September 26, by Nathaly Pesantez
Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan (D-Long Island City) has written a letter directed to mayor Bill de Blasio opposing the 44th Drive and 5th Street development, calling the plans for the two towers on city-owned property “massive” and asking the current proposal for the site to be outright rejected.
Nolan wrote in a Sept. 18 letter that the proposed plans for the waterfront site fall short from providing what Long Island City residents need, including affordable housing and parkland, and notes that the city failed to take advantage of an opportunity to do so on city-owned property.
“I have heard from several civic groups and community leaders in the area that additional green space and parkland is needed for the Hunters Point and Long Island City community,” Assemblymember Nolan said in a separate statement. “This parcel of land would be a perfect opportunity for the city to make good on this request.”
While Nolan supports mixed-use development at the site, she says the proposed buildings, two towers over 500 feet each that will house nearly 1,000 residents, are too massive for the area.
“This is especially problematic when the affordable housing opportunities are usually beyond what most current western Queens residents could afford,” Nolan wrote. “It is typical to hear people move from Long Island City to other neighborhoods citing housing unaffordability.”
The assemblywoman also said that there is “great opportunity” to develop parkland on the site, and added that preserving part of the property as a wetland would help in case of flooding.
“‘Lake Vernon’ is already naturally a wetland, and I support Community Board Two’s request for the city to acquire the 44-02 Vernon Blvd. site for wetland use,” Nolan wrote. Lake Vernon, the nickname given to the derelict property adjacent to the EDC project site, is not part of the proposed development.
Over the summer, the Economic Development Corporation announced that it selected TF Cornerstone to develop the 1.524 million square-foot city-owned site near 44th Drive and 5th street into a project that includes nearly 1,000 residential units in two towers, a public school, and thousands of square feet of office and industrial space.
The development, currently in a manufacturing zone, must undergo a public process within the city that involves the Department of City Planning and the City Council to be rezoned so that construction could begin. The process does not have to go through the New York State legislature.
The proposed plans prompted many Long Island City residents to voice their issues with the site, including problems with affordability, transparency, and infrastructure, during a Community Board 2 meeting earlier this month. The plans also inspired a petition to “save the waterfront” by the LIC Coalition and called for the site to be developed into parkland instead.
A spokesperson for the EDC said the agency is working on bringing jobs and workforce development back to Long Island City’s waterfront and the affordable housing and open space the neighborhood needs.
“We’ve already begun to engage community members, and there will be many opportunities for local input throughout this process,” the EDC spokesperson said. “We look forward to discussing the project with Assemblywoman Nolan in greater detail, and to hearing any ideas for ways to make this great project even better.”
Update 9:25 p.m. : EDC statement added along with additional statement from Assemblywoman Nolan.