Long Island City Post

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Long Island City Partnership is in expansion mode

Click on Map

Click on Map

July 15, By Christian Murray

The Long Island City Partnership is likely to be bringing its marketing and beautification services to Hunters Point.

The group, which currently services the Court Square/Queens Plaza district, is reaching out to property owners and businesses in the Vernon Blvd/Jackson Avenue area to see whether they would like to be part of an expanded Business Improvement District.

The expanded district would most likely incorporate the entire Vernon Blvd commercial corridor–from 46th Avenue through Jackson Avenue.

The current BID provides supplemental sanitation services, capital improvements and marketing services to the area. The BID also tries to recruit new businesses within its borders.

“We are reaching out to property owners now, and should have a better sense of what the community wants by early fall,” said Dana Frankel, the District Services Manager. “So far, we have had received positive feedback.”

Frankel said that the expansion would not add to the LIC Partnership’s budget in any great way, since it already has contracts in place with contractors who clean the streets within the existing BID district.

Property owners within a BID are subject to a special assessment, which pays for the services. These assessments are often passed on to the tenants.

The LIC Partnership received $10,000 from the city budget to investigate the expansion.

For further information on the BID, please click here.

Part-time workers to come to Hunters Point to clean streets

cleaning up

July 15, By Christian Murray

Long Island City, NY: While factions within Hunters Point continue to duke it out over whether to introduce alternate-side parking, Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer has secured city funds that will bring part-time workers to clean up the neighborhood.

Van Bramer has allocated $65,000 toward the Doe Fund, which will bring workers to Woodside and Long Island City to help clean up the streets. He said about half of those funds will be used to clean the Hunters Point area.

Two workers will be cleaning the sidewalks and removing the garbage receptacles three days per week in the Vernon Blvd and Jackson Avenue vicinity. The cleaners will work six hour days.

“I think the debate over alternate side parking has been intense and polarizing,” said Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer said. “Regardless, of what happens, I can do something proactively that everyone can feel better about—since everyone wants clean streets.”

Last year, a petition formed calling on the Department of Sanitation to bring street sweepers to the area, which would require alternate side parking. In January, the city put forward a detailed proposal to introduce the street sweepers—between 45th and Borden Avenues (west of Jackson Street)–to enable street cleaning.

However, those opposed to the measure came out with a counter petition and voiced their opposition at several Community Board 2 meetings. They claimed that the street sweepers—and alternate side parking–was not needed. They argued that if property owners cleaned in front of their premises there wouldn’t be a need for them.

The debate is far from settled. Community Board 2 does not have a vote on the matter scheduled.

Vallone wants Ed Koch’s name gone from Queensboro Bridge

59thstbridge2007July 14, By Christian Murray

City Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. wants Ed Koch’s name to be taken off the Queensboro Bridge.

Vallone told the New York Post that he is drafting legislation to restore the crossing’s historic moniker and to name Manhattan’s Municipal Building after Koch instead.

The bridge was renamed the Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge in 2011 to coincide with his 86th birthday.

Vallone opposed the renaming at the time, claiming that the bridge was not the appropriate venue to honor him. He was an outspoken critic of the proposal from the get-go.

“Mayor Ed Koch is truly a great man and deserving of an honor like this, but renaming a landmark so closely linked to our borough’s culture and history is not appropriate,” Vallone said at the time. “The city would not rename the Brooklyn Bridge and the Queensboro Bridge should be treated equally.”

Vallone voted against the measure but the City Council, with the strong backing of Speaker Christine Quinn, voted 38-12 to rename it.

Vallone told the New York Post today: “Never in a million years would they think to rename the Brooklyn or Manhattan Bridges. But for some reason, it was OK to slap Queens around.”

Vallone’s move is likely to generate some support in Western Queens.

For instance, Community Board 2, which represents Sunnyside, Woodside and Long Island City, passed a unanimous resolution in April 2011 that asked Mayor Michael Bloomberg not to sign the bill that renamed the bridge into law. The nearly 40 member community board sent a letter directly to the Mayor expressing its outrage about the renaming.

Several members of the Sunnyside Chamber of Commerce also called on the New York City Council to repeal the law shortly after it was signed.

EXCLUSIVE: Van Bramer dismisses plans to save 5 Pointz building

5pointz in Long Island City Queens

July 12, By Christian Murray

Long Island City, NY: Staunch advocates for the preservation of the 5 Pointz building are not going to be getting the support of Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer.

The councilman said that it would make no sense for the city to buy the graffiti Mecca and that the future of the community would be better served by housing—filled with young families—and a bustling retail district.

He said he is not an advocate for keeping the 5 Pointz building in its current form. He said that he believes in “property rights” and that the owner of the property—Jerry Wolkoff– is entitled to develop the site as long as his plans meet zoning rules and regulations.

Wolkoff plans to demolish the 5 Pointz building and develop two residential towers–one would be 47 stories high and the other 41 stories.

Councilman Van Bramer

Councilman Van Bramer

Van Bramer said the real issue is whether Wolkoff should be awarded a special zoning permit that would allow him to build 1,000 apartment units, 370 more than permitted “as of right” by present zoning rules. “They have requested a significant increase and they are not entitled to it,” he said. “They have to work with the community … and earn it.”

Van Bramer dismisses the idea that the city should buy the building. “First of all, you need a willing seller and the Wolkoff family is not interested in selling,” he said. Furthermore, “It would probably cost tens of millions—if not hundreds of millions—to buy it and renovate it… which would be a foolish expenditure of city funds.”

Therefore, his focus is on monitoring Wolkoff’s application for the special permit– as it weaves it way through the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP) process.

In the first step of the ULURP process, Wolkoff’s plan was unanimously rejected by Community Board 2, which serves as an ‘advisory’ body.

The board voted against Wolkoff’s application for the special permit—citing several concerns, such as the lack of affordable housing and the paltry amount of studio space he was offering artists.

Wolkoff revised the plan to include 54 affordable units. He also increased the amount of studio space for artists to 12,000 sq ft. , up from 2,000sq ft. (about 5 studios), and said he would place aerosol artwork around the site.

The Queens Borough Presidents Office, which has already held a hearing on the plan, is reviewing the amended plan and is likely to render a decision within the next two weeks.

The plan MUST be approved by the Queens Borough President’s Office, the City Planning Commission and, ultimately, the city council before the special permit is awarded.

The spotlight is starting to shift toward Van Bramer, who represents Long Island City, as the plan moves toward the council for a vote in the new few months. He is likely to sway which way the city council votes on the plan, since it is in his district.

Van Bramer said he would still like Wolkoff to provide a greater number of affordable units than the 54 he proposed, and said that “this is a conversation we will look to have with them at the appropriate time.”

Van Bramer said he did not want to discuss the desired number of affordable units at this time. He said the plan is likely to change throughout the ULURP process before it finally gets to him.

However, he did say that the 12,000 sq ft in studio space was a significant increase. “I think they have met the desire of the community board,” Van Bramer said.

Some of the staunch advocates of 5 Pointz argue that Wolkoff’s money is playing a part in the decision making process.

Van Bramer’s 2013 election campaign fund has received a significant amount of money from the Wolkoffs.

David Wolkoff, the son of Jerry, has contributed $2,750.00 to Van Bramer, with other Wolkoff family members contributing a total of about $5,250. This represents a little less than 6% of the $143,000 that Van Bramer has amassed.

Van Bramer, who is running unopposed in the Democratic primary, dismisses the contributions as having any impact on his views toward Wolkoff’s plans.

“My integrity is the most important thing to me and I came in to this job with that and I will leave this job with that,” he said. “No contribution affects the way I vote or decisions I make.”

“Truth is, I could still vote against it [granting the special permit],” he said. “There are still some outstanding issues.”

5 Pointz development

5 Pointz development


Pub crawl to take place on Vernon Blvd Saturday

LIC Immersion

July 11, By Bill Parry

Long Island City, NY: A pub crawl scheduled in Long Island City this Saturday might transform Vernon Blvd. into Bourbon Street.

The event, called LIC Immersion, will take place in several bars and restaurants throughout Hunters Point starting at noon.

To participate, attendees must pick up a free card at Alewife (5-14 51st Ave.) or LIC Bar (45-58 Vernon Blvd.) that will entitle them to free cups of Brooklyn Lager or Brooklyn Pale Ale at several participating pubs and restaurants in the area.

Cards will be available to the first 500 people, and the free beer will flow until 6pm.

“We do this [in different areas] four times a year,” said Immersion organizer Nicole Davis, who has been organizing pub crawls since 2010.

“Last year we did our first one in Queens and the people in Astoria seemed to love it,” Davis said.

“It makes a lot of sense to do one in Long Island City,” Davis said, who is the founder and publisher of Brooklyn Based, an event website with 30,000 followers.

“The idea behind ‘Immersion’ is to entice people to attractive neighborhoods they haven’t spent time in before,” Davis said. “It’s not just about the free beer — it’s about experiencing the whole area for an afternoon.”

Several bars and restaurants are eager to participate.

Kat Johnson, a manager at Corner Bistro (47-18 Vernon Blvd.) said, “Brooklyn Brewery supplies the beer and the cups.  It’s a no brainer. The fact that it’s a Brooklyn event in Queens is kind of cool.”

Meanwhile, John Butera, the owner of Dominie’s Hoek (48-17 Vernon Blvd.), said that his establishment will be participating. “We don’t normally get involved in these things, but we’ve carried Brooklyn since we opened 10 years ago. I guess you could call it brand loyalty.”

Alobar owner Jeff Blath said his restaurant was participating too. “We’re all about fun times, be it food or drink,” Blath said.

Alobar (46-42 Vernon Blvd.) and Manducatis Rustica (46-35 Vernon Blvd.) will honor the cards with complimentary Brooklyn Summer Ale for participants who stop by for brunch. They will also take a dollar off food ordered at the LIC Flea, as will several other vendors, including Bill’s Balls NYC, Oaxaca Taco and Butcher Bar.

Meanwhile, at LIC Bar, live music will be performed by a half dozen artists on its Garden Stage from 3-8pm.

“We hope everyone sticks around for the concert,” said Gustavo Rodriguez who books the music groups at LIC Bar.

MoMA PS1 to acquire new building

MoMA PS1 to acquire building

MoMA PS1 to acquire building

July 10, By Christian Murray

Long Island City, NY:  The Long Island City arts community received a big injection of city funds as a result of the New York City council budget that was passed late last month.

MoMA PS1 was allocated $3 million, with the express purpose of purchasing a small apartment building that is located on the block where the museum now sits.

Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, who is the chair of the city council’s Cultural Affairs and Libraries Committee, said the new building will increase the amount of gallery space MoMA PS1 can use.  He said the museum is debating whether it will relocate its offices from the main building and put them in there.

“MOMA PS1 is great for Long Island City,” Van Bramer said. “The number of people who go to Long Island City because of it is enormous. And many of those people then go to Vernon Blvd and elsewhere to go to restaurants and stores.”

Meanwhile, the Chocolate Factory Theater, which supports new and experimental productions and provides free art space to performers, received $1.7 million in funds to repair and eventually own the 5-49 49th Avenue property which it now rents.

“The Chocolate Factory doesn’t own its space and we are hopeful that they will be able to purchase that building…and if they can’t, the money could be used for a new permanent home,” Van Bramer said.

In addition, $600,000 was allocated to the Noguchi Museum for a new generator since the old one was damaged during Superstorm Sandy. The museum displays the work of the late Isamu Noguch (1904-1988), which includes sculptures, drawings and models.

Similarly, more than $300,000 was allocated towards the SculptureCenter, a not-for-profit arts institution located at 44-19 Purves Street in LIC, which has been undergoing a significant amount of renovation.


The Laughing Devil is up for sale


July 10, Staff report

The Laughing Devil Comedy Club is up for sale and is likely to be sold in weeks.

Steve Hofstetter, a co-owner with Jacob Morvay at the 47-38 Vernon Blvd. venue, said that he would try to find a buyer that would maintain it as a comedy club. However, he said there is a possibility that the venue will become a bar or restaurant.

“I was very upset when I realized we had to sell,” Hofstetter. “We had been going back and forth about selling it for the past two months.”

The two men opened the Laughing Devil in 2011.

Superstorm Sandy hurt business during the club’s peak season. Furthermore, Hofstetter recently moved to Los Angeles for a TV opportunity, while Morvay has a newborn at home.

The men became too busy. “We decided that something had to give—and that we would rather sell it than run it half-…ed,” he said.

The club, which has a full-service bar, regularly drew professional touring comics. It is the only full-time comedy club in any of the outer boroughs.

Police search for alleged armed robber



The New York City Police Department is searching for a man who allegedly robbed a livery car driver at gun point in Long Island City last Saturday.

The alleged perpetrator got into the victim’s livery car in front of a grocery store at 40th Avenue & 9th Street at 4:24 pm Saturday. The perpetrator then pulled out a black gun and announced the robbery.

The victim pulled his car over at 45 Avenue & Vernon Blvd and handed over his cash to the suspect, who then fled the scene on foot north bound on Vernon Blvd. There were no injuries reported.

The suspect is described as a black male, 5’7″, and approximately 170 lbs.

Anyone with information pertaining to this incident is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-577-TIPS (8477)

Queensboro Plaza apartment building fetches $85m


July 9, By Christian Murray

A rental building located near Queensboro Plaza has sold for $85 million, according to a report by Crains.

The Crescent Club, which is located at 41-17 Crescent Street, was bought by Charles Dayan, who is well known in Manhattan real estate circles.  The building, which was sold by Simon and Meadow Partners, is comprised of 130 apartment units—-as well as amenities such as a fitness center, tenants’ lounge and business center.

The initial developer, NCF Equities, constructed condos but failed to complete the entire project due to financial difficulty. Citibank, which financed the development, was left with an unpaid mortgage.

Citibank sold the mortgage to Simon and Meadow Partners for $51 million in 2011, according to Crains. That firm converted the building into rentals. In February, the company issued a press release announcing that 100 units had been rented.

Dayan is free to keep the building as a rental or converting it to condos. The condo market has started to heat up in certain sections of Long Island City—particularly Hunters Point and Court Square.

Gantry Park music series begins tonight


July 9, By Bill Parry

Live at the Gantries, a free summer music series at Gantry Plaza State Park, begins tonight.

The series runs for six straight Tuesday nights with shows beginning at 7:00pm.

Trombonist John Yao kicks things off with his 17 piece contemporary jazz band. Next Tuesday, Live at the Gantries will feature an evening of Brazilian pop with an all-star rhythm section.

In subsequent weeks the series will feature Irish flute & fiddle music, a Middle Eastern performance and an evening of Cuban salsa music.

You can’t ask for a more beautiful and dramatic venue with the sunset behind the skyline,” said Scott Walsh, the director of sales at TF Cornerstone, which is the lead sponsor. He said the aim of the music series is to entertain residents who live near the waterfront — however, if it draws people outside LIC, it would be a bonus.

“This is all about community building,” Walsh said. “This is not a marketing ploy—-we won’t have a table set up with brochures.”

Walsh added that the music series extends TF Cornerstone’s reach into the local art scene.

One group that will be handing out literature tonight is the Friends of Gantry, a non-profit group that cleans up and beautifies the 11 acre waterfront park. It always looks forward to the series to try and gain new members.

“We love to see the park used in this fashion,” said Friends of Gantry President Bill Bylewski. “The more people who are exposed to the park the better.”

Bylewski said his group tries to beautify the waterfront park since there isn’t enough state funding to maintain it.

“Once people learn how much their help is needed they’ll want to get involved,” said Bylewski. “It doesn’t matter if they want to pull weeds or write us a check!”

NY1 provides overview of LIC, Sunnyside & Woodside

Luxury waterfont rental starts leasing next week


July 5, By Christian Murray

The latest luxury rental building to be developed alongside the East River starts leasing next week.

The 12-story building, called Gantry Park Landing, is located at 50-01 Second Avenue, and provides plenty of amenities to pamper and entertain residents.

Brokers will begin leasing the 199-unit building on July 12 and will offer prospective tenants a mix of studio, one, two and three-bedroom apartments that range from 460 to 1,256 square feet.

Rents start at $1,875 for a studio; $2,450 for a one-bedroom; $3,250 for a two-bedroom; two-bath; and $4,650 for a three-bedroom, three-bath home, according to aptsandlofts.com, which is the exclusive marketing and leasing agent.

The developer, The Lightstone Group, a large NYC-based privately-held real estate company, is also offering prospective tenants with an incentive: one month free rent and no brokerage fees.

The building was designed to incorporate industrial elements with 21st-century luxury. The developer’s goal was to create an industrial feel to reflect the neighborhood’s manufacturing past.

The building incorporates an exterior made from exposed poured concrete with modern interior finishes and floor-to-ceiling glass.

The luxury amenities include a furnished roof deck with an outdoor grill and fireplace, a game room with ping pong and billiards, as well as a gym with a yoga studio.

The building is just the latest luxury waterfront building to start renting in recent months.  TF Cornerstone opened its fifth high-rise in the neighborhood at 4545 Center Blvd. this spring.


Jerry Wolkoff to add affordable housing, art studios to 5 Pointz plan

Jerry (R) and David Wolkoff

(L-R) Jerry and David Wolkoff

Jerry Wolkoff, the owner of the 5 Pointz building, was livid when he learned that his plan to build two residential towers where the graffiti icon now stands was rejected by Community Board 2 last month.

“I wasn’t upset with the community,” Wolkoff said. “I was upset that my staff did not find out what the community needed and took them for granted.”

He said his staff would tell him that “things are coming along great” and that everything is going to plan. However, he said, it was clear that they were not in tune community.

Wolkoff said that he’s been involved with the Long Island City community for 40 years and has worked with artists and promoted their art for decades. “I’ve seen people grow up in this area. It is not like I’m from Manhattan (or elsewhere) and I have just bought a piece of property.”

“I would never have presented a building that I didn’t think had community support,” Wolkoff said.5pointz-350x234

Wolkoff, who was represented by his son David and a fleet of consultants at the community board meetings, continues to seek a special permit that would allow him to build 1,000 units–370 more than permitted ‘as of right’ by present zoning. The focus has not been on whether the graffiti icon will be demolished (Wolkoff can do that “as of right”) but whether he will be permitted to build so many units.

The community board, which plays an advisory role, sighted a slew of reasons for opposing the special zoning permit. They cited, among other items, that his plan made no provision for affordable housing, that it lacked a meaningful number of art studios, and that there was a lack of low-cost parking spaces.

Shortly after Community Board 2 rejected his plan, Wolkoff convened a meeting with several board members.

Wolkoff, who didn’t attend the community board 2 public meetings on the proposed development, said he went to the meeting and said ‘tell me your concerns and I will try and take care of them.”

Wolkoff said: “I was sorry that it had come to that point. “

Joe Conley, chairman of community board 2, confirmed Wolkoff’s desire for a meeting and his aim to learn more about the community’s objections.

Wolfkoff said he sat down with the board members and drew up a list of items the community sought. “It wasn’t a case of you give me this and I will give you that. I said ‘what are people asking for?”

Wolkoff told the board members that he would increase the size of the artist space from 2,000sq ft. (about 5 studios) to 12,000 sq ft.

Wolkoff said that when he learned that the public sought affordable housing, he revised his plan to include 54 affordable units. That number equates to 20% of the 370 extra units that the special permit would provide. He said that the units would be of the same quality as the market-rate units.

Wolkoff also said that he would display art work on the streets surrounding the development, as well as provide inexpensive parking.

Wolkoff said he would have included these provisions in the first place had his staff informed him of what the community sought.

Despite the changes, Community Board 2 remains on record as rejecting the proposal. The plan, which includes Wolkoff’s revisions, is in the hands of Borough President Helen Marshall. Her office held a hearing on the proposal on Thursday and is expected to make a decision on the plan any day now, according to her spokesman.

Should Marshall approve it, the plan will go to the City Planning Commission. While the commission could nix the application, it is likely to move on to the City Council for a vote.

Conley said that had Wolkoff included these provisions in the plan that was presented to Community Board 2 the vote may have gone a different way.

Wolkoff said that he would continue to work with the community to meet its concerns but realizes that he can’t keep everyone happy. He said that when he allowed the artists to paint on the building, he would get complaints from people saying ‘why do you allow this’ ugly graffiti. Now there are people who can’t stand the prospect of seeing the building go.

“Some people are never happy,” Wolkoff said. “Some people don’t like the Mona Lisa; they say she smiles too much.”

Proposed development

Proposed development