Sept. 18, 2019. By Shane O’Brien
Community organizations in Long Island City will meet with the developers and owners of the sites where Amazon was slated to go next month to discuss how the parcels could be developed to meet neighborhood needs.
Amazon was planning on building expansive corporate offices over a 20-acre mix of publicly and privately owned parcels at Anable Basin, west of Vernon Boulevard and between 44th Road and 46th Avenue, before it withdrew Feb. 14 after being subject to fierce criticism.
The parcels are owned by Plaxall, the plastics manufacturer, which has 12.7 acres of private land surrounding the basin, with the city owning the remaining property.
TF Cornerstone was in the process of developing two city-owned sites where 44th Avenue meets the East River– before the Amazon deal led to those plans being shelved.
Next to the abandoned Amazon headquarters is a five-acre waterfront plot at 44-02 Vernon Blvd., known as Lake Vernon, which is owned by a consortium of investors led by Bruce Teitelbaum and is being developed by L&L Mag. They plan on developing the site and seek to rezone it.
A group of community organizations, led by Brent O’Leary of the Hunters Point Civic Association, sent a letter to Plaxall, TF Cornerstone and L&L Mag at the start of the summer asking to meet with them after the coalition held a series of public sessions to develop a community-led plan for the area.
The community organizations include the Hunters Point Civic Association, Queensbridge Tenant Association, Ravenswood Tenant Association, LIC Coalition, Hunters Point Community Development Corp, Court Square Civic Association, Blissville Civic Association and Justice For All Coalition.
The developers have all agreed to meet.
The coalition of community organizations are calling on the developers to produce one comprehensive plan for the 25-plus acres, as opposed to each property owner filing separate rezoning plans. The organizations want the sites to be developed with one goal, rather than as separate sites with separate aims.
Prior to the Amazon plan, Plaxall was looking to rezone its property. It planned to create the “Anable Basin Special District,” a 15-acre zone that would have made way for eight mixed-use buildings consisting of nearly 5,000 residential units, light manufacturing and retail space.
Meanwhile, TF Cornerstone planned to rezone two city-owned lots as part of a project led by the Economic Development Corporation. The development, dubbed the Long Island City Innovation Center, would have reached 1.75 million square feet, and provided for approximately 1,000 apartments in two towers, a public middle school and park, and office and industrial space.
However, the community groups expressed that they wanted to avoid separate re-zonings over the course of two public meetings they held in April, where neighborhood residents put together their own community-based Request for Proposal (RFP).
The groups raised concerns that segmented planning could divide up the Long Island City community in a detrimental and irreversible manner.
Members of the coalition put together a list of what they believe the community would need should the 20-acres be developed.
They want at least two schools in the area as well as a community center for arts, recreation and public meetings.
The organizations also implore the developers to build truly affordable housing and provide medical facilities, commercial retail space and support for small business development.
In addition, the groups said that the neighborhood needs a continuous, uninterrupted greenway on the waterfront and a flood mitigation system.
O’Leary said that the potential development of the sites on the waterfront represented an amazing opportunity to meet the many needs of the Long Island City community. He also said that the upcoming meetings will offer additional chances for the community to have its voice heard.
“This is the way it should be done,” O’Leary said. “Instead of developers telling us their plans for our neighborhood, the community should express their vision and needs and the developers work within that vision so that the neighborhood develops properly.”
O’Leary said that the RFP the community organizations have compiled has essentially turned the development process upside down. He said that developers normally come to the community with a formulated plan and ask for feedback.
The first meeting will take place on Wednesday, Oct. 2 at 7 p.m. in the New York Irish Center at 10-40 Jackson Ave. The meeting is being held by the Hunters Point Civic Association. The group’s meetings are open to the public.
Paula Kirby, Managing Director of Plaxall, said that the opportunity to work with the community was one the company welcomed.
“We’ve spent a lot of time over the years talking with the community about our property’s potential for jobs and workforce development, affordable housing and resilient waterfront open space unlike anywhere else in the city,” Kirby said.
“Brent invited us to hear his coalition’s ideas for Anable Basin and we said we’d welcome the opportunity. We’ll be there to listen and are looking forward to it.”
Meetings with TF Cornerstone and L&L Mag will take place later in October, although no specific date has been set.