By Nathan Duke
It also said it will transform its headquarters at Queens Plaza North into a state-of-the-art information technology center.MetLife will begin moving its employees out of Long Island City and setting up its operations on 12 floors of a building at 1095 Avenue of the Americas in Manhattan by the fourth quarter of 2008, said Robert Henrikson, chairman of the board. The company will eventually convert its Long Island City headquarters into an IT center, he said.”As we have since we moved to Long Island City, we remain committed to this increasingly important central business district and we will continue to work with city officials to build on the significant progress already made in Long Island City's transformation,” Henrikson said.The company made the announcement last week after its board of directors approved the Manhattan site, a spokeswoman for the city Economic Development Corporation said.But the company will honor an agreement with the city to retain 85 percent of its Long Island City employees in the borough through June 2008 and at least 30 percent of its staff in Queens through December 2014. An EDC spokeswoman said the company would only be required to repay the city $5 million in incentives if it falls below the agreed-upon percentages of employees in the borough.MetLife originally signed a 20-year lease in 2001 at 27-01 Queens Plaza North in Long Island City and transferred 1,000 of its workers to the borough after Mayor Rudolph Giuliani lured the company away from a planned move to New Jersey. In return, the company would have received $24 million in city tax and energy incentives, of which the company has spent more than $10 million. But under the agreement with the city, which was settled in November, MetLife would forfeit the remaining $13.4 million in benefits from the original agreement, said Joshua Sirefman, chairman of the Industrial Development Agency. Western Queens elected officials said they were disappointed that the insurance giant will transfer its operations from Queens to Manhattan, but were pleased that the company will not completely desert the borough.”I am delighted that MetLife has recognized what a great place western Queens is to do business and will be keeping a major presence there,” U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-Astoria) said.Reach reporter Nathan Duke by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 156.