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Opinion: A New Vision for LIC Puts Economic Empowerment Front and Center

A section of the waterfront area where Amazon was planning on building its headquarters. (Photo: Nathaly Pesantez)

Nov. 19, Op-Ed By Thomas J. Grech

There is a lot to love about Queens, and specifically Long Island City.

With our rich diversity, thriving arts and culture scene, access to public transportation and airports, and great universities, it’s easy to see why businesses, both large and small, see our community as a place where they can grow and thrive.

It’s these assets that made Long Island City so appealing to Amazon in the first place. Although the company withdrew their plans to move to our neighborhood, taking tens-of-thousands of quality jobs and billions in investment for job training, workforce development, and infrastructure with them, we now have a unique opportunity to craft an even better vision for the future of our waterfront from the grassroots up.

After Amazon’s withdrawal, the City Council and City government brought in developers with property interests along the waterfront and challenged them to do what the community has long been asking for: create a comprehensive plan for the waterfront so we don’t have to evaluate projects on a piecemeal basis. And three developers have stepped up to the plate – TF Cornerstone, Simon Baron Development, and L&L MAG – to do just that. A new comprehensive planning process for the Long Island City waterfront is giving the community a seat at the table and putting the needs of residents front and center.

Your LIC – the new community-driven planning process being led by the developers and the City – is kicking off with an online conversation and public workshop focusing on economic empowerment and career development, with the workshop taking place this Thursday, November 21st 6:00pm at Jacob Riis Settlement. This is the time for the community to come together and have your priorities heard.

With this new process, all of Long Island City has the opportunity to weigh in on what specifically they believe will make a difference in their lives. There will not only be a public workshop but multi-day online engagement where you can voice your ideas, even if you are unable to make the in-person session (visit

To truly create an inclusive plan for the waterfront, the development consortium needs to hear from everyone – including local residents, business owners, workers, entrepreneurs, and students. We are starting with a blank slate and we have the opportunity to really plan for what will move the needle for our residents, including empowering local entrepreneurs, job training to build careers in high-growth sectors, ownership, and access to the resources people need to overcome barriers to employment, such as child care and mental health services.

Your LIC’s workforce development program and community engagement process is being led by Dr. Gail Mellow and Bishop Mitchell Taylor. These are two community leaders we can trust, and both have been fighting for Long Island City for decades. The first workshop on November 21st on economic empowerment is just the start of the process. Future workshops and online conversations will focus on schools, culture, resiliency, public open space, infrastructure, housing, and mobility.

This is an opportunity for actual change, and it is critical for every single person in Long Island City to play a role. By being a part of this process, we can help create jobs for our families and neighbors, build not just workforce development programs that serve our diverse community, but actual pathways to long-lasting careers.

We need to comprehensively plan, as a community, how to best leverage our assets to ensure Queens remains a great place to live, work, raise a family and grow a business. Economic development in Long Island City can benefit everyone – from local residents to small businesses to larger employers. Let’s seize this opportunity to create a plan for the waterfront that is grounded in the community’s vision and priorities and will lead to a bright future for our families. Visit for more information and to get involved!

Thomas J. Grech is the President & CEO of The Queens Chamber of Commerce

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Let’s go full-on “inclusive” and, in the emerging socialist spirit enrapturing this gentrified part of Queens, make the whole site a giant commune for the homeless. No jobs? No Amazon? No problem!


Don’t worry Trump will give us that $500 million promised for infrastructure any day now. If a real estate developer says it, I believe it.


“the new community-driven planning process being led by the developers”

But….developers have ruined LIC. It’s completely overdeveloped. Why is this a good thing? No one is going to listen to community input. We all know how this works. Most deals are done before anything gets to the community. The community meetings are just for show.

Jenny dubnau

Don’t believe the hype, people. This is a developer-led “conversation” about how to build on PUBLIC LAND. Developers stand to make a gigantic profit off this land that belongs to us: isn’t it the very definition of conflict of interest to have them anywhere near public planning decision making? The developers want a rezoning of this valuable waterfront public land, from manufacturing to “mixed use.” This means they will put up giant luxury towers—make no mistake—with some commercial space on the ground floors. Maybe there will be a tech center, some cappuccino and avocado toast, maybe even one or two social service sites or a health clinic. But these will be crumbs. Crumbs, from a site that should offer 100% community use, and 100% deep affordability that is adjusted to the ACTUAL INCOMES of local residents. This site is blocks away from Queensbridge, one of the largest NYCHA developments in the city. It is unconscionable that our city agencies and elected officials are enabling what is frankly a developer land grab of public property. Speak out, say no. Let’s put a community land trust on the city owned property! We can have community owned development that includes real jobs, a school, deeply affordable manufacturing and art space, a food coop… let the community guide this process—not developers. Enough is enough.


So much truth in this post, Jenny!! We don’t have enough people in LIC who care to speak out. Too many accept it the way it is and think all is great. And, to be completely honest, we’re powerless against the developers and the politicians who benefit.

No fools need apply

Is this the same Bishop Mitchell Taylor that got into a scuffle last August with some hotel owner because they would now hire some of his congregation? and what about Gail Mellow, is she a resident of western Queens? How about including home owners from western queens that have lived in this area for decades when it was a derelict high crime area that nobody cared about. Now that its neighborhood that is bright & shiny everybody is an expert on how it should be designed.Including the hipsters that show up for a year or so until the rent gets to high and they are of again. And as for the 3 Gianiris/JVB & Cortez I sincerely hope they do not have a seat at the table. Between them they have not created one single job in the private industry.

Dare you post this

Re:No fools need apply. If the SSP considers itself a member of the free press then please stop editing peoples comments so that its aligns with the editor & staffs personal views. Also, if the “thumbs up/down” count is accurate. then accountability will need to be proven. We are a democracy and YOU as a publication that is a voice for the people need to respect that.

Where are they now?

Waiting for some insight from Gianaris/JVB/AOC on this… they cleared the way for more luxury high rises when we had a shot at real economic development. Is this what they fought for? What was their alternative plan for the area?


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