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City-owned property should not be used for luxury waterfront towers, concerned LIC residents tell CB2

The waterfront site on 44th Drive and 5th St. proposed for development

Sept. 12, 2017 by Nathaly Pesantez

The city’s decision to appoint a for-profit developer to build 1,000 high-rise apartments on public land along the Long Island City waterfront was universally panned by residents at last week’s Community Board 2 meeting.

Earlier this summer, the city—through the Economic Development Corp– announced that it had selected TF Cornerstone, the Manhattan-based real estate firm, to develop a 4.5 acre site near 44th Drive and 5th Street. The project could bring 1,000 apartments, 400,000-square-feet of commercial space, and a school for 600 students at an estimated cost of $925 million. One-quarter of the apartments will be classified as “affordable.”

Residents who spoke at CB2’s monthly meeting in Sunnyside on Thursday said there was little need for more high-end, luxury towers in Hunters Point, especially when they’d be built on city-owned land by a for-profit developer.

“When I see this ridiculous idea of TF Cornerstone building on city-owned land, I’ve become increasingly convinced that this city is willfully ignoring the needs of low and middle-income people,” Nick Velkor, who founded Yoga Agora in Astoria in 2010, said at the meeting.

Several residents said the site should be converted into a park.

Diane Hendry, a member of the newly-formed LIC Coalition, brought a large print-out of the site that showed her proposal for a park and an environmental education center rather than the plans TF Cornerstone has in mind. Hendry told CB2 board members that developing a park at the site would add open space to the neighborhood and help shield the neighborhood from flooding, since the site sits within Hurricane Evacuation Zone 1, an area deemed most likely to flood during a storm.

Diane Hendry (left) holding a poster with the proposed waterfront site during a CB2 meeting.

“The city has an opportunity to preserve and build a new buffer to protect the community from flooding, and provide public green space desperately needed in this community,” Hendry said at the meeting.

Hendry requested that the EDC “start over” and do away with its “irresponsible” development plans. She created a petition last month opposing the development.

Residents also questioned why the EDC would want to use city-owned property for a development that would bring thousands of new people to the area and further stress infrastructure, and claimed that the trains, buses, and other services of the area are already struggling to keep up with the existing population.

Vincent Pitaro, a decades-long LIC resident who lives one block away from the development site, said that the subway—whether it be the 7, N, and E train–is delayed on an almost daily basis and is usually at full capacity when trains stop at stations in the area.

The area needs to be rezoned before development on the site can go forward, since it is currently an industrial zone. Rezoning requires a public process, which includes passing the city council. Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer would have the final say on rezoning.

The EDC issued a Request for Proposals more than a year ago for the city-owned waterfront site, where specific requirements for developers to follow were made publicly available, and included plans for a school, office space, and public access to the waterfront. The EDC also said up to 1,000 residences would be created at the site.

In spite of this, many residents complained that the selection of TF Cornerstone and the proposal for the site came out of nowhere.

“Everyone feels blindsided,” Hendry said. “There’s no transparency at all.”

Lisa Deller, head of the CB2’s Land Use committee, said the EDC regularly gives briefings that compare plans submitted by a variety of developers after an RFP is issued, but was surprised when the EDC did not respond to its request for a briefing made months prior to TF Cornerstone’s selection.

“What they have told us is the reason they do it behind closed doors is it would jeopardize their negotiations with developers,” Deller said at the meeting.

Deller recognizes that there’s a lack of open space in Long Island City and understands resident frustrations with the city choosing to develop market-rate apartments on its land rather than adding park space.

“What we’ve always said to the EDC is that these are among the last city-owned sites in our community, and it’s a scarce resource,” Deller said. “The more development that goes on here, the more precious the city-owned sites are.”

Some residents said they felt powerless and that their opinion would not be heard.

“What’s frightening is that the word in the community is that this project is a done deal,” Pitaro said.

Denise Keehan Smith, chairwoman of CB2, was quick to respond. “It’s not a done deal at all.”


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The developers apply for and get 421a for 20 years, so the new residents are paying little to no property taxes for 20 years. 421a spurs development that wouldn’t happen otherwise, as building new construction in the city often costs hundreds of millions of dollars. With project labor agreements with the unions, laborers can make $100 an hour including benefits. They also don’t build out the proper infrastructure to handle things.

Frances Michaels

Need to clean up the AREA….N.Y. ….the EPICENTER of the world and it’s embarassing to walk by and see laziness just hanging on garbage ravaged run down streets !! Whatever it takes to get the Neighborhood going !!


Frances Michaels, the way to clean up LIC & NYC is get DumBlasio out of office and return the city council back to America loving members. The current city council led by Melissa Mark- Viverito and her cronies are anti-American. DumBlasio is a Marxist and loves BIG Government. under DumBlasio Homelessness has increased so has Luxury Buildings with not really affordable housing. Crime is NOT DOWN , stats are fudged for Tourists. The City is dirty why? Did they cut sanitation workers is their cleaning system flawed. Yes New Yorkers will litter but I see over filled garbage cans a lot of places in LIC and in some other boroughs. Why are they not emptied regularly???? Between Gov. Corruption Cuomo who does run the MTA and DumBlasio our Transit system is a mess too.


Anonymous, Sure DumBlasio loves to build luxury buildings. That is the side of him that gets donor money from these developers for his”Progressive” idiot Agenda. Why does he want statues of Columbus removed but he wants to march in the Columbus Day Parade? He is a hypocrite. He wants Govt. to run your life. He loves BIG GOVT. He spends taxpayer money on his legal bills for investigations against him and his staff. About 13.6 million bucks after saying he would pay his legal bills. That would have left us still with his staffs bills anyway. He is terrible and if he is re-elected New Yorkers deserve whatever he does to them.

Karl M

If you think Developer-friendly DeBlasio is a Marxist I have a bridge to sell you cheap;-) Have you ever even met a Marxist?
DeBlasio is a typical Neoliberal – he puts a velvet glove over the capitalist fist. but he is a capitalist and his campaign is being funded by some very large monied real estate interests.

Frances Michaels

Bob Moses and you could live in it…and CLEAN IT EVERYDAY with all those losers hanging out on Corners !! What a Waste !!


Why are we complaining about 200+ affordable housing apartments, a 600 seat school, and all the associated jobs created by this development? You would rather the City (i.e. OUR tax dollars) build ANOTHER park rather than a private developer (i.e. NOT our tax dollars) investing close to $1b to create jobs, a school, and a mix of market and affordable apartments and also pay taxes? Or are people saying they want the City (i.e. OUR tax dollars) to build the same thing ($1b and likely higher if the City built it) so that it can be 100% affordable? The developer’s plans also call for a large public park as part of their plan. Unless you personally want to pay for a development with your taxpayer dollars (that’d be $120 for every single resident in NYC), there has to be some give and take with private developers…better than whats there now IMO.


Iwould rather taxpayer dollars pay for a park than the overkill that LIC development has become What trains and buses will hold these people? LIC is jammed up already.A Park is the best option. The city will make that development a homeless shelter in the future if it doesn’t work out. You will then see your tax dollars paying more than a tourist per night per person. New Yorkers deserve DumBlasio’s policies that don;t work if they elect him for 4 more years. New York can’t take 4 more years of his terrible policies.


Wow, Anonymous, you really drank the kool-aid, eh? A “large” park is part of the development plans? I’m not sure you know what the word large really means. And spare us the nonsense about jobs, school seats and affordable housing. We heard it all before with previous developments, and the net effect on the neighborhood has always been a negative one.


Horrible idea. Yet another land grab by the same developer who has a majority of cookie cutter steel/glass monsters on the nearby waterfront. “Tall slums.”
The real crime in the land grab of industrial zoned generally low-rise zoned land.
Adjacent are two hotels that squeezed themselves into the industrial zoned area on the loophole that there are jobs created. Many crucial services and industrial providers are in the area. Crane operators, hardware services and providers, taxi companies–hundreds of job providers, as well as arts and dance providers and small and software developers are also already facing onerous higher rent costs. Taking spaces away to cram in more higher-end housing, displaces and unbalances the industrial area. Whatever “office space” provided on paper, most probably will be stores. Our area supplies and supports much of Manhattan, with the services that are crucial to a city.
Owners of industrial zoned buildings in our area, will ask for rezoning, at the risk of job loss, because, if city-owned land zoned industrial came be snatched away so easily, what’s holding back their chances for a quick buck?
Who got paid off?


There are not going to be many stores here with these high rents. Look how many restaurants/bars close on Vernon Blvd. every week or so one closes and it seems one opens.

Watch the Creep

Sure there will. It will just take time for the luxury developments to rise and the stores that can afford higher rents will move in. It’s called urban sprawl and occurs in most big cities where geography doesn’t hamstring it as much as it does in New York City. Were Manhattan not confined to an island, you would already have this development in LIC, South Bronx, Greenpoint, Astoria, probably out as far as Sunnyside or farther. Since Manhattan is on an island, it grew UP instead of OUT. Now, with UP being more restrictive as taller and taller buildings proliferate, OUT is inevitable, and LIC is the first in the path, as it is most convenient to midtown and has the greatest amount of usable space, such as a vast plot of undeveloped land merely a couple minutes from midtown.


A couple of minutes from midtown. If you can get on a train. Some people have to let 3 trains go by to get on one. You do realize the trains are already at capacity, don’t you? There is no need for this overbuilding without planning. GREED is the reason. Our crooked Politicians are in on this too. These developers don’t need tax breaks to build so called “Affordable Housing” that most people know is not really affordable. You must own property or are a real estate person. he STOTES are not coming. Maybe a chain store franchise or two but not much else. Do you want people to pay $6 for a slice of pizza so the business can pay their rent.


Why does the community Board and its constituents have 0 say on this matter. Where is the TRANSPARENCY? Mayor DumBlasio must be profiting from this along with JVB. Here is a perfect place to put a decent size park instead of Michael Son’s plan to shut part of 44th drive off to bus routes and school bus routes. This is city owned property, use it for the city people not GREEDY Developers looking to make a quick Buck.


I am not too uncomfortable with Community Boards having little say in most anything since they are not elected by the communities the claim to represent. They are appointed and inevitably cronies for our more useless politicians. Now, if they were elected, I would have a different opinion.


I totally agree Frank – Esp when it comes to our CB – CB2. Corrupt and sneaky as all get out.

That said, if they are our only hope in this, I sure hope they get a say.


Their opinion is merely advisory and does not have to be followed. And usually isn’t in these types of matters.


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