Issues facing LIC residents and businesses discussed at annual summit

By Bill Parry

The challenges facing residents and businesses in Long Island City were discussed at length during the third annual LIC Summit at the Museum of the Moving Image Tuesday. Several panels brought together business and civic leaders as well as city and state officials, to weigh in on the changing landscape of Long Island City during the day-long event.

“You’re in the most exciting neighborhood in New York City,” Modern Spaces Founder and CEO Eric Benaim said. “There’s more construction happening here in LIC than anywhere else in New York City.”

Benaim was co-hosting the event with Elizabeth Lusskin, the president of the LIC Partnership. She spoke of the changes as she displayed computerized graphics of the new towers and what the skyline will look like when construction is finished.

“What I’m showing is not even the full build-out,” she said. “Since this was done, a number of other projects have been announced and the effects are going to be dramatic.”

To prepare for the future, the LIC Partnership launched a far-reaching, cross-sector survey of more than 500 businesses and organization in December. The first phase of the LIC Comprehensive Plan is complete, and while the 300-page survey won’t be released until the summer, Lusskin shared some of its details.

“Seventy percent of the respondents expect to be in LIC in five years and 87 percent are planning to expand, but the availability of affordable space is a real challenge,” Lusskin said. “Another challenge to business is an outdated incentive program. They are not transparent enough, they need better access and they’re not deep enough to provide for the market today.”

She warned that other states such as Pennsylvania “are doing a better job” with their incentive programs and “we’re losing jobs to them.” She also said public transit does not get people everywhere they need to be in the 5.5-square-mile neighborhood and existing transit is overloaded.

Kathryn Wylde, president and CEO of Partnership for New York City. was part of the keynote panel.

“Thanks to strong local leadership and proactive planning, Long Island City is well-positioned to manage its growth as a hub of innovation and residential activity, while preserving its historic strengths in manufacturing and the arts,” Wylde said. She said the huge growth in residential population will change Long Island City in the next decade.

“It’s going to change the dynamics of the community, it’s going to be different because the people will be different,” Wylde said. “When the real estate is worth far more than the family business occupying it, the family business will be gone. There’s going to be change dynamics.”

Benaim spoke of the tremendous transformation LIC has undergone in the ten years since he opened his first real estate office in 2005.

“If you asked me five years ago, or even three years ago during the first summit, I would never have said the area would be as extraordinarily popular as it is now,” he said. “As one of the most exciting New York City neighborhoods, Long Island City has become the best alternative for developers and stakeholders who can no longer afford Manhattan and Brooklyn. As demand increases, developers will continue to bring new residential and commercial projects to the area, further expanding its micro-neighborhoods like Court Square, Dutch Kills and Queens Plaza.”

Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparry@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4538.

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