EDC president tours projects

Areas from Long Island City to Jamaica and College Point to Rockaway are seeing new development projects that will transform neighborhoods.

On Monday, December 14, city Economic Development Corporation (EDC) president Seth Pinksy took reporters on a tour of a few of the projects. Pinksy started at the Sutphin Boulevard Underpass that will improve the new street-level pedestrian experience directly across the street from the new Air Train Terminal in Jamaica.

He finished at the site of the city’s Hunters Point South development – a 30-acre, mixed-use, middle-income housing development in Long Island City that will bring up to 5,000 housing units, 60 percent of which will be affordable to middle income families.

“We think that it’s very important for the future of the city to ensure that we are not just focused on developing Manhattan as a commercial corridor, which I think in the past the city has devoted a disproportionate amount of attention to, but also that there are options for businesses throughout the five boroughs,” said Pinsky.

During the roughly two-hour tour with local media, Pinsky, who was appointed by Mayor Bloomberg in February 2008, spoke about a three-pronged strategy that includes getting land use right, making the necessary infrastructure investments and inducing private developers to invest in the projects.

“We understand that these are long-term projects, and you can’t change people’s perceptions overnight and that the best time to be making investments is really during a downturn,” Pinsky said.

One of the biggest projects EDC is currently overseeing is at Willets Point – a roughly 62-acre, mixed-use development site located directly across from Citi Field – that is expected to include 5,500 housing units, eight acres of open space, parks and playgrounds, 500,000 square feet of office space, 1.7 million square feet of retail space, a new school and a hotel and convention center.

Last week, EDC announced it received 29 responses to its Request for Qualifications for developers or teams of developers interested in redeveloping the site. Pinsky said that the 62-acre Willets Point District. Next, EDC will develop a short list to receive a future Request for Proposals (RFP) with a developer being selected sometime in 2010, according to Pinsky.

The city’s plans for the project call for redeveloping 18 acres of the southwest portion of the site, and it currently has secured about 75 percent of the land from property owners for the first phase of the development plan.

“We said during the ULURP [Uniformed Land Use Review Procedure] process that our strong preference was to reach consensual agreements and that remains our strong preference,” Pinsky said.

However, some Willets Point business owners said the city is not negotiating at all with them, and they were encouraged by a recent Court’s derailing of a Columbia University expansion project that sought to utilize eminent domain.

“We knew that eminent domain didn’t have that much life left in it,” said Jake Bono, the third generation owner of Bono Sawdust Supply Co., who is still fighting to keep his business at the site. “I don’t think they [the city] have a chance anymore to take my property.”

In addition to the large-scale development projects and streetscape improvements that EDC is concentrating on, Pinsky also said that encouraging entrepreneurism was a top priority for his agency.

“We think it’s very important for the future of the city that we figure out ways to connect the city’s universities with the larger economy,” Pinsky said.

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