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LIC: Challenges and opportunities of NYC’s fastest growing neighborhood

(Courtesy of the Long Island City Partnership)

Oct. 11, 2023 By Laura Rothrock

In recent years, Long Island City (LIC) has been flooded with interest, investment and opportunity.  Iconic signs for Pepsi-Cola and Swingline Bakery harken back to a legacy of industry, which laid the foundation for the Long Island City of today: a rapidly-growing center of arts, culture and commerce easily accessible by public transit.  An easy trip to Manhattan via New York City’s first citywide ferry service in more than a century is another boon for the neighborhood’s thriving waterfront community.

While industrial warehouses have been replaced by amenity-rich apartments with waterfront views of Manhattan, LIC is one of NYC’s most important Central Business Districts (CBD), accounting for more than 6,600 individual businesses, employing over 106,000 residents and counting and generating billions directly and indirectly in economic activity.

But there’s also been another kind of flooding. With all that growth and good news comes challenges, especially when it comes to the neighborhood’s infrastructure.

Usually with age comes wisdom, but in LIC’s case, the water and sewer mains that run below LIC streets that were built approximately 50 to 100 years ago were not designed to accommodate today’s density.  Approximately two weeks ago, a significant storm dropped more than eight inches in the area, making it the wettest day on record, even beating Hurricane Irene’s daily record back in 2011, and creating dangerous flood conditions.  New York Gov. Kathy Hochul declared a State of Emergency.

The dangers of future storms threaten to upend LIC’s growth potential. Just as private citizens and businesses have poured resources into transforming LIC into the destination it is today, we also need our public sector partners to do their part to address the challenges facing LIC.

These challenges come as Long Island City is the fastest-growing neighborhood in the biggest city in the nation. LIC has experienced a year-over-year inventory growth of more than 30%. Reasons include the fact that it provides residents with a five to ten minute commute to midtown Manhattan while maintaining larger living spaces and average rents about six percent less than those found across the East River.

Quality of life is further enhanced by a bustling cultural scene, including MoMa PS1, SculptureCenter, Plaxall Gallery and the Noguchi Museum as well as scenic Hunters Point Park, with an abundant list of activities. In search of world-class culinary and nightlife experiences, Long Island City residents need not travel far, as the neighborhood boasts plenty of rooftop bars and local restaurants on par with the best of Manhattan.

Education and innovation are additional drivers of LIC’s exponential growth, as the neighborhood offers a diverse and talented workforce with opportunities to connect with higher education and local educational partners.

The future of LIC and its infrastructure needs will be at the forefront of this year’s LIC Summit, hosted by the Long Island City Partnership, on Tuesday, Oct. 17, at the Museum of the Moving Image. Now in its ninth iteration, the Summit will bring together thought leaders from diverse sectors and feature enlightening panels highlighting Long Island City’s enduring reputation as one of New York City’s most dynamic and forward-thinking neighborhoods.

This year’s program will bring critical voices together from both the private and public sectors with a vested interest in the neighborhood including Maria Torres-Springer, NYC deputy mayor for Housing, Economic Development and Workforce; Justin Ginsburgh, managing director of Infrastructure, JetBlue; Queens Borough President Donovan Richards; Carl Weisbrod, senior advisor, HR&A; Alexis Wheeler, director of Queens NYC Department of City Planning; and City Council Member Julie Won, among many others.

Long Island City continues to deliver economically for New York City with limitless potential for future growth and investment given its proximity and connective tissue to the economic center of the Big Apple. Between 2010 and 2020, LIC’s population grew approximately 40% — five times faster than the rate of growth for the rest of the city. Jobs grew twice as fast in LIC compared to New York City as a whole. It is vital that factors such as infrastructure and government support continue at the rate that is needed to support LIC during such an important and exciting time of growth.

Laura Rothrock is president of the Long Island City Partnership.

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