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Long Island City: planning for prosperity.

Long Island City: Planning for prosperity

Riverfront Development Slated

Long Island City is struggling to maintain its industrial character as well as stabilize its current businesses and attract new ones.

Meanwhile, property owners, city planners and developers are looking to the future with great hopes and expectations to create a campus environment served by multiple transportation systems and new housing complexes to take advantage of the Manhattan skyline views.

One LIC project which is moving forward at a snail's pace is the Hunters Point 9 million-square-foot mixed-use complex being developed by the New York State Urban Development Corp (UDC), the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and the New York City Public Development Corp. (PDC). Jan Levy, a spokesperson for UDC, said "There is no public money available to move forward on the projects and the banks are not waiting with stacks of money." But she said, "it has not been abandoned by any means." In the meantime, she said, the project is being refined against the day the economy improves and "we'll have to fight off the developers who want a piece of it."

According to PDC's Vice President Lee Silberstein, the $2.3 billion project will consist of 74.5 acres of which 19.2 will be set aside for open space, recreation, and a 1.2 mile waterfront esplanade. The proposal will contain about 6,300 units of residential space, 2 million-square-feet of office, 350 hotel rooms and 265,000 square-feet of commercial and community facilities. Over 5,600 parking spaces will also be created. The developers will also be asked to provide significant amenities to the community, including below market housing, space for a school if warranted, and a community center with a swimming pool.

Levy said the project must be made economically feasible for the developer to be able to provide all these amenities and still make money.

Hunters Point, local property owner John Werwaiss said, it's a good idea and could be successful, "but in the context of the city's financial plight, if it means another reassessment of the area, I'd rather not have it. We're simply being overtaxed."

The East River Tennis Club, which attracts diners for its glorious views of Manhattan, is also obtaining approvals to build a retail and housing complex on its six-acre waterfront site a little north of Hunters Point.

Eric R. Kaufman, a partner with Kaufman & Kaufman which represents the Tennis Club, said the rezoning of the property is now proceeding through the Uniform Land Use Review Process. This site is the one which Hartz Associates had been considering for development.

The community board has already met and approved the plans. This is a responsibly designed project from the outset, Kaufman noted, and has been favorably received, although issues have been raised which, he said, will have to be dealt with. "This is a project that has no public underwriting or support to build quality housing in the area," he added. Currently, the design contains some eight-story low-rise buildings along Vernon Boulevard, as requested by city planners, and a 31-story "but very narrow" high-rise residential building "to maximize the views," which Kaufman said will be built near the water. Garage space will be created as well as public esplanade along part of the 300 foot river frontage.

"This is an area that has been under utilized," Kaufman said, "and we want to make it nicer."

Alan Braverman, president, Don Alan Realty, said there are still a few homes in the area and the people are friendly, but LIC is still an industrial town.

Jack Rainey, executive director of the Long Island City Business Development Corporation (LICBDC), said it will be a long time before either of these developments change the area.

Set Development Boundaries

City planners are troubled by speculators who were running up the prices of property all over LIC and are also concerned that the light industrial character be maintained. The best way to avoid new Long Island City investments displacing the existing industrial uses, John P. West, director of planning for Rockrose Associates, said, "is to make it clear where the new investments will be countenanced."

West and other planners suggest the boundaries include Queens Plaza on the North, Citicorp on the West, while the IDC buildings and LaGuardia Community College would mark the South East border. "Concentrate the investments where development should take place, and the city could change zoning so you can build reasonable size buildings."

MTA Proposes Future Changes

Rainey said one of the projects they'd like to see completed is a multi-modal transit facility in the Sunnyside Side yards which would become a stop for Amtrak, New Jersey Transit and other trains. This could also tie LIC into Metro North at some point, as well as the city's airports.

MTA Deputy Director of Government and Community Relations, Douglas R. Sussman, said current plans call for the 63rd Street Tunnel to "bellmouth" or end at the yards, sometime in the next decade, which would not preclude this idea. But, he noted, any connections would involve air rights and agreements with other transit systems as well as new environmental impact surveys. The tunnel would not continue through to the International Design Center, which LIC advocates would like to see happen, in order to connect the Manhattan design district with this commercial furniture mart as well as the nearby LaGuardia Community College.

A sore point is a Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) transit study which has shown 95 percent of the Queen subway commuters currently change at Queens Plaza or continue into Manhattan and do not get off in Queens. As a result, Sussman said they have the funding for and are proposing to cut back the "G" service and end it at Court Square to free up a track. Citicorp has already built a free 300-foot pedestrian passageway to transfer to the "E" and the "F" line, he said.

The "B," which now ends at 21st Street, would also be linked to the "R" express and local trains. This link would be build under Northern Boulevard creating approximately five years of above ground upheaval as the work goes on below.
COPYRIGHT 1991 Hagedorn Publication
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Copyright 1991, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:part 2
Author:Weiss, Lois
Publication:Real Estate Weekly
Date:May 15, 1991
Words:1028
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