandalism, arson and other crimes. Earlier this month, a few dozen residents held a rally at the fort’s entrance, chanting, “Hey, hey, ho, ho, we say safety, they say no!”

At one point, Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. spoke on a megaphone.

“During the toughest economic times,” Mr. Vallone said, “that’s when you have to keep the community and the people the safest.”

A group of security guards who had worked at the fort watched the protest.

“There will be a lot of chaos,” predicted one guard, Alexander Bolotinskiy, as he watched a car pass the empty security booth, where the sign still read, “Please Stop and Show ID.”

Steve Ritea, a Fire Department spokesman, said the change was part of a wider cut in security expenditures that would save nearly $1.2 million annually.

The Police Department, Mr. Ritea added, will continue to include the fort in its patrols. Fire marshals stationed at the fort will also provide an element of safety, he said.

But some residents are not placated. Among them is Carol Marian, president of the Bayside Historical Society, which is housed in the fort.

“This park is not a normal park,” Ms. Marian said, pointing out the many old buildings. “We have hidden corners where people can lurk.”

Bayside activists protest lack of security at Fort Totten

Rally organizer Warren Schreiber talks with a fellow Bay Terrace resident Rosemarie Brennan at a rally outside of the gates of Fort Totten in Bayside. Photo by Christina Santucci

Rally organizer Warren Schreiber talks with a fellow Bay Terrace resident Rosemarie Brennan at a rally outside of the gates of Fort Totten in Bayside. Photo by Christina Santucci

Times Ledger

Bayside activists protest lack of security at Fort Totten

By Christina Santucci and Stephen Stirling
Wednesday, March 11, 2009 4:37 PM EDT

Dozens of residents and community leaders descended on the security gates at Fort Totten Saturday morning to protest the recent termination of private security services in the historic park — a move they say could lead to a spike in crime in the area.

For the past two years, the FDNY has spent $650,000 annually to provide a 24−hour security detail for the fort. Due to budget cuts across the city, however, the FDNY recently announced it would not hire a private security firm to guard the area and instead turned over control of the fort to the 109th Precinct March 1. The 109th, which is based in Flushing, covers the adjacent Bay Terrace neighborhood.

The decision has not sat well with a number of residents and civic groups in the area, however, who contend the FDNY gave little notice of the decision and could unintentionally create a hotbed for crime that could spill into the surrounding communities.

“Shame on the FDNY,” said Kim O’Hanion, Parks Committee chairwoman of Community Board 7. “What they’re doing here is totally unacceptable.”

Though several of the buildings at Fort Totten are occupied by law enforcement agencies, some buildings have been long abandoned and fallen into disrepair.

Warren Schreiber, president of the Bay Terrace Community Alliance, said without security these abandoned buildings could become havens for vandals and vagrants who could commit serious crimes or start fires in the structures.

About half a dozen guards from PD Security in Bellerose lost their jobs at Fort Totten. Mandouh Elzab of Richmond Hill, who had been working at Fort Totten for about six years said that two to three weeks ago, at about 2 a,m. a man came to the guard station needing medical attention.

“He was in very bad condition. I called the ambulance and stayed with him. If nobody is here, who is going to help this guy?” Elzab asked.

Protesters also said they were miffed by the last−minute warning the FDNY gave before making the decision to halt security at the fort.

“They should have come to us, the parties that are interested and affected, and let us know and have a say,” Schreiber said. “There have to be ways to solve this situation. But they gave us no warning.”

Community Affairs Detective Kevin O’Donnell of the 109th Precinct recently told TimesLedger Newspapers that the precinct would patrol the area, but not provide a constant security detail.

“If [the FDNY] drops security, it would just become part of the regular patrol of that area,” he said. “We don’t do security, we patrol neighborhoods.”

The fort, bounded by the Long Island Sound and Cross Island Parkway, is also home to an Army National Guard unit, an NYPD K−9 unit, an emergency services unit, an EMS academy and the auxiliary Coast Guard.

Schreiber, who has been leading the fight against the cutbacks, said it is unbelievable there are so many law enforcement agencies present at the fort, yet no one manning the front gate on a regular basis.

“We feel they betrayed the community,” Schreiber said. “They made an agreement to provide security here. All we’re asking for is the status quo. We’re not asking for them to reinvent the wheel.”

Rally to Protect Fort Totten

PROTEST RALLY

PROTEST RALLY

*IMPORTANT RALLY*

PROTECT THE FORT!

ORGANIZED BY

BAY TERRACE COMMUNITY ALLIANCE

&

FRIENDS OF FORT TOTTEN PARKS

DATE: SAT., MARCH 7, 2009 AT 11:00 AM

PLACE: FORT TOTTEN FRONT GATE

CROSS ISLAND PKWY @ 212TH ST.

GUARD SERVICE IS GOING TO BE REMOVED FROM THE ENTRANCE TO FORT TOTTEN PARK DUE TO MAYOR BLOOMBERG’S BUDGET CUTS!

THE INCREASED POTENTIAL FOR VANDALISM, ARSON & BURGLARY OF HISTORIC

BUILDINGS AND SURROUNDING NEIGHBORHOODS, AND THE SECURITY OF OUR

HOMES AND COMMUNITY ARE SERIOUSLY AT RISK!

JOIN US IN PROTECTING THE FORT

MAKE YOUR VOICE HEARD!

rally-flyer

Soaring charges hit condo, co-op owners

Bay Terrace Gardens

Bay Terrace Gardens

Crain’s New York

Soaring charges hit condo, co-op owners

Worse lies ahead as income from flip taxes and retail units ebbs just as defaults rise

By Amanda Fung

Published: February 22, 2009 – 5:59 am

Residents of a 54-unit Upper East Side co-op got the bad news last month—despite the board’s intense efforts to trim expenses, maintenance fees are rising 15%, nearly double last year’s hike. “People are furious,” says Steven Sladkus, president of the co-op board and a partner at law firm Wolf Haldenstein Adler Freeman & Herz. “Some of them have lost their jobs.”

It’s an increasingly common problem. Even as the city’s economy sinks, maintenance fees and common charges for co-ops and condos, respectively, are rising at the highest rates in years. Co-op managers blame soaring expenses, primarily property taxes.

And things could get much worse. Income derived from renting retail space and levying charges on unit sales is plummeting, and the number of owners defaulting is starting to rise.

Monthly fees at co-ops are going up at more than double the rate of recent years. Though steeply falling fuel costs have given buildings some relief, most boards cite drastic hikes in real estate taxes. Condo common charges are rising less dramatically, because such taxes are not included.

Fees have spiked 7% to 12% at the 300 Manhattan co-ops and condos managed by Cooper Square Realty, according to Chief Executive David Kuperberg. That compares with traditional average increases of 3% to 5%. Similarly, Halstead Property Management says the co-ops it operates are getting hikes of 8% to 14%, double historical rates.

At Lincoln Towers, an eight-building complex on the Upper West Side, owners are writing maintenance checks that are 4% to 13% higher than in 2008.

“This is by far the largest general increase we’ve had since 1987, when we became a co-op,” says Andrew Cooper, president of Residence Resource, which manages Lincoln Towers. “This is happening citywide.”

The squeeze has just begun at co-ops and condos where rental income from retail and office space is important. Ground-floor retail leases are major sources of revenue for many residential properties. For instance, such space in a building on Madison Avenue in the East 80s can fetch at least $300 a square foot. Retail rents can bring in millions of dollars, according to Faith Hope Consolo, chairman of Prudential Douglas Elliman’s retail leasing and sales division.

The retail vacancy rate in Manhattan residential buildings is running at nearly 18%—triple that of 2008, Ms. Consolo says. “There is a lot of competitive space out there,” she adds. “Retailers have been victims of the recession.”

With declines in sales prices and transactions, co-ops that still look for income from flip taxes are feeling the pinch. Deal volume was down 23% in the fourth quarter from a year earlier, according to appraisal firm Miller Samuel. The building typically makes 3% to 5% of the unit sales price.

At the market’s mercy

“Co-ops are at the mercy of the market,” says Eric Goidel, senior partner at law firm Borah Goldstein Altschuler Nahins & Goidel.

Condo buildings, which have less stringent financial requirements for initial purchase than co-ops do, face another threat. As owners lose their jobs or their bonuses, they quit paying common charges. And in the deteriorating real estate market, developers are increasingly left paying common charges for unsold units—a burden that could push some of them into bankruptcy.

“If developers default, everyone else will eventually have to pick up the balance,” says Jeff Reich, a partner at Wolf Haldenstein.

Meanwhile, operating costs—including water, sewage and labor—continue escalating. Many co-op managers point to real estate taxes for the hefty maintenance fee spikes. To help fill the city’s $4 billion budget gap, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the City Council recently boosted property taxes 7%.

“The city hit owners at a very bad time,” Mr. Kuperberg says. “Values of homes are decreasing, and people are struggling to pay their mortgage.”

Some condo owners claim that developers misrepresent operating expenses to attract buyers. Other estimates may be made in good faith but are outdated in a short time. One new Madison Avenue condo was forced to raise common charges 25% this year, according to Mr. Reich.

“It’s a perfect storm,” he says. “Expenses are increasing, and people who [relied on financing] for an obscene amount of the price of their condos are seeing values decline.”

Cops: Queens Man Fatally Stabs Wife, Hangs Self at Baybridge Condominium Estates

crime-scene-tape

1010 WINS

Cops: Queens Man Fatally Stabs Wife, Hangs Self

NEW YORK (1010 WINS) — A Queens couple was found dead Sunday in what police believe was a murder-suicide.

The woman, 57, had been stabbed to death inside the couple’s home at the upscale Baybridge Condominium Estates in the Bayside neighborhood, police said.

The man, 64, hanged himself from the second floor balcony of the home, 1010 WINS’ Sonia Rincon reported.

They were discovered by their adult son.

Neighbors said they were a quiet couple and couldn’t imagine why the man would have turned violent.

Hot Dog!

Interstate Bakeries opts to keep Jamaica factory running, retaining hundreds of jobs

Interstate Bakeries opts to keep Jamaica factory running, retaining hundreds of jobs

Crain’s New York

Hot dogs won’t lack buns in Queens

By Hilary Potkewitz

Published: February 22, 2009 – 5:59 am

Residents of Jamaica, Queens, can sleep soundly. Their buns are staying in the oven.

After emerging from bankruptcy early this month, Interstate Bakeries Corp. wasted no time in trumpeting the glad tidings: Its Jamaica factory, the city’s largest maker of hot dog rolls, will remain open. The century-old plant on 268th Street and Douglas Avenue has about 350 full-time and more than 100 part-time workers. Its products are made under the Wonder Bread and Nature’s Pride labels.

“This was extraordinary news for us,” says Richard Werber, director of the business services group at the Greater Jamaica Development Corp. “We want to hold on to those manufacturing companies, because generally speaking, their jobs pay far better than retail jobs and provide a clearer and higher ladder for advancement.”

About 70% of the plant’s employees live in Queens, according to GJDC data. Kansas City-based Interstate filed for Chapter 11 in 2004. It has closed several facilities in the Midwest, eliminating hundreds of jobs.

Though the Jamaica plant isn’t Interstate’s most advanced facility, New York is one of the company’s largest markets, so keeping production here made sense, according to Interstate.

As a bonus, New York ranks No. 1 in the nation’s top 10 hot dog-eating cities, buying about $113 million worth of franks a year, according to the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council’s most recent survey. That’s not surprising, given the Big Apple’s multiple sports arenas, Coney Island’s Nathan’s Famous and an army of street vendors.

Queens also has bragging rights in that Shea Stadium beat out other Major League Baseball venues in the all-important hot dog sales standings, the council says. Mets fans ate more than 2 million dogs—with buns—last season, barely six miles from Interstate Bakeries’ cargo bay.

Relay to Fight Cancer

Relay For Life at Fort Totten

Relay For Life at Fort Totten

Queens Courier

BY VICTOR G. MIMONI

Thursday, February 19, 2009 6:08 PM EST
There’s a party on Bell Boulevard in Bayside, but it’s serious.

It’s a complimentary informational kick-off party, at the Outback Steakhouse, to spread the word for the American Cancer Society (ACS) 5th annual “Relay For Life,” scheduled for this June, at Fort Totten.

The Kick-Off Party will be held on Tuesday, February 24, from 8 to 10 p.m. at the steakhouse located at 23-48 Bell Boulevard, said event chair Stephanie Perger.

The overnight campaign will take place on Saturday, June 6 through Sunday, June 7, on the parade grounds of the historic fort, much of which is now a park and Fire Department facilities.

“We invite you to make a difference and help us provide hope to patients, families and friends coping with cancer,” Perger.

The event committee has been holding monthly meetings at the Chabad Jewish Community Center at 26-06 213th Street in Bayside. Their next meeting is scheduled on Thursday, March 5.

“All are welcome – bring a friend,” Perger said, adding two requests: “Please enter through the back door and please, no food or drinks.” She pointed out that at the party however, “Food and refreshments will be served.”

According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), the disease affects more than 8.9 million people nationwide – more than 1.2 million Americans will be diagnosed with cancer and a projected 555,500 will die from it this year, they say.

“Relay for Life brings the community together to remember those who have lost their battle with cancer, honor those who have won their battle and encourage those still in the battle,” Perger explained.

The idea was conceived in 1985 by Dr. Gordy Klatt, a Tacoma, Washington surgeon who wanted to boost his local ACS office.

He spent a grueling 24 hours circling the track at Baker Stadium at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma for more than 83 miles. Throughout the night, friends paid $25 to run or walk 30 minutes with him.

He raised $27,000.

While he was circling the track, Klatt envisioned the team-relay event – and the rest, as they say, is history.

Millions have joined the cause all over the world, making Relay For Life the largest fundraising event ever, according to the ACS.

Perger pointed out that party seating is limited, and asks those planning to attend to R.S.V.P. by noon on Monday, February 23. Call John Link at the American Cancer Society, 718-263-2225, Ext. 5538 or via e-mail at john.link@cancer.org.

“If you can’t attend the party but would like additional information, please let us know,” she said.

For more information, you can also visit www.relayforlife.org/forttottenNY.

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