Dec. 18, 2018 By Nathaly Pesantez
A Long Island City company with multiple properties in the neighborhood is facing scrutiny for its part in the state-run plan that aims to rezone the Anable Basin area to bring Amazon’s headquarters about.
The tech giant, in a deal struck with the city and state, plans on building a campus over a set of five publicly and privately owned parcels at the basin, with Plaxall, the plastics manufacturing company headquartered based in the area, as the private landowner of the parcels.
While these five parcels have been designated for Amazon’s campus, another Plaxall-owned parcel, dubbed “block C” and directly to the south of the planned headquarters, will also be moving through the same state run upzoning process—despite not forming part of Amazon’s offices.
The move, signed off on by both the city and state, has already seen challenges from elected officials and community leaders, who say that Plaxall, a private property owner, is receiving an unfair advantage for this parcel and needlessly circumventing city review.
The topic was among many brought up during last week’s city council oversight hearing, titled “exposing the closed-door process” in part, for its goal in revealing details about how the Amazon HQ2 decision came to be.
Speaker Corey Johnson laid out the provisions for Plaxall’s “block C,” bordered by 46th Avenue and 46th Road along 5th Street, that were worked into the Amazon deal during the hearing: The block’s commercial space allowance, for one, would increase to about four times more that what is currently allowed under zoning.
The upzoning, meanwhile, would be at the hands of the state, with no city council review.
“Not only is Plaxall getting Amazon as a tenant on land they own,” Johnson said at the hearing. “They are also getting a windfall in the form of a huge upzoning without having to lift a finger and work with the city council.”
Johnson also said that the increased commercial allowance in the non-Amazon block to about 800,000 square feet translates to “an office building with roughly the same floor area as the Chrysler Building.” But any construction on the Plaxall site, however, will be limited to a height that is roughly a third of the Manhattan skyscraper’s.
James Patchett, president of the Economic Development Corporation, the city agency involved in the HQ2 process, said the Plaxall block was added to the state’s General Project Plan process because of prior plans for the Anable Basin site and a desire to keep continuity.
Last year, at around the same time Amazon embarked on its HQ2 search, Plaxall announced its massive plan to rezone 15 acres of land at Anable Basin—where it owns several plots—and potentially bring about up to 5,000 apartments and thousands of square feet of commercial and manufacturing space.
The Plaxall properties under the now-scrapped rezoning plan included what is now referred to as “block C,” along with the two parcels where Amazon will build part of its offices.
“We felt that it still made sense to keep them as part of a single approval process,” Patchett said, who later added, “We made it possible for [Plaxall] to build commercial space, which we very much hope will be related to the project in the sense that we hope that other companies will locate near them.”
It’s unclear, however, what Plaxall’s exact development plans are for this site, but the result will either be a project with more than 500,000 square feet of residential space or up to 800,000 square feet of commercial space.
Despite the EDC’s reasoning for including the private lot in the plan, Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer was incensed at the decision.
“I believe it is fundamentally unethical what you have done with the piece of Plaxall property,” Van Bramer said to Patchett at the hearing, adding that the company will “gain a public benefit and make serious money.”
“You should be ashamed of yourself for that particular piece alone, and you should agree to put that back into ULURP at the minimum,” Van Bramer said, in a statement that received applause from attendees.
Criticism of the property’s inclusion, while eliciting seething statements during the hearing, already began heating up in the days after Amazon’s official HQ2 announcement last month. Community Board 2’s Land Use Committee, for example, raised questions about the extra Plaxall parcel in the mix when deliberating over Amazon’s project in its Nov. 20 meeting.
“There’s no reason for them to be part of the GPP,” said Lisa Deller, land use chair, at the meeting. “That’s favored treatment, certainly.”
But in response to Van Bramer’s comments, the EDC said it rejects the premise that the addition of the Plaxall block in the process is unethical and a public good to the developer.
An EDC spokesperson, echoing Patchett’s statements at the hearing, said the decision constitutes smart urban planning and responds to demands heard from the community over implementing comprehensive planning at the waterfront.
It also allows for Plaxall and Amazon to figure out whether the property will be needed for expansion or related uses, the spokesperson said.
Similarly, a spokesperson for the Empire State Development, which was part of HQ2 negotiations, said the project plan is about more than one block or one building, and aims for a comprehensive and logical plan for the basin—as the GPP process was designed to do.
Plaxall declined to comment on the parcel’s part in the state-run rezoning process.
Plaxall always said it was a family company here to take care of and contribute to the LIC community……….clearly lies all along.
The evidence was there as they began to sell off development sites for a killing, and now this.
I agree we can tell by the comments who is a developer or a Amazon Employee . These Idiots pile up the dislikes on our GOOD community people. I believe LICPOST is developer run somehow.
There’s no way I’m getting downvoted just because my comments are horrible. It’s a conspiracy I tellz ya!
Is the Jimmy Van Bramer referred to in this article the same Jimmy Van Bramer who told the public in July 2016 that the new Hunters Point Library would be completed by the first quarter of 2017? If so, no one should listen to anything he has to say about development of property for the public good.
Hey, we as a community should take responsibility for our new Queens Library. The head of Queens Library, in 2016, left in disgrace as fiscally irresponsible. He set the enterprise and dates for completion.
“prior plans for the Anable Basin site and a desire to keep continuity” would sound like nonsensical bureaucratize even if our governor had decriminalized recreational use of marijuana before his Amazon announcement. And why was that only days after his election? Did he think it would not be popular? Why is that?
Bezos is no Bozo.
He knows what he’s doing.
I propose some fitting name changes:
Bezos Bay, not Annabelle Basin
Amazonia, not Long Island City.
It goes well with nearby Astoria.
And where can I get me some Plaxall stock?
I envision the Dept. Of Education building, ten stories, the large white area at the north end, being donated to Amazon, no cost, thank you, gutted, union and civil service jobs lost. Function of buying, distributing supplies: Amazon. Neat.
It is so obvious which comments are from the Amazon and/or real estate employees. Take it down a few notches, people.
This will be prime for our community. This is the best thing to happen to us since Amazon motor oil, as well as other amazon basics. They are competitively priced and of a high quality! I for one no longer need my soul, as i have become a prime gold member and can go to heavanzon regardless of my actions as a human. All of you people who dislike Amazon coming to make our community great also probably don’t have dogs and want them in our parks. I think we should give them more money to make us even better!
Weird how the NYC and NYS had to pay to get Amazon to say yes. Amazon could have just contacted commercial brokers and made a deal just like everyone else!
This article misses one important component: Plaxall had offered a separate school site when negotiating with the City. Now? The community is losing a school because they did not have to negotiate.
Read the memorandum of understanding. The school is still required as part of the General Project Plan. Nothing has been lost.
The original TF Cornerstone development came with a school and that’s the same school we’re now calling the “Amazon school”. Read the MOU and see if there are 2 schools in there because that’s what the community was originally going to get.
Of course Plaxall Declined to Comment, this “BACK ROOM DEAL” Stunk fro day 1. IT is UNETHICAL Mr. Patchett and the useless EDC. Stop lock C rezoning NOW !!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Can anyone point to the public documents that mentiob that block C will be included in the GPP upzoning? It was not among what I had come across thus far.
Great news, more rundown factory building will become state of the art commercial space meeting the growing needs of this neighborhood. I am as excited as I ever have been to be an LIC resident!
I sincerely hope that NYS will approve the Amazon HQ2 before these clueless local pols are able to destroy it. Why are they so incensed about this private parcel being included? Who do they think own most of the buildings in Queens West, Hudson Yards, Williamsburg Waterfront? 25,000 well paying new jobs!!!!
Audits and lawsuits. In short, HQ2 will be delayed.