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  • By Jennifer Polovetsky On Wednesday, August 09 th, 2017 · no Comments · In , , ,

      Maybe not, but we heard an interesting real estate related story about cats. A building on the site of 778 Onderdonk Avenue in Ridgewood, Queens, was in the process of being demolished, when construction workers and neighborhood residents realized that the site was not empty. More than 40 cats, which had been left by a former tenant who had hoarded them in her apartment, were living in crawl spaces and throughout the building. If you are an animal lover, brace yourself for this news. DNAinfo reported on Thursday, July 31st that dozens of cats were found dead, emaciated or injured in the building after demolition had commenced. When construction began in mid-July, neighbors started to smell the odor of cat urine coming from the building. A few days later, it was reported in the New York Times that demolition was stopped after a group of women from the neighborhood and animal rescue organizations intervened with the owner, Isaac Silberstein. The first cat sightings were by a neighbor who saw a cat leap out of a dumpster where workers were unloading debris from the construction site. The neighbors then started to complain to the Department of Buildings to try and get the construction halted. Luring the cats out of the building has been a concerted effort by neighbors and rescue groups including A Tail of Two Kitties.   About 20 cats have been trapped and taken to shelters. The other half of the bunch are most likely still in the building, difficult to trap and given new homes.  Even with the assistance of Animal Care Centers of NYC (the City’s animal control agency) some cats were still in the building. A private company was brought in by Silberstein to remove the cats but their methods provided to be inhumane and ineffective. Apparently they sprayed bleach to drive out the cats with the smell. The smell, not to mention the inhumane procedure, upset the neighbors. The neighbors then offered their own solution: they would rescue the cats themselves. Dolores Benefatti, 62, who lives near the building, described going into the space to see what was going on. She said, “We went in with lanterns. There were cats everywhere,” she said, describing stepping over clumps of debris in the gutted building. “Every two steps you took, there were cats flying by you.” Just when you thought it couldn’t get worse, we read that the team even found a kitten with an umbilical cord still attached. (It later died.) What is the status now?   The building has been closed to the original rescuers, per the city, and the property manager has promised that no more work will be done until all the cats are out. Several groups are raising money to help with medical bills and food for the cats. Being both cat and dog owners ourselves, this story really hits home.  Hopefully all the kitties will be rescued and will go on to live happier lives than they have had so far.

    09 Aug
    09 Aug
  •   By this point we should be almost half-way through the MTA summer of hell in transit speak. As New Yorkers, and commuters, we just can’t seem to get enough of MTA news. So if you haven’t heard the big news, it’s that Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo made a trip to Washington. It’s a rare occurrence and truly highlights the importance of the nation’s most used commuter hub. Let’s face it–Cuomo is facing intense public scrutiny on the state of New York City’s deteriorating subway system, and his lack of action in regards to fixing it.  Plus, there is the ongoing argument with NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio over the City’s transportation needs and who will be paying for it. Reports indicate that it’s not only transportation the group will be talking about–taxes and healthcare are also purportedly on the agenda–although we can’t help but note that the transit crisis is a big issue that no one seems to know how to solve. Did you hear that the MTA chairman, Joseph J. Lhota, recommended removing seats from some train cars in order to cram more riders aboard?  There is no way in the world that could ever be considered a good idea.  Perhaps Mr. Lhota should try riding the LIRR during rush hour.  No doubt he, like we, will end up standing while getting sandwiched between a few strangers for 45 minutes–after being told that the 3 trains before that train have been canceled.  The image of angry sardines comes to mind… But back to politics.  The Washington DC meeting was held with Democratic members of the New York congressional delegation and the transportation secretary, Elaine Chao.  According to reports, Cuomo discussed infrastructure needs with Ms. Chao, including the Gateway project, which we blogged about several times over the past few weeks. You’ll remember that the Gateway project–which would create a new rail tunnel between New York and New Jersey–has been delayed for quite some time (together with some other major New York infrastructure projects, like East Side Access). What comes out of the meetings remains to be seen. We hope it will be something productive, since that the governor has not been Washington, D.C. to lobby the federal government in more than four years.

    26 Jul
    26 Jul
  • There’s some pretty big news coming for LIRR commuters and it’s got a price tag of $56 billion. That’s according to the office of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and his efforts connected to the “transformation of the Long Island Rail Road to strengthen the region’s transportation infrastructure and usher in a new era of economic growth.” Let’s just say that we feel it’s about time and about 70 years in the making. Ok, 50 as we’ll give the system 20 years before it needed some TLC. After all, the Long Island Railroad is the busiest commuter train system in the nation and it is the main form of transportation to and from work for hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers. One of the main areas for improvement is the Penn-Farley Complex. If you will remember, we recently blogged about the Gateway Project, which will connect travelers from across the Northeast corridor and bring riders into the heart of the system which is part of Penn-Farley Complex. The complex will feature the new Moynihan Train Hall, a $1.6 billion, 255,000 square foot facility that is expected to open in 2020. The Penn-Farley Complex also includes the newly opened West End Concourse, which enables LIRR commuters to board trains without entering Penn. WOW!  This also includes completion of the long awaited East Side Access project that will – ready for this? — create the first direct LIRR service to the east side! That will result in an increase capacity to and from Manhattan. It sounds almost too good to be true! There are 39 stations that will be improved for passenger experience, flow and convenience. The main parts of the plan include: Main Line Third Track The $2 billion LIRR Expansion Project will add a third track to 9.8 miles along the congested Main Line of the LIRR between Floral Park and Hicksville, and eliminate all seven street-level grade crossings within the project corridor.  There are some eminent domain takings associated with this project. Double Track The $387.2 million, 12.6 mile double track project will enable the LIRR to provide more frequent off-peak service to the Ronkonkoma Branch in both directions, with off-peak service going from one train every hour, to one train every 30 minutes in both directions. Mid-Suffolk Train Storage Yard Due to lack of east end storage, the state is building a $128 million Mid-Suffolk Storage Yard in Ronkonkoma. The Yard will provide additional space for train car maintenance, inspections and servicing for the electric fleet and thus allow the LIRR to increase service during the AM rush by almost 50 percent, adding eight westbound trains to the current AM schedule. Jamaica Station Signals, Tracks and Infrastructure The configuration of tracks at Jamaica Station has not been updated since the station opened in 1913. As part of a $375 million project, the state is reconstructing Jamaica Station, which handles nearly all LIRR trains, including higher speed switches and new signals, and a new platform to streamline operations and increase service capacity to Atlantic, Penn and Grand Central. It might take more than one “Summer of Hell” but hopefully we’ll have a commute from heaven when it’s all over. If we’re not retired by then…  

    25 Jul
    25 Jul
  •   Over the past few weeks we’ve blogged about some serious topics, so we thought it would be a good time to post something on the weird and somewhat wacky. Literally. We will tell you the punchline first and then give you the background. We know people don’t like to read too much these days… If you visit Naples and take a day trip to Pompeii, be sure to visit the man, forever frozen in ash, who looks to be masturbating in his last moments. Most reports say that’s not what he was doing….In fact, his private pose is probably something far more terrifying. Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79 A.D., and buried the ancient Roman city of Pompeii under a thick carpet of volcanic ash. According to a witness, and we didn’t think there were any, the dust “poured across the land” like a flood, and shrouded the city in “a darkness…like the black of closed and unlighted rooms.”  These unfortunate victims were buried for 1,700 years under 30 feet of mud and ash. When erupted, it sent a surge of super-heated volcanic material through the city of Pompeii. About 2000 people were killed and the city was buried in a thick carpet of volcanic ash. Like a horror movie in real life, the heat was so intense that many of the victims suffered sudden muscle contractions that left them frozen in contorted or crouching poses. So, the man most likely did not die in a moment of pleasure, but probably instantly in a blast of hot gas, which he probably didn’t see coming. In 2001 a study looked at 80 skeletons taken from ash that had solidified. It found signs that the victims close to the eruption would have been killed before they felt any pain. Other victims were killed by falling debris in collapsed buildings, or possibly by suffocating in the ash. So, did the man die in action or from the horrifying heat… How do we see these ash-mummies? It didn’t happen by accident. In the 1800’s the site was excavated, and someone realized that if they poured plaster of Paris into the voids in the compacted ash, molds could be made that captured the victims’ bodies, facial expressions, and final poses. Let’s just say that one of the molds certainly looks to have captured a man in mid-wack. “Heretofore archaeologists misinterpreted them as people struggling to breathe and believed they died suffocated by ashes,” Volcanologist Giuseppe Mastrolorenzo has said. “Now we know that couldn’t be.” Because of the extreme heat, “when the pyroclastic surge hit Pompeii, there was no time to suffocate,” he said. “The contorted postures are not the effects of a long agony, but of the cadaveric spasm, a consequence of heat shock on corpses.” Check out the photos and see for yourself!

    07 Jul
    07 Jul
  •   Hang on to your summer hats, we’ve got some serious eminent domain news to share. Yup, we are talking about the recent case Murr v. Wisconsin and the recent eminent domain handed down by the Supreme Court concerning regulatory takings. Sounds like a lot of people are upset about this decision, some say with good reason. The case deals with the situation encountered by Donna Murr and her siblings in Wisconsin. Donna and her family owned two small parcels of land along the St. Croix River. On one parcel was a cabin. The other adjoining property parcel, was left vacant as an investment. In 2004, the family attempted to sell the vacant lot. Bad news for them, the state of Wisconsin had changed the rules and it became impossible to sell the land to anyone other than the county. That’s unless they combined the properties and relinquished the entire package. Appraisals had valued the merged lots at $698,300, and at $771,000 if they were two separate properties. (OUCH!) The Murr family did what most people would do for that kind of cash, they sued to be properly compensated under the Takings Clause. They felt that the state, through changes in laws that did not apply when the family acquired the land, had completely gutted its worth. They argued that the lot lines always define the relevant parcel. Well, SCOTUS says otherwise. It turns out that when governments issue regulations that undermine the value of property, bureaucrats don’t necessarily have to compensate property holders. Their argument, however, “ignores the fact that lot lines are themselves creatures of state law, which can be overridden by the state in the reasonable exercise of its power,” Justice Kennedy said. He went on to say that “[m]erger provisions often form part of a regulatory scheme that establishes a minimum lot size in order to preserve open space while still allowing orderly development.” According to Ilya Somin, a professor of law at George Mason University who authored the amicus brief on behalf of those western states: “Many state governments own contiguous lots and large bodies of water near areas owned by the federal government (military bases, national parks, etc). If those government bodies are allowed to merge contiguous lots for regulatory purposes, the federal government could impose severe restrictions on state land and wouldn’t have to pay consequences.” This regulatory takings holding impacts will impact a lot of people whose property is seized by eminent domain. Justice Clarence Thomas said: “Something has gone seriously awry with this Court’s interpretation of the Constitution. Though citizens are safe from the government in their homes, the homes themselves are not.”

    01 Jul
    01 Jul
  • By Jennifer Polovetsky On Friday, June 23 rd, 2017 · no Comments · In

      According to Variety Magazine (our secret pleasure for now), even veteran celebrity property gossips didn’t know that the nine-time Grammy Award winner, Sheryl Crow, owned an apartment in Noho. (That would be North of Houston, NYC). Is it fair to guess that she didn’t spend much time there? The lovely pad is located 46 Great Jones Street is a 2,000-square-foot co-op loft space has two bedrooms and one bathroom. (We know! Just one bathroom?!) We guess she wasn’t expecting too many guests or looking for privacy from her two sons. The space features 13-foot ceilings, exposed brick, a funky clawfoot tub, massive windows and extra storage space in the basement. It also has lots of light and open spaces, including a dining room and a chef’s kitchen. You MUST check out pictures of the place. It’s so sweet. To be exact, the property was sold for $2,272,500. Crow sold the unit using trusts associated with her financial manager, Joel William Vuylsteke. One of them is called the “Beach Trust,” which we agree is very appropriate. Back in November it was listed for $2.35 million with Timothy Bascom of Bascom Real Estate. Who bought the Noho place? According to city records, the buyer is Fadi Hanna, a managing director at J.P. Morgan. Crow recently came out with her ninth studio album, “Be Myself,” which has gotten great reviews. (Go Crow! We’re fans…) Since we are here and speaking about the singer’s real estate holdings, we also read that she once owned a magnificent 10-plus-acre compound with three residences and a resort-worthy swimming pool near the base of Runyon Canyon in foothills above Hollywood. That property was sold in 2014 for $11.085 million to film and television writer/producer Alan Ball. She now spends most of her time outside of Nashville, where she is raising her two boys, Wyatt and Levi. It sounds like she enjoys having a bit more space. Currently, she lives in a home located on largely undeveloped land along the Cumberland River. It is a thickly wooded 50-plus acre spread with a 7,000-square-foot main residence, a smaller secondary home. The property has a barn with a recording studio, a saloon, horse stables, and her own church. Crow built it all on 50 acres of the land. Some news media say that Crow also continues to own a gulf-front residence in the Santa Rosa Beach area on the Florida panhandle that was scooped up in early 2003 for exactly $1 million. Definitely an interesting portfolio of properties!  

    23 Jun
    23 Jun
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