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Van Bramer Condemns Development Plan Proposed for Former Amazon Site

Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer (left) and State Senator Michael Gianaris at an anti Amazon rally in 2018. (Photo: Nathaly Pesantez)

July 8, 2020 By Christian Murray

Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer announced last night that he is opposed to the plans put forward by a group of developers that would bring as many as 15 buildings to a 28-acre area in Long Island City.

Van Bramer, who has less than 18 months left in office due to term limits, posted a tweet that condemned the development that would go up by Anable Basin where the Amazon campus was slated to go.

“We cannot keep doing the same things over and over again and expect different results,” he tweeted. “We need to fundamentally change how we view development in New York City. I do believe that something should happen on this land, but this proposal isn’t that something.”

The tweet then referenced an article in the Queens Eagle that included excerpts of a letter he wrote to activist groups that was critical of the project.

The developers, who need to rezone the area in order to move forward with their plans, will need the city council to approve it. Should the plans get to the city council for a vote by the end of next year, Van Bramer would likely determine their fate since the council typically follows the lead of the local member.

However, Van Bramer is term limited and he may well be out of office by the time it gets to the council.

Van Bramer in the letter to activists cited gentrification as a key reason for his opposition.

“There is no question that this project as proposed would cause rents to rise in the surrounding community,” Van Bramer said in the letter, which was included in the Queens Eagle article. “There are far too many luxury apartments included and the proposed affordability is simply unacceptable.”

Van Bramer did not respond to Queens Post’s request for comment nor a request for a copy of the letter.

The development plan–put together by TF Cornerstone, Plaxall, Simon Baron and MAG Partners—incorporates the sites where Amazon HQ2 was slated to be built as well as some adjacent parcels.

The city council requested the developers come together and produce one unified plan for the area as opposed to each having a separate concept for their own property.

The developers have produced a joint plan that would consist of 10-to-12 million square feet of space, with buildings that range in height from 400 to 700 square feet, the equivalent of 30 to 60 story structures.

Rendering of the development provided by YourLIC

The developers also formed a group, dubbed YourLIC, to get community feedback. The group has held five workshops—with two held virtually—to discuss components of the plan.

The developers—with the exception of TF Cornerstone—each own a portion of the 28 acre area. TF Cornerstone is looking to develop two city-owned lots on 44th Drive, which are part of the 28-acre area.

Van Bramer, like other elected officials such as Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, said that the public land should be exclusively for public use.

Rendering: LIC Coalition

“I have said before and I will say again that all of the publicly owned land in this site should be used exclusively for the public,” Van Bramer wrote in the letter. “Not handed over to developers for profit, and I strongly support a community land trust on this site.”

The sites surrounding Anable Basin have been the subject of controversy for some time, since several of them are where Amazon HQ2 campus was expected to go, which would have brought office space and jobs.

The tech giant abandoned its plan after getting pushback from elected officials such as Van Bramer, State Sen. Mike Gianaris and Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

Last week, Van Bramer was also critical of plans for a mega development on the border of Astoria and LIC that would bring as many as 2,700 residential units as well as commercial space in about a dozen buildings.

Van Bramer tweeted: “This proposal envisions luxury towers, some as tall as 26 stories, surrounded by two- to six- story buildings in a working class neighborhood. We do not want or need Hudson Yards East in #Astoria! ”

That project, which is also in Van Bramer’s district, also requires a rezoning and therefore city council approval.

The developers— Silverstein Properties, Kaufman Astoria Studios and BedRock Real Estate Partners–plan to start the rezoning process next year. It remains to be seen if Van Bramer will still be in office at that time it goes before the city council.

Van Bramer has not always been opposed to rezonings and large-scale development.

In 2013 he approved a rezoning that permitted G&M Realty to build more than 1,000 units on the former 5Pointz site on Jackson Avenue. He voted to approve it—despite many progressives and artists saying that project would lead to gentrification. The community board also voted against the rezoning.

Van Bramer also voted for the expansion of the Business Improvement District into Hunters Point, after allocating $25,000 of city funds to study it.

Update July 10: YourLIC has issued the following comment concerning Van Bramer’s response to the proposed waterfront development:

“Last summer, the City Council convened developers with property along the Long Island City waterfront and challenged us to work collaboratively on a comprehensive plan for 28 acres, including the former Amazon sites. Since then, we have brought hundreds of Long Island City residents together for community visioning sessions, both in person, and after COVID-19 hit our city, online. As a result of what we heard from the community, we have a proposal that would bring up to 26,000 permanent new jobs, 1,400 units of affordable housing, a workforce development center, resilient infrastructure, a public park, three new public school sites, a recreation center, space for arts and culture, and more to the neighborhood. We have paid close attention to the Council Member’s statements and priorities for the waterfront, and we hope to continue working constructively with him to shape a plan that works for everyone.”

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9 Comments

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Anon

Enough of the bullsh*t development!! Finally he’s saying something that makes sense

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LIC resident

I did not agree with Jimmy’s stance on Amazon.

BUT, I 100% agree with his stance on this plan. This is not a good plan. 15 buildings??? Are F’ing kidding me? That’s like 13 too many, and the other 2 should be schools. Also, why would anyone agree with a plan to give away public land to a luxury condo developer – how is that good for NYC and the community?

I believe I’m speaking on behalf of the VAST MAJORITY of LIC/Hunters Point residents when I say that this plan to us is DEAD ON ARRIVAL.

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Mundek

As Larry pointed out, the main issue for LIC at this point (FF 10-15 years ago to now and 10-15 years from now) is the lack of infra to support all of these for-profit projects and termite mounds.

LIC is dead. No one wants to live here anymore with the pathetic excuse for 7 train, overcrowding, car racing, trash, all the out of town crowds wrecking the park.

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Nearly Over

Little Jimmy’s relevance declines day by day as December 2021 gets closer.
Tick Tock, Tick Tock.

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Anonymous

Does he want to contribute anything productive about this opportunity for NYC before he leaves? Is he really just going to be a road block until he’s term limited, voters elect someone new and we have to go through the same ordeal with that person? It’s easy to not communicate productively. And that’s what he’s been doing about this opportunity for New Yorkers.

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Larry Penner

Can the existing transportation, sewer, water and utility systems support such a huge development project? There is also the challenge of expanding fire, police, sanitation, schools and other critical municipal services to support the thousands of new residents and commercial development that would come with this project..

(Larry Penner — transportation historian, advocate and writer who previously worked 31 years for the Federal Transit Administration Region 2 NY Office. This included the development, review, approval and oversight for grants supporting billions in capital projects and programs on behalf of the MTA, NYC Transit, LIRR, Metro North, MTA Bus, NYC DOT along with 30 other transit agencies in NY & NJ).
.

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Come on man

So does JVB want to actually propose something for this space? Any constructive ideas? Or just keep blocking everything because it’s the trendy thing to do? We sure could use that $27 billion in tax revenue JVB already helped chase away.

LIC is gentrified. Rents are sky high. This is a large swath of land that divides LIC and Queensbridge. Nothing is there. Empty warehouses rotting away. It’s time to develop it. Enough of this thoughtless grandstanding.

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