JetBlue lands skyline spot after city vote

By Rebecca Henely

Despite early concern from Community Board 2 members, the airline company JetBlue received unanimous approval from the City Council Monday to build a 40-foot backlit sign on top of its new headquarters in Long Island City.

“I think it’s going to be a visual reminder of the continued transformation and resurgence of the Dutch Kills/Queens Plaza area, and I think it’s going to be a symbol that Long Island City/Queens Plaza is open for business,” Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) said.

After being headquartered in Forest Hills for years and briefly considering a move to Florida, JetBlue changed its plans and moved into the Brewster Building, which once housed the Brewster car and aviation manufacturer, at 27-01 Queens Plaza N. The airline company, which has 1,000 employees in Queens, held a large ribbon-cutting attended by Mayor Michael Bloomberg and U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) last month.

But before that date the company had lobbied for zoning approval for a sign to place on top of its new headquarters. The 40-foot backlit sign would be shaped like the company logo in a similar fashion to the Silvercup Studios and PepsiCola signs located elsewhere in Long Island City.

Proposing a zoning amendment that would allow for such a sign, JetBlue asked for approval from Community Board 1 and Community Board 2.

CB 1, which represents Astoria and Dutch Kills above Queens Plaza North, where the Brewster Building is located, gave its blessings, but CB 2, which represents the area across the street from JetBlue’s new offices, did not. Members had approved of JetBlue having such a sign, but worried that an amendment would set a precedent that could encourage many similar signs in the neighborhood.

“I think it’s important to not misread their intentions,” Van Bramer said.

Others were more supportive, however. Borough President Helen Marshall gave her nod to the amendment as did the Department of City Planning.

The councilman said the zoning amendment in its final form put in some stipulations to prevent a proliferation of signs in Queens Plaza. To have such a sign, businesses must occupy a commercial building and take up either 20 percent or 50,000 square feet of the floor space.

“I think those concerns were heard and they were listened to, and I think the process worked,” Van Bramer said.

The councilman said the sign would be another iconic landmark in the community.

“JetBlue’s arrival is something that we’re all thrilled about and we want JetBlue to succeed, we want them to grow,” Van Bramer said.

Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at rhenely@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4564.