Breakfast forum focuses on Long Island City’s business and real estate boom

Photo by Angela Matua/QNS

During Thursday’s 12th annual Long Island City Partnership Real Estate Breakfast, leaders in real estate discussed the exploding growth of the neighborhood and some challenges it needs to overcome.

Hosted at The Learning Center on Vernon Boulevard, four panelists discussed their upcoming projects and the real estate market in the waterfront neighborhood. The panelists included Andrew Kurd, director at Savanna; Tom Powell, director of business development at Boyce Technologies; Olaf Schmidt, senior associate at Holl Architects; and Tara Sheikh, general manager at Aloft Long Island City Hotel.

Their projects span from the Falchi and Citicorp buildings, the new library at Hunters Point, a manufacturing company that helped install Wi-Fi throughout the subway system and the 29th hotel to be constructed in the neighborhood.

LIC Partnership released its annual LIC Real Estate Market Snapshot, which found that in 2016 there was a total of $2.13 billion in commercial and investment sales in the neighborhood. There are about 9,000 new units slated to be constructed in 2017, making it the most number of units in a single year in Long Island City’s history. The total number of residential units built in Long Island City since 2006 will total more than 20,000 by the end of this year.

Elizabeth Lusskin, the president of LIC Partnership, said the demand in the neighborhood is expected to grow even more in the coming years.

“Long Island City’s location, mixed-use character, cultural vibrancy and interdependence among the diverse businesses are this neighborhood’s greatest assets, which creates a perfect recipe for the district’s renaissance,” she said. “We anticipate even greater demand for space in LIC when Cornell Tech opens this year.”

According to moderator David Brause, the president of Brause Realty, there are currently 29 hotels in the neighborhood with 35 more coming in the future.

Sheikh added that the hotel supply in New York City has exceeded demand.

“As far as the hotel supply is concerned, it’s official that we have exceeded the demand,” she said. “[But in the] Long Island City market we do need more inventory. We need more to drive or direct more compression to our market.”

Sheikh said her hotel is not trying to compete with surrounding hotels but is working to build up the surrounding community. Aloft Long Island City Hotel uses art from local artists to decorate its walls and also has a robotic butler.

Brause, whose company has owned properties in the neighborhood since 1980, said there is some concern about how many apartments is too many and added that the expiration of 421a has slowed down some of the real estate residential development. But he still thinks Long Island City will continue to be popular for businesses and residents.

“Long Island City with the transportation, with the infrastructure — you can’t buy that today,” Brause said. “To extend the 7 train to get to one stop was a multi-year, multibillion-dollar commitment. We have eight subway lines, we have kayaks, we have bikes, we have ferries, we are the most connected of the five boroughs. It’s unbelievable. So if you want to be in New York City, if you’re a company, if you’re a hotel, if you’re a resident, if you’re a museum, a library, you want to be here.”

Brause asked the panelists what the city could do to enhance their properties, and the answers ranged from parking to streetscapes and more leniency from the Department of Buildings.

“The only thing that comes to mind…is cleaning up the streetscape,” Kurd said. “It sounds simple but it’s really what needs to be done: bringing more lighting to the streets, making tenants feel comfortable walking around streets at any time of the day, and I think if that happens the fundamentals for Long Island City are already there.”

Powell said his company has had challenges with “blocked roads, sidewalks, parking, delivery vehicles and such on a regular basis.” He added that the snow was not adequately shoveled around the 7 train on the night of March 15 and that his company bought a bob cat to clean the neighborhood.

“We were shoveling the streets yesterday for people,” he said. “We didn’t know if we were going to get a medal or arrested. It just seems like we got to get some infrastructure services that were all paying for to do what they’re supposed to do and we’re not second-class citizens because we’re east of Manhattan.”

Kurd also discussed the lack of retail in the neighborhood, but said he’s hopeful that more will come.

“There’s definitely a lack of retail currently, and it’s going to happen and it has to happen,” said Kurd, who manages the Falchi and Citicorps buildings, “but I think there’s going to be a lot of retail development over the years so we hope to take advantage of that.”

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