ACCORDING TO JIM / RANTS ILLUSTRATED
APRIL 29, 2019
Hey, many folks like me are worried that Mayor de Blasio’s plan for re-zoning Bay Street offers no concrete solutions for dealing with thousands of new residents worsening already bad traffic and transit issues. But I’m told we really shouldn’t be all that concerned. Why? There will be a traffic monitor!
The Staten Island Advance reports, “City Planning said it plans to lead a ‘larger coordinated effort with an interagency team,’ including the Department of Transportation, in putting together a plan.” But a plan on how to actually mitigate traffic and the area’s transportation woes does not appear to be ready.
DCP said the agency, alongside DOT, would commit to a ‘traffic monitoring program’ that will track development over time.
A traffic monitoring program? It has a “check is in the mail” kind of vibe to it, doesn’t it?
That isn’t a traffic and transit plan. Stop the BS.
HOLD THAT LINE
The Thin Red Line. The Goal Line. The Line in the Sand.
Without infrastructure help, don't let Mayor de Blasio cross any of them.
You can call the infrastructure and community demands listed here just about anything you want, but the bottom line is this: unless the de Blasio Administration agrees to undertake them, Staten Islanders, and the officials they elect to represent them, should reject the Bay Street Corridor rezoning out of hand.
Ever since Mayor de Blasio made it clear five years ago that EVERY borough would be part of its affordable housing plan, I have repeatedly stressed that infrastructure was everything. I fastidiously explained to them the need to understand and recognize Staten Island’s perspective on any additional housing density, which has been forged in the fires of decades of anything-goes development – resulting in horribly overtaxed infrastructure, including our ubiquitous traffic and congestion problems and overcrowded classrooms.
Despite multiple efforts by me and my team, the administration has failed to engage in any real conversations about these issues, and now relies on a disingenuous environmental analysis, and more recently, a smoke and mirrors press release on “investment” in the corridor that is, at best, an insult to smoke and mirrors.
Take a look at this document prepared by my Land Use Director, Bob Englert, and members of our team. I’m not sure any elected official has submitted a list with such specificity and granularity as part of any previous rezoning application anywhere across the city. It is simply irresponsible to change the zoning, then parachute in thousands of residential units and thousands of people in such a small corridor, without first making an unwavering commitment to the various community and infrastructure needs. Anything less than a full-throated embrace of this list can only mean that this rezoning is wrong for Staten Island and should be rejected.
A few weeks ago, as part of the Uniform Land Use Review Process, I submitted my formal response to the city: a DISAPPROVAL with MODIFICATIONS. Those modifications were infrastructure demands, and this document drills down on those demands. After the list was submitted to the Mayor a few weeks ago, he told me he would share it with his team.
To date, I have received no response from the agencies. Zero. None.
On Monday, April 22, the City Planning Commission will vote on this downzoning. The mayor controls seven of the twelve votes – and he will win that vote. The process then goes to the City Council.
There, then, is the chance for Staten islanders and their elected officials to draw their line in the sand. There, then, should be our thin red line of defense: make these commitments or take your rezoning back to City Hall.
MANY HANDS MAKE IT POSSIBLE
APRIL 16, 2018
Government alone is not going to win the war against litter; it is a problem of our own making, and only we, collectively, can solve it. Government proposes initiative after initiative, but progress is slow to non-existent. It's going to take an army of citizen warriors - Staten Islanders working together - if we are ever to claim victory.
Don't be part of the problem. Be part of the solution.
recess for success
APRIL 2, 2018
Study after study has shown the link between physical activity in children and behavior and cognitive learning. As Dr. Daniel Pink has said, “breaks and recess are not deviations from learning. They are PART of learning.” Amen!
If you want kids to work harder, fidget less, focus more, earn better grades, develop betters social skills, show greater empathy, cause fewer disruptions, and even eat healthier foods — give them recess.
BERRY FIELD OF DREAMS
FEBRUARY 26, 2018
In July of 2016, I stood on the fields at MacArthur Park outside the Berry Houses, along with Council Member Matteo, to announce that we teamed up to allocate the necessary funding to finally rehabilitate these fields.
Generations of Staten Islanders have played and continue to play on these fields, but they are in desperate need of refurbishment, and have been for many years.
We recently learned the good news that construction could begin as soon as this November!
With this being New York City that November date is, of course, not set in stone, but I am hopeful that it will happen on schedule.
Once started, construction will take between 12 and 18 months.
At that time, it will be time to put down the bats for a short time so a different set of tools can be used.
When completed, our entire community will have a brand new facility that will be used and enjoyed by many generations of Staten Islanders.
That's "hitting one out of the park!"
a road by any other name
SEPTEMBER 12, 2017
Why would a developer want to call a road something other than a “road?” Especially if the thoroughfare in question clearly accomplishes all those things we attribute to a road, or a street. Well, I’ll tell you why: it allows them to circumvent the rules, requirements, analysis and review that are required when one is building a road, and they get around it by calling it a “driveway” instead.
We are fighting this road/driveway battle on several fronts. There’s a great deal on the line for Staten Island residents, and if we hope to put an end to this farce we’re going to need some city agencies work with and not against us on this.
SHAMEFUL CYCLE OF STREET CUTS
SEPTEMBER 6, 2017
This is more than just an annoyance and it's certainly more than just a lack of common sense. In fact, it’s even beyond bad policy - it’s bad government. A total waste of taxpayer money, and allowing it to continue is just...stupidity.
I have spent more than a decade and a half of trying change it, but it takes a Mayor. This Mayor, who did the right thing and embraced the mindset of "Pave, Baby Pave" and matched his words with a record $834 million commitment to resurfacing, needs to kick the ass of his DOT team, lead them and demand they craft new rules to end to this wasteful throwing of good money after bad.
CARDIAC REHAB IS COMING BACK
AUGUST 28, 2017
Did you know that we don't have a cardiac rehabilitation facility on Staten Island?
If you or a loved one have not needed one in recent years then the odds are you were not aware of this fact.
I certainly wasn't aware of it until I was informed during a meeting of my Heart Healthy Advisory Council, which is made of prominent local cardiologists and others engaged in the effort to improve the cardiovascular health of Staten Islanders.
For too long, Staten Islanders who have just suffered a heart attack or had major heart surgery have been forced to travel over a bridge to attend this necessary program that includes supervised exercise to get the heart healthy again, education to promote a more heart-healthy lifestyle, and counseling to help reduce the types of stress that are bad for the heart. We know how difficult this could be, and we know that many have just decided to forgo it, despite its proven positive effects. I have good news. It's coming back.
After our meeting, I immediately started working with both our hospital systems to bring it back, and in 2018 we are expecting the first of the new facilities, on the campus of Richmond University Medical Center, to open its doors.
Cardiac Rehab helps those who have experienced a second chance at life thanks to the wonders of modern medicine. It teaches new skills and helps create new heart-healthy habits, and soon we won't have to cross a bridge to experience its benefits.
JULY 18, 2017
Our commuting crisis is creating a health crisis….
We know it is impacting people’s health (…including my own!). Yesterday we had our meeting with with city and state agencies about the commuting crisis we continue to endure. I will provide specific updates about that meeting in subsequent posts.
Goodhue's Good News
JUNE 8, 2017
Thank you to the Mayor for allocating the rest of the money needed to purchase the land. Thank you to the Children’s Aid Society for their patience, cooperation, and commitment to Staten Island. Thank you to the taxpayers for the $6 million that I had the opportunity to provide for this project, as well as the $11+ million the Mayor committed.
SI Warrior kids
JUNE 4, 2017
I’m sure we would all agree that Navy SEALs know a thing or two about leadership. When I first picked up Extreme Ownership, written by former SEALs Jocko Willink and Leif Babin several months ago, I had high hopes that it would provide me with helpful tips on leadership and accountability. I was not prepared, however, for the profound positive effect it would have on my life and leadership style that goes well beyond a regular book, and I have been preaching its message to everyone and anyone who will listen, including the Mayor of the city of New York himself. You could say Jocko and Leif got my attention.
When I learned that Jocko wrote a children’s book called Way of the Warrior Kid to provide the same lessons in an age appropriate way to young people, I knew I had to get it in front of as many eyes as possible.
That is why I created a Summer Reading Challenge for kids going into the 5th Grade. I’ll provide the book, they’ll read it and write a book report on it, and we will hold an event in the Fall recognizing them and discussing the book and its lessons.
I’m confident that once they read it we will be able to say, “He’s gotten their attention” too.
it's time for the mayor to tag in
APRIL 9, 2017
The Mayor is not popular on Staten Island. In the last election, Staten Island voters overwhelmingly voted for his opponent.
Now that this fact is out of the way, as you know the Mayor and his Administration will be working out of Borough Hall all this week.
We here at Borough Hall view this as a unique opportunity to advance a number of issues important to our community.
Despite the Mayor’s unpopularity, the fact is this week is an important one. My job as Borough President is to deliver for our borough. To deliver, I need the cooperation and buy-in of the Mayor and his team.
They will all be working in Borough Hall for the next few days. I have had the chance to influence and shape the agenda with items that are important to Staten Islanders.
This means that this week represents, perhaps, an opportunity to make progress on a number of fronts.
We live in a large and complex city and we are the smallest borough. Too often our needs get drowned out in the din of citywide issues.
This week is about Staten Island. It is about what is important to us. I intend on making the most of this brief moment in time. The Mayor and his staff will be in close proximity to me. They will hear me, and I have reason to believe they will help.
miracle gro for the mind
APRIL 6, 2017
We have been preaching for more than three years the truth about what exercise can do for our heart, lungs, and overall physical and mental well-being. What we didn’t fully appreciate until reading the book,Spark, was that the part of us that might benefit the most from exercise is our brains. Science is telling us robust aerobic exercise increases cognitive functioning. We believe it, and we want to follow the lead of Naperville, Illinois and use exercise to turn our young students into academic beasts!
Stay with us on this one because we want Staten Island to be on the cutting edge of the intersection between health and wellness and education.
BUILDING THE JOBS COAST
MARCH 23, 2017
We work to improve Staten Island’s quality of life every day, and that manifests itself in many ways. On the one hand, we try to preserve, as best as we can, as much as possible of what remains of that “suburban feel” for the overwhelming majority of our island. With that being said, I must admit I sometimes daydream about beaming back with my team to the 1960s, 70s, 80s, and early 90s with a free hand to change a few things. This would be a much different borough today, believe me.
But I also recognize that even while preserving the bedroom community character of most of our borough, we can also take a portion of the Island’s West Shore and try to help the private sector in growing jobs. Our office is heavily engaged in doing just that. We hope to be able to share with you, in the not-too-distant future, some fantastic news about jobs that are coming to our borough, and we all know that a job can help with just about everything.
NOT SO FAST
MARCH 20, 2017
I know this is how many of us on Staten island feel when it comes to how the de Blasio Administration has rolled out its 5 Borough Ferry Plan (since renamed Citywide Ferry Service, coincidentally or not after we pounded the rhetorical question “how can it be called a 5 Borough plan when it doesn’t benefit 5 boroughs). I understand and share the frustration and anger on this topic because I know how hellacious many of your commutes are. I have been talking to the Mayor about fast ferries for some time now, including last Tuesday when the Mayor came to Staten Island to view snow removal operations. In fact, I discuss it with him every opportunity I get.
We sat and discussed fast ferry again, including details about the North and South Shore needs, and the challenges to getting such service started. This story is far from complete and this struggle is far from over. We continue to make the case directly to the Mayor. Please stay frosty with me on this one.
STOP IN THE NAME OF COMMON SENSE
MARCH 8, 2017
I am usually the person railing about the delays in city infrastructure capital projects. I have joked that if someone within the Department of Design and Construction (DDC) sneezes it delays a project by six months.
That is why some are surprised that the delay in the intersection improvement project at Victory Blvd. and Manor Road was caused by me.
Here is why I did it. I refuse to sign off on a project that will have a negative impact on small businesses like this one, in its current form, will. Businesses on Victory Blvd. and other similar commercial strips rely on the availability of adequate street parking. This project, as currently planned, would wipe away nine parking spaces for customers of local businesses. Many customers would go elsewhere and those businesses would die.
I made clear – and DDC agreed – that this project will not be happening unless and until we are satisfied that it won’t hurt businesses. Consider this project stopped in the name of common sense.
throwing it all away
FEBRUARY 16, 2017
We are removing more litter on Staten Island than ever before, yet our borough is filthier than at any time in recent memory.
We will continue increasing our removal efforts, keep educating our students to prevent future litterers, and continue asking city agencies to fine those caught littering; but man, Staten Island, we need to look ourselves in the mirror.
This, much like the reckless behavior on our roads, is a breakdown of personal responsibility. And, government cannot fix that.
ANSWER TO A POUR EXCUSE
NOVEMBER 8, 2016
Hall of Fame football coach Bill Parcells once said, "You are what your record says you are."
When it comes to the Bloomingdale Park sidewalk situation, here is the record:
New York State DOT: getting it done.
City agencies: Have not. Did not. Will not.
I’m so glad we made the decision to reach out to State DOT
STREETWALKERS OF BLOOMINGDALE PARK
OCTOBER 31, 2016
Earlier today, South Shore families enjoyed our annual “Halloween Hoopla,” event at Bloomingdale Park (turned into “Boo-Mingdale” Park for the day!). This event was begun by my predecessor, Jim Molinaro, and has become a unique Halloween tradition for children.
This event serves as a good reminder that just last month the New York State Department of Transportation (State DOT) made a big announcement that they would be installing a sidewalk along the service Road between Bloomingdale Road and Lenevar Avenue. Finally!
The fact is that after many years of frustration due to the inaction and lack of a sense of urgency by city government, I turned to the State DOT to ask for help earlier this year. To their credit, the Governor and State DOT Commissioner responded in a big way with their announcement. The new sidewalks will improve safety for those who use Bloomingdale Park.
Isn’t it amazing that city government built a park; the park was a huge hit for the community, yet due to a lack of sidewalks the park has been dangerous to access if coming from the direction of the service road? The bureaucracy should never be allowed to endanger public safety due to their desire to maintain the status quo. Thanks to State DOT hearing our pleas; this area will soon be safer for all who utilize the park each and every day.
YOU’RE CORDIALLY INVITED
OCTOBER 18, 2016
The Borough President’s Office has provided $1 million dollars toward the improvement of the Stapleton Train Station entrances. I have been working with the MTA, the Staten Island Railway, the Department of Transportation and Ironstate Development, the owner of Urby, to develop a scope of work that will deliver a more safe, aesthetically pleasing, and inviting path to the elevated Stapleton train platform. This effort goes hand-in-hand with my commitment to be supportive and outspoken about those Stapleton quality-of-life issues that need to be addressed as part of the Bay Street Corridor Neighborhood Plan.
The existing entrances to the train station are in desperate need of renovation. Many of the components associated with today’s elevated security measures have left the streetscape in a grossly unwelcoming state, devoid of greenery or other public amenities. We’re working to fix those problems and to make the Stapleton Station entrances vibrant once again. There are many obstacles to overcome and coordination between multiple agencies is absolutely essential.
Let’s make sure this becomes part of the discourse with the Department of City Planning during public review; they should be doubling down on everything situated in the Bay Street Corridor.
I believe some additional density can work in a select areas with a value for the greater community, but the transportation corridor is critical to the realization of that vision. To that end we need to pay attention to the details. The Stapleton Station entrances should be inviting to all: residents, visitors and tourists alike. These entry points should announce to any and all comers that Stapleton is an important element of the transportation corridor, and visitors and locals alike can enjoy a day at the waterfront, a stroll through the area or dinner at a local restaurant - all while leaving your car at home.
This may seem trivial but let’s not forget: you never get a second chance to make a first impression. For your consideration…
You’re Cordially Invited.
MULTIPLICATION X SUBDIVISION
OCTOBER 11, 2016
Imagine for a moment you bought property on Staten Island in order to build your dream house - but when you tried to build you were told you couldn’t use the street that fronts your property. You might say, “No….that couldn’t happen.”
Well guess what - it can, it has and from the looks of it, it probably will again.
That’s why I’m adamant about preserving the integrity of the City Map, which is the compilation of all streets mapped by the city. So what really matters is whether or not you front a street on the city map and who actually owns that street. In many instances it isn’t the City of New York, so when applications for property subdivision are filed with the Department of City Planning, someone should be verifying that the prospective new owners will actually be able to access their lots.
Often times, the agency will ignore the status of the street and just approve the subdivision. That could ultimately set up unsuspecting buyers for the biggest surprise of their life, after making the biggest investment of their life.
Now add to the mix the myriad of other streets and roads: private, record, prescriptive, stairway, and on and on. So the next time you drive down a street and that keeps getting wider and then narrower, or forces you to drive around an existing house or a fence that juts into the street – remember this rant!
Each subdivision creates additional buildable lots that strain the existing infrastructure. As we struggle to keep pace with necessary traffic improvements we need to know that all the lots approved for subdivision meet all the requirements to deliver the intended final product. Lots that meet requirements aren’t necessarily lots that have clear access. Approved subdivisions that are only accessed by streets owned by someone other than the city might mean the property is inaccessible and possibly unbuildable.
Each day here at Borough Hall we contemplate our next moves to preserve and improve the quality of life for all Staten Islanders. The sins of our past have established the game board, one that is very familiar to me but very difficult to alter. But I will continue to work to simplify the maze until everyone can move as far as they want along every open corridor on that board.
It’s time to change the game.
ACADEMIC MUSICAL CHAIRS
OCTOBER 5, 2016
It’s no secret that we have an overcrowding problem at many schools, throughout various grades and neighborhoods. I recently forwarded a letter to Chancellor Carmen Fariña and Ms. Lorraine Grillo, President of the School Construction Authority, requesting that we begin a meaningful dialog in an effort to solve this problem. ...
Here’s some background: in 1975 the Special South Richmond Development District was enacted, establishing a new Special Zoning District for the then-underdeveloped South Shore. The District included a requirement that City Planning certify that there were enough available school seats prior to the approval and construction of new dwelling units.
Forty-one years later, we are still trying to count available school seats in the now mostly-developed South Shore, as well as everywhere else in the Borough. For years we have struggled to quantify the ever-changing landscape in neighborhoods fraught with underdeveloped lots, teardowns and ownership turnovers that have resulted in additional density, dwelling units and in some instances – brand new neighborhoods. This has left our current stable of schools bursting at the seams.
So how many children live on your block? I bet the answer to that question changes more frequently than you might imagine. Now ask the Department of Education how many children will have to be accommodated in 2018 in any particular Staten Island school, and you can imagine the permutations.
The current system, which is only applicable to the South Shore, is outdated and unreliable, and there is no other zoning control applicable to the balance of the Borough.
I believe we should tear-down the current system and start from scratch. We need to develop a better framework and provide the Department of Education and the School Construction Authority with the insight and data needed to adequately serve the Borough’s future needs.
Do you remember playing “musical chairs” at a party? And do you remember that feeling when the music stopped and you were still standing? That’s not what we want for our kids; let’s get to work on a real 21st solution to this problem. When the music stops and they want to advance, all of our children should be able – MUST be able – to find a seat.
NO PROPENSITY FOR DENSITY
SEPTEMBER 29, 2016
Last June, at the public scoping meeting for the Bay Street Corridor Rezoning, I said I supported the effort and believed that ultimately people, investments, jobs, economic opportunities, a cultural renaissance, energy and vibrancy would all follow. I also cautioned that the renaissance of this area will not take place in a vacuum, and that it all needs to be done correctly.
“We need to get it right,” summed it up nicely.
So I start this rant with the same question I posed at the public meeting: which of these two lines do Staten Islanders believe less?
1) The check is in the mail, or
2) You need critical mass first, and then you get the infrastructure improvements you want.
Well, the entire spring and the summer have passed and we haven’t heard a peep about infrastructure improvements. Last June I cautioned that this effort needs to be more of a holistic neighborhood planning initiative than a simple rezoning effort, and the results of that planning in terms of infrastructure commitments must be upfront, impactful and unwavering.
Borough Hall helped birth the Bay Street Corridor initiative and we are committed to seeing this process through in a way we believe helps the community. The Draft Neighborhood Plan is scheduled for public release in October, and I have made my position clear that I would not support sixteen story developments anywhere in the Corridor.
This cannot be another exercise in allowing development first and then playing “catch-up” with infrastructure. This plan must include the necessary critical infrastructure components and funding required to assist with the revitalization of Stapleton for the existing community. I cannot support a rezoning application that does not provide real solutions to anticipated infrastructure problems.
I know what I want, but more importantly – I know what I don’t want. So I offer…No Propensity for Density!
CURB TO CURB
SEPTEMBER 21, 2016
It is infuriating that almost a billion dollars in taxpayer money for resurfacing continues to be undercut each and every day by wild, wild west-like utility cut rules. It simply must stop. Here is the truth: utility companies, builders and their hired plumbing professionals, and the Department of Environmental Protecting (DEP) are systematically destroying all the progress DOT is finally making on our streets.
Drive around Staten Island and take a look at “fully restored” street cuts on roads that were resurfaced by DOT just months ago and cut into recently. These “fully restored” roads, which in reality are anything but, are tomorrow’s problematic streets.
The only answer is legislating curb to curb milling and repaving of these street cuts. They all fail otherwise. I’m not sure why, but it appears Steve Matteo and I are the only people in city government talking about this and trying to find solutions. We are drafting a legislative package that would finally address this issue.
The current rules simply don’t work. Consider an example of Remsen Avenue, where those rehabbing a home for more than six months cut into the street mere months after it was fully resurfaced by DOT. It’s not as if the rehab project began after the resurfacing took place. No! The project was already underway, the street was resurfaced, and soon after the newly resurfaced street was cut into. This is a clear demonstration that the process if not only flawed, it is broken.
We here at Borough Hall were duly proud of the success of Pave, Baby, Pave, our very vocal campaign directed at City Hall which resulted in a large increase in the number of lane miles re-surfaced in our borough. Indeed, from FY ’16 through FY ’18 the city will have allocated $834M for 4,000 lane miles of re-surfacing. This is taxpayer’s money, the impact of which we cannot allow to be undercut (pardon the pun) by utilities, agencies and contractors.
Has this always been a problem? Yes! But it is more noticeable and maddening now that we have this opportunity of a lifetime of a Mayor who allocated so many resources to fixing our streets. His efforts are being undermined each and every day, and will continue to be the city makes a real effort to address this problem.
UP NEXT: TODT HILL REZONING
SEPTEMBER 15, 2016
I think many folks have imagined, at one time or another, what it would be like to live in the stately and bucolic Todt Hill section of Staten Island, amidst a housing stock that runs the gamut from modest ranches to majestic estates.
Now envision someone having the bright idea to start knocking down those detached houses and replacing them with attached townhomes – you’d think him crazy, and besides, there’s no way that could be legally permitted, right? You’d likely assume that Todt Hill’s zoning protects those homes, with an eye on maintaining the character of that neighborhood for posterity.
Well guess what – it doesn’t.
Not only does the existing zoning along Ocean Terrace permit attached buildings, it also supports apartment houses. So when we notice one house being knocked down to make way for four townhouses – despite the Special Natural Area District controls to preserve the natural features and existing character of the neighborhood - we start making lists and taking names.
We begin with the Department of City Planning (DCP). DCP has approved what’s called a “non-discretionary” certification, allowing a developer to start the obliteration of a portion of this neighborhood in short order. Despite CM Matteo’s and my best efforts and strenuous objections to the proposal, DCP basically laid it on the line for us: do what we need to do to change the zoning, or prepare for the destruction of the character and natural features of that lovely hillside neighborhood with the introduction of more dense building types.
And while we’re at it we’ll take a look at other large lots and soft sites too. Soft sites are under-developed lots where density can be increased. So changing the zoning is what we will do, as well as inoculating soft sites against the ravages of inappropriate development.
PASS ON GAS
SEPTEMBER 12, 2016
The record abounds with what we feel are poor decisions on the part of the Board of Standards and Appeals (BSA) when it comes to granting special permits or variances to developers. Far too often the referencing “hardship” is as twisted as a pretzel, yet the BSA swallows it with barely a chew.
As you hopefully know by now if you’ve been following these rants, the BSA is part of the City's system for the regulation of land use, development and construction. They are empowered with interpreting the meaning of zoning laws, including the ability to vary, in certain instances, the provisions of these regulations.
A case in point is the special permit request for 1842 Victory Boulevard, at Lester Street. For years it was a small, non-conforming, neighborhood gas station with an even smaller attendant’s booth, where you could buy an ice-cream or a soda pop.
As in similar cases we’ve described, the owners are seeking a BSA approval to re-install pumps that have been gone for years – and to which they are simply no longer entitled. In addition to the gas pumps, the owners want to construct a new two-story building, a convenience store with offices above and a drive-through.
CM Matteo and I have been vehemently opposing this proposal. We have communicated with the BSA in writing and have testified before the Board at each public hearing. In our opinion, if you are going to build an as-of-right convenience store, then go ahead and build it. If you are requesting a special permit to build an incompatible gas station, then go ahead and request it – we will argue that it flies in the face of the spirit of the law and must be denied.
But the idea that the owners are seeking relief to permit the installation of gas pumps, while at the same time building an as-of-right project is, as far as we’re concerned, a non-starter. Add to that the fact that the new proposal will have no parking, but will have a drive-through that will impact the quality of life on Lester Street, and it’s easy to see why we object so strenuously and maintain that this project should never be built as requested.
And here’s the nail in the coffin of this monster of a proposal: we also have a capital improvement project along Victory from Lester to Sommers Lane. This proposal will basically undo everything that the improvements on Victory might achieve regarding traffic mitigation, and could potentially cause a “Traffic Armageddon” along a major arterial in the middle of a viable retail district.
This proposal will shatter the quality of life for homeowners on Lester Street, potentially bring back even more incompatible gas pumps while increasing the degree of non-conformance and reward the property owner with a use that is not permitted. That the BSA is even considering this bait-and-switch is appalling to us.
We at Borough Hall will continue to voice our concerns about any and all projects that put our communities’ quality of life in jeopardy. It is beyond my ability to understand how the BSA can be so tone-deaf to the needs of Staten Islanders - and trust me, these are only two of the many, many examples with which we take issue.
The list is as long as it is perplexing…
EN GARDE AT CUNARD
SEPTEMBER 6, 2016
Here’s what you have to love about the American private sector, especially land developers: if there is a buck to be made, whatever creative brain-power must be brought to bear to make it WILL be brought to bear. It’s what makes America’s economy pre-eminent in the world. I applaud it and encourage it…however, as you might have guessed, there is a “but” I wish to discuss.
The “but” in question occurs when the afore-mentioned creative brain-power contrives to directly conflict with public safety, and seeks assistance from New York City’s Board of Standards and Appeals (BSA) to do it. Such is the case with a scheme by developers to achieve access to five proposed houses on land-locked properties fronting an unmapped and unopened portion of Cunard Avenue on Grymes Hill.
Because it is generally prohibited to issue certificates of occupancy for buildings that do not front a mapped street, the developers are seeking a BSA approval to do so. But how, you might ask, will they access the property without connecting to an existing street?
Well, their proposal includes a “back door” scheme to provide restricted access through the purchase of a private residential lot from an adjacent street. That street is narrow, hilly, Cedar Terrace, and their plan is to construct a private road on that residential lot, next to existing houses on Cedar, in order to access Cunard.
For one thing, Cedar Terrace is barely navigable as it is – especially for emergency vehicles. To ask residents to accept additional traffic bound for the proposed new houses on Cunard is at the very least unfair – if not altogether unwise. As well, for our purposes the key word in “private residential lot” is “residential.” The lot in question is not designed, by zoning laws, to function solely as a private road. And without this connection, the BSA need not even opine on new construction fronting Cunard, since they wouldn’t be in any way accessible anyway.
Again, I admire American entrepreneurial initiative as much as the next person, but zoning laws exist for a reason. The BSA needs to look long and hard at this project before approving it, and when wielding their discretionary powers, do it with the entire community in mind.
BRUZER ON VAN DUZER
SEPTEMBER 1, 2016
I love it when a good plan knits together and becomes a reality. But when an obviously bad plan – and a potentially dangerous one - has a shot at getting an approval from a city agency like the Board of Standards and Appeals, I shake my head in disbelief and voice my strenuous objection to the madness.
Case in point: the folks at BSA are being asked to consider the approval of a variance for three townhouses in an area zoned strictly for one-family detached homes on Van Duzer Street where Broad Street currently dead-ends, forming a “T” intersection. And I mean literally at the foot of Broad Street: cars parked on the driveways of these homes would be forced to drive through the pedestrian crosswalk only to then enter directly into the signalized intersection of Van Duzer and Broad.
Remember the admonition: Don’t Block the Box? Well, our friends at DOT apparently have no qualms about allowing those who purchase these homes to blindly back into it. And to make a crazy situation even crazier, the cars entering the intersection from the driveways won’t have a traffic signal and won’t be able to see the existing traffic light which faces oncoming traffic from Van Duzer and Broad.
That’s right, DOT has ok’d the proposal “as-is,” and City Planning is on deck preparing to follow suit. That now allows the owner to go to the BSA, hat-in-hand, looking for a variance. It’s kind of strange that BSA would even consider it, since this seems to fly in the face of Vision Zero.
Although the owners of the property undoubtedly knew the difficulties they faced when purchasing these lots, that won’t deter them from claiming that a “hardship” exists, compelling them to seek relief from the BSA. Remember, the table has already been set for the owner to say the proposal has been accepted by DOT and, potentially, City Planning. That DOT has acquiesced and that the BSA and City Planning would even consider granting such relief – to the detriment of drivers and pedestrians who use that intersection – is what makes me question the sanity of the process and methods of doing business with the BSA.
I am as big a defender of the rights of individuals and business folks as anyone, but the property owners knew of the restrictions when the property was purchased; indeed, it may have factored into the offer they made to the former owner. By seeking to circumvent zoning rules - the rules everyone else has to follow and about which they had full knowledge - they lose my support.
So I sit and wonder if the Department of Buildings will fall in line or ask the DOT, City Planning and the Board of Standards and Appeals why a proposal with an obvious inherent public safety issue would be considered for such relief.
LOOKS LIKE A JOB FOR SCOTT LOBAIDO
AUGUST 30, 2016
You have read about the ongoing saga about the lack of an American flag atop Borough Hall in previous posts on this page.
Although I'm a tenant of this building, which is operated by the NYC Department of Citywide Administrative Services (DCAS), I can't just sit back and allow this building to not have an American flag clearly visible.
That is why we're calling on our friend, Scott LoBaido, for help. Tomorrow at noon,if you are in the vicinity of Borough Hall I invite you to the Richmond Terrace side to see the temporary solution Scott and I came up with to ensure Old Glory is visible at Borough Hall once again!
NO OLD GLORY. SAME OLD STORY.
AUGUST 25, 2016
The saga of our quest to have Old Glory flying once again atop Borough Hall sadly continues. In case you don’t know the story, this past Memorial Day weekend we noticed the flag above the building was gone, and were told by DCAS (the Department of City Administrative Services, our landlord) that something-or-other was broken and the flag soon would be replaced. Well, that didn’t happen. Further examination revealed that the flagpole itself needed to be replaced.
Okay, sounds simple enough, right? Wrong.
I was then told that in the last week of June a crane would be sent to Borough Hall and a replacement pole would be installed. Not so fast. They discovered Con Edison vaults were below the sidewalk in the area where the crane would stand, and it was too risky to position heavy equipment there. Uh-oh. No flag for the Fourth of July either.
Subsequently I learned that once they found a spot for the crane and the pole was removed, DCAS would need to ensure that the base on the roof was structurally sound enough to hold a new pole. It seems they have had issues in the past at other locations, where they found the beams holding the base of the pole were rotted and needed to be replaced.
If that turns out to be the case, they would need to open the roof, repair or replace the beams, then replace that section of the roof. You can’t make this stuff up.
The story doesn’t end there, oh, no. A few weeks ago, DCAS informed me that the job had to be filed, which means their existing contractor couldn’t do this work, and they needed to find an MWBE (Minority or Women-Owned Business Enterprise) vendor who could complete the filing and do the work for under $35k. However, if that cannot happen DCAS will be required to bid it out – which takes a minimum of 4 months.
So someday, by the dawn’s early light, we will see the Stars and Stripes flying once again over Borough Hall. But apparently, not anytime soon.
By the way, the reason I have detailed this story is not because life cannot go on without the Stars and Stripes flying above this building; real efforts are being made to correct the situation. I tell it to illustrate the kinds of hurdles we must clear, every day, on so many other matters - matters that impact the lives of Staten Islanders to a much, much greater extent.
SAY NO TO MONROE
NOVEMBER 8, 2016
Hall of Fame football coach Bill Parcells once said, "You are what your record says you are."
When it comes to the Bloomingdale Park sidewalk situation, here is the record:
New York State DOT: getting it done.
City agencies: Have not. Did not. Will not.
I’m so glad we made the decision to reach out to State DOT
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