By Bill Parry
Long Island City is known for its shiny steel and glass residential towers on Center Boulevard, its three dozen arts and cultural institutions and venues, and it’s waterfront parks along the East River. It’s also known for its broken roadways, a remnant of the neighborhood’s industrial past.
Now the streets of the Hunters Point section of Long Island City will get a $40 million makeover as part of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s citywide Vision Zero initiative.
City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) called it an “unprecedented investment” by the de Blasio administration and the City Council that will include infrastructure and traffic safety upgrades from the Sunnyside Rail Yards to the East River.
Most of the roadways in the neighborhood have not been reconstructed since the beginning of the 20th century, according to Department of Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg, and the explosion of residential and commercial growth, required a makeover.
“This neighborhood is hot,” Trottenberg said Monday. “As buildings are going up, obviously the infrastructure is straining. The improvements we are announcing today will help keep Long Island City safe, update its aging infrastructure and maintain its status as one of New York City’s jewels.”
The project will repair roads, curbs and sidewalks; upgrade the stormwater drainage and sewer systems; enhance public open space; create a safer, more inviting streetscape; and address climate resiliency for the waterfront neighborhood, which was hit hard by flooding during Hurricane Sandy. Van Bramer hosted a public meeting in December to discuss the project and solicit feedback from Long Island City residents.
“We’re going to make sure that all of these streets are safe for every single person,” Van Bramer said. “Our push to end pedestrian fatalities on our streets continues. This is one of the hottest neighborhoods in the city and everyone wants to live and work here. Few things are as important, given the increase in traffic, pedestrians and cyclists.”
He said the DOT would complete a preliminary design for the project by June and while there is no timetable for when construction begins, four dangerous intersection will have priority: Vernon Boulevard and Jackson Avenue, 23rd Street and Jackson Avenue, 21st Street and Jackson Avenue, and 44th Drive and Vernon Boulevard.
Dr. Feniosky Peña-Mora, the commissioner of the city Department of Design, said the work would be staggered once it begins.
“This will not be done all at once,” he said. “Think of it as an operation on a patient that still has to get up and go to work. People have to be able to live their daily lives with minimal impact.”
Peña-Mora would not say how long the project would last. When a reporter asked if construction would take two years, he laughed and said, “You haven’t been around construction, have you?”
Meanwhile, Van Bramer hailed the city’s “record investment across the board in this community” that was presented in de Blasio’s preliminary budget. In addition to the Hunters Point reconstruction project, $200 million has been set aside for four new schools in his district, three of which will be located in Long Island City.
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr