Feb. 19, 2018 By Nathaly Pesantez
The city’s current plan to bring a massive mixed-use project on public land along the Hunters Point waterfront has been rejected by Long Island City’s elected leaders.
Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer and Assemblymember Cathy Nolan say that the Economic Development Corp’s plan to build 1,000 residential units (25 percent affordable) in two towers scaling over 500 feet by 44th Drive and Vernon Boulevard is simply unacceptable.
“I think it needs to be re-envisioned,” Van Bramer said of the 4.5 acre proposal, which also includes a public school, a park, and industrial and commercial space. “This project as it stands is perhaps the dream of some people in City Hall, but it is not one that I share.”
Van Bramer added that the community’s concerns over green space, recreation, the number of affordable units, and the overall density of the project are valid. “What the community is saying, and what I’m saying, too, is for too long the city has not paid attention to the infrastructure needs of LIC,” he said.
Nolan said the development is “too massive” and fails to take the repeatedly-raised needs of the community into consideration.
“I urge Mayor de Blasio and the NYC Economic Development Corporation to take a step back, put the RFP on hold and listen the community, civic organizations and residents on what they believe this parcel of land should be,” she said. “Schools, parkland, green space and a community center are many ideas that I have heard and the city has a golden opportunity to make good on these suggestions.”
The assemblywoman’s opposition to the plan follows a September 2017 letter she sent to the mayor, where she called the EDC’s plans “problematic”.
Both Van Bramer and Nolan plan to join the community next month in a rally to express their opposition to the EDC’s plan.
The rally, organized by the LIC Coalition, a grassroots group formed nearly two years ago, is an extension of frustrations raised by the community since the EDC’s controversial plans were detailed last summer—that the city should not be using scarce, publicly-owned land to build luxury waterfront towers in a neighborhood overwrought with development.
The March 3 event, aptly titled “This Land Is Our Land”, will see residents, civic groups, and local leaders call for long-demanded public goods, like open space that would enhance the waterfront’s resiliency, job training centers, and space for the arts at the site. Their demands are written out in an updated petition by the group, first released in August.
A recreation center, as outlined in a new petition created several weeks ago, is also on the list. And given the overcrowding issues currently plaguing PS 78 just a few blocks down, a school, to be built immediately, is also on the table.
Diane Hendry, a member of the LIC Coalition and a 30-year resident of the community, said the rally is a chance to “scream from the rooftops” and demand that the city engage in comprehensive community planning.
“Everything in our neighborhood has been pushed on us,” Hendry said, referring to past rezonings. “We want the mayor to finally get it. We want EDC out of the picture.”
“We don’t need them telling us how to build our community,” she added. “It’s that simple.”
Van Bramer noted that unlike the dozens of residential towers completed or under construction in Long Island City, this project requires a zoning change, and therefore needs his approval when it hits the City Council. “We have a lot of influence and a lot of say in this one,” he said. “I’m going to stand with the community.”
The EDC told the LIC Post that their project will deliver many goods and features to the community.
“We’re proud that this project will deliver hundreds of affordable homes, good jobs, a new 600-seat school, workforce training programs, and more than an acre of open space for Long Island City,” said Shavone Williams, a spokesperson for the EDC. “We look forward to continued discussions with community members in the months ahead, as we look for ideas on how to make this great project even better.”
The rally is planned for midday on March 3 at 44th Drive and Vernon Boulevard. The LIC Coalition is still working to finalize the lineup of guests and speakers at the event.