By Bill Parry
The city will have to make some changes to its plan to allow a developer to build a massive 1,000 unit residential complex on public land along the Long Island City waterfront, according to City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside).
The project, in which TF Cornerstone would build two towers — one 64 stories tall and the other with 50 stories — would require a zoning change that would need Van Bramer’s blessing during the public approval process as the representative of the district.
“I was never for this project, but I was waiting to see what the final plan looks like,” Van Bramer said.
While the plan has yet to be certified or begin the ULUURP process, Van Bramer is not liking what he has seen.
“The amount of greenspace they’re offering is very small and the amount of affordable housing is insulting,” he said. “You can’t allow a developer the opportunity to build on city-owned land and only offer 25 percent affordable. That is insulting. That’s wildly unacceptable to me and the community.”
State Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan (D-Long Island City) was an early opponent of the project, firing off a letter to Mayor Bill de Blasio less than a month after it was presented in August saying the proposed buildings “are too massive for this area.” Nolan suggested instead that the land be used for much-needed parkland while preserving a portion as a wetland to help in flood mitigation.
“I urge Mayor de Blasio and the NYC Economic Development Corporation to take a step back, put the RFP on hold and listen to the community, civic organizations, and residents on what they believe this parcel of land should be,” Nolan said. “This is public property and any plans, now more than ever, should include ideas and alternatives that come directly from local residents.”
The 1.5 million-square-foot mixed use project on the north side of Anable Basin, on 44th Drive near Vernon Boulevard would include a 600-seat school, 100,000 square feet of light industrial space, 400,000 square feet of commercial office space and 25,000 square feet of art space.
“We’re proud that this will deliver hundreds of affordable homes, new industrial and commercial space, workforce training programs, good jobs, a new 600-seat school and more than an acre of open space for Long Island City,” the city’s Economic Development Corporation spokeswoman, Shavone Williams, said. “We look forward to continued discussions with community members in the months ahead, as we look for ideas on how to make this great project even better.”
To garner Van Bramer’s support in what he calls the largest rezoning in his eight years in the City Council, he will need to see changes to the plan.
“We have a crisis with not enough schools and I don’t want to contribute to this overdevelopment in Long Island City without the infrastructure that is needed for the people who are already here,” Van Bramer said. “Schools, a community center, parkland, transportation, this is all part of infrastructure and good city planning would have called for this long ago and instead we’re playing catchup. We’ve got to demand more from Mayor de Blasio, the EDC and from the Office of City Planning. We’ve got to demand more from all of them.”
That is why Van Bramer will join Nolan in support of a March 3 rally organized by the LIC Coalition, a grassroots civic organization that is dissatisfied with the way open space has been used as the unprecedented development of the neighborhood continues unabated.
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr