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.”

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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

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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.”

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.

You need more green to live in Queens

You need more green to live in Queens

You need more green to live in Queens

From Your Nabe.com
You need more green to live in Queens
Report by Center for an Urban Future cites boro as fifth-most expensive locale in the United States

By Philip Newman
Wednesday, February 11, 2009 3:59 PM EST

New York City’s notorious cost of living is driving out thousands of the middle class in an exodus fueled not only by the exorbitance of Manhattan but Queens, too.

It turns out that of 315 urban areas in the United States, only Manhattan, San Francisco, Honolulu and San Jose are more expensive then Queens.

In fact, Queens is the fifth most-expensive urban area in the United States.

The Center for an Urban Future, a Manhattan think tank, reported that it takes $85,918 annually for a person to attain middle-class status in Queens, compared with $123,322 in Manhattan. The same lifestyle in Houston would require $50,000.

“Is it really that important to worry about the possible decline of New York’s middle class when the city has added so many well-heeled residents in recent years?” the center asked.

“The middle class are the backbone of the city’s work force — the book editors, Web designers, lab technicians, architects, nurses, paralegals, actors, university professors, carpenters and bus drivers.”

The Rev. Edwin Reed, chief financial officer of the Greater Allen AME Cathedral of Jamaica, said “the middle class are the professional people that really make the city run.”

Citywide, a combination of steep housing costs, the highest taxes in the nation and the rising cost of everything from milk to auto insurance has driven thousands of New Yorkers to places like eastern Pennsylvania, the Atlanta suburbs and North Carolina.

Overwhelmingly, it is housing costs that have diminished the middle class throughout the city, with the average monthly rent citywide at $2,801, which is 53 percent higher than in San Francisco, the second most-expensive city, the center found.

Between 1999 and 2007, the median sale price for a single-family home in Queens rose by 147 percent. That was more than in any borough except Manhattan, where the price shot up by 209 percent. The median price went up 131 percent in the Bronx, 145 percent in Brooklyn and 142 percent in Staten Island.

Queens residents are paying heavily for housing. A recent survey reported that 49 percent of residents shell out as much as 48 percent of their income on housing.

As for stagnant wages, the Center for an Urban Future said real weekly wages — those adjusted for inflation — rose by a smaller amount in Queens than in any other borough between 1975 and 2007.

In Queens wages rose by 1.1 percent, compared to 1.7 percent in Brooklyn, 2.5 percent in Staten Island and 8.6 percent in the Bronx. Wages climbed by 96 percent in Manhattan over the same period.

Queens also had a greater percentage of workers in low-wage jobs than any other borough except the Bronx. The report said 34.4 percent of Queens workers over 18 were employed in low-wage jobs, as determined by the U.S. Population Reference Bureau.

Citywide, the percentage of workers in low-wage jobs was 21 percent. In a breakdown by borough, the Bronx was at 42.1 percent, Brooklyn 32.2 percent, Staten Island 22.5 percent and Manhattan 21.6 percent.

But it is not just low wages and exorbitant housing that are making living in the city a trial for the middle class. Nearly everything costs more:

• Auto insurance: The survey obtained rate quotes for a 37-year-old male driving a 2006 Toyota Corolla who had been in no accidents in the previous five years and had an excellent bill payment history. In Queens he would pay $1,250 compared with $450 in Atlanta and $610 in Washington, D.C.

• Milk: One gallon in the city costs $4.08 (the national average is $3.82)

• The city has the nation’s fourth-highest telephone rates

• Day care in the city costs at least $2,000 a month for one child

New Yorkers pay 50 percent more in taxes than people in any other major American city and city taxes are 90 percent higher than in any other U.S. city. The average property tax on a one-, two- or three-family home has gone up 87 percent since 2000.

“Queens has done worse than any other borough in recent years when it comes to people moving out of the city,” said Jonathan Bowles, director of the Center for an Urban Future.

Most of the migration out of Queens and the rest of the city took place in more prosperous times before the economic slump began in late 2007.

“Queens lost 51,177 residents in 2006 vs. 35,788 in 1993,” Bowles said. “Thus, domestic out-migration levels for Queens was a staggering 43 percent higher in 2006 than in 1993.”

Most middle-class residents cannot afford private schools, so many leave the city.

“People like to live where they feel they have access to a good education for their children,” said Cheryl Caddle, chairman of the Education Committee of the Cambria Heights Civic Association. “A lot of people believe the public schools in New York are subpar.”

Tanya Cruz of Community Board 13, which stretches from Glen Oaks to Queens Village, Laurelton and Rosedale said “our educational system is failing.”

The Center for an Urban Future said another factor making New York unattractive is unsatisfactory public transportation.

Many parts of Queens and Brooklyn have the longest commutes in the nation, and conditions en route are not always good.

“On a lot of bus lines, people are packed in there like sardines,” said Yvonne Reddick, district manager of Community Board 12, which represents Jamaica, Hollis and Springfield Gardens.

Olga Djam of Elmhurst said many commutes are too long. “If you’re commuting for an hour and a half, when are you going to spend time with your kids?” she asked.

The center offered recommendations to preserve the city’s middle class:

• develop a strategy to diversify the economy and support the growth of middle-income jobs

• stop neglecting the city’s community colleges (whose graduates earn 38 percent more than high school graduates)

• improve mass transit, particularly outside Manhattan

• increase housing for the middle class

• protect the character of neighborhoods

• rethink efforts to increase revenue from fees and fines, which have a particularly heavy impact on the middle class.

Reach contributing writer Philip Newman by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 136.

Queens is Ready to Puck Around

SKATING SOON at a rink near you - the Iron Triangle Islanders?

SKATING SOON at a rink near you - the Iron Triangle Islanders?

From the NY Daily News

Could Isles net the Point? Plan pushes Iron Triangle home

BY Nicholas Hirshon
Tuesday, February 10th 2009, 10:45 AM

SKATING SOON at a rink near you – the Iron Triangle Islanders?

The Queens Chamber of Commerce is making a long-shot bid to lure the four-time Stanley Cup champions from Nassau County as part of redevelopment plans for Willets Point, a maze of auto body shops near Citi Field.

The Islanders – who are reportedly mulling a move in case plans fall through to revamp their arena, the Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, L.I. – declined to comment on the Willets Point proposal.

Queens Chamber of Commerce Executive Vice President Jack Friedman noted the Isles’ Coliseum lease expires in 2015, near the anticipated opening of a Willets Point convention center.

“Queens makes sense [for the Islanders] from so many levels because of the airports and its central location,” Friedman said, also noting the area’s proximity to highways and subways.

But Yale University Prof. Charles Euchner, an expert on sports team relocations, mocked Willets Point as a “half-baked” option because it would require too many infrastructure changes.

The Islanders stoked speculation about a move last month by scheduling a preseason game for September in Kansas City, which opened a state-of-the-art arena in 2007 and has been trying ever since to land a National Hockey League franchise.

The Isles are also moving their training camp in Canada from New Brunswick to Saskatoon, a puck-wild city that gunned for the St. Louis Blues in 1983.

Meanwhile, Islanders owner Charles Wang has reportedly grown impatient with Nassau officials for taking years to okay his project to renovate the Coliseum and redevelop the nearby area with shops and restaurants.

A spokesman for the Town of Hempstead board, which must approve Wang’s plans, said its members are “anxious to do everything we can to keep” the Islanders in Uniondale.

But Friedman isn’t alone in asking Wang, a Queens College grad, to consider a change.

Asked about hosting the Isles, Queens Borough President Helen Marshall said she would be “very receptive” while the city announced it’s “open” to letting the team play in a Queens park.

City Councilman John Liu (D-Flushing) said the Isles should relocate to Queens to escape the Coliseum mess while staying near fans in Nassau and Suffolk – a scenario that neither Kansas City nor Saskatoon can offer.

“A hockey team like the Islanders enjoys a strong fan base,” Liu said of the local following the team has built over four decades. “Their enterprise is not like a warehouse you could plunk in the middle of anywhere.”

Even Mets third baseman David Wright was willing to share the borough’s sports scene.

“I’d recommend it,” Wright said of an Isles move. “I would endorse playing in Queens.”

State Senators Introduce Fair Share Tax Reform

Fair Share Tax Reform

Fair Share Tax Reform

From NewsLI.com

State Senators Introduce Fair Share Tax Reform

February 10, 2009

– Initiative Would Raise More than $6 Billion in Revenue to Nearly Halve Budget Shortfall While Reforming New York’s Tax Code to Make it Fairer

(Albany, N.Y.) A group of Democratic Senators today introduced the Fair Share Tax Reform Act of 2009, an initiative that would raise more than $6 billion in new revenue by slightly increasing taxes on the wealthiest 5% of New Yorkers, those making more than $250,000 a year. The reform package would nearly halve New York’s budget deficit while making the tax system fairer, more progressive and in line with neighboring states. Today, New Yorkers who make more than $40,000 a year are subject to the very same marginal tax rate as those who make $400,000 or $40 million.

Over the last 30 years, New York has reduced income tax rates on the wealthiest New Yorkers by more than 50% and eliminated high income tax brackets so that working class families and the very rich pay the same tax rate. Currently, every New Yorker who earns more than $40,000 pays the same marginal tax rate of 6.85%, whether their income is $41,000 a year or $4.1 million. Fair Share Tax Reform would create new income brackets for individuals or families making more than $250,000, $500,000 and $1,000,000 at 8.25%, 8.97%, and 10.30% respectively. These new tax brackets would raise more than $6 billion in new added revenue.

The Fair Share Tax Reform proposal would mean New York State wouldn’t have to make billions in cuts to schools, healthcare, and communities. It could help prevent increases in class sizes, teacher layoffs, hospital and nursing home closings, longer wait times in emergency rooms and deep cuts to hundreds of important programs like housing assistance and homeless shelters.

“The Governor is absolutely right that in these challenging financial times, we all need to share the sacrifice,” said Senator Eric Schneiderman (D-Manhattan/Bronx). “That’s why it is so important that we ask our State’s wealthiest to contribute their fair share as well. Currently, the richest 1% of New Yorkers pay 6.5% of their total income in state and local taxes while the poorest 20% of New Yorkers pay 12.6% of their income. Fair Share Tax Reform would return fairness to our tax system while cutting our State’s budget deficit in half, eliminating the need to make the most devastating cuts to our communities.”

“It is very irresponsible public policy for an individual who makes $40,000 a year to be subject to the same tax rate as an individual who makes $4,000,000 a year,” added Senator Neil Breslin (D-Albany).

“The Fair Share Tax Reform Act implements a progressive tax structure, making it more equitable for low-income and working families,” said Senator Antoine Thompson (D-Buffalo). “Those hardest hit are typically the ones that can least afford it.”

“The tax cuts provided to the wealthiest New Yorkers over the past 30 years are no longer viable during these difficult economic times,” said Senator Velmanette Montgomery (D-Brooklyn). “If we don’t take this path and ask high-income New Yorkers to pay their fair share, then we will inevitably be faced with devastating cuts to health care, education and other essential community services. If there was ever a time to consider fairness in our tax code, it is now.”

“This legislation would create a much fairer system of taxation for all New Yorkers,” continued Toby Ann Stavisky (D-Queens). “There is no reason why someone earning $40,000 a year pays the same marginal tax rate as someone earning $4 million. This bill would correct this inequity.”

Read the complete article………….