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Two Residents Weigh in on YourLIC, Respond to Feb. 6 Letter

Part of Anable Basin today, where Amazon was planning on building its headquarters. (Photo: Nathaly Pesantez)

Feb. 24, 2020  

Letter to the Editor: By Justin Potter (former state senate candidate) and Michael Guippone

We write in response to the February 6, 2020 letter from representatives of various organizations regarding the ongoing YourLIC development process for the Anable Basin site.  Both of us have young children and live with our families in Long Island City and a short walk from the Anable Basin site, so we consider ourselves members of the community for which these organizations purport to speak.

We hope to remain here long term, but are worried about rising housing costs.  We are also deeply concerned about the climate crisis.  We see Anable Basin as an opportunity to address both matters.

We take issue with the statement made in the letter that, “most community members will oppose new private development—particularly the high-rise, mostly market rate residential towers and expensive office buildings that are likely to be built under the current scenario.”

On the contrary, we—community members—believe that it is in the best interest of people who live and work in Long Island City (and for New York City as a whole) for the Anable Basin site to include high-rise market rate residential towers, in addition to various other amenities that the community has been requesting through the YourLIC process.

The New York City metro region is in desperate need of housing.  According to the NYC Department of Planning, the region’s “housing supply has not been keeping up with job growth in recent years.”  That is, from 2009 to 2018, the region added 0.5 units of housing for every new job, down from 2.2 units per job from 2001 to 2008, and continuing down this path would “heighten affordability challenges and create headwinds to further business growth.”

Development of dense housing in the form of market rate residential towers in the Anable Basin site would do much to alleviate the extreme housing crunch facing this region.

The well-worn criticisms that market rate apartments would exacerbate the affordable housing crisis in this city are, in reality, dubious economics.  Although it is likely true that any new market rate units will be expensive given the current scarcity of housing in New York City, according to economists at the W.E. Upjohn Institute (a private, not-for-profit, nonpartisan, independent research organization), because the families moving into the new market rate units “filter” out of older housing, these new units will lower demand for existing housing by freeing up apartments in below-median and bottom-quin-tile income tracts in the short term.  New construction of market rate apartments has been shown to lower rents in the local area as well as the larger region.

Moreover, new housing at the Anable Basin site is good climate policy.  Transportation is now the biggest source of America’s CO2 emissions.  By contrast, one of Long Island City’s greatest assets is its accessibility to other areas of the City via the subway, bus, ferry or LIRR.  Every increase in supply of housing in Long Island City means that more families can live here and use public transit to get around, as opposed to moving out of the city where those families might be forced to rely on private cars.  Indeed, households in the suburbs have dramatically higher carbon footprints than households in the City, partly for this reason.  To take just one example, the average annual household carbon footprint in Great Neck is 72.5 metric tons CO2 equivalent, compared to just 31.6 in Long Island City.  Studies have shown that extensive sub-urbanization of metropolitan areas leads to net increases in carbon emissions.  That is to say, a denser and more populated Long Island City would help combat climate change.

Development led by private developers with community input can be enormously successful.  For example, Essex Crossing is a developer-led project that sought community input at the outset, much as YourLIC is doing now.  The Essex Crossing development, which is near completion on the Lower East Side, creates 1,079 new apartments, more than half permanently designated for low- and middle-income tenants; plus community benefits like a new senior center, spaces for early childhood education programs and workforce development, a new cafe operated as a nonprofit job training site for local at-risk youth, and a large market.

The Anable Basin site presents a tremendous opportunity to build resources to serve our community for decades to come.   No doubt a project as successful as Essex Crossing would be welcomed by many Long Island City residents.

Michael Guippone

Justin Potter

Response

Thank you, Justin Potter and Michael Guippone for your response about what kind of future development the community wants to see happen on the Anable Basin site (Two Residents Weigh in on YourLIC, 2/24/20). We disagree on the facts.

Your claim that building more market rate and luxury housing frees up older, cheaper housing for lower income renters has no basis in our present reality. According to a study of U.S. Census data between 2000 – 2016, median rent in and around the Anable Basin waterfront area increased over 125% — the highest in all of Queens. The same studio apartment going for $800 in 2000 would be $1800 by 2016, according to a study by the Office of Community Studies, Queens College.

This has brought on massive gentrification, due to a concentrated effort by the city to rezone and re-imagine LIC into the affluent and wealthy zone it is today. Since 2000, the median household income has risen 230 percent, from $53,000 to $123,000. It now take 18 years for an average household to save up enough money to afford an average condo in LIC, and that’s assuming prices in LIC will be comparable 18 years from now.

There is no evidence in the above data of the bountiful cheap housing for low-income families that Potter and Guippone claim- a claim based on a single study that does not include Long Island City in its research.

Similarly, the claim that “housing supply has not been keeping up with job growth” is contradicted by the data available for LIC. The city’s own Final Environmental Impact Study (FEIS) found that originally, developers and the city predicted LIC’s rezoning would see just 300,000 square feet of residential development across 300 new units. The zoning changes have instead produced 8.74 million square feet in new residential development, adding more than 10,000 new units to the area. That’s a lot of housing supply, and it’s a luxurious supply too expensive for most people to afford.

The claim that as more residents move here, they will be able to take advantage of our public transportation reveals a lack of experience with the 7 train. Average ridership in LIC has increased at seven-times the city-wide rate over the last six years. Public schools are similarly overcrowded– the original estimate required an additional 99 school seats by 2010, but by the time 2010 came around, zoning changes had brought 240 new students to the neighborhood. Just eight years later, more than 3,200 students have been added. Seven out of nine local elementary schools are now overcrowded, with one operating at more than 200% capacity.

None of this helps LIC become more resilient to climate change; quite the opposite. Yes, urban living carries a smaller individual carbon footprint than what you find in the suburbs- but that has nothing to do with LIC’s overcrowding issues, exacerbated by rampant development that makes it the fastest-growing neighborhood in the country.  From rats, roaches and mold in NYCHA housing to backed-up sewers, Long Island City residents are already suffering from an strained infrastructure, yet the YourLIC developers are looking to build more in an area resting on the lowest point of the flood zone, with a resiliency plan that only protects their properties, allowing for a very minimal buffer zone around them.

There have been multiple community meetings held in LIC where the public has expressed their exasperation with the neighborhood’s over-saturated high-rise housing developments, especially along the waterfront. Meetings to gather community input is a worthwhile idea, but such meetings have been run solely by the developers (hoping to maximize their profit) which is a clear conflict of interest.

Potter and Guippone refer to Essex Crossing as an example of ideal city developments. While it is true that Essex provided some affordable senior housing, that occurred only after considerable community pushback — precisely what Potter and Guippone deride. If Queens’ residents are to receive any affordability in commercial or residential space on or near the Anable Basin development, it will be precisely because the community stands up and demands concessions that developers would never offer on their own. Even with those concessions, Essex Crossing is still renting a majority of “market-rate” units starting at a whopping $3750 per month– hardly affordable to a majority of Queens’ residents. Potter and Guippone are welcome to their opinion, but their perception is a perfect example of the Tale of Two Cities that LIC has become.

Sincerely,

Melissa Bieri, Long Island City Coalition

Ivan Contreras, Woodside on the Move

Manny Gomez, Sunnyside Artists

Patricia Dorfman, Small Town Confidential

Yvette Kemp, Justice for All Coalition

Brent O’Leary, Hunters Point Civic Association

Memo Salazar, Western Queens Community Land Trust

 

 

 

email the author: [email protected]

23 Comments

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two residents completely miss the point...

“New construction of market rate apartments has been shown to lower rents in the local area as well as the larger region.” Like all “New Study Shows” headlines, this one is a bit misleading. Acknowledging that the study did use NY in its sample, the study also acknowledges that other studies have found varying effects on rents in NYC as a result of new construction on pages 4-5, “A few very recent papers also focus on the local effects of increased housing supply. Li (2019) finds that large new buildings in New York City lower nearby buildings’ rental income even as they increase the number of nearby restaurants. By contrast, Singh (2019) studies construction sparked by a 2006 property reform in New York City and finds that each new unit increases nearby buildings’ rental income by over 2 percent (relative to a declining trend).” Additionally, in several of the analysis made in the study, the decision was made to”drop New York”, which further shows that New York can be outlier when comparing its housing market to that of other cities (i.e. it’s not Apples to Apples).
I’m not disagreeing that an increase in housing supply would help alleviate the housing crisis in NYC if done properly, but the overly simplistic paragraph discussing that point in this op-ed is not a guarantee as the authors would make it seem. Indeed, the authors of the study note NYC is a complicated case as I discussed above.

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LICfor22

Uh, what? I don’t know what “facts” you based your opinions upon, so I can’t trust your post. But I DO trust the climate scientists at the EPA, and this is the first paragraph on their website: “Greenhouse gases trap heat and make the planet warmer. Human activities are responsible for almost all of the increase in greenhouse gases in the atmosphere over the last 150 years.1 The largest source of greenhouse gas emissions from human activities in the US is from burning fossil fuels for electricity, heat, and transportation.”
Here’s a link that shows that CO2 is 82% of “greenhouse gases”. It’s not Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity or Fox News, so not sure you’ll read it, but please try – maybe you’ll learn some facts: https://www.epa.gov/ghgemissions/overview-greenhouse-gases.
True that the US emissions represent 15% of global human-made CO2 (16% actually), but we are only 4.25% of the total world population!
Finally – I DO trust the facts on the NASA website over the from your gut feelings you posted. NASA unequivocally states: “Multiple studies published in peer-reviewed scientific journals show that 97 percent or more of actively publishing climate scientists agree: Climate-warming trends over the past century are extremely likely due to human activities.” You can confirm that here: https://climate.nasa.gov/scientific-consensus/
Those are the facts that are the basis of my opinions. How can we confirm your “facts” please?

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Michael Weiss

Genuine comment: I got confused reading this reply. I agree with what is said. What I’m confused about is how it relates to the original letter. Did the original letter deny that climate change is caused by human activity?

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LICfor22

The author of the original letter stated: “CO2 doesn’t cause global warming anyway.” 97% of legitimate client scientists (i.e., those not hired by Exxon Mobile) disagree. And by stating that those who believe global warming is primarily the result of human activity are following “crackpot faux religion”. Sounds like a climate denier to me.

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LICfor22

To be clear, my comment was meant as a response to a post by “A Sensible Man” (who’s not all that sensible, in fact.) Looks like I did not reply in the right spot.

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Michael Weiss

Ah, now I understand – you weren’t responding to the original letter, but to the comment, and accidentally didn’t use the reply feature. We’re on the same page!

ASensibleMan

These are fair enough comments on housing. However, the comments on CO2 emissions are ludicrous virtue-signalling nonsense.

1) U.S. emissions are down considerably since 2000. China and the developing world are up dramatically.

2) US emissions represent 15% of global human-made CO2.

3) Human-made Co2 is approximately 5% of CO2 created. The rest is from nature. You create it too, every time you exhale (better stop breathing and save the planet).

4) The notion that a few thousand people moving from Long Island to LIC will have even the tinniest effect on CO2 levels is laughably ridiculous. If ALL of Long Island could somehow move into one gigantic LIC tower, it still would do essentially nothing.

5) CO2 doesn’t cause global warming anyway. It does, however, help plants grow.

We really need to get over this crackpot faux religion that hasn’t predicted anything successfully for over 20 years.

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LICfor22

Excellent letter Mr. Potter and Mr. Guiponne. From the linked article you reference at
https://www.upjohn.org/research-highlights/new-apartment-buildings-low-income-areas-decrease-nearby-rents:
“…new market-rate buildings lower nearby rents 5 to 7 percent and cause more people from lower-income neighborhoods to move in. Previous research from Mast showed that building new multi-unit buildings helps keep rents down across a metropolitan area as people vacate their old homes to move into new buildings, setting off a ripple effect that opens more homes.”
We need new housing development of all kinds, and we are missing a huge opportunity to address this issue by squabbling while the land at Annabel Basin remains vacant.

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fuelgrannie

written by two rich white male homeowners who are not from queens (or even nyc, in fact) and who are pro-amazon, developer-aligned, gentrification shills: they do not speak for the community at large, only for transient wealthy home-owning professionals like themselves

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So what?

This is such an angry and divisive comment. Most people in Queens aren’t from Queens. It’s a melting pot. That’s what makes it so beautiful. Do you have anything constructive to add about the economic principles at play? What exactly do you suggest for Anable Basin?

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fuelgrannie

mine is a critical comment, not an “angry” one: please do not ascribe emotion to my words when none was voiced

if justin potter had been such a popular candidate, why didn’t he raise more money than a lousy $7k? it’s neither “angry” nor “divisive” to observe his gentrification slant and the lack of support for him and his pitiable “campaign:” it’s just pointing out the truth

because the truth is long island city as a community ain’t fond of anything potter stands for, from amazon to yourlic

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No really

What do you want to see done with Anable Basin? This seems like a personal attack without any substance. I’m not sure how that helps the community.

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fuelgrannie

(i’m responding to usernames like “so what” and “no really” so there’s that)

the public land lots (the doe building & the dot property) at anable basin should become community land trusts so those pieces of land can actually serve the community. i cannot speak on behalf of the privately owned lots which belong to plaxall, l&l mag, simon baron and tf cornerstone (although i do take issue with the latter’s relationship with the nycedc over public city land) so you’ll have to address those individual owners to inquire on what their specific plans are for their own land

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Thank you

Do you understand that local politicians took loads of cash from real estate (JVB, Gianaris) and then paved the way for high rise developments on the privately-held land you referenced? The alternative was a comprehensive plan that would have benefited the community (Amazon!). We already lost.

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Lic Local

Your premise is well thought out and based in logic and facts. Unfortunately a good portion of this audience is not interested in these things…they just want their free stuff because they have been left behind.

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Cg

What everyone fails to tecognize is that LIC is not designed to be a ling term living space for families of any income bracket. Two bedroom apartments range from less than 900sf to right around 1200sf…. whats being built and developed is transient housing for people with a 6-7yr window of residency. The soil ground water and to some extent the air in LIC are toxic. No one wants to see what the result of long term exposure to ground contaminants could be. LIC is like the Love Canal, only close to manhattan. Pre-k’s and nursery schoola nd elementary schools are being built, but how many middle and High schools are being built…? No one is supposed to be here with kids for that long. There is an inevitable migration out to areas with more
Space, better affordability, better schools, and fresh air that are part of what you should expect starting a family in LIC. There is a limit to what the typical
Family of four (even with two working parents) can afford and a family of four gets bigger over time and require more space. I’m not saying we shouldn’t go ahead and build high rises in annabelle basin, what i am saying is that if you think its going to get cheaper and that you’ll raise your children here through college age and that they will cure climate change…. then you are fooling yourself. A small two bed two bath in LIC rents for the better part of $5k a month and a three bed (if you can find one) will run $6-9k … get real. You arent staying around here long enough to see cancer or birth defects in your children or grandchildten.

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DC

100% on point with this. Nobody seems to be willing to acknowledge it. In fact your 6-7 year window of residency is actually generous. In addition to the residential financial aspect you brought up I would add that not a single business stays open for more than 2 or 3 years…that just seems to be the retail turnover timeframe. I lived in LIC for the right time period to begin with a bunch of family owned businesses that had been there for decades and see every single one them replaced by businesses that were gone before the paint on the walls was dry…replaced over and over by other businesses. The area, and NYC in general, is bad for small business, bad for raising a family and bad for your health. My mortgage is now the same amount as my rent had been in LIC…4 bedroom house with a giant yard versus a 1 bedroom shoebox apartment next to the 7 train rumble. Born and raised in NYC, lived mostly in Queens until last year…don’t regret moving out…should have done it years ago. Living in NYC is like being in an abusive relationship.

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FromLICQueens

Thank you. I can’t stand how lobbies hijack our opinion to serve their own purposes: “most LIC residents oppose real estate development.” They did the same, when opposing the Amazon development in LIC, while paying for people to beef up their “demonstrations” against the Amazon LIC HQ! They were lying then, as they are lying now! I was never asked! I agree with this letter.

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fuelgrannie

so then where’s my check? where’s my “payment” for “demonstrating?”

asking for a borough

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Anonymous

Fantastic analysis. What would the naysayers in JVB, AOC and Gianaris have to say about this? Curious.

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