Thursday, July 10, 2008

This Week's Forum West and South

Is this the American Dream?

Two Planes Nearly Collide Over JFK

Video of Boxing Match in JVP Draws Parks Ire

Local Residents Busted for Illegal Dumping

Lawn Litter Enforcement Begins in August

MTA Raises Fare Beating Fine

Metro Ave Warehouse Raided

Kosciuszko Replacement Delayed Again

Officer Dies in Afghanistan

Is This the American Dream?

By Steve Tiszenkel

Sometimes it seems like nobody wants to talk about the hot potato of Forest Hills life. Your typical FoHi local will go on and on about restaurants, shopping, public works, crime, government, you name it. And sure enough, the Forest Hills residential construction boom is often a hot topic—who doesn't have an opinion on the monstrous, ornate houses with paved-over yards that have been sprouting in the neighborhood for years, towering over the modest ranches they're increasingly replacing?

But who's building those houses? Everybody knows the answer, but few can discuss it without raising their voices above a whisper. But this under-the-radar issue exploded into Forest Hills' collective consciousness last week. And in this day and age, when people who have never met can become the closest of friends by connecting through blogs and message boards and social-networking sites, it took the oldest of old media institutions—The New York Times—to do it.

“To the Bukharian Jews of Central Asia,” the Gray Lady announced in Saturday's local edition, “a big house is an essential tradition ... Nowhere has their love of big homes been on more opulent display than in a section of Forest Hills known as Cord Meyer, an upper middle class neighborhood long cherished by its residents for its tranquility and architectural charm.”

Consider the powder keg officially blown. The Times' take on the Bukharian McMansion situation, rightfully deemed a “must-read” by the comprehensive blog Splitting Hairs in Forest Hills, was chock full of great quotes that offered some rare, valuable insight into the thought process that goes into building the controversial houses. Forest Hills is a heterogeneous community, and I continue to firmly believe that relations between its divergent groups are some of the best you'll find in New York, possibly some of the best in any major American city.
But pan-ethnic harmony is a lofty goal, and the fact that we're doing better than others doesn't mean that we couldn't be doing a lot better. Truth be told, those old-line Queens types don't make many attempts at communication with the Bukharians whose enormous houses they deplore, and vice versa.

Fortunately, The Times has done the heavy lifting. For Bukharian community leaders, the age-old American dream narrative predictably comes into play: “We're dreaming of this freedom! We were dreaming to build big house,” the president of the Bukharian Jewish Congress of the U.S.A. and Canada told the paper. Certainly, many an immigrant group has wanted to stake a claim in its new home.

But others interviewed by The Times made comments suggesting a troubling, fundamental disconnect in values between themselves and their neighbors. One Bukharian rabbi, born in Uzbekistan and raised in Kew Gardens Hills, called front yards “useless” and a “waste of time,” seeming almost disgusted as he observed the very thing many in the neighborhood would fight to save.

I have no doubt there's a strong thread of xenophobia running through many protests against the Bukharian houses. Newcomers' arrival and old timers' visceral reaction against them and their traditions is the story of America, of New York in particular, and of Queens even more specifically. Nobody hates immigrants more than the children of immigrants. But when two sets of beliefs are so radically different, it's easy to see some validity, maybe even a whole lot of validity, in the incumbents' complaints.

So. What do I think about the McMansions when I force myself down from my moralizing pedestal? Well, you want the honest truth? I think they're a blight on the neighborhood and need to be stopped by any legal means possible. I think they're both ostentatious and generic.

I think that they're in horrible taste and that no serious architectural critic anywhere in the world would find any value in them whatsoever. I think that despite the protestations of their builders, they are, in fact, a deliberate display of wealth by people who don't understand that the most effective and tasteful way to convey success is to go the understated route.

I think the concept of stone lions standing guard at a private home is ridiculous, and I think that just because something is shiny, doesn't make it look good. But then, I grew up more than 6,000 miles from Uzbekistan, here on an island where a different generation of immigrants once aspired to get away from all the concrete and own a little green plot of their very own.

Steve Tiszenkel is also the author of Log on to read more about Forest Hills and the surrounding neighborhoods.

Two Planes Nearly Collide Over JFK


By Patricia Adams

Air traffic controllers at both JFK Tower and New York Tracon used the word 'ugly' to describe the near miss of two planes over JFK on Saturday night. A spokesman for the National Air Traffic Controller’s Association (NATCA) New York-JFK tower facility, Barrett Byrnes, said in a statement Monday, “One Tracon controller said it was the ugliest go-around they had seen in 24 years on the job."

The events have still not been confirmed and a preliminary report from the National Transportation Safety Board is expected by the end of this week or early next week. But air traffic controllers insist that there was a near midair collision at JFK. According to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), a Cayman Airlines flight was landing at the airport as another plane was preparing to leave. Cayman Airlines flight 792, a Boeing 737-300, needed to circle back around after a missed approach, as it was about 300 feet off the ground, but just as that was happening, a Linea Aeroea Navional de Chile flight 533, Boeing 767-300, was beginning to take off on a perpendicular runway.

The FAA reported that when air traffic controllers realized that the two flights were heading toward each other, orders were given for them to turn in opposite directions. The NATCA says the orders to turn came “too late,” and as a result “the paths of both jets crossed.”

Preliminary FAA radar data has put the two planes no more than a half mile apart horizontally and 300 feet vertically at their closest proximity, however, air traffic controllers maintain it was closer than that. NATCA claimed the two planes were approximately 100 feet apart. Controllers say that using perpendicular runways simultaneously is common at Kennedy and a number of other airports nationwide, and this near miss shows why the practice should be prohibited.

Despite the fact that most air traffic experts agree on the fact that perpendicular runway use is a problem, experts are also quick to identify other issues at the core of near miss incidents, such as Saturday’s. According to reports released by the Department of the Transportation Inspector-General, inexperienced air traffic controllers are a growing problem due to the rising number of retiring controllers and the scramble by the FAA to train and hire new ones. In fact, the FAA expects to replace nearly its entire workforce over the next decade.

Reports say that although the FAA caps the number of controllers who can be in training at a given site to 35 percent, 22 percent of the coutry's facilities do not adhere to that limit, and the Inspector-General’s office has questioned whether the limit is too high to begin with. The NATCA is insistent that the turnovers mean too many inexperienced employees will be directing traffic, perhaps dangerously, across the skies. The union said the FAA job openings illustrate just how dire the situation is to appeal to those with more experience.

"It's a sign of desperation that staffing is so bad at these facilities that the FAA has to offer such an outrageously high sum of money instead of negotiating a reasonable and logical solution to the mess it has created," said Patrick Forrey, president of the National Air Traffic Controller's Association, in a statement on Wednesday. Evidence of the push for hiring in New York, the FAA in January, was offering air traffic controllers $27,000 for relocation. In addition, those willing to commit to a three year assignment would get a bonus of up to $25,000. Seven months down the line, however, the bonuses have gotten even better, further supporting the theory that the FAA is desperate to recruit experienced workers. For those signing on by July 8 there would still be the $27,000 for relocating, but a four-year commitment would yield a $75,000 incentive bonus.

The FAA job posting makes it clear; the salary for air traffic controller specialists in the New York area who are responsible for ensuring "the safe, orderly, and expeditious flow of air traffic" ranges from $98,814 to $137,732 per year. The NATCA union claims that the New York facility has lost 13 percent of its certified controllers in the past two years and has not brought on any certified controllers since September 2006. As a consequence of the shortage in air traffic control personnel, passengers will also feel the crunch. Fewer people in control towers will bring on the slowing down of traffic overall and lead to delays on the runways.

To check the preliminary findings of the National Transportation Safety Board in this investigation, go to their website at

Officer Dies in Afghanistan

An NYPD lieutenant assigned to the 112th Precinct died on July 4 from injuries suffered in Afghanistan while serving with the National Guard.

The Department of Defense on Monday announced that Lt. Daniel Farkas, 42, of Fort Greene, Brooklyn died from injuries suffered from a non-hostile incident in Camp Phoenix, Kabul, Afghanistan. He was a 20-year veteran of the NYPD assigned to the Forest Hills-based precinct.

The incident is currently under investigation, according to the DOD. He joined the National Guard in 1992 and was assigned to the 27th Infantry Brigade Combat Team based out of Syracuse.

He is reportedly survived by his mother, who he lived with along with two sisters and two nieces. His family declined to speak with reporters, but an officer with the 112th Precinct described Farkas as an “extraordinary” person who was “very-well liked by his peers and his subordinates,” according to the Daily News.

Farkas was honored several times during his law enforcement career, including for helping arrest an Elmhurst man charged with setting a series of fires in Middle Village, Maspeth and Rego Park and for helping a federal marshal subduing a rowdy airline passenger in 2003.

The announcement comes just weeks after the death of another local National Guardsman, Sgt. Andrew Seabrooks of South Ozone Park, who was killed in Kandahar City, Afghanistan from wounds suffered when his vehicle hit a roadside bomb.

The deaths come at a time when casualties of American troops in Afghanistan have increased as forces battle the Taliban and Al Qaeda.

Video of Juniper Park Boxing Match Draws Ire of Parks Department

Above: The YouTube video of a boxing match in Juniper Valley Park.

By Conor Greene

MIDDLE VILLAGE – A video of an amateur boxing match apparently held in Juniper Valley Park – complete with a makeshift ring and several dozen spectators – was recently posted on YouTube and has gained the attention of residents and city officials.

The nearly eight-minute video has garnered nearly 1,000 hits since it was posted by user mikereka on June 23. It features a three-round fight between “Little Mark the Spark from Juniper Park” and “Brian the Abductor.” It opens with interviews of each conducted at the park by the referee, “Billy Bottles” using a beer bottle instead of a microphone.

The video then cuts to “The Ring,” which appears to be set up, complete with ropes, in the upper portion of Juniper Park. With a large group of spectators surrounding the ring, the two fighters exchanged words before squaring off. The interview videos appear to have been shot at the park during the day, while the match seems to take place at dusk, as the park lights can been seen in the background.

Round one begins with the two men, wearing boxing gloves, exchanging jabs and punches.

The crowd can be heard yelling things such as, “Fight each other” and “Jab him right in the mouth, Mark.” About one minute into the round, Little Mark connects with a right hand to the side of Brian’s face, knocking him to the ground. The crowd whistles and yells “Get up, get up!” as Brian sat on the ground for about five seconds, appearing slightly dazed before getting up, with some help.

The fight eventually ends in round three after Mark connected with several shots to Brian’s face. Even thought Brian was able to stay on his feet, the ref ended the bout, a decision disappointed at least one spectator.

“That ain’t the right, no way, somebody’s gotta get knocked out,” someone is heard yelling.

As of Wednesday morning, the video had been viewed 946 times on YouTube. A second video, just showing the first round knockdown punch, has been viewed 344 times. It features several slow motion replays of Mark punching Brian’s face, with the caption, “Strong effort but game over kid.”

The videos, which can be viewed at, caught the attention of the Juniper Park Civic Association, which represents 1,700 families in the neighborhood.

Its president, Robert Holden, called it “disturbing” and said it “demonstrates the need for regular police patrols” in the park. “The park attracts thousands of people a day during the summer months and it is imperative we get police coverage for Juniper,” Holden said.

The Parks Department also was not pleased that a video depicting a boxing match in a public park has been created. “This violent behavior will not be tolerated in New York City parks, because of the potential for serious injuries and disruption of the peace in the surroundings neighborhoods,” a spokeswoman said in a statement. “The Parks Department is working with NYPD to stop similar incidents from happening in any city parks.”

According to the person who posted the video, mikereka, the attention being paid to the video is not warranted. In an e-mail message, he said he is “unaware of a boxing match taking place at JVP.” He said, “If you look closely you can see the fights are not ‘real.’ These videos have been enhanced using software such as Final Cut Pro… No crime has been committed by any persons seen in these videos. I cannot say I’m sorry, but it’s unfortunate that a lot of residents and local officials are upset by these videos.”

Mikereka argues that he doubts “such a large group of people could actually get away with having a boxing match in a NYC park” without the NYPD responding “immediately to shut it down.”

A follow-up message was sent to mikereka seeking clarification as to whether the activities took place in Juniper Valley Park and whether the fight was staged. “The short answer is yes the footage seen on my page was staged for a lack of an in depth explanation,” he wrote. “It was not a fight. No fighting occurred in a public place.”

He adds, “The intent of the video is/was not to receive negative press/publicity. However, I guess it’s not bad that it’s been recognized by The Forum West… Again, the intent of the video on youtube/mikereka was not to anger residents & local officials. To set the record straight Billy “Bottles” & Reka “The Saint” just make funny videos.”

At least one local resident who viewed the video and has experience using Final Cut Pro software doubts that the fight was staged. “After Effects is really just a compositing program and can’t fake punches to the face,” said Rob Jett.

“Creative editing could make some things look more convincing, but not in that video.”

Local Residents Busted for Illegal Dumping

Sanitation Reports Ridgewood, Middle Village Violators

By Conor Greene

Nine vehicles used to illegally dump garbage have been seized from owners around the city, including from a Middle Village man and two Ridgewood residents, announced the Department of Sanitation.

Throughout June, the department’s Citywide Illegal Dumping Task Force seized and impounded nine vehicles allegedly used to illegally dump items at sites in Queens, Brooklyn and Staten Island. The task force, comprised of plainclothes Sanitation Police Officers, monitors known dumping site across the city and seizes vehicles of owners caught in the act.

“Illegal dumping is against the law,” said Sanitation Commissioner John J. Doherty. “If you do it, you will get caught. The Illegal Dumping Task Force is the city’s front line defense against illegal dumpers who shamefully use our streets and lots as their personal dumping grounds.”

The June impoundments included three vehicles seized in connection with dumping at locations Queens, including Maspeth, along with five in Brooklyn and one on Staten Island. In addition, George Strang, of 66th Drive in Middle Village, was caught using his 1998 Peterbilt dump truck to leave approximately 15 cubic yards of dirt and rocks on an Ingram Street lot.

The first incident of illegal dumping in Queens last month came on June 3, when a Washington state man was seen dumping five cubic yards of trash from a 2003 GMC truck in front of 131-02 40th Road in Flushing. On the 19th, three individuals –from Jamaica, Hollis and Mt. Vernon – were seen dumping three cubic yards of trash from a 1996 Ford Econoline at 95-10 Tuckerton Street in Jamaica.

The following day, Michal Mosur of 66th Place and Patryk Laszckowski of 68th Road, both in Ridgewood, were caught dumping one cubic yard of stones at 54th Road and Laurel Hill Boulevard in Maspeth.

The Department of Sanitation has two programs that include public participation in stopping illegal dumping. Under the Illegal Dumping Award Program, a person who sees illegal dumping and completes and affidavit leading to the conviction of the violator is eligible to receive up to 50% of the fine collected by the city. The individual must appear at a hearing if the accused appears before the Environmental Control Board to challenge the summons.

Under the Illegal Dumping Tip Program, residents can remain anonymous, but must provide information that helps the department catch the dumper red-handed. The tipster’s identity remains confidential, and they don’t have to appear at a hearing, but are only compensated if the department subsequently catches the person.

The city urges residents to follow these guidelines if they observe somebody illegally dumping materials on a sidewalk, street or property:

Observe the vehicle
•Do not make your presence known;
•Do not touch the discarded material
•Report the vehicles, not the individuals.

Record vital information
•License plate number
•Vehicle description
•Nature and quantity of material dumped
•Time, date and location of occurrence

File a citizen complaint with the Sanitation Police. Check or call 311 for details on these programs.

Lawn Litter Enforcement Begins in August


By Conor Greene

Residents tired of having unwanted circulars, restaurant menus and other fliers dumped on their lawn can fight back starting next month, when the city begins enforcing a new law intended to reduce the amount of “lawn litter” left on private property.

The city Department of Sanitation will begin enforcing the new law on August 2, according to Assemblyman Mark Weprin (D -Little Neck), who co-authored the bill with Senator Frank Padavan (R-Bellerose). Fines will range from $250 for first time offenders to $1,000 for repeat offenders. The law was passed in January, but enforcement was put on hold until the Department of Sanitation finalized its procedures for assessing fines to violators.

Under the adopted rules, homeowners can place a sign stating: “Do Not Place Unsolicited Advertising Materials On This Property.” To report violators, residents can submit a signed complaint form (available online or by calling 311) and the unsolicited materials to the Department of Sanitation. Weprin called it a “great example of government responding directly to constituents’ concerns.” He was motivated to take action against this quality of life issue after “people around the city complained for years about receiving unsolicited advertisements on their property.”

Aside from the quality of life issues, the law was also motivated by safety, said Weprin. “Plastic bags become slippery when wet, elderly and disabled residents sometimes have difficulty bending down to pick up paper from the ground, and a pile of uncollected advertisements can be a signal to burglars that homeowners are away,” he said.

The final version of the enforcement rules were tweaked after civic organizations and elected officials complained that too much of the onus was placed on the resident. Under the proposed rules released earlier this year, residents would be required to have the form notarized before sending it back to the Sanitation Department’s enforcement unit.

That aspect of the law prompted Weprin and Padavan to write a joint letter to the Sanitation Department arguing, “It may be difficult for one reason or another for people to get to a notary.” The representatives expressed concerned that the requirement of a notarized complaint… may well discourage citizens [from submitting] complaints.”

While the notary requirement was considered to prevent false complaints against businesses and to add credence to resident’s complaints, it was deleted from the final requirements. Instead, residents submitting complaints “must certify that the information is truthful and accurate, and acknowledge that false statements in the complaint form are punishable” under state law. If necessary, they must also be available to testify before the Environmental Control Board.

In their letter to Sanitation, Weprin and Padavan noted that there appears to be widespread support for the initiative, which they compared to the “Do Not Call” registry. “From our personal observations, to complaints from community boards, civic organizations and our neighbors, unwanted literature, advertisements and fliers left on private property is not only a blight throughout Queens but a safety issue as well.”

MTA Raises Fine for Fare Beating


Jumping turnstiles with hopes of a free subway or bus ride has gotten a lot more expensive, with the MTA raising the penalty to $100 starting this week. It is the first such increase in nearly a quarter century.

The MTA board unanimously approved the hike last month, and it went into effect this past Monday (July 7). Since 1984, the penalty for slipping past a bus driver without paying or jumping over a subway turnstile has been $60.

A memo sent to MTA officials last month as the increase was being considered reportedly argued that “virtually every other form of civil fine in the region has increased, in many cases quite substantially.” NYC Transit President Howard Roberts told the New York Post that the authority is “looking across the board to see how to raise [fines].”

Through July 6, transit police issued 41,090 tickets for fare evasion and made an additional 8,437 arrests, the New York Times reported, citing police data. That equals 263 tickets or arrests out of more than five million riders each weekday around the city. That is in stark contract to 1990, when an estimated 200,000 people hopped the turnstiles each day. By 1997, that number had dropped to about 35,000 a day, the paper reported.

“Clearly, we believe that a deterrent such as a higher fine will get the attention of some people who would contemplate evading the fare,” a New York City Transit spokesman told the paper. “It’s not going to stop everybody, but the fact of the matter is, when they’re hit with that fine, that will give them a pause the next time they’re thinking about doing it.”

On its website, the Times presented a primer explaining “what exactly constitutes fare beating,” including situations where a turnstile machine refuses to accept a valid MetroCard. It warns that entering a station without swiping the card will lead to a ticket, even if you are in possession of a valid card.

The Times piece garnered dozens of comments from readers, including one who said she received a ticket for entering through the open emergency exit, even though she had a 30-day unlimited card. Once inside the gate, she was issued the fine. “Feeling that I was unjustly penalized for a minor infraction, I went to the Transit Adjudication Bureau to fight it,” wrote Emily S. Reub. “I explained the scenario to the officer, and although she seemed sympathetic with the situation, I was still slapped with the fine because I didn’t physically swipe my card before I entered. Who is right?”

Another reader met the move with cynicism. “How typical – focus on the low level misappropriation of service and ignore the brazen thievery and special privileged treatment at the top,” wrote Karen. “Have they given back all the free EZpasses yet?”

Brooklyn DA Raids Metro Ave Warehouse


By Conor Greene

RIDGEWOOD – An investigation by the Brooklyn District Attorney’s office into whether baseball caps are being marketed to street gang members led to the discovery a warehouse filled with counterfeit goods worth millions of dollars.

Jianfeng Guo, 29, owner of Eastern Trading, Inc, is accused of running the substantial counterfeiting operation of out a warehouse at 50-03 Metropolitan Avenue, several blocks from the Brooklyn boundary. He was arrested after authorities seized two truckloads of bogus goods last week.

Authorities estimate the value of genuine merchandise at about $4 million, but the knock-off versions were worth about $600,000. Receipts seized during Guo’s arrest indicated that the illegal business brought in about $16 million so far this year alone. Since 2005, Guo is believed to have netted $61 million from the business, costing the city and state $7.6 million in lost tax revenues.

Also charged with Guo’s girlfriend, Saile Gao, 27, who is also described as his employee, according to Kings County District Attorney Richard Hynes. Both are charged with third–degree trademark counterfeiting and face up to 15 years in prison if convicted.

“This type of counterfeiting and black-market dealing affects everybody’s bottom line,” said Hynes. “Merchants operating in this underground economy are able to sell their goods at lower prices than legitimate shopkeepers and deprive the city millions of dollars in lost tax revenue.”

The investigation began after Hynes’ office received complaints from Mothers Against Gangs that companies were designing and marketing baseball hats to appeal to gang members. With assistance of Major League Baseball, detectives from the district attorney’s office began making purchases from local stores to see if any were selling counterfeit items. That investigation eventually led authorities to the warehouse used by Guo’s business.

According to authorities, Guo ran his company, Eastern Trading Company, out of the Metropolitan Avenue warehouse, which was filed with three floors worth of counterfeit baseball caps, high-end clothing, razors, sunglasses, toys, cell phone cases and other items. Among the counterfeited brands were Major League Baseball, the Yankees, the National Football League, Duracell, Gillette, Dove, Chanel, Nike and Northface. The goods removed from the warehouse filled one 40-foot trailer and a 20-foot box truck, according to Hynes.

The items were to be sold at locations around the city, including by sidewalk vendors and in discount stores. Guo’s inventory was manufactured in China and shipped by boat through the Panama Canal to New Jersey’s Port Elizabeth. They were then trucked to the Queens warehouse, said authorities.

DA Hynes stressed to the public that counterfeit goods can be dangerous, as knockoff batteries often contain mercury, counterfeit clothing is unlikely to conform to American fire safety regulations and painted items may contain lead. Samples of the seized items are now being tested for the presence of heavy metals or other dangerous compounds.

Guo pled not guilty to the charges in criminal court last week, with bail set at $500,000.

Kosciuszko Replacement Delayed Again

Business Owners Left in Limbo

By Conor Greene

MASPETH -- The state has decided to replace the aging Kosciuszko Bridge with two parallel structures, but the effort has once again been delayed, to the frustration of property owners being forced out for the project.

Businesses and homeowners that will be displaced were informed that the project has been delayed for about two months so that the federal government can review the project’s timeline and costs, according to the state Department of Transportation.

The latest bad news for property owners comes after the project was already delayed for six months by the Historic Preservation Department, which had argued that the aging span carrying the Brooklyn Queens Expressway over the Newtown Creek between Maspeth and Greenpoint should be saved.

When breaking the news of the delay to business owners, state DOT officials were able to inform them that a decision has been made regarding the new structure’s design. It is expected to cost $630 million to demolish the existing structure and replace it with two parallel bridges. The construction phase is expected to begin in 2011 and take about five years to complete.

The plan is to build a four lane span, demolish the existing bridge, and then complete the second span. For the several dozen businesses and three homeowners that must move to make way for the project, the latest delay is beyond frustrating. George Kosser, vice president of Karp Associates, said the news is “very difficult on us and upsetting” because it has prevented them from purchasing a new piece of land elsewhere. “For the past 18 months we have been looking for buildings,” he said. “We recently found one that is a good fit, but we can’t move on it.”

According to the state DOT, the current delay is due to federal regulations requiring that state projects costing at least $500 million must under go a “risk assessment.” The federal review is expected to take place by the end of this week, in hopes that DOT can submit its formal plans to highway officials in Washington.

"It was unexpected," said state DOT spokesman Adam Levine. "We had spoken with the New York division office of the Federal Highway Administration, which said it wouldn't be a requirement, but the Washington office stepped in and said we have to."

The feds first told the state DOT that the study couldn't take place until October, but then agreed to perform it immediately, according to Levine. "We told them, and the division office told them that it is unacceptable because we are so close to completing the environmental study. It could have been worse, but it still is not anything we're pleased with."

With 100 employees, Karp Associates, which has been in Maspeth for 52 years, is the largest of the companies being forced to move. Before the project was announced, the company purchased additional land near its current location at the foot of the bridge so that it could expand its operations. “We had already hired an architect over four years ago, and then heard about the potential for the project and put everything on hold,” said Kosser. “We’re overcrowded beyond belief internally, and it’s hurting us.”

The problem now is that Karp can’t move ahead with a purchase of new land until it is assured that the project is moving forward, otherwise the funds currently earmarked to relocate businesses won’t be available. “Any risk that we take prior to the formal commitment from the DOT to us is strictly at our risk,” Kosser said. “If I go and buy a building and they don’t [move ahead with the project], I don’t have any recourse.”

Kosser indicated that any further delays might force Karp’s hand and force ownership to move ahead with the expansion project. That in turn would cost DOT money, as the amount they must compensate Karp for taking the land would increase. “I can’t stop forever,” he said. “We cannot continue down the path we have taken up until this point if the DOT can’t give us a firm date we can hold.”

The DOT says it sympathizes with the property owners and understands that “delay and uncertainty make it difficult to move forward with new leases.”

For Kosser and business owner Adam Gold, one positive of the whole ordeal has been the support it has received from the community. “We are overwhelmed,” said Kosser. “The residents and people from the community board literally stood up at meetings and told the DOT it was unfair what they are doing to Karp and other businesses. When [the process started], we thought for whatever reason that the community would never care about that happened to businesses. The community has been unbelievably supportive of our position, I can’t say that strongly enough.”