Rock climbing Mecca to arrive in LIC

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  1. admin

    super awesome! can't wait to check it out. thanks SP didn't even know about it.

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  2. Sean

    I want a membership! Can we pre-order? ;)

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Latest News

Long Island City is NO ‘low-rent’ neighborhood, prices remain firm

4610-Center-Blvd-5-465x3131

Dec. 18, By Michael Florio

Long Island City renters just can’t get a break.

The neighborhood is home to the highest average rental prices in Queens–whether it’s for studios, one-bedroom or two-bedroom apartments, according to the latest MNS Real Estate report.

Ed Cho, a real estate broker with Space Marketing Shop, said the average prices are so high because Long Island City has so many luxury apartments.

Cho said many of the luxury buildings come with high-rent amenities such as a fitness center, club room, a terrace, a swimming pool or even a yoga room.

“You will not find these features in any other neighborhood in Queens,” he said.

Long Island City rental prices have continued to rise despite the onset of winter. Typically, prices dip as the winter months approach since demand wanes.

“There is greater demand in summer since there are new students and new hires moving into the neighborhood,” he said.

In fall/winter, the market typically softens. For instance, in Astoria the average rent has dipped in the past couple of months.

However, in LIC the market keeps chugging along.

One-bedroom apartments don’t seem to be getting any cheaper. One-bedrooms went for $2,960 in November compared to $2,894 in October, an increase of 2.3 percent. Six months ago, in June, that number was $2,875

The rental figures for two bedroom apartments were largely unchanged between October and November, with the latest number coming in at $3,816. In June, however, the average rent was lower, at $3,747.

The report noted that the average rental price for a studio in Long Island City was $2,406 in November, up from $2,266 in October. The November number, however, was lower than $2,599 in June.

Cho said that rental prices in LIC were largely flat over the summer—which might account for the recent uptick of one and two bedroom apartments.

Cho said that several new buildings opened in the spring and summer months, which increased supply and stabilized prices.

“Every time one building would fill up, a new development would open,” he said.

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12 weekends of No. 7 train service cuts through May, Nine to impact LIC

weekendoutages

Dec. 17, By Christian Murray

Get ready for the latest round of No. 7 train weekend service cuts.

The MTA released its schedule for the first five months of 2015 and the No. 7 train will be out of service between Times Square and Queensboro Plaza for nine weekends.

In addition, there will be weekend service cuts between Willets Point and Flushing-Main Street on three other weekends.

The first weekend of the Times Square/Queensboro Plaza cuts is scheduled to take place January 17-19, which will be the first of four weekends in a row that it will be down.

The MTA says that the cuts are in order for it to install a new Communications-Based Train Control (CBTC) signal system; replace elevated tracks; and for the reconstruction and fortification of the Steinway Tubes (which connects Queens to Manhattan).

The MTA, which is a state-run agency, claims that majority of this work has been scheduled over weekends when ridership is lower than normal.

However, Long Island City businesses and cultural groups did not get to weigh in on when those cuts would be and received little notice about the dates.

“The MTA still isn’t engaging the community or responding to the community in a meaningful way,” said Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, who has been in talks with the agency. “I am very disappointed.”

Van Bramer said that it was unacceptable that the MTA would close service for several weekends in a row in January and February—during the coldest month of the year.

He said that residents might be a little more forgiving about the closures if they had seen improved No. 7 train service as promised. However, “the truth is that over the past few months No. 7 train regular service has been poor and there have been lots of delays.”

He said that on December 11 the delays were so bad that the overcrowded subway platforms put commuters at risk.

 

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The Beast Next Door–a Court Square cafe/bar–opens Friday

Beastnextdoor

Dec. 17, By Michael Florio

The beast is finally here.

The Beast Next Door, a neighborhood café and bar located in Court Square, is set to open its doors this Friday.

John Veenema, the owner, had hoped to open in August but it took him much longer to transform what was an old garage space into the café/bar.

The conversion of the 42-51 27th Street location was more complicated than he anticipated. He had to replace rusty beams, change the plumbing system, put in new wiring and install a new heating system.

He said the space had to be completely overhauled.

Veenema, who has a background in visual arts, also went to great length when he designed the interior of the café/bar.

Inside hangs an old chandelier and placed alongside the walls are old church pews–which are to be used as benches. Meanwhile, the tables are made out of salvaged pallets and timber from an old wooden prison door.

The café/bar also features a raised area toward the back of the establishment that serves as a seating area at times and as an area for live music.

Along the back wall there is a woodcut Turkish-design mural that Veenema made himself.

“The bar will be elegant and have a romantic feel,” Veenema said. “I want people to feel comfortable here, to have a conversation, and for people to get to know one another.”

The Court Square café/bar has room for about 75 people, and while there won’t be sidewalk seating there will be French-style doors that will open up to the street.

“It will feel like you are outside on nice days,” Veenema said.

Veenema is expecting about 50 people to attend the grand opening party at 7pm this Friday. He has hired a band for the occasion that plays ‘80s style rock music.

Veenema hosted a soft opening last Saturday that was attended by friends, family and neighbors.

“We had a great turnout,” he said. “People really enjoyed the environment and liked the lighting and furniture. They felt it was a comfortable and nice place to hang out.”

The menu will consist of combination plates, which will include Italian cured meats and French cheeses–served with bread, slices of fruit and nuts. There will also be sandwiches, salads and pastries.

“We want to serve high quality food items,” Veenema said. “There will be no fried food served here.”

To drink, Veenema said he will be offering four beers on tap, which will consist of Rockaway Brewing Company’s Original ESB, Allagash White, Sixpoint Brewery’s The Crisp, and Bell’s Two Hearted Ale.

There will also be wine and liquor.

This is Veenema’s first bar. However, he has industry experience having worked at Block Star, a Manhattan bar that has since closed.

Veenema, who is originally from Canada, has lived in Court Square for the past five years—after living in Manhattan for more than a decade.

Veenema has long wanted to open a café/bar in Long Island City and initially checked out the Hunters Point area.

However, he said Court Square was a better option.

He said that the Court Square section of Long Island City is undergoing a great deal of development, yet still offers limited options for residents.

He said that it was difficult finding a location in the area since most property owners are looking to sell their property or develop it.

“We want to be a place in Court Square where residents can come and have a conversation,” he said. “It will be a place to hang out and relax.”

beastinside

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Van Bramer introduces legislation that would provide residents with greater say when public artwork is selected
Rendering from three weeks ago

Rendering of the ‘Sunbather’ from three weeks ago (Cost: $515,000)

Dec. 15, By Christian Murray

Legislation is being introduced to ensure that the community has more of a say before bright pink sculptures–or any other pieces of art–are erected via the city’s Percent for Art program.

Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, who chairs the Cultural Affairs Committee, is sponsoring legislation that will provide the public with a greater voice when it comes to the selection of artwork.

“We are going to take a good comprehensive look at the Percent for Art Law to strengthen and bolster the community engagement process,” Van Bramer said.

The catalyst for Van Bramer’s legislation stemmed from the Percent for Art’s selection of an 8 ½ foot tall pink sculpture that is likely to be placed at 43rd/Jackson Avenue. The public had virtually no input into the decision, which was left to a panel consisting of representatives from a variety of city agencies and three local arts experts.

The artwork the panel selected—called the ‘Sunbather’—has been universally panned ever since a rendering of it was posted online.

Van Bramer said that the selection process needs to be changed and that the public must be able to weigh in on it early in the process.

“I want to make sure that there are public meetings–including town hall meetings–as part of the process,” he said. At the moment, he added, “there are a select few on a private panel who make these decisions… and then they consult the community board when it is almost a done deal.”

Van Bramer, a strong advocate for the program and the arts community, said “the panel should come to the public early in the process and discuss what the plans are.” Then the panel should incorporate that feedback and proceed further.

The Percent for Art program became law in 1982 and requires a portion of funds that are raised for city construction projects to be set aside for public art. Van Bramer said the law needs to be revised to ensure that all city residents will be heard whenever a piece of artwork is going through the selection process.

Councilman Van Bramer

Councilman Van Bramer

Van Bramer said that he spoke to Dept. of Cultural Affairs Commissioner Tom Finkelpearl yesterday about the legislation and asked him to come to Long Island City for a town hall meeting to discuss the ‘Sunbather’ as well as the Percent for Art program in general.

Finkelpearl is scheduled to speak in Long Island City in January—and Van Bramer said that it is not a done-deal that the ‘Sunbather’ will go up until the public is heard.

Furthermore, Van Bramer said that the administration cares about transparency and that the renderings should be online and available at request going forward.

Ten days ago, when this publication asked for the rendering, a spokesman for the program said: “They [the renderings] are not made publicly available until the proposal has been reviewed and is approved.”

State Sen. Mike Gianaris described the Percent for Arts selection process as “very bureaucratic” when he was interviewed Saturday.

“This decision was too much top down without consultation with local civic groups or the community board,” he said. “Yet we are the people who live here and have to see it every day when they drop this thing in.”

Several people have taken to comment boards and social media to voice their dislike of the sculpture—with one critic referring to it as the ‘Pink Panther’ and another saying that Stevie Wonder must have selected it.

Meanwhile, Hunt Rodriguez, who placed his own sculpture on Jackson Avenue last week in protest, said today that the whole project upsets him.

His biggest beef is that it comes at a cost of $515,000. “We are spending all that money on this nonsense, while the city falls apart.”

Hunt Rodregizus sculpture

Hunt Rodriguez’ sculpture

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Several LIC residents collect food and toys for the needy, as holiday spirit kicks in
Brent O'Leary, president of the Hunters Point Civic Association

Brent O’Leary, president of the Hunters Point Civic Association at St. Raphael’s Food Pantry

Dec. 13, By Christian Murray

Two Long Island City civic leaders stepped into action recently when they heard that a greater number of New Yorkers are likely to go hungry this Holiday Season.

Brent O’Leary, president of the Hunters Point Civic Association, and John Dallaire, who represents the LIC/Astoria Lions Club, put together a food drive and gathered more than 3,300 lbs of food—equating to about 60 boxes.

The two organizations teamed up with local grocery stores (such as Food Cellar, Urban Market in LIC and Associated in Sunnyside), which put out collection boxes. Furthermore, donation boxes were placed in several high-rise apartment buildings throughout the city.

On Thursday, O’Leary– aided by a group of volunteers–sorted through the boxes, hired a van and delivered them to Bread of Life Food Pantry in Queensbridge, The Hour Children Food Pantry in Long Island City and the St Rafael’s Food Pantry in Sunnyside.

“The generosity of the area is amazing,” O’Leary said, adding that their initial goal was 2,000 lbs. “I’m proud to be a part of a loving neighborhood that supports each other.”

Meanwhile, on Saturday, members of the 108 Police Precinct Community Council were handing out toys to children from a Queens Blvd. temporary homeless shelter.

Diane Ballek, president of the community council, said that the group had gathered more than 250 toys—with many paid for via donations from local businesses.

Furthermore, Ballek said, Gianna Cerbone-Teoli, the owner of Manducatis Rustica in Long Island City, collected dozens of toys for the event—as she was able to get plenty of people in Hunters Point to contribute.

Saturday's Precinct food drive

Saturday’s Precinct toy drive

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Protest art has gone up, as opposition to the big pink sculpture builds
Protest art

Protest art placed near Court Square Diner (source hyperallergic)

Dec. 12, By Christian Murray

The bright pink $515,000 sculpture scheduled to be placed on Jackson Avenue and 43rd Avenue has not only drawn fierce verbal criticism– but now protest art.

An anonymous piece of protest art appeared on Jackson Avenue on Wednesday, according to the art website hyperallergic. The art piece is in opposition to the 8 ½ foot tall pink ‘Sunbather.”

The protest art alleges that the Sunbather is a waste of public money and that the funds would be better spent elsewhere. A message attached to the artwork reads:

“This is not against the artist. It is against the misuse of our tax dollars…This money could be spent on something constructive like education.”

However, as previously reported, Sara Reisman, the director of Percent for Art, told Community Board 2 last week that a sculpture is going up and that the artist selected won’t change.

As to changing the size and color: “We aren’t in a position that we can say to an artist that you must do this?” she said.

Reisman then later claimed that the board’s feedback would be taken into consideration.

For hyperallergic story: Please click here

Source: hyperallergic

Source: hyperallergic

 

Rendering from three weeks ago

Rendering of the Sunbather from three weeks ago

 

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Pizzeria to open on Vernon, in former Papo Fried Chicken space

zach-465x332

Dec. 12, By Christian Murray

A new pizzeria is opening on Vernon Blvd next spring moving, taking over the space that was previously occupied by Papo Fried Chicken Zacks Pizzeria.

The pizzeria, to be called sLICe, will be located at 48-11 Vernon Boulevard and will be partly owned by Anthony Perez, co-owner of Blend and Blend on the Water.

Perez said the pizzeria will sell New York Style-pizza—as well as items such as pasta, meatballs and little calzones.

Papo Fried Chicken closed in April. It was closed down by the Health Department and then never reopened.

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Lonely Planet names Queens as best place to visit in US next year
Long Island City waterfront

Long Island City waterfront

Dec. 10, Staff report

The borough of Queens was selected as the best tourism destination in the United States for 2015 by Lonely Planet, a leading news outlet that covers the travel industry.

Queens drew praise for its eating and drinking scene (including the four microbreweries that opened over the last 18 months), amazing diversity, high-quality hotels, exciting events, and unique, enchanting neighborhoods, such as art-filled Long Island City and surfboard-friendly Rockaway.

“Nowhere is the image of New York as the global melting pot truer than Queens. Browse New York’s biggest Chinatown in Flushing, shop for brilliantly colored saris in Jackson Heights, and inhale the heady aromas of coffee and hookahs in Astoria,” reads Lonely Planet’s editorial in its Best in the US list for 2015.

“The incomparable array of world cuisines makes Queens a destination for food lovers from all parts of New York City. For your art fix, ogle the new upgrades to the Queens Museum and the Museum of the Moving Image, look for the new Emerging Artists Festival (conceptionevents.com) in Long Island City, and stroll Astoria’s new 24-block arts district (kaufmanartsdistrict.org). If you prefer sand and surf to paint and canvas, head to Rockaway.”

Warm-Up_photo1“Don’t miss the prime eating and drinking scene that has popped up around the boardwalk — this is no cruddy carnival food: think succulent fish tacos, wood-fired pizzas, and wine bars.”

Western South Dakota came in second on Lonely Planet’s list. The other members of the top 10 were, in order, New Orleans (LA), the Colorado River, North Conway (NH), Indianapolis (IN), Greenville (SC), Oakland (CA), Duluth (MN), and the Mount Shasta Region (CA).

“I have always argued that we have the best hotels, restaurants, cultural organizations, parks, sporting events, and residents in the world and that our prices are very competitive for tourists,” said Seth Bornstein, executive director of the Queens Economic Development Corporation, after the announcement.

“It’s simply wonderful that Lonely Planet agrees, and our hospitality industry is waiting with open arms for all visitors. Come, you’ll like it.”

The annual top 10 destinations list is determined by Lonely Planet’s authors and editorial team to help travelers add to their wish lists for the coming year. Started in 1973, Lonely Planet has the biggest market share for guidebook sales in the world, having published more than 130 million guidebooks in its history. The media company also operates an award-winning website and a suite of mobile and digital travel products.

For the write up on Queens, please click here.


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Court Square resident launches online grocery delivery service

pickuplaterflier

Dec. 9, By Michael Florio

A new online grocery delivery service has just begun serving Long Island City residents.

PickUpLater, an online company that was created by a Court Square resident, started taking grocery orders at the end of last month.

The company, founded by Kodjo Hounnake, has partnered with Foodcellar, the well known Long Island City grocery store located at 4-85 47th Road.

Foodcellar is the only supermarket the company does business with yet; however, it plans to develop relationships with other stores in the borough.

The PickUpLater site allows residents to pick a grocery store (currently just Foodcellar) and then select the items they want. The items listed are comprehensive—from fish to fruits and vegetables.

Kodjo Hounnake

Kodjo Hounnake

The PickUpLater service will then do the shopping on behalf of customers and drop them off at their door.

The company provides shoppers with three different options: they can pick up their order at the store for 99 cents; have it delivered within two hours for $5.99; or get it dropped off after two hours for $3.99.

The company makes its money by charging about 10 percent extra on the price of each item than what Foodcellar would charge at the store.

Hounnake said the company is devoted to customer service.

The personal shopper, he said, will remain in contact with the customer during the entire process. For instance, if a customer wants an item that is not available, the personal shopper will ask the customer if he/she wants something else. Once the order is complete, the shopper will let their customers know that he/she is on the way to their apartment.

Foodcellar is opening a second location at 43-18 Crescent Street next year, and that store is interested in partnering up with PickUpLater, according to Hounnake.

Hounnake said he is in discussions with other grocery stores in the wider LIC neighborhood, but would not disclose which ones.

“We want to offer our services with Foodcellar for the next few months and do it right,” he said. “Then we will start considering other stores.”

Hounnake said he did not market the site when it went live since he wanted to take care of any kinks.

“We wanted time to find and fix any bugs on the website,” he said. “We prefer one or two people to run into a problem on the site, rather than hundreds running into problems at the same time.”

Hounnake said that the service is bug free and that the company is now marketing it.

He said fliers will be handed out in the evenings to those exiting the subway.

Foodcellar has also promoted it through its social media accounts, on its website and through signs in its store.

“We are expecting orders to increase the back end of next week,” he said.

Hounnake, who has lived in LIC since 2009 and claims to be the first resident of the Vere building, was inspired to create the site after ordering food on GrubHub last October.

“It just hit me, why don’t we have a similar service like this for our groceries,” he said.

However, he is not without competition.

Instacart, a similar grocery delivery service, expanded into Western Queens in August. Hounnake said PickUpLater will differentiate itself from Instacart and other competitors by focusing on local, mid-market stores.

“Instacart focuses on larger, chain grocery stores, such as Costco and Fairway,” he said. “At this point we are not reaching out to those stores. We want local stores.”

To visit the site, click here

.

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More Headlines

Pizzeria to open on Vernon, in former Papo Fried Chicken space
zach-465x332 Dec. 12, By Christian Murray A new pizzeria is opening on Vernon Blvd next spring moving, taking over the space that was previously occupied by Papo Fried Chicken Zacks Pizzeria. The pizzeria, to be called sLICe, will be located at 48-11 Vernon Boulevard and will be partly owned by Anthony Perez, co-owner of Blend and Blend on the Water. Perez said the pizzeria will sell New York Style-pizza—as well as items such as pasta, meatballs and little calzones. Papo Fried Chicken closed in April. It was closed down by the Health Department and then never reopened.
Lonely Planet names Queens as best place to visit in US next year
Long Island City waterfront

Long Island City waterfront

Dec. 10, Staff report The borough of Queens was selected as the best tourism destination in the United States for 2015 by Lonely Planet, a leading news outlet that covers the travel industry. Queens drew praise for its eating and drinking scene (including the four microbreweries that opened over the last 18 months), amazing diversity, high-quality hotels, exciting events, and unique, enchanting neighborhoods, such as art-filled Long Island City and surfboard-friendly Rockaway. “Nowhere is the image of New York as the global melting pot truer than Queens. Browse New York’s biggest Chinatown in Flushing, shop for brilliantly colored saris in Jackson Heights, and inhale the heady aromas of coffee and hookahs in Astoria,” reads Lonely Planet’s editorial in its Best in the US list for 2015. “The incomparable array of world cuisines makes Queens a destination for food lovers from all parts of New York City. For your art fix, ogle the new upgrades to the Queens Museum and the Museum of the Moving Image, look for the new Emerging Artists Festival (conceptionevents.com) in Long Island City, and stroll Astoria’s new 24-block arts district (kaufmanartsdistrict.org). If you prefer sand and surf to paint and canvas, head to Rockaway.” Warm-Up_photo1“Don’t miss the prime eating and drinking scene that has popped up around the boardwalk — this is no cruddy carnival food: think succulent fish tacos, wood-fired pizzas, and wine bars.” Western South Dakota came in second on Lonely Planet’s list. The other members of the top 10 were, in order, New Orleans (LA), the Colorado River, North Conway (NH), Indianapolis (IN), Greenville (SC), Oakland (CA), Duluth (MN), and the Mount Shasta Region (CA). “I have always argued that we have the best hotels, restaurants, cultural organizations, parks, sporting events, and residents in the world and that our prices are very competitive for tourists,” said Seth Bornstein, executive director of the Queens Economic Development Corporation, after the announcement. “It’s simply wonderful that Lonely Planet agrees, and our hospitality industry is waiting with open arms for all visitors. Come, you’ll like it.” The annual top 10 destinations list is determined by Lonely Planet’s authors and editorial team to help travelers add to their wish lists for the coming year. Started in 1973, Lonely Planet has the biggest market share for guidebook sales in the world, having published more than 130 million guidebooks in its history. The media company also operates an award-winning website and a suite of mobile and digital travel products. For the write up on Queens, please click here.
Court Square resident launches online grocery delivery service
pickuplaterflier Dec. 9, By Michael Florio A new online grocery delivery service has just begun serving Long Island City residents. PickUpLater, an online company that was created by a Court Square resident, started taking grocery orders at the end of last month. The company, founded by Kodjo Hounnake, has partnered with Foodcellar, the well known Long Island City grocery store located at 4-85 47th Road. Foodcellar is the only supermarket the company does business with yet; however, it plans to develop relationships with other stores in the borough. The PickUpLater site allows residents to pick a grocery store (currently just Foodcellar) and then select the items they want. The items listed are comprehensive—from fish to fruits and vegetables.
Kodjo Hounnake

Kodjo Hounnake

The PickUpLater service will then do the shopping on behalf of customers and drop them off at their door. The company provides shoppers with three different options: they can pick up their order at the store for 99 cents; have it delivered within two hours for $5.99; or get it dropped off after two hours for $3.99. The company makes its money by charging about 10 percent extra on the price of each item than what Foodcellar would charge at the store. Hounnake said the company is devoted to customer service. The personal shopper, he said, will remain in contact with the customer during the entire process. For instance, if a customer wants an item that is not available, the personal shopper will ask the customer if he/she wants something else. Once the order is complete, the shopper will let their customers know that he/she is on the way to their apartment. Foodcellar is opening a second location at 43-18 Crescent Street next year, and that store is interested in partnering up with PickUpLater, according to Hounnake. Hounnake said he is in discussions with other grocery stores in the wider LIC neighborhood, but would not disclose which ones. “We want to offer our services with Foodcellar for the next few months and do it right,” he said. “Then we will start considering other stores.” Hounnake said he did not market the site when it went live since he wanted to take care of any kinks. “We wanted time to find and fix any bugs on the website,” he said. “We prefer one or two people to run into a problem on the site, rather than hundreds running into problems at the same time.” Hounnake said that the service is bug free and that the company is now marketing it. He said fliers will be handed out in the evenings to those exiting the subway. Foodcellar has also promoted it through its social media accounts, on its website and through signs in its store. “We are expecting orders to increase the back end of next week,” he said. Hounnake, who has lived in LIC since 2009 and claims to be the first resident of the Vere building, was inspired to create the site after ordering food on GrubHub last October. “It just hit me, why don’t we have a similar service like this for our groceries,” he said. However, he is not without competition. Instacart, a similar grocery delivery service, expanded into Western Queens in August. Hounnake said PickUpLater will differentiate itself from Instacart and other competitors by focusing on local, mid-market stores. “Instacart focuses on larger, chain grocery stores, such as Costco and Fairway,” he said. “At this point we are not reaching out to those stores. We want local stores.” To visit the site, click here .
Local opposition mounts against building on Sunnyside Yards, petition forms
PRR-Sunnyside-Yard_viewW-1955_ArtHuneke Dec. 9, By Christian Murray Call it a preemptive strike. A group of residents have put forward a petition voicing their opposition to the development of the Sunnyside Yards. A 12-person committee—which includes the President of the Sunnyside Chamber of Commerce—started the petition last week. The petition, which is both online and on paper, expresses their concern that plans are in motion to deck the yards. The petition, which is addressed to elected officials, has already generated about 100 signatures. Their petition comes in the wake of former Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff’s New York Times op-ed calling for the construction of a 3.1 million square foot convention city to be built over the yards, accompanied by nearly 14,000 resident units—of which 7,000 of them would be ‘affordable.” Furthermore, in October, the chairman of Amtrak, Anthony Coscia, said that the company was considering developing sections of the Yards. The company said that it might turn to investors as early as spring and that it had been in talks with the mayor’s office over its use. But the petitioners say not so fast. “Sunnyside and Long Island City's infrastructure cannot stand what we have now,” the petition reads. “The subways are overcrowded and our school district is one of the most overcrowded in New York City. There are already 5,000-10,000 units coming to LIC/Sunnyside as it is – and residents don 't know how the area will be able to absorb these incoming residents. Therefore, the idea of building over the yards - bringing more residents and commercial tenants – will be an extreme burden on all of us.” Furthermore, the petition reads: Our “biggest concern of all is that we residents seem be shut out of the process and an inner circle is making all these decisions.” Patricia Dorfman, one of the committee members and the author of the petition, said: "We are residents and taxpayers. This radical change in land use where we live should not happen behind closed doors and affordable housing should not be used as a Trojan Horse." Link: http://www.thepetitionsite.com/124/232/303/please-do-not-build-over-the-sunnyside-yards/?cid=FB_TAF
Community Board’s say on ‘Pink Sculpture’ appears limited at best
Updated rendering

Rendering

Dec. 8, By Christian Murray The controversial pink sculpture proposed to go up on the median on Jackson Avenue appears to be a done deal—despite the director of the city agency in charge of the project saying otherwise. Sara Reisman, the director of Percent for Art, assured Community Board 2 members Thursday that their feedback would be taken into consideration in terms of the 8 ½ foot magenta-pink sculpture. Despite her assurances, Reisman said that a sculpture will be placed at the 43rd/Jackson Ave location no matter what-- and that the artist selected won’t change. During the evening, when board members made suggestions as to the color and scale, she said: “We aren’t in a position that we can say to an artist that you must do this?” Joe Conley, the outgoing chairman of Community 2, asked Reisman if the sculpture in the rendering was going up on the site. Reisman said in one word “yeah.” “So it’s a fait accompli,” Conley said, referring to sculpture—called the Sunbather-- that will cost taxpayers $515,000. Reisman said that it was not the case. She said that the sculpture still has to be reviewed by the Design Commission and the community board’s feedback will be included. “So give us feedback and we will work with it.” However, the community board’s voice appears to be limited. The board only plays an advisory role in the selection process since it isn’t a voting-member of the panel that selects the artwork. Furthermore, with this project, a board staffer did not notify members of the board until late in the process that a sculpture was even going up at that location. The panel, which voted on the project, was comprised of a representative from City Planning, Department of Transportation, Economic Development Corp and three local arts experts. The initial rendering of the 8 ½ foot tall bright pink sculpture—made out of bronze--has undergone a slight change since it was unveiled at the community board’s Nov. 19 Land Use Committee meeting, which was published on this site. Reisman said that the rendering would continue to change. However, Pat O’Brien, the incoming Chairman, said it is very difficult to provide feedback on a rendering that will continue to evolve. He said that the community board needs some parameters as to how much it will change. The artist Ohad Meromi, who was in attendance, said he selected the bright pink color because he believed it would take the concrete edge off the area and would make up for the shadows from the tall buildings. However, he said that the shade of pink and the scale might still might be modified. Meromi, who is based in Brooklyn, was one of 40 artists considered for the project, Reisman said. She said that half the artists considered by the panel were from Long Island City. The panel liked his concept of the body in repose—as well as its scale. “The sculpture will start off bright pink but will look better with age,” Meromi said.
Rendering from three weeks ago

Rendering from three weeks ago

NYPost: Luxury building fences off low-rent tenants
Q41-21-10-41st-avenue-queensDec 8, Staff Report The landlord who owns one Long Island City building has fenced off the terraces occupied by low-rent tenants, according to a New York Post story. The building known as Q41, located at 23-10 41st Avenue, has 117 units, with all but eight units deemed affordable and priced for middle-income earners. Eight of the tenants with affordable units no longer have access to their large terrace space, according the Post. The large terraces for these tenants have been fenced off. Market rate units with similar terraces have no wire barricade. To read the complete story, please click here to the NY Post.
New CB2 chairman elected after vigorous debate, as Conley steps aside
Joe Conley and Pat O'Brien (seated)

Joe Conley and Pat O'Brien (seated)

Dec. 5, By Christian Murray The Chairman of Community Board 2 Joe Conley received a standing ovation at last night’s community board meeting after officially announcing that he was stepping down. Conley said that after serving two decades as chairman that it was time to move on. “It’s been a great honor to be the voice of the board,” he said. “I have had a good run…and made life-long friends with the people in this room,” he added, as he began to choke up. Conley had notified board members two days prior to the meeting that he was resigning. The timing of the announcement came as a great surprise to many and was the cause of much debate, since last night was the date for the board’s annual elections. Several members said that they were caught off guard by Conley’s sudden announcement and wanted to delay the elections a month in order for all the board members to evaluate whether they wanted to run. Lisa Deller, the secretary of the board, however, presented a slate of candidates to take the executive board positions. All but one was on the executive board last year. The slate was Patrick O’Brien, chair; Stephen Cooper, first vice chairman; Denise Keehan-Smith, secretary; Lisa Deller, second vice chair; and Diane Ballek, treasurer. Conley said that board members were notified in October that they could put their names on the ballet to run--but no one had expressed interest. Furthermore, he said, people were free to nominate themselves for those spots last night. “We have looked for nominations and this is a very open process,” Conley said. However, some members said that the departure of Conley completely changed the course of the election. Others were perplexed why Conley only gave the board two days notice prior to the election. Sheila Lewandowski said that board members should be given time to decide whether they want to put them themselves on the slate. She, like many, advocated for postponing the vote. “We have had 2 days and many [board members] are not here to consider this. I think it would be responsible to be thoughtful and wait…this is big.” O’Brien said he was willing to put off the election a month if it made the board more comfortable. “I don’t want to walk into a situation …where there is a division among people,” he said. There were, however, several strong advocates who wanted the vote to take place last night. “If you want to run put you name forward now,” said one board member. The board put it to a vote to determine whether the election should be held last night. The majority won by an unofficial count of 19 for and 15 against. The election was then held and a slim majority voted in the slate. O'Brien was announced the new chair. Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer said this morning that he looks forward to working with O’Brien. “He is a good person with strong experience. I worked with him when I was on the board.” However, he said, he didn’t see the harm in waiting another month for people to think about the vote. “I m not sure it would have changed the result but the process is important,” he said. “How you come to decision-- especially if people are divided –is as important as the decision itself.” “Normally you would have a unanimous vote for these positions,” Van Bramer said. However, I think the “people who voted no were voting against the process.”
Joe Conley, Community Board 2 Chair, is stepping down
Joe Conley (third from left)

Joe Conley (third from left)

Dec. 4, By Christian Murray Joe Conley, the long-serving Community Board 2 chair, is stepping down. Multiple sources said that Conley, who has been chair for over 25 years, will be making the announcement tonight when Community Board 2 has its full monthly meeting. Conley’s departure from the community board will result in the biggest shake up the board has seen in nearly 30 years. For the past decade, the same leadership structure has been in place: Conley as chairman; Steve Cooper, first vice chairman; Patrick O'Brien, second vice chairman; Lisa Deller, secretary, and Diane Ballek, treasurer Tonight the board will be holding an election for all these positions and at the very least there will be a new chairperson. At this point, the field is wide open, according to sources. Board members were only alerted to Conley’s departure yesterday. “It will be an interesting transition,” said Lisa Deller, who is the head of the land use committee. “Joe has contributed a lot. He has given his heart and soul to the board, and whether people are for or against what he has done…it should not be forgotten that he has gone above and beyond.” Joe-Conley-250x2501Conley could not be reached for comment. Conley, who has always been the recipient of great praise from his fellow board colleagues, was instrumental in turning the prostitute-ridden Long Island City into the thriving neighborhood it is today. He was also was the chair during the Sunnyside-Woodside rezoning. The chairperson has significant control of the board. He/she decides which members sit on what committees and also who chairs them. The chair is also the one who runs the monthly meetings and is the public face of the board. While the community board is deemed advisory, it does have significant influence-- particularly when it comes on land use, liquor license and transportation issues. The new chair will take the helm at a time when there are many ongoing issues. There is the ongoing debate about backyard seating in Long Island City, the debate over affordable housing throughout the district, continued development and the possible construction over the Sunnyside Yards .
Residents want to build a boat ramp and add bike lanes with $1 million in city funds
Meeting

Van Bramer at participatory budget meeting

Dec. 3, By Christian Murray Long Island City residents—along with those in Sunnyside and Woodside—have put together an extensive list as to how to spend $1 million in city funds on the district. Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, who typically receives about $3.5 million each year to spend on projects throughout the district, has put $1 million in the hands of residents to decide how the funds should be spent. Nine meetings were held throughout Sunnyside, Woodside and Long Island City this fall, and hundreds of attendees put forward an array of ideas. This is the first time the public has weighed in on how these funds should be spent in the 26th Council district--in a process called participatory budgeting. “Participatory budgeting is democracy in action,” said Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer in a statement, adding that it has been an exciting process “to participate, discuss and debate which projects are needed.” The ideas put forward include:
  • A small boat ramp for kayaks, canoes, etc. on the Long Island City waterfront
  • Beautification projects and streetscape improvements—including the planting of new street trees throughout the district
  • Installation of traffic calming measures throughout the district
  • A pedestrian footbridge over Queens Boulevard and Thomson Avenue
  • Expansion of bike lanes throughout the district
  • Renovation of the tennis courts at IS 204 in Dutch Kills
  • Solar powered charging stations throughout district
  • A Mobile Veterinarian
  • A second dog run in Sunnyside
  • Handicap-accessible ramps in Queensbridge Houses.
These ideas will be whittled down by about 140 budget delegates in concert with Van Bramer and various city agencies. These delegates were not elected or appointed; they just put their names forward at the meetings or called Van Bramer’s office. Their task is to take the best ideas and transform them into formal proposals by March—based on their cost and popularity. All proposals must cost at least $35,000 and be less than $5000,000. In March, a series of draft proposals will be presented to the community. The delegates will incorporate this feedback before presenting their final proposal. The community will then get to vote on the final proposals in April. Residents will then be able to vote on the project(s) of their choice.
Pepsi Cola sign a fixture–landmarked or not
Dec. 2, By Michael Florio The Pepsi-Cola sign may be removed from consideration for city landmark status but it has plenty of support from the private sector. The site is used heavily for marketing purposes by TF Cornerstone, real estate brokers say, as a means to entice people to rent its waterfront space. Furthermore, TF Cornerstone has always viewed it as a neighborhood showpiece (see video). “It isn’t landmarked but we treat as such,” TF Cornerstone’s Sofia Esteveza said in an interview with New York YIMBY earlier this year. The firm also touts how it has incorporated Long Island City’s manufacturing past-- through the sign-- with its modern development. Nevertheless, the Pepsi sign is one of about 100 sites that could be removed from consideration for city landmark status. The site could be scratched off the list and be left unprotected. The sign has been considered for landmarking — a process called calendaring — for years. When a site/sign is considered for landmarking, the Landmark Commission is notified of any impending demolition and has 40 days to make a decision on a site’s landmark status. TF Cornerstone, however, has no plans to get rid of it. In fact, it is bound to display the sign. When the developer bought the Long Island City property from Pepsi in the late 1990s it was required to display the sign on the waterfront as part of the deal. The Pepsi sign used to be on top of the Pepsi factory. However, when the factory was destroyed it was relocated to 47-20 Center Blvd before finding a home at 46-10. .
Doctoroff, who calls for developing Sunnyside Yards, doesn’t understand Western Queens, Van Bramer and residents say
PRR-Sunnyside-Yard_viewW-1955_ArtHuneke-560x366 Dec. 2, By Christian Murray The drum beat to develop the Sunnyside Yards continues with the latest call to build on it coming from the former Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff. Doctoroff, in a New York Times op-ed piece that ran Sunday, said that the city needs to build a 3.1 million square foot convention center and that Sunnyside Yards would be the ideal place for it. The center could also be accompanied, he wrote, by nearly 14,000 residential units of which 50 percent would be affordable. The op-ed stated that Long Island City is a great location for this development since it is “one of the most convenient, transit-friendly areas in the city, served by eight subway lines.” The idea is that the new convention center would replace the Javits Center, which he deemed too small. However, residents and local officials argue that the concept just doesn’t make sense and that the neighborhood’s infrastructure in terms of schools, parks and subways are already stretched. Many are unsure how the neighborhood will absorb all the new residents coming to the area, with 5,000-10,000 units coming online in the next few years. “I found some of [Doctoroff’s op-ed] patronizing,” said Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer who opposes decking over the yards. “It revealed to me somewhat of a Manhattan elitist view of Queens.” Van Bramer said that Doctoroff might find the neighborhood transit friendly when he looks at the area on a map. However, he said, people who live here know that the No. 7 train is not reliable and there are a lot of delays. During morning rush hour, people often struggle to get on at the Jackson Ave/Vernon Blvd. Station, he said. At the October Community Board 2 meeting, when the idea of studying the yards was raised, several board members wanted to know how the area will cope with all the Court Square/Queens Plaza development coming online—let alone the yards. Meanwhile, a petition has just been formed, calling on the city not to allow the site to be developed. Van Bramer viewed Doctoroff’s push for avoidable housing to be disingenuous—arguing that this an argument used to buttress his case to “plop a mega convention in our neighborhood.” “I am incredibly supportive of affordable housing,” Van Bramer said, but using affordable housing as a tool is “offensive.”
Councilman Van Bramer

Councilman Van Bramer

Furthermore, Doctoroff in his op-ed, said that the Yards represented a “nasty scar through the heart of Queens.” Van Bramer took exception to this viewpoint. “I have lived in these neighborhoods my entire life and it is not a scar. It’s a patronizing to say we have this awful thing and that they have to come here and make it better.”- However, Doctoroff is not alone in suggesting the Yards should be developed. In October, the chairman of Amtrak, Anthony Coscia, said that the company was considering developing sections of the Yards. The company said it could turn to investors as early as spring and that it had been in talks with the mayor’s office over its use. Representatives for the mayor said at the time that the site could be used to advance the mayor's affordable housing goals. Meanwhile, the Daily News reported that the Department of City Planning Commissioner Carl Weisbrod said at a meeting Monday that the he and the Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen are studying the site. However, nothing is planned at this point, Van Bramer said. However,” I think we need to remain vigilant because it is in the minds of some wealthy and powerful people,” he said. “We need to watch out and be careful.” “What we really need are more schools, green space and better transportation—not a convention center,” Van Bramer said.

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