Nov. 25, 2019 By Michael Dorgan
More than 100 people turned out for a meeting in Queensbridge Thursday night to discuss how a large tract of land on the Long Island City waterfront should be developed.
The event, held at the Jacob A Riis Neighborhood Settlement center, was put on by a group of developers who have formed YourLIC, an entity that aims to provide residents with a voice as to how a 28-acre area by the waterfront should be used.
This was the first of four planned events to be organized by YourLIC, where residents were asked for input on how the land by Anable Basin and north of 44th Drive should be developed. The land is owned by private developers as well as the city.
The event took place without incident, in contrast to a meeting held in September that dealt with the development of Sunnyside Yard that was disrupted by protesters. However, there were some attendees handing out literature making clear that they opposed the YourLIC concept and viewed it as a ploy by developers to indicate they had community support.
The creation of YourLIC stems from the New York City Council asking the developers to come up with a unified plan for the 28-acre area—as opposed to each firm seeking a separate rezoning.
The developers are TF Cornerstone, L&L MAG and Simon Baron Development who have property near Anable Basin—including an area where Amazon’s New York headquarters was expected to go.
TF Cornerstone is looking to develop two city-owned sites where 44th Drive meets the East River; L&L owns a five-acre waterfront plot at 44-02 Vernon Blvd. known as Lake Vernon; and Simon Baron owns the Paragon Paint building site at 45-40 Vernon Blvd., which backs onto Anable Basin.
“Creating a vision for a great community starts with shared goals,” said Dr. Gail O. Mellow, who was appointed to lead YourLIC and co-facilitated the event alongside Urban Upbound’s Bishop Mitchell Taylor.
“This is an opportunity for all Long Island City,” she said.
Big turnout at @Riis_Settlement #JacobARiis Neighborhood Settlement last night for launch of #YourLIC Public Engagement Process to Plan the Future of the #LIC Waterfront.
Full story to follow@queenspost @LICPOST pic.twitter.com/mAggXZkY0s
— Michael Dorgan (@MDorganNYC) November 22, 2019
The workshops are also being augmented by an online portal where the public can submit ideas.
“We want to engage everyone in the community, since many people cannot attend a workshop in person,” Mellow said. “Our online activities are designed to engage the broadest group of residents possible.”
Bishop Taylor tried to reinforce the message that they wanted everyone to weigh in.
“This is an inclusive, community-led process that puts Long Island City residents needs front and center,” Taylor said. “It’s important for everyone in Long Island City to get involved and have their voices heard, either online or at one of our public workshops.”
Participants broke off into separate groups to discuss issues dealing with small business creation and career development—the topic of the first of the four community meetings.
Each group sat around a table and then appointed a leader to tell the audience what its members sought. Most groups suggested that the developers construct a training center and affordable spaces for small businesses.
Attendees also urged the developers to keep the rents low for small business operators.
Some attendees wanted the developers to construct manufacturing space and to work with unions.
TF Cornerstone representative Ebony Conely-Young said they are in the early stages of putting together a plan with the Department of Education to provide a facility that fosters entrepreneurial thinking among students.
“It’s an amazing opportunity,” she said.
However, there were attendees who opposed the prospect of development.
Grassroots groups such as the LIC Coalition and Justice For All Coalition had members in attendance handing out leaflets calling for the parcels to be publicly owned.
The LIC Coalition wants the government to buy the privately-owned properties and build a continuous park extending north from Gantry State Park to Anable Basin and beyond to act as a sponge against climate change.
The LIC Coalition also wants the Department of Education building to be repurposed for two new middle schools, a community center, a community rooftop garden and a ground floor atrium for a performance center and open market.
The group’s handout reads: “Aggressive steps must be taken NOW for the neighborhood’s long-term viability, yet city agencies continue to approve new rezonings and give real estate interests free reign.”