Feb. 12, By Christian Murray
Seventy thousand units might need to be constructed over Sunnyside Yards if the Mayor’s plan to build 11,250 affordable units over the tracks is to be realized.
Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer told members of the Hunters Point Civic Association on Tuesday that 70,000 to 80,000 units might need to be built in order to attract developers to construct the affordable units.
“To get to the 11,200-odd…the number of units could be as high as 70,000 to 80,000 on Sunnyside Yards,” Van Bramer said, since developers typically require market rate apartments to offset the cost of constructing affordable units.
This would result in “a massive, massive development on the scale we have never seen before in western Queens that will affect Long Island City, Astoria, Sunnyside and Woodside,” he said.
However, he said no plan should move forward that doesn’t address the needs of the existing residents.
“We can’t fit people on the 7 train today, we don’t have enough school seats for our children today, we don’t have enough green space in western Queens today [excluding Astoria Park and the waterfront in Hunters Point],” he said.
“Adding 100,000 more people to our community is staggering,” he said.”The No. 7 train will not be able to house them all,” he added. “That is crazy.”
In addition to the proposed Sunnyside Yards development, the city is also proposing a rezoning of the Queens Plaza, Jackson Avenue and Northern Blvd corridor. The potential up zoning would result in a significant increase in population– as the zoning change would most likely make way for bigger buildings since the city will be mandating affordable units.
Van Bramer, who represents 160,000 constituents, told the group: “I won’t go along with any plan that hurts our community. You know me I was born and raised here. I have your back and nothing is going to happen without involving everyone in this room.”
Brent O’Leary, the president of the Hunters Point Civic Association who is also legal compliance counsel at Bloomberg LP, said after the meeting that he was not surprised by Van Bramer’s 70,000-unit projection for Sunnyside Yards.
“The city will get a developer to build them and manage them [the affordable units]—and in return the developer will want to build as many market rate units as possible.”
He said his group is opposed building on the Yards, calling for more green space. “We don’t have the infrastructure we need as it is.”
Riders on the No. 7 train faced rush-hour delays this morning that lasted about 90 minutes–following FDNY activity at the 5th Avenue station.
The MTA stopped train service between Times Square and Hunters Point Avenue (in both directions), and riders were advised to take the N,R, Q, F and E lines.
Many No. 7 trains were just sitting in stations as commuters tried to squeeze into trains. The MTA also told many commuters to take the bus.
— NYCT Subway Service (@NYCTSubway) March 5, 2015
March 3, By Christian Murray
The owners of the Chinese restaurant on Vernon Blvd have been able to negotiate a short-term lease and will remain in business for the foreseeable future.
New City Kitchen Express, located at 47-31 Vernon Blvd, will continue to operate for at least three years as the owners were able to negotiate a three year lease.
In September Jennifer Cheng, whose family owns New City Kitchen, said that the restaurant was closing since the family was unwilling to pay the $10,500 month rent and $200 in monthly taxes that was being asked. However, after having signs in the window stating it was closing, the family struck a deal about two months ago.
The Cheng family has run the Chinese restaurant for the past 7 years. About 50% of the restaurant’s business comes through deliveries. New City Kitchen is one of the few inexpensive Chinese restaurants in the area.
March 2, By Michael Florio
The crime rate has taken a nosedive this year throughout the 108 Police Precinct, which covers Sunnyside, Woodside and Long Island City.
Captain John Travaglia, the commanding officer of the 108 Precinct, said that the number of reported crimes for the year through Feb. 22 has dropped 25 percent compared to the same period a year ago.
The decline has been driven by the fall in property-related crimes, with there being 22 reported burglaries so far this year compared to 37 for the same time period a year ago. Furthermore, there have been 60 grand larcenies reported this year, compared to 87 a year ago.
“Burglaries have historically been a problem in this precinct and we are down 40 percent on the year,” Travaglia said. “We are very happy to report those numbers.”
The number of robberies reported so far this year is down–from 22 to nine.
Travaglia, who was spoke at the Community Board Council meeting in Sunnyside last Tuesday, spent a significant portion of the hour-long meeting paying tribute to his officers—particular William Caldarera and Corey Sarro.
The two officers received an award for saving the life of Bruce Brooks, a 66-year-old LaGuardia College professor.
Brooks suffered a heart attack and collapsed outside the college at 29-10 Thomson Avenue. The officers, who were on routine patrol, saw the professor lying motionless on the sidewalk, without a pulse.
Sarro began performing chest compressions, while Caldarera retrieved a defibrillator. After two attempts, the pair revived him and then EMS transported him to Elmhurst Hospital in stable condition.
Brooks, who was in attendance at the precinct meeting, presented the officers with a plaque that he had specially made.
“How can you thank someone for saving your life,” Brooks said.
“A doctor told me afterwards that less than two percent of people who collapse on the street actually survive without brain damage,” Brooks said. “I didn’t dodge a bullet, I dodged a bomb and it is all thanks to these guys.”
Brooks’ wife, Susan Gardner, was also in attendance to thank the officers.
“I can’t tell you how wonderful these officers were to me at a time when I was truly hysterical,” she said.
Gardner wanted to get the officers a gift, she said, until she was told it was against policy.
“But I realized there is no gift I could give them as great as the one that they gave me,” she said. “They have given me a chance to grow old with my husband. So, I thank them forever.”
The day of Brooks’ heart attack was the day he was retiring, according to Gardner.
Brooks spent 10 days at Elmhurst Hospital, before being transferred to NYU Hospital to undergo a triple bypass.
Now the doctors say Brooks, who is a lifelong handball player, will be playing again this summer, Gardner said.
Despite the decrease in crime, there was a murder reported on Vernon Blvd and 50th Street last month, the first murder reported this year. A man was struck and died when his head hit the ground.
The police arrested Kaheem Addison who now faces manslaughter charges.
“The [murder] investigation was spectacular and I couldn’t be happier with the detective squad,” he said. “I am very proud of them and the work they did in solving this homicide very quickly.”
For crime statistics, click here
Feb. 27, By Christian Murray
Queens Borough President Melinda Katz has been a strong advocate for decking over the Sunnyside Yard for months—despite the cool reception it has received from western Queens leaders.
Katz began advocating for developing the yards in September, when she announced that they have the “potential for extraordinary development.”
Katz plays an important role in what ultimately happens to the Yards since the area would need to be rezoned before construction could begin. The community board and the borough president would get to weigh in on a rezoning—before it is shuffled along to the City Planning Commission for review and then the city council.
At the council level, Majority Leader Jimmy Van Bramer would have the ultimate say.
In September, Katz released a 138-page strategic policy statement where she said that the “partial or complete decking of the Sunnyside Rail Yards has the potential for extraordinary development.” She added that it is the largest parcel of ‘vacant’ land remaining in the city.
At the October community board meeting, Queens residents became more aware of Katz’ position when former CB2 chairman Joe Conley said that he had been in discussions with her about building over the Yards. He then called on the board to write a letter to Katz calling for a feasibility study.
While many members of the board were caught off guard by Conley’s request, they were eventually swayed by him and voted in favor of sending Katz the letter.
Conley was then subject to heavy criticism for requesting the letter.
These letters are often used by public officials and city planners to move ahead with studies—allowing them to claim they have the community’s support. For example, Conley’s letter last year calling for affordable housing in Queens Plaza was cited as a reason why city planners are studying the area for a potential up zoning.
Katz is well versed in city real estate matters. She had worked at the law firm Greenberg Traurig from 2009-2012, where she was a land use adviser for real estate companies. She took that position after being a city council member from 2002-2009, where she chaired the land use committee.
On Feb. 10, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced in his State of the City address that he wanted to build 11,250 units above Sunnyside Yards, which received a frosty reception from western Queens leaders.
Katz, meanwhile, was publicly advocating for it. At the Queens Chamber of Commerce annual breakfast meeting Feb. 17, she said:
“We need to figure out how to utilize the property in a good way and I think housing is a great way,” reported the Queens Chronicle that covered the event. “Figuring out how to pay for it is the follow-up. … But it needs to be done carefully and it needs to be done in tandem with the community.”
De Blasio then announced last week that the city’s Economic Development Corporation (EDC) sought a consulting firm to undertake a one-year study to determine whether building over the Yards is feasible. The administration is seeking requests for proposal from firms that would essentially provide recommendations.
“This is the first step in understanding whether development of the Sunnyside Yards is possible, and what it can contribute to the city and surrounding communities,” de Blasio said in a statement.
Katz’ spokeswoman, in an e-mail Tuesday wrote: “This feasibility study is a step in the right direction, and Borough President Katz looks forward to engaging community input.”
The e-mail also said: “Borough President Katz recognizes that potential development above the Sunnyside Rail Yards is attractive given the current growth and development throughout Long Island City and western Queens.”
However, western Queens leaders have been alarmed by the plan.
Assemblywoman Cathy Nolan was quick to announce that she had ‘grave concerns ’ about the plans. State Sen. Mike Gianaris was essentially against it—by saying only if it had community support, while Van Bramer continued to argue that the infrastructure would not be able to cope with it.
Nolan also said in a statement that such development would have “the potential to tremendously damage the middle class quality of life of our western Queens communities.”
Nolan then announced that she had hired local attorney Ira Greenberg on a part time basis to monitor de Blasio’s plan and to work with agencies, residents and other parties to make sure the community’s voice is heard.
State Sen. Mike Gianaris sent out a mailing to his constituents recently, which said that the building of new housing units should be secondary to meeting the community’s existing infrastructure needs.
Van Bramer, who has told the mayor that he supports the concept of affordable housing, has expressed doubts as to whether it should be in western Queens. He has consistently been saying that area is already in need of schools and parks—and continues to discuss the poor performing No. 7 train.
He said the Queensboro Plaza/Court Square area is likely to be rezoned that will bring affordable housing as well an influx of people.
“We have are a lot of challenges that we face today,” Van Bramer said at a recent civic association meeting, “let alone with a 100,000 more people.”
Feb. 27, Staff Report
A health food store—offering nature’s prescriptions—is opening at 5-29 50th Avenue, where Dog Island City was located for about five years.
There are few details on the 600 sqf. health food store– such as when the owners plan to open it.
Dog Island City operated out of that location until June 2014, before moving into a larger space on 44th Drive, by Jackson Avenue.
Feb. 27, By Christian Murray
The $515,000 sculpture that is expected to go up on Jackson Avenue will be going before the Public Design Commission later this year for approval.
The sculpture, which was initially designed to be an 8 ½ feet high pink figure, is still being worked on and the changes are not likely to be revealed until closer to the time that it goes before the commission.
The artwork—called The Sunbather– will be permanently placed on the median at Jackson Ave and 43rd Avenue and will be paid for by taxpayers.
The initial rendering was criticized at Community Board 2’s December meeting, largely over its size and color.
“The proposed design for the ‘The Sunbather’ is still under development,” said Ryan Max, a spokesman for the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, in an e-mail.
“The design presented to the community board last year was preliminary; a more detailed proposal…will be presented to the Public Design Commission later this year,” Max said. “When that presentation is scheduled, a notification will be sent to the community board in advance.”
Community Board 2 Chair Pat O’Brien said that he was unsure how the sculpture will change. However, he said, the city agency “got the message about our concern over its size, color and substance.”
He said that follow-up phone calls also took place after the meeting to make it clear. However, he said, the board’s concerns would unlikely change the artist’s overall vision.
He said the department assured him that it would keep the board in the loop.
“We want meaningful input…we are not asking for veto power,” O’Brien said.
Feb. 25, By Christian Murray
Community Board 2 is in the midst of overhauling its website, as it aims provide residents with greater access to public documents.
The updated website will be much more comprehensive and is expected to be ready by spring. The public will have access to documents that deal with land use matters among others.
Pat O’Brien, the newly elected Community Board chair, said that he intends to upload as many documents as possible so the public is better informed.
“Any document that is public, we aim to put it out there,” O’Brien said. “I want people to know the facts so we can have a more informed discussion.”
He said that he plans to upload older documents in order to build archives. However, he said that will take time and resources are limited.
The board plans to create a Facebook page later this year that will be used to inform people of public meetings and events.
O’Brien said that his first priority, however, is getting the site ready.
Feb. 25, By Christian Murray
More than 75 people turned out last night at SHI restaurant for the 2015 launch party of the waterfront parks group.
The Hunters Point Parks Conservancy, which organizes events and helps maintain the waterfront parks, also held the event to recruit new members. The event was a success with more than 20 new people signing up.
Rob Basch, the president of the Conservancy, told attendees that the organization has an ambitious schedule of events planned this year.
These events, he said, include an outdoor movie series debuting with the movie Frozen, a weekly Eats and Arts Festival that would take place on the waterfront on Fridays (in summer), a music series, yoga and other family-based events featuring several local businesses.
The Conservancy, Basch said, is also working with the Mayor’s office to install WIFI in the park and is working on a proposal for a seasonal ice skating rink in the park next winter.
The Conservancy was also presented with a $15,000 check from LIC Landing—the cafe/restaurant located in Hunters Point South Park.
LIC Landing donates a percentage of its revenue to the Hunters Point Parks Conservancy. This money is used for events and park maintenance.
The Conservancy also honored its long-time past President and one of its founders, Bill Bylewski, who passed away last week.
Bylewski, Basch said, was an early champion of the parks in Hunters Point and worked tirelessly to make the parks and the community a better place.
Feb. 24, By Michael Florio
Citigroup is selling a site north of One Court Square that is most likely to become a luxury apartment complex, according to The Real Deal.
The site is nearly once acre and is bound by 44th Road, 23rd Street and 44th Drive in Court Square, the New York Times reports. The bank may get up to $150 million for the development site.
The zoning allows for residential, office, retail and hotel use—and a 40 story building could be built there.
The city aims to spur housing in the neighborhood and is likely to rezone Long Island City to promote affordable housing.
A Citigroup spokesman told the Times: “Given the direction of our real estate footprint and the city’s need for housing, we believe that this site has great potential that can be unlocked.”
The sale marks a shift in the neighborhood from commercial to residential development.
Citigroup had originally planned to build an office building on the property..
Citigroup also plans to sell its remaining stake in Two Court Square, according to the Times. As for the iconic 50-story tower, Citigroup told its employees on Monday that its lease at One Court Square comes to an end in 2020, and that it will continue to operate to occupy the building at least until then.