Saturday, July 25, 2015

Do real estate developers control New York City's land use in the de Blasio administration ?

A lack of democracy in New York City's land use process

Activist Alicia Boyd on NYC's Community Board System :  ''It's a lie anyway.''

"It's a lie anyway."

To some progressive activists, seeing Mayor Bill de Blasio’s land-lease proposal to construct buildings on the property of the New York City Housing Authority following so closely on the sale of several NYCHA Section 8 buildings, with plans for further expansion of land-lease opportunities on NYCHA lands, amounts to a full-throttle assault to privatize large parts of NYCHA, essentially opening the floodgates for private real estate developers to stampede toward a land rush of city real property in exchange for the administration receiving credit for the construction a miniscule number of new affordable housing units. It seems like a huge price to pay for perhaps constructing an initial 500 new affordable housing units within a larger goal of creating 80,000 units over a ten-year span.

These and other major city land use decisions are not being made with prior public input, much less without a specific mandate from voters.

Although more and more tenants and activists are recognizing Mayor de Blasio’s pro-real estate agenda, what is missing is tenant and activist consensus about what to do about this. Some activists have been fighting the sale of public library branches to real estate developers, thinking that each sale is a singular transaction, independent onto itself, and not part of a larger, pro-real estate agenda by the de Blasio administration. Activists think that if they can just defeat the sale of one library, then the larger cause can be won. Efforts by developers and city planning officials to subject small fights to the arduous ULURP process, while sidestepping larger projects, has the impact of narrowing activists’ focus at the same time that they can be worn down.

About the role of Community Boards in allowing the public to participate in New York City's land use process, the Brooklyn tenant activist Alicia Boyd said, “It’s a lie, anyway, but we know politically that the political machine needs that lie .... They need the lie. They need the lie, so that the people will not stand up and say, ‘Hey, wait a minute ! That means that we have no power ? There’s no democracy here ?’ They need the lie.”

As activists look to hold the administration accountable to activists’ expectations for a course for a post-Occupy Wall Street city that was not aligned with big business, there are many issues to consider. Firstly, how do activists plan to educate each other on a complete and accurate picture of how much of the political landscape in the de Blasio administration has been influenced by the real estate industry ? Secondly, will activists reject Mayor de Blasio’s incremental and inadequate remedy to the affordable housing crisis, and, if so, what can the community demand in its place ? And thirdly, what should be done about the veal pen nonprofit groups, which willingly deëscalate calls for political, social, and economic reform, based on the messaging emanating from City Hall ? Other issues undoubtedly also exist, but organizing cannot take shape about where we want to go as a city until everybody first agrees on what is actually happening now.


A Special Investigation : A lack of democracy in New York City's land use process (Progress Queens)

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

14 Juillet : La Fête nationale

Testing the embedding of Google Sphere and other specialty photographs, why can't this be easier ?

Monday, April 20, 2015

Amidst ongoing probe of Senator Dean Skelos and son, Preet Bharara delivering speech on Friday

Preet Bharara to deliver a speech at Waldorf-Astoria Hotel

U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara

First public address since reports of Skelos investigation were confirmed

U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, the nation’s top federal prosecutor in New York’s southern district, is set to deliver a keynote address at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel on Friday. The address is the highlight of the 2015 Assembly of the Regional Plan Association, an urban research and advocacy organization of academics, real estate developers, financial interests, and other big businesses.

The Friday address will be the first public appearance by U.S. Attorney Bharara since a report published by The New York Times confirmed an earlier report broadcast by WNBC Channel 4 News that federal prosecutors were investigating State Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) for possible wrong-doing. The report by The New York Times added that Senator Skelos’ son, Adam Skelos, is also allegedly under investigation.

Following the shocking arrest of Assemblymember Sheldon Silver (D-Lower East Side) in January on corruption charges, U.S. Attorney Bharara advised voters to “Stay tuned,” to his on-going fight against political and government corruption. One day after Assemblymember Silver’s arrest, U.S. Attorney Bharara delivered a speech at New York Law School, reinforcing his campaign against corruption.

Government reform activists are eyeing whether the Friday address may be preceded by any further arrests.


Week in Review : de Blasio's non-endorsement of Hillary Clinton ; Preet Bharara's upcoming speech (Progress Queens)

Thursday, April 2, 2015

NY1 report exposes BerlinRosen's conflicts of interest with the de Blasio administration

Who is Jonathan Rosen ?

Jonathan Rosen - Credit - NY1 Screen Shot

NY1 broadcast journalist Grace Rauh pulled back the curtain on the unregistered lobbying firm, BerlinRosen

The unregistered lobbying firm BerlinRosen has access to material, nonpublic, inside information about the administration of Mayor Bill de Blasio. One of the firm's name partners, Jonathan Rosen, for example, attended 20 private meetings with Mayor de Blasio in 2014. That insider access allows the firm to exploit advantages for its roster of consulting clients, including some of the city's largest real estate developers.


NY1 report exposes BerlinRosen's conflicts of interest with the de Blasio administration (Progress Queens)

Who is Jonathan Rosen? The Most Powerful Man in Politics – Outside City Hall (NY1)

de Blasio's lobbying group, the Campaign for One New York, finally drawing heavier scrutiny from mainstream media (NYC : News & Analysis)

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Albany ethics reform proposals ignore warnings of former JCOPE commissioner Ravi Batra

Ravi Batra : Albany makes sacred honor live in a spittoon

As Governor Andrew Cuomo (D-New York) negotiate ethics reforms up in Albany, Ravi Batra, a former JCOPE commissioner, says Albany wrongly refuses to grant ethics regulators the independence they need.

“If it wasn't for U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara's righteous indignation for being used as a prop to sell the public a farce by Andrew Cuomo, there would be no Shelly Silver indictment or the latest hyperventilated reform proposals by a control-infected Albany,” Mr. Batra told Progress Queens.

The "Three Men In A Room" in Albany are negotiating ethics reforms in this year's state budget as U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara is investigating Albany officials.

As Cuomo negotiates ethics reforms, Albany proposals ignore warnings of former JCOPE commissioner Ravi Batra (Progress Queens)

Albany keeps proposing incremental reforms, which have enforcement mechanisms that deliberately lack independence, charges attorney Ravi Batra.


As Cuomo negotiates ethics reforms, Albany proposals ignore warnings of former JCOPE commissioner Ravi Batra (Progress Queens)

Building Collapse In East Village Near Second Avenue and St. Marks Place

Over 100 FDNY have responded to an apparent explosion of a building in the East Village neighborhood of Manhattan. Fire rescue are trying to remove people, who may be in the buildings damaged by a possible explosion or collapse.

The building, which was has received the principal amount of damage, is located at 125 Second Avenue, according to a NY1 News report.

Two buildings are currently on fire, according to a live news report made by NY1 News journalist Dean Meminger.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Bill de Blasio's war on public housing

Cash-strapped NYCHA sold apartment buildings that had been recently refurbished

NYCHA claimed that it needed to sell 900 Section 8 apartments, because it could no longer afford to maintain them.

However, a Progress Queens investigation has revealed that four buildings that were sold were recently refurbished by NYCHA, seemingly refuting claims that these buildings were too dilapidated for NYCHA to maintain.

1780 and 1782 Madison Avenue, Manhattan - Sold by NYCHA photo Google Street View - 1780 Madison Avenue - Manhattan Screen Shot600_zpsycoeop1c.jpg

Before NYCHA sold the buildings 1780 and 1782 Madison Avenue in Manhattan to private real estate developers, the city housing agency spent an unknown amount of money making unspecified refurbishing or repairs to the buildings.

930 Halsey Street, Brooklyn - Sold by NYCHA photo Google Street View 930 Halsey Street - Brooklyn 2014-sept Google Earth-Screen Shot600_zpsdnp5ikyr.jpg

Before NYCHA sold the building at 903 Halsey Street in Brooklyn to private real estate developers, the city housing agency spent an unknown amount of money making unspecified refurbishing or repairs to the buildings.

55 Saratoga Avenue, Brooklyn - Sold by NYCHA photo Google Street View 55 Saratoga Avenue - Brooklyn 2014-sept Google Earth-Screen Shot600_zpsp19gpvmd.jpg

Before NYCHA sold the building at 55 Saratoga Avenue in Brooklyn to private real estate developers, the city housing agency spent an unknown amount of money making unspecified refurbishing or repairs to the buildings.

Conflicts of Interest : Administration officials were either paid to lobbying in support of the sale of approximately 900 NYCHA Section 8 apartments, or else they had prior relationships with some of the developers.

A controversial structured finance transaction originated by the New York City Housing Authority, or NYCHA, to create a special purpose vehicle to offload some Section 8 buildings to private developers is coming into greater view, according to an analysis by Progress Queens.

The portfolio of project-based, Section 8 buildings that NYCHA sold to a consortium of private investors named Triborough Preservation LLC included four buildings that had recently been refurbished. The portfolio of buildings that were sold were situated in neighborhoods, where there was a great potential for real estate value appreciation due to recent trends in gentrification, begging the question whether real estate developers had cherry-picked some of the best properties amongst NYCHA's roster of buildings.

Two principal de Blasio administration housing officials, Gary Rodney and Vicki Been, have had prior close ties to two of the developers in the consortium, BFC Partners, L.P., and L&M Development Partners, Inc., respectively. A third de Blasio administration official, Jonathan Greenspun, who serves as a commission on the city's Commission on Human Rights, was a lobbyist for BFC Partners, L.P.

Administration officials defended the controversial sale by arguing that NYCHA did not have the financial resources to maintain the dilapidated buildings. However, as documented in archival photographs published by Google Street View, four of the buildings had had scaffolding encircling the buildings, with one photograph showing workmen suspended along the front of one building doing exterior construction or repair work.

Some government reform activists told Progress Queens that the de Blasio administration disenfranchised taxpayers and NYCHA tenants by sidestepping the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure, or the ULURP process, when it sanctioned NYCHA’s sale of the properties. According to one source, a lawyer with expertise in city legislation, Section 197-c of the City Charter requires that any disposition of city real property must be made through the ULURP process.

City housing officials have suggested that they may seek to sell other NYCHA buildings in order to offload the responsibility of upkeep and maintenance for the buildings, a potential backdoor for for-profit real estate developers to raise the rents on tenants living in public housing.

According to a reading of some of the transaction agreements, the city conveyed rights to the consortium of developers to building residential and non-residential units on developable land that was also sold along with the project-based, Section 8 buildings.

Officials with NYCHA, City Hall, and the developers, who bought the Section 8 apartments, declined to answer questions about the transaction in time before the publication of Progress Queens report.


Cash-strapped NYCHA sold apartment buildings that had been recently refurbished (Progress Queens)

Councilmember Torres : A public housing puppet on REBNY's strings (Progress Queens)

Activists worry that de Blasio administration will keep selling NYCHA to developers, undermining regulated rents (Progress Queens)

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Italian song "Viva La Pappa Col Pomodoro" in Heineken commercial

1965 hit in American TV commercial continues use of popular European songs as soundtracks

Viva la pa-pa-pappa / Col po-po-po-po-po-po-pomodoro

The beer brewer Heineken has used an Italian song, "Viva La Pappa Col Pomodoro," popularised in 1965 by the singer Rita Pavone as the soundtrack to a cute new commercial.

"Viva La Pappa Col Pomodoro" was also recorded by the European superstar Dalida.

Here is the version of the song, recorded by Rita Pavone, which is used in the Heineken commercial.

In 2013, a TV commercial campaign by Google for its Chromecast Web video and music interface for HDTV units used an instrumental version of one of French pop singer Dalida's most successful songs, "La Danse de Zorba," which, in turn, was a cover of Mikis Theodorakis's "Zorbas."

Another 2013 major TV commercial for an American product used a hit French song for its soundtrack. Verizon Android Island commercial used "Comment te dire adieu" for its soundtrack.

Still yet another 2013 TV commercial, this time for Netflix, used a song, "Hey Now," from one of French pop music's most successful disk jockeys, Martin Solveig. Solveig's hit, recorded in English, shows the broadening appeal of European music in English-speaking cultures.


Heineken | The Match, UEFA Champions League Commercial 2015 (YouTube)

Dalida. Viva la pappa ! (YouTube)

♫ Rita Pavone ♪ Viva La Pappa Col Pomodoro ♫ Video & Audio Restaurati (YouTube)

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

de Blasio's "Blizzard of the Century" turns out to be, just like the mayor himself, very much a bust

"Historic" blizzard pounds six inches into New York

It was one of the most "historic" blizzard busts in New York City.

Really, folks, it was just another snow storm.

Contrary to the soaring, aspirational rhetoric of Mayor Bill de Blasio (D-New York City), who had proclaimed this week's blizzard as "historic," snow fall totals didn't reach anywhere near expected forecasts of 18 to 24 inches.

Only 4 to 6 inches of snow fell on New York City, according to Governor Andrew Cuomo (D-New York). Subways service, which had been shut Monday night, resumed Tuesday morning at 9 a.m. with limited availability.

A walking tour of Jackson Heights, Queens


Blizzard a Bust For NYC as Worst Fears Fail to Materialize (NBC News)