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28-story development in LIC gets a no from Community Board 2

Photos courtesy of SHoP Architects

A proposal to redevelop the former Paragon Paint Factory in Long Island City got a thumbs down from Community Board 2 during its monthly meeting in Sunnyside on Thursday.

The project, a joint venture with Simon Baron Development and CRE Development, includes erecting a 28-story tower attached to the old paint factory, which is located at 5-49 46th Ave., and two residential towers spanning 8 stories and 13 stories on adjacent parcels of land. A public park overlooking Anable Basin will connect the buildings.

The developers are seeking a variance from the Board of Standards and Appeals (BSA) which would allow them to build residential structures in what is currently a manufacturing zone. CB 2 held several public meetings to discuss and inform the community about the project before ultimately recommending to vote down the application.

“I can say that I really like this project if it were in a vacuum,” said CB 2 Chairperson Pat O’Brien.  “It’s in an area that is being so extensively and overly-developed that you can’t find a train, you can’t find medical facilities, you can’t send your kid to a school and to do something like that on an ad hoc basis through spot zoning variance mechanisms causes us concern.”

Lisa Ann Deller, chair of the Land Use Committee said this area is “vulnerable to applications like this one” and that approving this application could set a precedent for other developers to seek variances. The board has requested that the Department of City Planning create a comprehensive plan to better study the impacts of developments of this size.

The three towers would house 344 units of studio, one-bedroom and two-bedroom apartments and about 13,000 square feet of commercial space. Though Long Island City is being rapidly developed, the Paragon Paint Factory site sits along an area that houses many low-rise manufacturing warehouses. It was rezoned in the late 90s to protect the low-rise nature of Vernon Boulevard, O’Brien said.

The developers spent close to $30 million to clean the site, which was deemed “a significant threat to human life” by the New York State Department of Health. They are using this unique physical condition to appeal to the BSA for a variance change.

The board voted to recommend denying the application 24 to 4. Two members abstained from voting.

Matthew Baron, president of Simon Baron Development argued that the developers are long-time owners and designed the project with the community in mind. He added that the 18,000 square foot public park would never be developed and that residents would “have forever protective light and air that’s open.”

During the public comment section, most residents were against the proposal. Some argued the height does not fit the character of the neighborhood and others argued that claiming hardship in response to the costly cleanup was disingenuous.

“I really do find it disingenuous about this self-inflicted wound of selecting a site,” said Peter Johnson, a Long Island City resident who lives a block and a half away from the factory. “There are a lot of sites in Queens that could have been purchased without having all these problems. But obviously what’s attractive about this site is all the tax benefits.”

He added that tax payers would provide a “subsidy of major proportions” to build a “luxury tower.”

Local business owner MeirNewman, however, said that tall towers will inevitably be built along the waterfront and that this project is “beautiful.”

“All the people who oppose it, nobody has ever stepped up to clean this site,” Newman said. “Finally somebody is doing it.”

Ben Guttman, a CB 2 member and Long Island City business owner voted against the board’s recommendation and said the area severely lacks green space. He argued that the project has adequately addressed “the amount of public green space that we have as well as the amount of street life we have and I think that the design has been well considered given the neighborhood and where were at.”

The BSA will take this recommendation into consideration when voting to either grant or deny the variance.

 

 

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