Nov. 9, 2023 By Bill Parry
Nearly 300 residents participated in a town hall meeting at Culture Lab LIC on Monday, Nov. 6, to kick off the comprehensive planning process for the Long Island City Neighborhood Study, One LIC.
Council Member Julie Won welcomed the standing room only crowd who heard presentations from the NYC Department of City Planning (DCP) and WXY Studios on the challenges facing Long Island City, which has experienced rapid and unsustainable growth over the last two decades that has displaced communities and lacks affordable housing, adequate infrastructure, jobs, green space, school seats and transportation, Won said during her opening remarks.
“For years there has been a tale of two Long Island Cities, with disproportionately more investments and resources dedicated to communities near the waterfront, and a lack of investment in our Black and brown communities like in the Queensbridge Houses,” Won said. “Our town hall is the first step to bridging the gap and engaging in a truly community-led process to create one, cohesive Long Island City. With the community feedback collected from this town hall, we will be able to synthesize the data to shape a sustainable and equitably developed Long Island City and meet the long-term needs of our community.”
DCP will study the mostly industrially zoned area along the waterfront that stretches from Queensbridge Houses to Hunters Point, including the LIC Industrial Business Zone, and east to Court Square and 23rd Street, for a rezoning to allow as-of-right residential development as soon as 2025.
DCP Queens Director Alexis Wheeler said the feedback portion of the evening would be beneficial for her agency and the dozen other city agencies that participated in the town hall.
“We want to hear more about your lived experience and what we can do to try and bring a better tomorrow to everyone,” Wheeler said. “It’s step one for us to be able to hear what you have to share and it’s also step one for you all to be engaged in this process. We want to make sure that we are conducting an inclusive and equitable and accessible process.”
In the past, the city has taken a “project-by-project” approach to land use in Long Island City, focusing on individual sites and plans rather than a neighborhood-wide approach.
Bahij Chancey, the director of planning at WXY Studio, explained that there will be three rounds of “focus area meetings” over the winter to further explore the challenges facing the neighborhood.
“There is an urgency around this process. The neighborhood has already seen significant growth and the challenges we see grow week to week,” Chancey said. “There has been no shortage of city plans and private proposals for what to do around this area. Most of those plans were put on hold or failed, some did not meet the community where it is and some did not give back as much as they sought to take.”
Following the presentations, residents provided their feedback at tables around Culture Lab LIC focused on economic and workforce development, housing, arts and culture, land use and zoning, social service and education, transportation and mobility, open space and public realm, and climate and resilience.
“Through this process we want to see the revitalization of Queensbridge Park, an increase in capacity at the Western Queens PAL Daycare Center site, and a comprehensive plan for infrastructure for the Queensbridge Houses,” Queensbridge Houses Resident Association President Corinne Haynes said. “As the Resident Association president and resident of the largest public housing development in the country, I’ve seen how the city and developers have left Queensbridge Houses out of the planning process. We’re here on day one to participate and make the plan make sense for Queensbridge.”
P.S. 78Q PTA President Kelly Craig said that over the last decade, infrastructure and school seats have not kept pace with the “tremendous amount of development” in Long Island City.
“The lack of school seats has become a crisis where we have schools with 180 children on the waiting list for kindergarten,” Craig said. “This problem has been ignored for far too long and I’m glad we can now address it head-on. LIC is the ‘Jewel of NYC’ and needs to be a place where families can stay for generations.”
Danielle LoPresti-Lee, co-president of the P.S. 384Q PTA, agreed.
“There is a growing demand for middle school seats in Long Island City and the demand will only increase as the seemingly countless new apartment buildings continue to be built,” she said. “Middle schools in particular are sorely needed as families like mine want to stay and see our kids grow up here with access to a great education. For Long Island City to become a success story, the children of LIC need to have flourishing new schools.”
DCP Director Dan Garodnick said the town hall was a good first step for the Long Island City Neighborhood Plan.
“Thanks to Council Member Julie Won for her leadership, to WXY for facilitating and to the hundreds of New Yorkers who made their voices heard,” Garodnick said. “Together, we’ll chart a path toward a more equitable, prosperous and resilient future for this vital neighborhood.”
Additional reporting by Paul Frangipane.