Long Island City Post

Long Island City NY news

Community Board 2 makes push for affordable housing, in effort to combat soaring rental prices

Joe Conley, chairman of Community Board 2

Joe Conley, chairman of Community Board 2

August 8, By Christian Murray

The cost to rent an apartment in Western Queens has become so pricey that Community Board 2 is calling for the city to offer incentives to developers to build more affordable housing.

Community Board 2 Chairman Joe Conley has proposed four sections—scattered among Sunnyside, Woodside and Long Island City—that the city should look to rezone in order to increase the number of low and moderate income housing units.

The developers would, in essence, be offered the ability to build larger buildings in return for creating a greater number of below market-rate units.

The areas selected include a triangular section of Woodside—bound by Northern Boulevard, Broadway and the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway; an area in Sunnyside bordered by 37th Avenue and Northern Boulevard from 43rd Street to 48th Street; and a number of parcels adjacent to Queens Plaza.

Furthermore, Conley is suggesting that the city review the Queens Boulevard area on the border of Sunnyside/Woodside from Calvary Cemetery to 49th Street to the Brooklyn Queens Expressway.

Other sites include building on top of the LIRR on Woodside Ave. between 63rd and 65th Streets—as well as on the Phipps site along the Sunnyside rail line.

Conley said that all the new development in the past decade in Long Island City—where there was no requirement for affordable housing in the zoning code—has created a “gold coast’ where over 10,000 new market rate units have been built with less than 1,000 affordable units.

This week, Modern Spaces, a Long Island City-based real estate firm, released it second quarter report that reported that the average cost to rent a luxury 1 bedroom apartment in Long Island City was about $3,200.

The Long Island City boom has also put pressure, Conley said, on rental prices in Sunnyside and Woodside, where rents have also skyrocketed.

For instance, the average asking price for a one bedroom in Sunnyside is somewhere between $1650 and $1,800, according to local real estate agents.

Conley said that the boom is forcing some people out of the district—since when their lease gets renewed the rent becomes too expensive.

Potential Rezoning Study Sites

Old-school pizzeria L’inizio opens on Vernon Blvd

August 7, By Christian Murray

L’inizio, an old-school pizzeria located at 47-23 Vernon Boulevard, opened today.

The owner, Tom Blaze, said that the pizzeria offers simplicity—from a casual, homey atmosphere to food cooked with the freshest of ingredients.

Blaze said the pizza is made each day, on site from scratch. All the produce is locally produced and even the mozzarella cheese is made in house.

“We aim to keep all our products as local and organic as possible,” he said.

For now, Blaze is keeping the menu fairly simple—offering items such as pizza by the slice, meatballs, garlic knots, cured meats, salads, and a range of different pies. He said over time he will expand the menu further but his focus is on getting the basics right.

Blaze said that by the end of the month he plans to be offering wine and beer.

Despite the focus on getting back to basics, Blaze has gone to great lengths to create the simple, traditional feel.

The restaurant is noteworthy for its exposed brick walls (adorned by artwork), timber floors and granite counter tops.

There is a large 1950s-style mural on the wall of a woman holding a pizza. Blaze said he had it painted to add to the old-school atmosphere.

The backyard, while ready, cannot be used. Community Board 2 made him pledge not to use it as a condition of getting his liquor license.

Blaze grew up and has lived in Long Island City for most of his life. He is also a broker for Modern Spaces, which is about a block away from his new pizzeria.

The pizzeria is currently open every day except Monday–from lunchtime until late evening. The hours are still being finalized.

Western Queens residents can buy groceries online via new App

Instacart1August 7, By Michael Florio

An online grocery delivery service has just begun serving Western Queens and is looking to take away business from Fresh Direct.

InstaCart, an online grocery delivery service that has been in operation for two years, has branched out into Astoria, Long Island City, Sunnyside and Woodside.

The company offers an app that allows its users to purchase items from Key Food and Costco and have them delivered to their door.

The company operates very much like Uber, where the company outsources an order to a so-called “personal shopper” who will scurry around through the store, pick up the items and then deliver them to a customer’s door.

The charge for the service depends on the value of the total order, as well as how soon the purchaser wants them.

The company charges consumers with orders totaling $35 or less a delivery fee of $7.99. If the order is needed within an hour, the fee is raised to $9.99

For orders over $35, the standard delivery fee is $3.99. However, if the groceries are needed within an hour, the fee is raised to $5.99.

Originally launched in San Francisco in May 2012, InstaCart began offering its service in Manhattan (below 110th street) in April, and rolled it out in Brooklyn in May.

The company claims that it decided to enter Queens after receiving requests from Astoria and Long Island City residents for the service. However, it noted that surrounding neighborhoods were interested too.

“We’ve heard from many Queens residents…busy parents, young professionals, office managers, among others – so we’re excited to meet growing customer demand.” said Will Nichols, the manager of the New York operation.

“We will initially do deliveries from Key Food and Costco, but we will add other local favorites [supermarkets] to our offerings in the near future,” Nichols said.

Nichols would not comment as to what stores are likely to be added.

The company elected to partner up with Key Food and Costco as part of its Queens launch since it already has existing relationships with these stores in Manhattan and Brooklyn.

“These stores also have a large clientele,” Nichols said.

For more information, please click here


After long delays, Jora finally opens

Jora, May 2013

Jora erects it sign, May 2013

August 6, By Christian Murray

It took more than 18 months but it has finally arrived.

Jora, which offers traditional Peruvian food, opened two weeks ago on the corner of 48th Avenue and 11th .

The restaurant is owned and operated by 26-year-old Alejandro Rojas, who comes to the neighborhood with pedigree.

Rojas’s father owns one of the oldest Peruvian restaurants in New York, which was established in Jackson Heights in 1976. That restaurant was initially called Inti raymi, but the name was later changed to Urubama.

Roja said he learned to cook working alongside his father and has also been to cooking school. This is his first restaurant.

Roja said the delay in opening was largely the result of some personal issues as opposed to city bureaucracy.

“We spent too much time at our other [Jackson Heights] place and then some other issues came up,” he said.

The restaurant is currently open from 5:30 pm through 11 pm and is serving entrees such as grilled skirt steak, Peruvian style seafood paella, braised lamb shank and pan roasted chicken breast.

In two weeks, Roja said that the restaurant will open at about 12:00pm to cater to the lunch crowd. In time, it will serve brunch on weekends.

Roja said that business has been good so far. “People have seen our [Jora] sign up for a long time and then when they saw the lights on they realized we had opened and came on it.”

The restaurant has a liquor license and has room for about 90 diners.

The restaurant replaces the long-vacant Crossroads Diner.


Alejandro Rojas

Cranky’s Cafe/1682 French Louisiana closes

Long Island City, Crankys closes

August 5, By Christian Murray

Cranky’s Café, which was recently re-branded 1682 French Louisiana, has closed.

The restaurant, located at 48-19 Vernon, is now empty and all its signage has come down.

Last Tuesday, an auction was held on site and items such as bar stools, tables, chairs and kitchen appliances were put on the block.

The owner of the restaurant, French native Mina Jons, had run the business for five years, which was established as a cafe.

Initially, Cranky’s served coffee, salads, panini, sandwiches and pastries. However, over time, the establishment started to take on more of a French/New Orleans flavor and started to offer a comprehensive breakfast and brunch menu.

Therefore, in February, the café was renamed 1682 French Louisiana with a focus on creating a New Orleans vibe and offering Cajun food.

The name–1682–represented the year when the French claimed Louisiana.

Jons could not be reached for comment for this story.


After years of rapid growth, rental prices show signs of leveling off

(Photo: TF Cornerstone)

August 5, By Christian Murray

While rental prices may be surging at a rapid pace in Long Island City, there are signs that the market might start to normalize.

“I expect the market to start leveling off in terms of rental prices,” said Eric Benaim, the president of Modern Spaces. With all the new supply coming on the market, “we will see healthy growth but not at the same pace.”

Over the course of the next five years, more than 6,000 new rental units (excluding Hunters Point South) are expected to hit the market, which is likely to put pressure on rental prices. Furthermore, as rental prices get closer to those in Manhattan there is likely to be some resistance.

However, the pace in recent years has been fierce. And prices, based on figures released by Modern Spaces’ 2Q14 market report, reflect that.

The amount charged to live in a luxury building—such as a waterfront property to a high-end Court Square development– averages at about $2,600 for a studio; $3,200 for a 1 brm; $4,600 for a 2brm; and $5,800 for a 3brm, according to the report.

This year, 1,000 new luxury rental units that have come to market, with TF Cornerstone’s 4610 Center Boulevard property accounting for 585 of them. In two months, nearly 50% of TF Cornerstone’s 585 units have been leased, Benaim said. “The absorption rate is good. It’s about 40 a week.”

Meanwhile, condo prices continue to soar given the shortage of units. This year only 57 new condos have come onto the market, with only another 46 units expected to be released in the second half, according to Modern Spaces.

“We are seeing the resale [condo] market breaking records,” read the Modern Spaces report. An average studio sold for $426,000; 1 brm $687,000; and 2 brm $1 million.

City council approves zoning change, 140-unit complex coming to 49th Ave.

Maddd Equities and Long Island City


August 4, By Christian Murray

The development company that plans to build a 140-unit complex on the corner of 49th Avenue and 21st Street was granted the zoning change needed to move forward with the project.

The city council voted July 24 to approve the zoning variance—which represented the final step in the lengthy Uniform Land Use Review Procedure needed to get a zoning change.

Maddd Equities, a Floral Park-based developer, is now permitted to go ahead and construct a 12-story complex that will include 10,000 sq. ft. of ground floor retail space.

The zoning change was needed since on one section of the proposed site, the developer was only permitted to build 2 times the lot size—while on another portion of the site Maddd Equities was permitted to build 5 times the lot size.

Maddd Equities needed a FAR of 5.0 across the entire site in order to go ahead with its plans. It also wanted the Long Island City special zoning district to be extended a block farther to include its site—which would include it in the outdoor café district.This application was also approved.

The developer, in order to get the zoning change, went before Community Board 2 with few issues—particularly after pledging to build 28 affordable units (with a preference for local residents), 100 accessory parking spaces and art space.

The Queens Borough President and City Planning Commission signed off on the proposal without issue.

Representatives for the company, in a public hearing earlier this year, said that they planned to start work on the complex later this year.

Jorge Madruga, the chief executive of Maddd Equities, said in December that he anticipates that 50% of the units will be 2 bedroom apartments, with the remainder being split between studios and 1 bedroom units.

The site is currently used as a privately owned parking lot- licensed for 100 vehicles and 70 bicycles.

Maddd Equities anticipates that the building would be completed by 2017.

‘The Mill’ on 11th Street opens

August 3, By Michael Florio

A new café/bakery opened this week in Long Island City.

The Mill, located at 44-16 11th Street, opened Tuesday serving a broad coffee menu and a wide variety of organic and vegan-baked goods from local businesses such as Jack’s Stir Brew and Amy’s Bread.

The cafés menu features Espresso for $2.75, cappuccino for $3.50, drip for $2.50, pour over for $3.75 and 12 ounce bags of its own ground coffee for $12–in addition to donuts, bread, brownies, sticky buns and scones for $3.50 and organic muffins for $4.25.

Business has been brisk, according to co-owner Nina Brian, who owns the cafe with her husband Chip Brian and his business partner, Mike Daddio.

“We have had a good turnout,” she said. “We have had a lot of interest from local residents as well as those visiting LIC.”

The owners said that they have handed out fliers, which has gained the attention of local business and residents.

The Mill, is about 600 square feet in size, and can seat about 8 people. However, there are plans to put a bench in front of the café.

The interior features reclaimed materials from projects that he has designed for clients—and includes pieces from Bespoke Millwork, a company he owns that has a factory in Long Island City.

The cafe is open from 6:30 am to 5:30 pm (Mon.-Friday) and 7 am to 5 pm on weekends.

Shakespeare in the Park comes to Sunnyside and LIC this weekend

shakespearehamletJuly 31, By Michael Florio

Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears.

Hip to Hip Theatre Company, a non-profit arts organization that specializes in family friendly productions, will be bringing “Free Shakespeare in the Park” to Sunnyside and Long Island City this weekend and next.

The theater company will present Cymbeline, a fairy tale about the daughter of a King who marries against her father’s wishes, to Sunnyside Gardens Park on Friday, August 1, at 7:30 pm.

The company will then perform Two Gents, a slap-stick comedy about love and betrayal, at the same Sunnyside location the following Friday. It too will be held at 7:30pm.

The company will also be going to Long Island City where it will present Two Gents on the northern lawn of Gantry Plaza State Park on Saturday, August 2, and then Cymbeline on Saturday, August 9. Both shows will be at 7:30 pm.

The theater company will also perform Two Gents at Socrates Sculpture Park on Sunday, August 3, and Cymbeline the following Sunday. Both events are at 5:00 pm.

Many residents bring blankets and folding chairs to these events and pack something to eat. Hundreds of residents typically attend each show.

Hip to Hip theatre Company was founded in 2007 by Sunnyside residents Jason and Joy Marr, who started performing in Woodside’s Windmuller Park and Sunnyside’s All Saint’s Church.

The audience for these events continues to grow yearly, with approximately 6,000 people coming out to see the performances in 2013.

For more details, please click here.

No. 7 train is NYC’s best subway line, according to advocacy group

No.7subwayJuly 30, By Michael Florio

The No. 7 train has been crowned New York City’s best subway line by the transit advocacy group Straphangers.

This is the seventh time in 16 years that the No. 7 has received the top ranking since Straphangers began its State of the Subways annual report of the city’s 20 subway lines.

Straphangers said that the No. 7-line comes more frequently than any train, especially during rush hour.

For instance, the report said that during the AM rush, a train comes ever 2:30 minutes, while the average wait time for all trains is 5:29 minutes. As for the PM rush, a 7-train comes just as often as the morning (2:30 minutes), while it takes other trains an average of 6:02 minutes.

The 7-line also travels a much greater distance before suffering delays from mechanical failures than other trains.

It was also deemed to be cleaner than the average subway line, and passengers were more likely to get a seat.

The Q train was named the dirtiest train of those tested, as 17 percent of its cars were deemed to be “moderate to heavily dirty.”

The 2 train was named the worst subway line, for the second time in 16 years. This was due largely to the fact that riders are least likely to get a seat.

Doe Fund workers to clean more Long Island City streets

Doe Fund Long Island CityJuly 30, By Michael Florio

Call it Phase Two in the effort to cleanup Long Island City’s streets.

Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer announced Tuesday that he has doubled the budget to clean the sidewalks of Long Island City.

Last year, the councilman started the program in Long Island City by allocating $35,000 to The Doe Fund, a non-profit group that hires former inmates and homeless people to sweep streets, pick up litter and empty trash.

The workers were in charge of maintaining Vernon Blvd (between 50th and 45th Avenues) and 11th Street (between 50th and 45th Avenues)—as well as some sections of Jackson Avenue.

“The program was enormously successful,” Van Bramer said, adding that it just made sense to build on it.

This week the Doe Fund started covering a number of additional streets—as the Long Island City program now has a budget of about $70,000. The new streets are Jackson Ave (between Vernon Blvd and 45th Avenue); 11th Street (increasing coverage to go to 44th Drive); the side streets between Vernon Blvd and 11th Street (from 45th to 50th Avenues); and 5th Street, from Borden Avenue through 46th Avenue.

The expanded area will receive service on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, while those locations that were established last year will continue to receive five-day service.

“This will dramatically improve the program here in Long Island City,” Van Bramer said.

Van Bramer said the workers will also clean beneath the Pulaski Bridge on 50th Avenue, an area that many residents pass by in order to catch the No. 7 train. He said that the area was in desperate need of a cleaning.

“This area has been incredibly dirty,” Van Bramer said, adding that it is plagued by pigeon droppings and trash. “It’s been hard to get the various agencies to focus on it,” he said.

The DOE Fund is also coming to Dutch Kills this year, although the coverage area has still to be determined.

Van Bramer introduced The Doe Fund to the 26th Council District in Woodside two years ago. He then expanded it into Long Island City last year. All told his office will be spending $133,000 on the Woodside, Hunters Point and Dutch Kills programs this year.


Fire breaks out on 51st Avenue this morning, nine injured

Source: Patrick W Smith

10-39 51st Avenue (Source: Patrick W Smith)

July 30, By Christian Murray

Five firefighters and two residents were injured this morning after a fire broke out in the basement of a 3-story building on 51st Avenue, according to the FDNY.

The fire, which started at about 6:40 am, spread to the first floor at 10-39 51st Avenue and smoke was seen billowing out of the top of the building, according to the FDNY.

Twenty-five fire units, accompanied by 106 firefighters, responded to the two-alarm fire and brought it under control at 7:26 am, the FDNY said.

Three firefighters and two residents suffered minor injuries. Two firefighters suffered serious but non life-threatening injuries. They were all taken to area hospitals. There were not fatalities.

The American Red Cross was on the scene. It was working with about a dozen residents outside the building—many draped in Red Cross blankets– on finding alternative accommodation.





Pedestrian crosswalks to be added to Center Blvd next month, join new stop signs

stopsign2July 29, By Christian Murray

After years of pressure from political leaders and residents, crosswalks are coming to Center Boulevard.

The Department of Transportation, which erected stop signs on Center Boulevard—at 48th and 49th Avenues–earlier this month, said that it would be adding pedestrian crosswalks to those locations by the end of August.

“The DOT anticipates markings will be installed next month,” said a DOT spokeswoman in a statement. “These will augment the new signs.”

However, the DOT did require a last-minute nudge by Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer to include the crosswalks, since it had its doubts about adding them as late as last week. The DOT claimed that it would be difficult to paint the lines on Center Boulevard due to its granite and cobblestone surface.

Van Bramer said he was surprised by the DOT’s initial hesitation to include them. He said he asked the agency to go back to the drawing board and find a solution.

Van Bramer, who held a press conference in May that called for stops signs and pedestrian crossings, said he pushed the DOT hard to make sure the pedestrian crossings were included.

“I am glad that the DOT has found a way to do it,” Van Bramer said.

“People are concerned about the safety of their kids and families and have a right to demand a safer Center Boulevard,” Van Bramer said. “There are two parks, two schools and thousands of people who live nearby.”

Van Bramer said that many drivers treat Center Boulevard like a speedway. He said that there were five serious accidents on Center Boulevard during the first few months this year, citing data from the local 108 police precinct.

He said that he had spoken to Captain Brian Hennessy, the commanding officer of the 108th Precinct, and asked him to make sure drivers are stopping at the new stop signs.

The DOT also said it is working with the NYPD on enforcement-related concerns.