An undeveloped lot in Long Island City used by residents for events like movie screenings and concerts is slated to become an 18-story, 123-unit rental complex.
Known by locals as The Lot, the space at 43-12 Hunter St. acted as a quasi-park in an area that is severely lacking green space. Neighboring restaurant M. Wells used it to host The Lot Fest, an event that provided access to free books for children, and Socrates Sculpture Park hosted a rotating gallery of artwork. Smorgasburg Queens was also hosted there in 2015.
Amadeo Plaza, founder and president of Court Square Civic Association, said the dearth of green space in the area makes The Lot a vital area for Long Island City residents. His organization created an online petition addressed to local elected officials on April 21 to ask them to not only fight for the preservation of The Lot but to create other spaces like it.
Plaza said the group had no idea that Rockrose Development, which has owned the site in 2006, had officially announced that development would finally take place. The news was reported in The Real Deal on April 20.
“Real Deal put up a story, which was a little surprising considering the announcement was made on a day before we were going to put a petition out,” Plaza said. “I don’t know if it was bad timing and pure coincidence or somehow the information got transmitted to Rockrose.”
Plaza said he knows the developers never officially called the area a park and did tell residents that eventually, it would be developed. But Plaza said that residents have “fallen in love with the place” and while he understands it makes economic sense to turn it into an apartment building, he would like them to reconsider the plan.
“The short of it is we don’t have a lot of open space not only in Court Square but really in the district as a whole,” he said. “It’s starkly clear that that’s a problem in Court Square, especially where there’s so much dense development taking place and with potential for more with up-sizing, it’s caused a lot of concern.”
According to a 2015 New Yorkers for Parks study, only 2 percent of the entire district acreage in City Council District 26 contains parkland. It also ranked 43rd of 51 districts in terms of total park and playground acreage per 1,000 residents.
Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer on April 21 sent a letter to Justin Elghanayan, president of Rockrose Development, to ask that the space be preserved as a public green space for Long Island City residents.
“With the ongoing development in Long Island City, the need for green space is essential for the health and well-being of residents,” Van Bramer’s letter read. “I request that you reassess your plans for this plot of land and consider the current residents’ request.”
Plaza added that Rockrose Development did not feel that the The Lot was a success in terms of enticing people to come visit the space but that the owners were trying to make it a destination for people from outside the neighborhood instead of focusing on local residents.
“They were trying a lot of things that may not have necessarily appealed to the people in the community,” he said. “They were not doing programming that was directly going to appeal to the people in the immediate area. Court Square is not Hunters Point. You really have to want to go to Court Square to go to Smorgasburg. I don’t think it’s there yet.”
He hopes to garner support from other elected officials such as Senator Michael Gianaris and Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan and eventually start a larger discussion about preserving and adding additional green space to the Court Square area.
“I’d like to continue this conversation most especially when it comes to city-owned land,” Plaza said. “The response doesn’t fall on the residents to break ground and start doing things on city-owned land. I need you to do more than just head nod and agree with me.”
Rockrose Development has not addressed the Court Square Civic Association and did not respond to a request for comment from QNS.
As of April 22, fence slats were installed around the area to keep it out of view.