By Dustin Brown
State Assemblywoman Cathy Nolan (D-Ridgewood) believes she has a lot in common with the entrepreneurs who form the membership of the Long Island City Business Development Corporation.
“I’ve approached being an assemblywoman sort of like having a small business,” she told dozens of area business leaders during a breakfast sponsored by the LICBDC last Thursday at the Tennisport restaurant on the East River.
An incumbent who has held her post for the past 18 years, Nolan is running for re-election in November against Green Party candidate Patrick Langhenry.
Her district stretches from Ridgewood westward to Long Island City, a neighborhood she praised not only for its future prospects as a center of business and the arts, but for its storied history as a home to industry.
“Long Island City has always been first of all the city’s most vital manufacturing district,” she said. “In general, Long Island City is a tremendous economic engine for the city.”
But the area is experiencing a renaissance of sorts through the rezoning of 37 blocks to encourage the development of a new business district, as well as the proliferation of museums such as MoMA QNS and the Museum for African Art, both of which have opened in Long Island City over the past three months.
“It’s becoming so much fun to live and work in Long Island City that no one’s going to want to go home,” Nolan said.
An effective transportation system is critical to the neighborhood’s development, Nolan said. To that end she spoke of $2 million in state funding she allocated for a study that will determine how best to connect a Long Island Rail Road station slated to open in Sunnyside Yards by the end of the decade to the nearby subway stops around Queens Plaza.
During her brief remarks, the assemblywoman touched on some of the quality-of-life issues she has fought in the neighborhood like alleged prostitution at the Q-Plaza Motel and the hotly contested installation of two power turbines alongside the Queensboro Bridge.
But a central issue on the table was how the development of Long Island City is expected to proceed and whether or not manufacturers will ultimately be pushed out of the neighborhood.
John Belo of Kaplan-Belo Associates, a commercial real estate broker, said he believes the neighborhood has already moved away from manufacturing items in mass quantities in favor of the production of one-of-a-kind merchandise.
“Manufacturing is pretty much dead in Long Island City,” he said, although he added that the community is not headed on a direct path toward immediate development of office towers either.
“It’s market driven,” Belo said. “It will not happen while there still is cheap office space in Manhattan.”
Kenny Greenberg, an artist who owns the Krypton Neon shop on Vernon Boulevard, suggested that the true answer lies somewhere between the extremes.
“There’s a sizable portion of people in the community who feel the real estate issues are not simply no development versus major development,” he said. Greenberg advocated an approach that does not compromise Long Island City’s present character, calling for the “creative integration of what’s actually here with larger ideas.”
For her part, Nolan said she wanted to see office development integrated with other uses, like residential and manufacturing.
“You really cannot ever in New York want only one thing,” she said. “You want diversity.”
Reach reporter Dustin Brown by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 154.