Long Island City community creates petition to oppose Paragon Paint Factory development

Photo courtesy of SHoP Architects

Long Island City residents have continuously expressed their dissatisfaction with development plans for the former Paragon Paint Factory and some have started a petition to make their opposition known.

The petition was started by a “group of concerned neighbors,” according to Long Island City resident Kenny Greenberg, who are concerned about the effects of overdevelopment.

The development includes a group of towers spanning 28 stories, eight stories and 13 stories that would house 344 units at 5-49 46th Ave. It can only proceed if the Boards of Standards and Appeals grants the developers a zoning variance to allow them to build residential buildings in what is now a manufacturing zone.

The developers, Simon Baron Development and CRE Development, have spent millions of dollars cleaning up the site, which was deemed “a significant threat to human life” by the state Department of Health.

Hunters Point was rezoned in 2004 to maintain the low-rise nature of the neighborhood and to promote mixed uses, including manufacturing. Community Board 2 in February voted to recommend denying the variance and BSA will take this vote into consideration when making its decision.

“Not much more than 10 years ago our community, its representatives and city agencies put a lot of time and effort into the present zoning to allow larger-scale development in areas where that made sense while at the same time protecting the existing lower-rise community,” Greenberg said. “If they were to succeed there would be devastating and irreversible damage to a community already overwhelmed by overdevelopment.”

Developers presented the plan, which would keep the facade of the old factory and also include a public park, at several meetings. Residents were impressed with the 18,000-square-foot public park but were concerned with the project’s height and effects on overcrowding transportation systems and public schools.

Greenberg, who lives one and a half blocks away from the factory, moved to Long Island City in 1988. He operates a neon light and art studio, Krypton Neon, in the neighborhood with his wife Diane Hendry and neon artist Tom Unger. Greenberg and Hendry signed the petition because they do not want to see more luxury developments in the area, he said.

“Our subways and schools are already vastly overcrowded,” Greenberg said. “Our infrastructure has not kept pace with the glut of development.”

At a public hearing in January, the developers said they plan to allocate 30 percent of the units for affordable housing, which would translate to 122 to 124 units. This affordable housing is contingent on the 421a property tax credit, which expired that month.

Greenberg added that the Hunters Point Community Coalition, a group started in 1977 to “preserve the uniqueness of Hunters Point through responsible planning,” according to its website has retained legal counsel to educate residents and assist them with a response if the BSA approves the variance.

More than 70 people have signed the petition so far and HPCC is asking for donations to help pay legal fees.

According to Ryan Singer, executive director for the BSA, there is currently no time frame for a decision to be announced.

“We are working on technical comments on the application currently,” Singer said. “We have given them some comments on the environmental review and received responses on those. Once comments are issued and the applicant has fully responded, a hearing will be scheduled.”

Greenberg and Hendry want to see the site preserved for its original industrial purpose and to provide affordable space for artists and artisan businesses “which are perpetually forced out of the neighborhood because of projects like this,” Hendry said.

“I’d love to see a Chelsea-type market there with parking,” Hendry added. “We need to preserve small business, and the current zoning does.”

To view the petition, click here.