Long Island City residents to rally against city plans for waterfront sites on 44th Drive

Photo courtesy of LIC Coalition

Long Island City residents will hold a rally on March 3 to protest the city’s plans to develop two lots along the waterfront.

Mayor Bill de Blasio announced in 2016 that two city-owned lots on 44th Drive would be turned into commercial space, apartments, a new 600-seat school and public park space. But several neighborhood groups are arguing that Long Island City needs more green space and that the sites’ proximity to the waterfront could make it dangerous to add more density than currently exists.

rally will take place at 44th Drive and Vernon Boulevard at noon to demand “public land for public use.”

“We the community are tired of the city’s promise of affordable housing at the expense of open/ public space, and in exchange for massive density that further contributes stress to our school system, transportation, infrastructure and climate protection,” the community wrote in a petition started by the group LIC Coalition.

Thomas Paino, chairperson for the Hunters Point Community Coalition, said residents planned the rally because of the influx of proposals to change the zoning in the neighborhood. 

“We are now overwhelmed with all these proposals,” he said. “It’s been well over a decade that the 44th Drive site has been on the Community Board 2 statement of need list to be open space. The whole site is in a flood plain. To build on it will make the land behind it very vulnerable.”

In the petition, residents outlined a number of requests in terms of what they want to see built on the sites. Currently, a Department of Transportation facility sits on one site along 44th Drive. The other site, also on 44th Drive, consists of 250 parking spaces, a dilapidated platform and the former Water’s Edge restaurant.

When the city first announced the site, they argued that the plan would create a “live-work-play community.”

The groups, including the Court Square Civic Association and Hunters Point Civic Association, are asking that the DOT facility be turned into a community recreation center, “which could include a swimming pool, a skating rink, basketball courts, and other activities,” they wrote in the petition.

The sites also sit next to “Lake Vernon,” which the community believes should become a wetland park.

“Protect and preserve land located in the flood plain as natural wetland to maintain the health of our ecosystem, protect against future flooding, and provide educational opportunities,” they wrote in the petition. “Otherwise and without city protection the upland community will only be further stressed.”

The city also plans to convert a Department of Education Building along 44th Drive into office and production space for new companies. Unlike the DOT site and parking facility, this specific site was not offered for redevelopment in the Request for Proposals released in 2016.

Paino said the community does not have a clear idea of what the city is planning for the building, which is currently used as warehouse storage, trade shops and custodial offices, conference and training rooms, office support and parking space for DOE.

The community is asking that the site be dedicated for “school seats, artist and light manufacturing space, a cultural center, a climate change educational center, job training, space for NGOs and other community benefits.”

Paino said his group is working to convince the city that every proposal along the waterfront be “analyzed together” instead of as separate projects.

“We are going to work very hard to get all of the proposals that are currently in the neighborhood treated as one huge project,” he said. 

In addition to these projects, Plaxall, a plastics company with properties along the waterfront, announced last November that they will request to re-zone another section of the waterfront.

They are looking to create a 14.7-acre Special Anable Basin Mixed-Use District stretching from 44th Drive and 45th Avenue to the north, Vernon Boulevard to the east, 46th Road to the south and the East River to the west.

Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, who is scheduled to speak at the rally, said the current proposal for the 44th Drive locations does not meet community needs.

“This project, as it stands, does not meet the needs of this community,” he said in a statement. “The administration should listen to the people of Long Island City who are calling for parks, schools, community centers and more of the necessary infrastructure to maintain any great neighborhood. I stand with the community and urge the mayor and EDC to reevaluate what is being considered for this site, which after all is public land.”